Asparagus is a member of the lily family. The asparagus spears we buy at the store is the shoot of the asparagus plant. The spear (shoot) grows into fern and has red berries. The above photo shows ferns, berries and spears at different stages of growth.
Selecting - Choose spears that are firm and smooth, with tips that are tight and unblemished, also the cut ends not dry. If you are cooking the spears whole, choose spears of about the same diameter, if cutting into smaller sections then it does not matter that much.
Storing - When you bring you asparagus home, trim about a ¼ inch from the root (cut) end and store using one of the following methods:
Method 1: Wrap lower half (root end) with clean damp paper towel, place in plastic bag and refrigerate.
Method 2: Stand (cut end) in about 2 inches of cold water, cover loosely with plastic and refrigerate (I cut away the 2 corners of a plastic bag and place it over the spears and container).
Choosing fat spears versus skinny spears is a personal preference and also that of presentation. I personally prefer the fat spears. Whatever your preference, they are all delicious and say “spring is here”.
If possible, select spears that are green from tip to root end, see photo at right. The lower root end of the spear on the left of the photo will not be as tender as the other two spears that are green the entire length.
Peeling - I prefer to use a paring knife. Starting at the root end, make a cut under the “skin”, keep peeling down towards the tip, the knife will slide off automatically when it reaches the tender part. Now the whole spear is tender and edible.
∞ Toss with olive oil, miced garlic and salt, bake in a 400° F oven for 10 – 25 minutes, depending on thickness of spears, or until crisp tender, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and serve hot or cold. This is good cooked on the grill too.
∞ Place on steamer rack or steamer basket, steam for 3 – 8 minutes, depending on thickness of spears, or until crisp tender, drizzle with lemon or lime juice and sesame or coconut oil.
Below is a salad that is easy delicious and calls for few ingredients.
From “My Students’ Favorite Chinese Recipes updated edition” by Norma Chang
1 – 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tablespoon soy sauce, regular or gluten free
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
2 teaspoon finely crushed Chinese rock sugar or white sugar
Combine the above in a small dish. This is the dressing. Can be done the day before. If desired, discard garlic before tossing with asparagus
1 – 1½ pounds fresh asparagus, cleaned, peeled and roll cut
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, black or white or a combination (see NOTE)
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop in asparagus. Remove pot from heat and let asparagus blanch for 1 minute.
2. Have a container of ice and water standing by. Drain asparagus and add to ice bath. Once cooled, drain well and pat dry using a clean kitchen towel or paper towels. Can be done the day before and kept refrigerated.
3. Toss cooled and dried asparagus with dressing. Marinate ½ hour before serving.
4. Arrange asparagus on serving dish, garnish with sesame seeds. Serve.
NOTE: When toasting black sesame seeds, add a few white ones, when the white ones are toasted the black ones are toasted too.
Copyright © by Norma Chang
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