posttrib
SPRIGHTLY 
Weather Updates

Asparagus: A luxury of spring

Corinne Powell

Corinne Powell

storyidforme: 48329034
tmspicid: 1612971
fileheaderid: 613630

Sautéed Asparagus with Mushrooms

Use your favorite fresh mushroom for this recipe. This dish is also excellent served chilled.

1 pound asparagus, trimmed

1

1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped or

1/2 teaspoon dried Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. In a large skillet, bring 2 inches of water to a boil with a teaspoon salt. Prepare a bowl of ice water and set aside.

2. Add asparagus to the boiling water and cook 4 to 5 minutes or until barely tender but still firm. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, remove the spears to the ice water bath. Leave in ice water 5 minutes or until cool. Drain and set aside. Discard blanching water.

3. Using the same skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, asparagus, thyme and salt and pepper to taste.

4. Sauté until mushrooms are wilted and the asparagus is just heated through, about 3 to 4 minutes. Serce warm or chilled. Yields four servings.

Updated: June 23, 2013 6:02AM



Asparagus is spring’s most luxurious vegetable. It was once cultivated for medicinal purposes as a natural remedy for blood cleansing and diuretic properties.

During the Renaissance, asparagus was also promoted as an aphrodisiac and banned from the tables of most nunneries.

Pencil thin or thick stems can be equally delicious. Contrary to popular belief, thinner stems are not an indication of tenderness. Thick stems are already thick when they poke their heads out of the soil and thin stems do not get thicker with age. Tenderness is related to maturity and freshness.

Asparagus comes in a variety of colors including white, violet-green, pink and purple. If you must store any variety of asparagus, treat it as you would treat a cut flower. Trim the stems and stand them in a glass with one to two inches of water. Cover with a plastic bag and refrigerate for 2 to 3 days or until ready to use.

Nutritional value and health benefits

Asparagus is low in calories and provides substantial amounts of two antioxidants—vitamin A and C. It truly shines as a source of folate and has a goodly amount of fiber.

Preparation and serving

Cook asparagus as soon as possible to ensure peak flavor. Spears start to lose flavor and moisture as soon as they are harvested. For this reason, imported asparagus, while still good, tends to lack flavor, making home grown Michigan and Illinois spring crops most desirable.

To prepare, wash under cool running water and trim an inch from the stem end. Use a vegetable peeler to peel an inch or two off the bottom end, if desired. The peelings can be added to the cooking water which, can be refrigerated and reused. The water becomes quite flavorful and is excellent in stock and soup.

Peeling asparagus can be tedious and many cooks prefer breaking the tough ends. To use this method, hold the top half of an asparagus spear in one hand and the bottom half between the thumb and forefinger of the other hand. Bend each spear until it snaps in two pieces. The spears will naturally break where the tender part meets the tough end. Although this method produces a lot of waste, the tougher bottoms can be saved for soup or stock, if desired.

Asparagus can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, grilled, roasted or incorporated into casseroles and salads. Tall narrow asparagus kettles are designed to cook the spears upright, immersing the stems while the tender heads steam. It is not necessary to purchase an asparagus kettle in order to cook asparagus properly. The key to perfectly cooked asparagus is “cook it briefly.”

Home preservation

The best home preservation method to use for asparagus is freezing.

1. Select young tender spears. Wash thoroughly and sort into like sizes.

2. Trim ends and peel or use the “break method” described above. Cut spears into even lengths to fit freezer bags or freezer containers.

3. Water blanch small spears 2 minutes, medium spears 3 minutes and large spears 4 minutes.

4. Remove from blanching water and immediately immerse in ice water for 5 minutes to cool. Drain slightly.

5.Package, leaving no headspace, seal, label, date and freeze at zero degrees or below for up to one year.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.