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Kitchen Basics: Perfect Asparagus

For home cooks, the return of asparagus marks a much-anticipated turning point in the kitchen. Its delicate grassy flavor affirms the promise of spring and the eventual appearance of summer’s bounty. Thin or thick, purple or green, asparagus offers a crunchy texture that spruces up veggie platters and salads, and pairs beautifully with pasta. 

How to Select & Store Asparagus

Asparagus has a very short shelf life, so it’s important to select fresh stalks and use them as quickly as possible. Choose spears that are smooth and taut and have tightly interwoven tips. If the tips are open, it’s a sure sign that the asparagus is past its prime.

To store asparagus, fill the bottom of a glass with water, place the ends in the water (like a bouquet), and refrigerate for no more than five days. Alternatively, cover the ends in a moist paper towel and place it in a plastic bag before storing it in the refrigerator.

How to Prepare Asparagus

Although its tops are tender, asparagus has tough, woody ends, which much be peeled or removed. 

To peel: Wash and dry the asparagus. Cut off the bottom 1/4-inch of the stalks. Using a vegetable peeler, gently remove the tough green skin covering the lower quarter to third of each stalk.

To break off ends: Wash and dry the asparagus. Hold the top of a stalk in one hand and pinch the body of the stalk one-third of the way from the bottom. Pull both hands toward each other. The stalk will snap just where the tough section begins. Discard the tough ends.

How to Blanch Asparagus 

Although asparagus can be grilled, stir-fried, roasted, or steamed, I prefer to blanch it this time of year. Blanching involves boiling (or steaming) it briefly and then cooling it in ice water. Blanching helps to subdue its raw edge and safeguards its crisp texture. 

Fill a large bowl with ice and water to create an ice bath. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil. Carefully lower the asparagus into the water and cook until it is just tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the asparagus to the ice bath with a pair of tongs. After 2 to 3 minutes, drain the asparagus in a colander.

Top the asparagus with a crumbled soft- or hard-boiled egg for added flavor.

I’d love to see your tips for prepping and cooking asparagus! Share them with your fellow cooks in the comments section below.

Visit our spring gatherings site for more expert tips on what to cook and how to cook it, being the host- or host-ess with the most-est and fun ideas for cooking with kids.

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