I am a big fan of this delicious vegetable. For some reason growing up we always had broccoli and peas with dinner but now that I prepare my own meals there is a good chance you will find asparagus on the plate. While dealing with the after effects of Hurricane Sandy a week after the storm we had no power but we did have gas and I turned the food I did have into a simple but delicious meal; whole wheat sharp cheddar grilled cheese with steamed asparagus and a glass of white wine.
I know asparagus is not for everyone but for those of us who do like it there are SO many ways that you can go about cooking it. After many adventures in the produce department I have come to the conclusion that I prefer thicker asparagus rather than thin but whichever you choose, I have learned, it is important that all of the spears be the same size for the best cooking results. These are my three favorite ways to prepare this amazing vegetable:
(1) Steamed and Served with Anything
Usually I simply cut the ends off and steam asparagus over the stove. This is honestly one of the easiest things to do to this fantastic vegetable – you set up a steamer or even just a large pot and fill the bottom with water, about an inch. Then while you are bringing this water to a boil and cut the hard white ends off of the bottom of the stalks. There is not hard or fast rule on exactly how much to cut – I usually just make sure the spears will fit in my strainer. After the water reaches a boil, all if you have to do is place the asparagus in the basket and cook them while covered them until bright green and tender. I love asparagus so much that I will eat them “plain” with just a bit of salt and pepper, as shown above, but I also love drizzling them with a balsamic reduction as an addition to any meal.
(2) Grilled with Parmesan Cheese
This is so simple – preheat to 400 degrees, coat the cookie/baking sheet with non-stick spray, and coat the asparagus with a fine drizzle of olive oil. Cook for six minutes and and then flip the asparagus and rotate the tray front to back. Unlike most recipes, I add the parmesan cheese at this point, sprinkling it liberally over the top of the asparagus, instead of waiting until they come out of the oven – I like when the cheese melts a bit. Afterwards I usually bake them for an additional five minutes until the asparagus are tender.
(3) Prosciutto Wrapped
This is one of the things I remember as a side dish of every holiday table. As a young child I remember getting to be in charge of the timer (hey, it used to be cool), then as I grew older I was allowed to make the spread mixture and then finally make them all by myself.
Turn the oven to 450 and let it heat up. Take softened cream cheese and mix it with chopped garlic, salt and pepper. Spread out thinly sliced prosciutto from the butcher, trim off all fat, and slice into inch wide pieces. Now comes the tricky part – gently applying the cheese spread. After dozens of attempts I have found the best way to spread this mixture on the delicate meat is either with a frosting knife or the back of the spoon. If it suits your fancy you can wrap every asparagus with prosciutto but when every spear is covered with meat and cheese it is rather heavy in my family we wrap every other, or every third. Once you spread all of the asparagus across a single layer on a baking sheet bake for approximately 15 minutes or until the asparagus is tender.
The proscuitto wrapped asparagus is a family tradition and I am excitied to make it tomorrow for Thanksgiving dinner!
Do you have food traditions at the holidays?