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It's Spring and in Michigan that means it's time for fresh picked asparagus! Asparagus is low-calorie and just packed with vitamins A and C, but so many people overcook it, losing a great deal of the taste and nutrients in the process. So...this column is devoted to the basics of proper asparagus cooking! Try one of the methods below and then serve the veggies hot with lightly herbed butter or chill and marinate in a tangy vinaigrette. Allow about 1 1/2 lb for 4 servings. Happy Eating!

  • To Prepare: Break off tough ends as far down as stalks snap easily. For spears, tie with string. Or, cut each stalk into 1 inch pieces.

  • Cooking Spears: In deep, narrow pan or asparagus pot, heat 1" salted water to boiling. Place asparagus upright in pot. Heat to boiling, reduce heat. Boil uncovered for 5 minutes. Cover and boil 2-3 minutes longer. Drain.

  • Cooking pieces: Cook lower stalk pieces uncovered in 1" boiling water for 6 minutes. Add tips, cover, and cook until tender, about 1-2 minutes. Drain.

  • Steaming: Place steamer or basket in 1/2" water (water should not touch basket). Place asparagus in basket. Cover tightly and heat to boiling. Reduce heat and steam until tender, about 6 minutes.

  • Microwave: Cover and cook asparagus spears or 1" pieces and 1/4 c water in 2 qt casserole on high 4 minutes. Turn asparagus over. Cover and cook until tender crisp, about 3 minutes longer. Let stand 1 minute and drain.

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