Asparagus is a favorite vegetable of our family. Since we grow our own, we eat it a LOT! Nobody wants to eat the same food prepared the same way day after day, so I have taught myself how to change it up to keep it interesting.
First, and most importantly, you want to be sure to clean your asparagus thoroughly. The easiest way to do this is to soak it in ice water for approximately fifteen minutes. After it has soaked, remove it from the water and run it under a stream of ice cold water. Be sure to only hold about four at a time, to ensure that the water penetrates each stalk well. Asparagus can hold a lot of dirt, and that’s not something you want to bite into!
Second task is to be sure that you are only using the best part of the stalk. Asparagus should be firm, yet slightly bendable. The bottom part of the stalk is very hard, and if you eat it, can be very stringy and less tasteful. After you have washed your stalks, place one hand at the very base, and your other hand toward the middle. Slowly start bending the stalk until it snaps. The bottom portion should be disposed of, and the top part is what you will cook with. As you get comfortable with this technique, you can snap more than one at a time.
Now to give this veggie a flavor that your whole family will love.
In a shallow frying saute pan, add a heaped spoon of minced garlic, two tablespoons of butter, a dash of pepper, and as much asparagus as your family will eat with your meal. Over medium heat, cook the asparagus for approximately ten to fifteen minutes. This will leave you with slightly firm stalks. If you want it to be a bit more tender, place a lid over your pan while cooking. You can adjust this recipe by cutting the asparagus into thirds before cooking, and adding to the pan finely chopped red bell pepper, sliced onion, a can of small white mushrooms. This is excellent served over rice or pasta.
I have an indoor grill, and it has proved to be excellent for cooking asparagus. Turn your grill to high heat, and sear the asparagus for a few minutes, flip, and sear for another two or three minutes. Grilled asparagus tastes wonderful with a white sauce (think Alfredo) drizzled over the top of it once plated. Another great idea for the grill is to pair the asparagus with meat. Place asparagus into a pot of boiling water for about one minutes. Remove it and immediately place it in a bowl of ice water. This process will soften the asparagus just enough to be able to wrap it around another food item. Using a large sea scallop or a water chestnut, wrap a stalk of asparagus around it. Hold it in place, and then wrap a strip of partially cooked bacon the opposite way (one should be wrapped ‘vertically’ while the other is wrapped ‘horizontally’). Stick a toothpick all of the way through until it comes out the other side. Place each wrap onto a (preheated) medium to high grill. Allow to cook just long enough to brown the scallop, then flip. (If using a grill like the George Foreman that cooks both top and bottom at once, there is no need to flip. You can also use a hot frying pan slightly buttered to prevent sticking). Drizzle with melted butter before serving. For another twist, add spice to your butter before melting by adding crushed red pepper, minced garlic or onion, oregano, or finely minced jalapeno peppers.
You can sneak asparagus into everyday foods like scrambled eggs or omelets. Asparagus is also great in quiche, salads, soups, or stir fry. Chop it up finely, and toss into your dish when there is only about ten minutes of cook time remaining.