Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Gloria's Tips for Properly Steaming Asparagus

Asparagus are one of those vegetables that just scream Spring. Though I love them roasted (and love not having to peel them as carefully), steamed asparagus have a pure flavor and bright green color that is like nothing else.

In recent years, there has been some kosher controversy about the 'kosher-ness' of asparagus tops, causing many a kosher caterer to serve beheaded asparagus. In my house, we just clean them thoroughly. If you choose to be stricter, you can check out the OK Guide to Checking Vegetables . If you do choose to remove the tops of your asparagus before cooking, I recommend serving them in pieces as part of a salad instead of displaying them whole.

How to prepare your asparagus:
1. Feel for the natural break on the ends of all the asparagus and break them off. Trim the fresh ends with a sharp knife so that they are even.
2. Lay asparagus down on a flat surface and then take a vegetable peeler and gently peel the stalks from about one-half inch from the tip of the asparagus down to the end of the stalk. By doing so, you will be removing all the fibrous parts of the stalk and all the scales thus exposing the light green flesh of the vegetable. Rinse asparagus well.
To Steam:
Fill a large skillet with about two inches of water. Bring water to a boil. Add half the asparagus. Cover. Shake pan so that the asparagus settle in a single layer. Pencil asparagus take about one minute to cook. Thick asparagus can take eight to ten minutes to steam. They should be bright green and firm-tender when pierced with a knife. Carefully remove asparagus from pan and serve them immediately if you want them hot. If you plan to serve them cold or at room temperature, cover asparagus with ice cubes immediately following removing them from the pan. The ice will stop the cooking process and help maintain the bright green color of the vegetable. Drain asparagus when ice cubes have melted and cover them with a damp paper towel. The asparagus are now ready to be eaten plain, served with dressing or added to other vegetables in an antipasto.

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