Spring is well underway, so it’s time to put away the hearty, hearty winter meals and resurrect all things fresh, green, and vibrant. Spring means picnics in flower gardens, with fresh vegetables full of life and sunshine.
One of our favorite vegetables is asparagus. When done right, this little weirdo from the plant world is one of spring’s most delicious ingredients. Sadly, despite our best efforts, we often rob this little green stalk of all its goodness before it even makes it to the picnic basket. We say; it’s time to turn things around. To honor this springtime gem the way it should be marked, we’ve compiled a list of crimes against asparagus that we promise never to commit again.
1. Don’t eat it in season
We live in an age where almost any ingredient can be purchased year-round in grocery stores without a second thought. No matter the month, you can have a huge array of fresh, out-of-season fruits and vegetables on your table with nothing more than a trip to Safeway.
This is a great thing in many ways, but one of the setbacks is that we get used to eating substandard ingredients when they’re out of season. The asparagus season runs from February to June, the peak months being April and May. You’ll notice that the asparagus in the produce aisle is even it seems happier at that time. This is where asparagus shines in any recipe you can cook up, so buy them in bulk.
2. Focusing on only one type
While green is the most popular type, there are four basic types of asparagus: green, white, purple, and wild. Within these types are many varieties with cute names like Purple Passion and Mary Washington.
As far as flavor differences go, the green asparagus we all know and love is delicate and earthy with slightly herbaceous notes. White has a milder flavor but can be slightly bitter. Purple asparagus contains about 20% more sugar than other varieties and is the sweetest. And it has a similar wild flavor to the traditional green but with a more robust, nuttier flavor.
Every kind is delicious, so don’t limit yourself to just one kind!
3. Don’t eat it fresh
Many vegetables freeze and may well. Asparagus is not one of them. Please don’t. The one exception to this rule is pickled asparagus, which is silly delicious.
4. Store it incorrectly
When putting away groceries, it’s tempting to toss them in the fridge or cabinet exactly as they came packaged in the store. But asparagus is a delicate little vegetable that needs some extra love and care. The asparagus is often conveniently packaged and held together with a rubber band. To avoid bruising, be sure to remove that rubber band as soon as possible. For a few days of added freshness, cut the bottom off each spear and stand them upright in a jar with about an inch of water. This will keep your asparagus fresh in the fridge for up to a week.
5. Wrong cut
How to prepare asparagus can be a little complicated. The ends are hard and woody, and where to cut the stem isn’t always obvious. While the woody ends are a great ingredient to toss into homemade vegetable stock, they’re not the tastiest. Thankfully, there’s an easy trick to finding the perfect spot every time. Please take a single spear and bend it until it breaks. Its natural breaking point is right where you should cut it. Of course, if you’re making a big batch, you don’t need to do it with every stalk. Take one and use it as a guide if each piece is roughly the same size.
6. Skip the White (and the Shock)
If you are grilling or sautéing the asparagus, blanching them first is best. This cooking step is often skipped and shouldn’t be. When delicate, raw vegetables like asparagus are set over a high heat, there’s a real risk that the outside will char and burn before the inside can cook properly.
The best way to cook asparagus is to first blanch them in boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes. This way, they have a head start in the cooking process and won’t have to cook for so long afterwards. After blanching, blanch the asparagus by placing it in a bowl of ice water. This will interrupt the cooking process and help preserve their beautiful color.
7. Not enough seasoning
This is another common mistake home cooks make with vegetables and, well, most dishes, for that matter. Many fear that using more than the tiniest pinch of salt will over-season food, resulting in an over-salted and inedible dish. If you grew up using table salt instead of kosher, this fear is understandable, as the acrid chemical taste of table salt can overwhelm a dish in as few as two shakes.
As for the asparagus seasoning, it’s okay to be liberal with your kosher salt. Kosher salt not only brings the flavor of salt itself to an ingredient, it also helps bring out its natural flavors. Asparagus goes beautifully with various flavors, so get creative with your spice mixes.
Overcooking any vegetable is a crime, sure. But this is especially true for asparagus. The most common offense in cooking asparagus (as with most vegetables) is boiling the poor to death. When these slender beauties are dunked in boiling water for too long, they become limp, stringy, sickeningly unrecognizable versions of themselves.
While we suggest blanching before applying another cooking method, such as grilling or sauteing, if you simply want to boil the asparagus, only do so for about 3 to 4 minutes. You want them to be just tender, not falling all over the place.
9. Only eat it cooked
Did you know that cooking asparagus isn’t even necessary? Sure, asparagus might not be one of the first veggies you’ll find raw on a plate of crudites. You might get a raised eyebrow if you serve a bundle with a side of salsa or hummus. But this oddly shaped little cutie is delicious when served raw. Because asparagus is so stringy, we don’t suggest eating a whole stalk raw, but whether cut into thin strips or just the tips tossed into a salad, raw asparagus is beautifully earthy and fresh.
#time #show #respect #spring #favorite