Asparagus can be hard to cook because it is so easy to overdo it leaving a soft mushy residue. Retaining texture is the key to success.
The other complication is that there are various types of asparagus and different maturity stages.
There can be thick, stiff and fibrous green stalks, delicate white ones, thin green ones and all the other characteristics in between.
Success in cooking starts with choosing spears which have particular and a limited range on features.
► Choose relatively large and thick spears which will tend to be more tender when cooked that the smaller ones.
► Choose spears that are straight, deep green in color with purple traces. Also, choose fresh spear that are firm rather than soft.
See how to cook asparagus in various ways and some delightful recipes for fresh asparagus.
Place a pan large enough to hold the asparagus spears on the stove and bring the water to a vigorous boil. Meanwhile prepare the spears by washing the spears well under tap water. Snap off the tough woody ends. Add the spears and boil for 2 minutes and test how they are going. Keep coking until they are just tender crisp, but still firm. Check them with a fork for doneness. If the asparagus is to be served warm remove them a little earlier remembering that the spear will keep coking when hot. If the spears are to be served warm or cold in salads, plunge the cooked asparagus in very cold or iced water. This immediately stops the cooking process and helps preserve the crispness and color of the asparagus.
Grilled asparagus spears should shows browned areas on the outside, but just tender on the inside. Preheat to griller or barbecue to moderate to high temperature. Spray or brush the spears with olive oil. Add the spears and grill for about 5-8 minutes until tender, turning occasionally and spraying with a little extra olive oil. Test the spears often and remove when just starting to get tender inside. Sprinkle with salt when half cooked.
Heat a large griddle pan or barbecue and dry-grill the asparagus spears on both sides until marked with brown stripes. When cooked place them on serving plates and squeeze over lemon juice and drizzles of olive oil. Season with freshly ground black, sea salt to taste and freshly shaved Parmesan strips.
Lay the asparagus spears in a large flat, microwave-safe baking dish, with tips towards the center. Add about a 1/4 cup of water; cover the dish and microwave on a high setting for 3-5 minutes until just tender (test as several times).
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Place the washed, trimmed and dried asparagus in a shallow baking dish or on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Toss that spears lightly to coat all surfaces and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast, uncovered, for 13-20 minutes or until crisp on the outside, but tender inside. Toss twice during the roasting to brown on all sides. Season with herbs, spices and lemon if desired.
Preheat the oven to 430 degrees F (220 degrees C). Wash asparagus and snap off the bottom woody stalk portions. Combine the salt, oil, vinegar, pepper and garlic in a small bowl. Brush the liquid over the asparagus and to coat all sides. Place on a shallow baking pan or sheet. Roast the asparagus for 7-10 minutes, turning once.
Place a steamer basket in a saucepan or prepare your steamer. Add hot water to just below the bottom of the basket. Bring the water to a boil. Add asparagus to basket. Cover and lower the heat so a vigorous simmer. Steam for 3-8 minutes or until just tender (time depends on size). Sprinkle with a homemade vinaigrette to serve. Make the vinaigrette by whisking 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil with a heated teaspoon of French mustard, and a tablespoon of wine vinegar.
Cut spears diagonally into 1 1/2 inch to 2-inch size pieces ( 4-5 cm). Heat a wok to very high temperature, add some oil and stir fry for 2-3 minutes.
Heat the oil in a large heavy frying pan or Dutch oven over moderate to high heat. Stir-fry the asparagus until just tender (about 5-7 minutes). Add the lemon juice to the pan and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve the asparagus hot with a sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs.
Fill a medium-size saucepan half-full with lightly salted water, and bring to a boil. While the water is heating, prepare the asparagus. by rinsing thoroughly and snapping off the tough bottom sections and discard. Slice the spears diagonally into short sections. Add the asparagus to the boiling water and simmer the asparagus for just 2 minutes. Drain and toss in a small serving bowl with the olive oil, Parmesan, and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm with extra cheese and fresh herbs.
Break off the tough ends of the spears and discard. Prepare a large, shallow pan (with a cover) with a shallow covering of water and a steamer rack.
Prepare the Hollandaise sauce by melting the butter in a small saucepan. Place the lemon juice, egg yolks, salt, pepper and cayenne into a blender or food processor. Process the eggs for about 15-30 seconds at moderate speed until light in color. Reduce the speed to low and slowly pour in the hot melted butter in a drizzle while the blender is operating slowly. Pulse for a few seconds after all of the butter is incorporated. Season with more salt or lemon juice as needed. Steaming the asparagus on the steaming rack. for 3-5 minutes until just tender, but not soggy. Serve the asparagus immediately with the Hollandaise sauce poured over them. Sprinkle with cheese and fresh herbs.
Heat the stock to boiling in a saucepan, and then lower to a simmer. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to another large saucepan and melt over moderate heat. Add onion and garlic, then fry, while stirring, for about 4-5 minutes or until onion is tender. Add the rice and cook while stirring for 2 minutes or until all the rice grains are well coated and have cooked a little. While stirring continuously add 1 cup hot stock, mixing until stock has been absorbed. Add another cup of stock and stir until absorbed. Next, add asparagus to the pan and add more stock, a cupful at a time, until the mixture is creamy and rice is just tender (about 15- 20 minutes). Add the lemon rind, lemon juice, extra butter and Parmesan cheese to the risotto. Stir well to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with fresh herbs and freshly ground black pepper.
Heat a large cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven over moderate-high heat. Add the oil to pan and heat to hot. Stir-fry the asparagus for 3 minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender and starting to brown, stirring constantly. Transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle with the rind, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and serve immediately.
Bring 2 cups of water to a simmer in a small saucepan. Add a pinch of salt and stir in the butter. Add the leeks and simmer for 2 minutes, and then add the asparagus and peas, and cook for 2 extra minutes. Drain and add the lemon juice and mint. Serve immediately.
Heat the butter and oil in a heavy pan or Dutch oven until foaming. Stir-fry the asparagus tips for several minutes until they soften. Add the shallots, asparagus stalks and garlic, and cook for about 5-10 minutes until just softened. Stir through the spinach, add the stock, and bring to the boil. Then blitz the mixture with a hand blender or a bench top blender until smooth. Ladle the soup into bowls and scatter some asparagus tips into each bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with sourdough bread.