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Steamed asparagus with vinaigrette

Nothing says spring like the crunchy grass-like stems of asparagus. This herbaceous, perennial plant was once grouped with alliums like garlic and onions but now resides in its own family. And rightly so — the soft, gentle and crisp asparagus is not nearly as potent or boisterous as its onion cousins. Mild enough to be eaten raw and when thicker, delicious broiled over a hot grill, the asparagus is the herald of spring’s arrival.

There are multiple ways to prepare asparagus. Asparagus soup with grilled cheese sandwiches is a delicious sunny afternoon lunch (we’ll have to wait another three months for that), while grilled asparagus makes a delicate and delicious side to any main dish. Even a bed of quickly sauteed asparagus with a poached egg and Hollandaise sauce can make a decadent breakfast or brunch treat.

Peeled asparagus

Now don’t feel too bad about coating your delicate spears with a rich emulsion of butter and egg yolks, each spear is only about 4 calories! It also contains potassium, thiamin, vitamin B6 and is a great source of fiber, not to mention being one of the richest sources of rutin, a compound that has been shown to be necessary in strengthening capillary walls leading to cardiovascular health. How’s that for a grassy stem?

Two simple, quick and delicious ways to prepare asparagus are to follow. Although completely different cooking styles the one thing to remember is not to overcook either way. Your cooked spears should bend, but still snap when folded over. This will keep the nutrients in the spear and allow your body to access as much potent vitamins and minerals as possible.

Asparagus peels

Also, when preparing your asparagus, remove the last 1/2 inch of the stem, then if they are thick spears, use a vegetable peeler to peel the bottom two inches. This will remove any woody skin and leave the tender insides. If you’re making asparagus soup, or vegetable stock, save the ends to add to the preparing water or stock for more flavor.

Asparagus with Vinaigrette

2 T sea salt
1 bunch asparagus, about 1 pound
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T balsamic or red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Add salt and asparagus and cook until just tender, about 3-5 minutes. Drain immediately. In a small bowl whisk together oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Arrange the asparagus on a platter and drizzle with mixture to serve.

Roasted Asparagus with Garlic

1 bunches asparagus
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 t coarse sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange stalks on a baking sheet in one layer. Sprinkle with oil and garlic, season with salt and pepper, tossing them to coat evenly. Roast until slightly brown and crisp, but not over-cooked, about 8-10 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.

There are multiple variations of these recipes, but this is a great place to start. Try serving spears with a garlic aioli, Hollandaise or Béarnaise sauce, or just sprinkled with high quality olive oil and sea salt after grilling. You’ll have people asking in disbelief ‘What did you put on these?’ and reaching for more.