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January 2007

The Many Different Ways To Cook Asparagus

As a professional chef I have cooked asparagus in many different ways - by blanching, steaming, grilling, sauteing, roasting, stir frying, in tempura for sushi, for appetizer, as a side dish and in risotto, to name a few. Asparagus is a very popular and tasty vegetable, yet I find that many people know only one or two ways to cook it.

Here, I will show you how to cook asparagus using many different cooking methods, but before that let's look into how to buy and prepare asparagus for cooking.

How to buy and prepare asparagus:

The best tasting asparagus is usually the fresh in-season, locally-grown asparagus. Buying local produce is not only cost-effective and tastier, but you are also helping your local economy.

Fresh green asparagus

Fresh Asparagus

Check the tips of the asparagus spears for any rotten spots. When the asparagus is bunched together it is sometimes difficult to notice if all the tips are fresh. Wash the asparagus under cold running water and snap off or cut the whitish wooden ends at the bottom of each spear. Discard this part of the asparagus, as it is useless. The size of the stubby whitish area of the asparagus is usually between zero and one inch. It is a good idea when you are buying asparagus to choose a bunch with less whitish ends.

How to grill asparagus:

Grilling is one of the easiest cooking methods to use for asparagus. All you need is a hot grill, some garlic-flavored oil and sea salt. Brush the asparagus with the oil, sprinkle with salt and grill them for 3-4 minutes, turning them from time to time, using tongs.

How to blanch asparagus:

Trim and wash the asparagus. Bring 2 qt. of water to a boil and dip 1 pound of asparagus in it for 3 or 4 minutes, depending on thickness. Strain the asparagus out of the boiling water and run cold water over it, to stop the cooking process. Blanched asparagus is good for using in sushi. If you want to use the blanched asparagus for side dish, you don't have to cool it down. After removing the asparagus from the boiling water, brush it with butter, sprinkle with sea salt to taste and serve. Steaming is a similar cooking method to blanching. Instead to dipping the asparagus in the boiling water, you hold it in a steam rack over the water.

How to cook asparagus by sauteing:

You can use either fresh or blanched asparagus for sauteing. If the asparagus is rather thick, it is better to blanch it briefly, and after you take it out of the water, to saute it in a hot pan with little oil.

Asparagus for sushi - There is a trend to fry almost every vegetable used for sushi in tempura batter. I, personally, haven't done it because I marketed my sushi as a healthy alternative, but I can't deny that it is a tasty way to try asparagus. Simply wash the asparagus, dredge each spear lightly in flour and then dip them in the tempura batter. Fry the asparagus until the tempura turns golden brown. Remove from oil and set on tissue paper until it cools down, then use the tempura asparagus in sushi rolls.

White asparagus, although not as popular as the green asparagus, cooks in pretty much the same way.

Cooking recipes with asparagus:

Here are some recipes with asparagus, that I have posted on this web site:

Cream of asparagus soup

Asparagus and mushroom risotto

Tuna sushi roll with blanched asparagus

Prosciutto-wrapped asparagus: Cook the asparagus by baking or sauteing with little butter. Season lightly with salt and make bunches of three asparagus spears each. Wrap each bunch with a thin slice of prosciutto and bake for a few minutes more.

How to cook asparagus in pasta or stir fries: Wash and trim the asparagus as usual, then cut it into 2-inch pieces and use it in your recipe as any other vegetable. It has the same cooking time as zucchini. Two good dishes that I can think of, using asparagus, are Penne Primavera and Farfalle with smoked salmon in Blush sauce.

And at the end, one fine asparagus recipe that I created:

Ingredients: 1 bunch of asparagus; 1/3 cup red vermouth; 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar; 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 teaspoon salt.

Recipe: Trim and blanch the asparagus. In the meantime, combine the rest of the ingredients in a pan, bring to a boil and then simmer for 3 minutes. Add the asparagus to the pan and simmer for 2-3 minutes more, depending on the thickness. Serve.
Note: The balsamic vinegar won't color the asparagus.

Happy cooking.

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Chef George Krumov
About the author: George Krumov is a Red Seal certified chef with many years of culinary experience working around the world in Europe, the Middle East, the cruise line industry and North America. In the last two decades he has headed the kitchens of several restaurants in Canada, and ran his own restaurant.

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