Asparagus is known as both a vegetable and a medicinal plant used since the time of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Asparagus is high in folate that may help reduce the risk of heart disease. They also contain inulin that helps in the propagation of good bacteria in our digestive system that in turn promotes proper digestion. At present, it is still one of the most popular vegetables on the dinner table, thus proper preparation and cooking is important.
There are a few things to remember in relation to the best way to cook asparagus spears. The first is the selection process. As with any vegetable, it is important to choose the asparagus that is not bruised or blemished. This more or less gives the assurance that it comes neither from old or diseased stock. Next is to look at the color. A vivid green, purplish or clean white color is expected from the different asparagus varieties. Lastly, check that the asparagus spears are straight.
To prepare the asparagus for cooking, break of cut off the tough part of the stalk. The easiest way to do this is to simply bend the asparagus spear and the tough part will break off the spear.
The best way to cook asparagus is to carefully monitor the cooking time to prevent serving a mushy consistency on the dinner table. They are best served al dente or until they are firm and give a little resistance towards the center. The general rule is to cook asparagus from 3-5 minutes only, depending on the thickness of the asparagus spears. Asparagus can be served both hot and cold dishes. The best way to cook asparagus when served hot is to remove them a couple of minutes before the estimated time of cooking. Once off the flame they will continue to cook for another few minutes because of the residual heat inside. When it will be served cold, it is important to cook the asparagus spears according to the prescribed time, and subsequently submerging them in ice water to halt the cooking process. This ensures crispiness when served.
Another way to best cook the asparagus is to cook them upright. There are special steamers that accommodate cooking vegetables upright. In this case, the tougher lower portion of the asparagus spears are cooked in the boiling water while the more tender tips are simply steamed to ensure even cooking.
The asparagus can also be cooked in a variety of ways. The best way to cook asparagus when grilling is to make sure the grill is pre-heated and well oiled before placing the asparagus spears in the grill. It takes about less than a minute to cook them over the grill. This can be served by simply seasoning with salt and pepper as a side to your grilled meat.
Asparagus can also be roasted. The best way to cook asparagus spears when roasting is to toss them in oil and lay them in a single layer on the baking pan. Cook them in high heat, about 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 minutes. After which, turn the spear over and cook for another 2 minutes. Serve with salt and pepper or toss them in with a warm vegetable salad preparation.
In Asian cuisines, asparagus can be added in stir fries. Since stir fry refers to fast cooking in high temperatures, it is important that the asparagus spear is cut into smaller and even pieces, about 2 inches is prescribed as ideal. Add oil to the wok, making sure that it is hot before tossing the asparagus in. Toss the pieces for about a minute or until the asparagus becomes vivid in color.
With regard to ingredients, the best way to cook asparagus is with any of the following complementary seasonings and spices: basil, black pepper, capers, chives, coriander, garlic, ginger, lemon grass, mint, miso, mustard, parsley, rosemary, tarragon and thyme. They can also be served with beets, carrots, cashews, mushrooms, potatoes, lemon and orange.
Keeping all these steps to best cook the asparagus in mind will yield perfectly cooked asparagus all the time while still maximizing health benefits of this sweet and succulent vegetable.
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