Asparagus is a good, low-calorie source of Vitamin A and fiber.
Select asparagus stalks that are straight and have compact, pointed tips. The thicker the spears, the more tender they are likely to be. Quality spears should be 6-8 inches long with only an inch or so of tough, woody base.
It is best to select stalks of uniform thick-ness. Otherwise, the stalks will not have uniform texture when they are cooked.
Each pound of asparagus will yield about 3 to 4 ½ cup servings.
Using Fresh Asparagus
Asparagus should be stored in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator. The base of the stalks should be wrapped with a damp cloth or paper towel. Asparagus becomes tough and woody and loses its sweet flavor soon after harvest, even under refrigeration. For optimum flavor and texture, prepare aspara-gus the day it is picked or purchased.
To prepare asparagus for cooking, break off each stalk as far down as it snaps easily. You may choose to even the stalks by cut-ting them on a cutting board later, but breaking them ensures that the asparagus you prepare will be tender. Wash thor-oughly in cool, running water. Trim off the little nibs along the lower part of the spear. You may choose to lightly peel asparagus
Very thin, tender stalks may be cleaned, cut into 2-inch pieces and eaten raw or lightly blanched. Use them as a salad addition, marinate them in a light vinaigrette or dip them in an herb sauce. Chives, parsley, tarragon, and thyme enhance the sweet flavor of asparagus.
Oven-Steamed Fresh Asparagus
1 pound fresh asparagus
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
½ teaspoon herb, if desired
Clean and trim asparagus. Lay stalks in a large sheet of foil and dot them with but-ter. Sprinkle with seasonings. Seal the foil into an airtight package, and place the package on a baking sheet. Bake at 325°F for 25 minutes.
Open foil carefully to avoid being burned by the steam that is released.
Sesame Chicken with Asparagus
1 pound boneless chicken
1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine or cooking sherry
4 tablespoons oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root
½ cup cornstarch
1 cup sesame seeds
1 pound fresh asparagus
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 ½ cups milk
Cut chicken into 1 ½-inch pieces. Mix to-gether soy sauce, wine, 1 tablespoon oil, garlic, and ginger root. Marinate chicken in sauce for 15-30 minutes.
Reserve 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Stir chicken in remaining cornstarch. Roll coated chicken in sesame seeds. Stir fry chicken for 5-6 min-utes, or until done. Remove and set aside.
Wash and trim asparagus. Cut diagonally into 1 inch pieces. Stir fry. Add 3 tablespoons water. Cover and steam 3-5 minutes, or until tender-crisp.
Dissolve cornstarch and bouillon in milk. Heat, stirring constantly, until thickened.
Place chicken and asparagus in a serving dish. Top with sauce.
Notes: You may garnish with additional toasted sesame seeds.
If you choose to marinate the chicken longer than 30 minutes, refrigerate in a covered, non-metallic container.
Asparagus for Later
Asparagus maintains its color, flavor, and texture if it is frozen correctly. Canned asparagus is mushy and
has poor flavor.
How to Freeze Asparagus
- Wash and trim stalks. Break stalks to remove tough ends; cut into desired lengths.
- Sort according to stalk thickness.
- Blanch thin stalks 2 minutes, medium stalks 3 minutes, and thick stalks 4 minutes.
- Plunge into ice water to cool.
- Drain. Pack firmly into moisture-vapor resistant freezer packages, removing as much air as possible.
- Leave no headspace.
- Seal containers and label them with name of product and the date.
- Freeze promptly. Store at 0°F or below.