Asparagus that’s not hand-harvested typically have a tougher end. And that tougher end can turn out stringy or woody when cooked. To check its tender point, those that aren’t hand-harvested, you bend the stalk near the bottom and it will break naturally at its most tender point. If you don’t want to do the bend and snap method, you can peel off several layers from the bottom to reach the tender center.
Like many chefs say, keep things simple and don’t overthink or overprocess an ingredient. That’s how I think of asparagus: Treat it simply. Doing so honors its flavor. Also, cook it just until it’s al dente (still a bit firm to the bite) or crisp-tender. When you cook, even if removed from the heat source, it will continue to cook. And so, a little underdone is OK.
One of my favorite ways to cook asparagus is on the grill. It’s easy and cooks quickly. While your steak is resting, put on the asparagus.
While I usually just toss the asparagus on the grill (thicker spears are best), I learned a new trick from an episode of “The Kitchen” on the Food Network. To prevent them from falling through the grates, place a baking cooling rack on the grates and then place the asparagus on the rack. It’s an extra step, but it works.
Here are my favorite ways to flavor fresh asparagus. And if you’ve never used balsamic glaze (you’ll find it at most grocery stores), it’s an amazing ingredient that will awe your guests. It’s perfect with asparagus.
Drizzle with olive oil and place on the grill over medium heat. Make sure they are placed the opposite of the way the grates run so they don’t fall through. Remove from the grill, drizzle with a bit more oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Cook 1 bunch of asparagus as desired. Whisk together 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard. Slowly whisk in 3/4 cup olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over asparagus.
Place on a sided sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil and broil about 6-7 minutes. Remove to a serving platter, sprinkle with shredded or shaved Parmesan cheese and generous grinding of black pepper.
Drizzle cooked asparagus with a fresh squeeze of lemon juice and serve it cold as crudites.
Today’s recipe pairs recipes asparagus with peas and crispy prosciutto. No prosciutto? No problem. Use cooked and crumbled bacon or diced and cooked pancetta.
ASPARAGUS SALAD WITH PEAS AND CRISP PROSCIUTTO
Serves: 6 / Preparation time: 15 minutes / Total time: 45 minutes
You can make the vinaigrette a few days in advance and fry the prosciutto several hours in advance. This salad is terrific as a starter to accompany broiled or baked fish or grilled chicken.
2 teaspoons minced or pressed garlic
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of sugar to taste
1 1/2 pounds asparagus
1 cup shelled fresh English peas or good-quality frozen peas
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 thin slices prosciutto, cut into slivers
6 cups mixed butter lettuces and arugula
In small bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together all the vinaigrette ingredients. Set aside.
Peel and trim asparagus stems if needed. Bring a large skillet of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and boil for 2 to 4 minutes, or until crisp tender. Add the peas during the last minute of cooking. Do not overcook. Transfer to a bowl and run cold water over the asparagus and peas to stop the cooking.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the prosciutto and sauté until crisp, about 1 minute. Remove to paper towels to drain.
Arrange lettuce and arugula on plates. Top with asparagus and peas. Drizzle with vinaigrette.
Adapted from Food & Drink magazine, spring 2009 issue. Tested by Susan Selasky in the Free Press Test Kitchen.
237 calories (69 percent from fat), 19 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 11 g carbohydrates, 9 g protein, 506 mg sodium, 10 mg cholesterol, 5 g fiber.
Contact Susan Selasky: 313-222-6432 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @SusanMariecooks.
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