One of the quickest and easiest ways to prepare fresh asparagus is to simply blanch them for a couple of minutes and toss them with some freshly grated parmesan cheese, olive oil, and lemon zest.
Boiling them for only a couple of minutes ensures that the asparagus will be cooked through, but still crisp and vibrant green. Asparagus should have a gentle crunch to them; they should not be mushy.
A little lemon zest helps brighten the natural flavor of the asparagus, and the parm and olive oil? Well, of course, they make everything taste good.
Watch This Asparagus Recipe
How to Choose the Best Asparagus
The best asparagus is fresh. To tell if asparagus is fresh, look for stalks that are a rich, deep green color that get lighter toward the end of the stalk. The stalks should be firm to the touch. Pass by any stalks that are limp or dry with cracked ends. The tips of the asparagus should be tightly closed.
When buying asparagus for a recipe, it’s also a good idea to choose stalks that are uniform in size so they’ll cook evenly.
Tips for Cleaning Asparagus
It’s always important to clean fresh produce before preparing it. Asparagus can have grit in its tips, so the first thing you should do is rinse it under cold water. Then you can prepare asparagus for cooking.
Remove the tough end from the rest of the stalk by either cutting or snapping it off. If using a knife, cut 1/2 inch to 1 inch off the bottom, depending on where the green fades into white. If you're snapping the tough end off, bend the thicker end of the stalk to see where it snaps naturally.
Or, you can cut off about a quarter-inch of the bottom of the stalk and peel a thin layer of skin off the lower half of the stalk with a vegetable peeler. The asparagus is now ready for your recipe.
What Does "Blanching" Mean?
Blanching is a cooking technique that partially cooks food. It’s commonly used with vegetables like asparagus. Vegetables are put in a pot of boiling water for a very short time, usually under 5 minutes, and then plunged into a bowl of ice water to quickly stop them from continuing to cook. Blanching makes the outside of a vegetable tender while the inside remains fairly crisp. It also helps keep color bright.
You can blanch asparagus when you want to serve it immediately, or you can blanch it before freezing it. Most fresh vegetables benefit from blanching before freezing because the process stops enzymes that would otherwise cause the vegetable to lose flavor, color, and texture over time while frozen.
Other Ways to Cook Asparagus
Asparagus is a versatile vegetable that can be prepared in a variety of ways. Asparagus can be cooked in the oven, on top of the stove, or on the grill using one of these methods.
- Roasted asparagus is tossed with olive oil and other ingredients according to the recipe, placed evenly on a baking sheet, and cooked in the oven at high heat. Roasting works better with thicker spears because thinner spears tend to dry out quickly.
- Sous Vide needs some special equipment - an immersion circulator and heavy-duty sous vide bag. The immersion circulator is placed in a pot of boiling water to create constant movement that keeps the water temperature consistent. The asparagus in the sous vide comes out evenly cooked, bright green, and crisp yet tender.
- Boiled asparagus comes out well when it's shallow boiled. Fill a skillet that will fit all the asparagus in a single layer with about 3/4 inches of water and bring the water to a boil. Place the asparagus in the skillet, cover with a lid, and cook until done - about 2 minutes for thin asparagus, about 7 minutes for large asparagus.
- Grilled asparagus needs only oil, salt, and pepper before going on a hot grill. Place the spears directly on the grate or use a grill basket. Turn the asparagus frequently so they brown on all sides and are cooked through, about 2 to 4 minutes depending on size.
Try These Great Recipes That Use Asparagus
- Asparagus Salad with Shrimp
- Steamed Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce
- Creamy Chicken and Asparagus Pasta
- Asparagus with Lime and Mint
- Asparagus and Ricotta Bruschetta
Quick and Easy Asparagus
1 bunch medium asparagus, about 1 pound
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat blanching water:
Fill a medium saucepan halfway with lightly salted water. Bring to a boil.
Prep the asparagus:
Prepare the asparagus while the water is heating. Rinse them thoroughly. Break off any tough, white bottoms and discard.
Cut the spears into 1- to 2-inch sections, slicing the asparagus at a slight diagonal.
Blanch the asparagus:
Add the asparagus to the boiling water and lower the heat slightly to maintain a simmer. Parboil the asparagus for exactly 2 minutes. Drain the hot water.
Toss with olive oil, parmesan, lemon zest:
Toss the asparagus with olive oil, parmesan, and lemon zest while it's still hot.
Salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or room temperature.