You know spring has arrived when you see bright stalks of green asparagus lining the produce shelves. If you’ve never bought or used this green veggie, you may be wondering how to cook asparagus to turn it into a delicious and healthy side dish.
Asparagus, after all, provides a multitude of healthy vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, and E, in addition to iron, folate, calcium, and fiber. You can find this healthful and versatile vegetable in grocery stores from February through June, with its peak season being in April.
When shopping for asparagus at the store, you’ll want to look for bright green spears that are firm and never shriveled. The tips might have a purple hue, and they should be tender but in no way mushy. When you get home from the store, trim the ends of the asparagus and place them upright in a glass of water. Cover the asparagus with plastic and refrigerate until you’re ready to use it.
How to Cook Asparagus as a Healthy Side Dish
Asparagus is an elegant and versatile vegetable that can be used in a variety of ways. Top the asparagus with a poached egg or wrap them in prosciutto as a tasty appetizer. In any case, you have a few options for how you can prepare asparagus.
The first thing you’ll want to do is give your asparagus a rinse to make sure there isn’t any lingering sand or grit between the spears. A quick rinse and gentle shake will help with that; you don’t need to soak the asparagus.
Once you’ve washed the asparagus, make sure to trim off the tough fibrous ends (the paler parts of the asparagus). If your asparagus is thin, you might not need to do this. You can prepare asparagus as an easy and healthy side dish in 3 different ways:
1. Boil the asparagus:
To boil the asparagus, you’ll want to fill a large pot with water and set it up over high heat. Allow the water to come to a boil, adding a generous pinch of salt, then lower the heat to medium-low. Wrap a bunch of asparagus stalks together with kitchen string and place the asparagus in the pot, with the tips sitting just above the water.
Place the pot’s lid on top, or invert another pan over the pot (in case the asparagus is too tall for the matching lid), and cook just until the asparagus is tender, yet still crisp.
2. Roast the asparagus:
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spread the asparagus out onto a baking sheet, then drizzle with olive oil. Roll the asparagus around to make sure it’s all covered well in the oil. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the asparagus, then roast in the oven until tender yet crisp; about 7 to 9 minutes. Sprinkle some freshly ground black pepper over the asparagus before serving.
3. Steam cook the asparagus in the microwave:
Arrange the asparagus in a square or round, microwave-safe dish and add a couple tablespoons of water. Cover the dish with a sheet of microwave-safe plastic wrap and cook on high power for about 7 minutes, until the asparagus is tender yet crisp. When you’ve removed the asparagus, add a pinch of salt and pepper.