3 Ways to Cook Life-Altering Asparagus

25Mar10

Let’s get serious about asparagus for a moment. I first discovered asparagus one magical night as a 19 year old senior at university. Imagine me as that stereotypically frazzled, over-achieving English major with ten papers to write and twice as many books to read. I’d just been told I couldn’t walk around campus because I was wearing spaghetti straps (oh yes, it was THAT sort of university). Feeling rebellious and over-worked, I knew I needed an excellent pick-me-up meal. Comfort food – real comfort food: something that would replenish my tired body but leave me feeling like I’d indulged.

So, I put on my favorite (extremely low-cut *chortle*) blouse, applied mascara, and went grocery shopping.

I don’t even remember what I chose for my main course that evening. But I know what I tried as a side for the first time. Asparagus. Gloriously green, light, and crisp asparagus.

Now before you run out and get your asparagus, let me share with you the first step in making the best asparagus of your life: start with the best possible produce. Here’s a few tips to use at the start of your experience to make sure the end is just as enjoyable.

When selecting your asparagus at the grocery store or market, make sure of the following:

(1) The stalks are straight, rounded, and not bendable. If you try to bend a stalk, it should be more inclined to snap cleanly than flex.

(2) The asparagus is a vibrant shade of green and free of any strong odor.

(3) The asparagus tips (or ‘buds’) are tightly closed and have a dark green or purple hue. Light green or yellowish tips are a sure sign of asparagus aged past its prime.

(4) The asparagus you select is generally uniform in size so that the bunch cooks evenly.

Now that you’ve selected the best possible produce, we can move onto 3 excellent recipes for preparing it. Remember this one last tip, however: never roast your asparagus in heat less than 475 degrees or an oven which has not fully preheated. What gives roasted asparagus that satisfying crunch on the outside with the tender center is the initial burst of heat that sears the exterior. High heat also ensures the asparagus retains its vibrant green color.

Lemon-Garlic Roasted Asparagus
Serves 2

1lb Asparagus (with at least “3/8 diameter)
4 Tbsp fresh-squeezed or bottled lemon juice
4 cloves (2 Tbsp) garlic – finely minced
1 tsp grated lemon peal (optional)

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Gently wash asparagus. Trim 1 1/2 to 2 inches off the bottom of the stalks. Fill a large freezer-size Ziplock bag with asparagus stalks, lemon juice, garlic, and grated lemon peel (optional). Give the bag a shake until asparagus is well-coated.

Cover a cookie sheet with foil. Spread out asparagus evenly on cookie sheet. In one quick motion, place the cookie sheet on the center rack of the preheated oven. Let cook for 10 minutes.

Calorie Breakdown

PER SERVING
1/2lb Asparagus [45 calories]
2 Tbsp lemon juice [6 calories]
2 cloves garlic [8 calories]
TOTAL PER SERVING: 59 calories

Balsamic and Thyme Roasted Asparagus
Serves 2

1lb Asparagus (with a diameter of at least “3/8)
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbsp Thyme

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Gently wash asparagus and trims its ends 1 1/2 to 2 inches. Place asparagus, balsamic vinegar, and thyme in a large freezer Ziplock bag. Shake until asparagus is well-coated. Cover a cookie sheet with foil and spread asparagus evenly across it. In one quick motion, place asparagus on center oven rack. Cook for 10 minutes, and enjoy!

Calorie Breakdown

PER SERVING
1/2lb Asparagus [45 calories]
1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar [10 calories]
TOTAL PER SERVING: 55 calories

Buttered Garlic and Sage Roasted Asparagus
Serves 2

1lb Asparagus (with a diameter of at least “3/8)
1 1/2 Tbsp Butter – melted
3 Garlic Cloves – finely minced
1 Tbsp Sage

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Gently wash asparagus and trim ends by 1 1/2 to 2 inches. Put asparagus, melted butter, garlic, and sage into a large freezer Ziplock bag. Shake until garlic is completely covered. Cover a cookie sheet with foil and spread asparagus across it evenly. In one quick motion, place cookie sheet on center oven rack. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove and enjoy!

Calorie Breakdown

PER SERVING
1/2lb Asparagus [45 calories]
3/4 Tbsp Butter [75 calories]
1 1/2 Garlic Cloves [6 calories]
PER SERVING: 126

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