Here are some guidelines for buying, storing and cooking asparagus:
Choose bright green asparagus with closed, compact firm tips. If the tips are slightly wilted, freshen them up by soaking the spears in cold water.
Keep fresh asparagus cool and moist until you want to use it. To preserve nutrients, taste and texture, use fresh asparagus within three to four days of purchase.
Keep frozen asparagus in the freezer until you are ready. Do not defrost before cooking. If the asparagus defrosts, cook it immediately. Do NOT refreeze. Make sure you use frozen asparagus within 8 months.
Keep canned asparagus in a cool, dry place. Use it within one year.
When you cook asparagus:
Snap off woody bottoms of stalks, peel lower part of very thick stalks but don't bother to peel pencil-thin asparagus.
Be careful never to overcook asparagus; it can easily become mushy and watery. Lightly cook it no more than tender-crisp, whether you steam, boil, roast or grill it. It usually cooks in less than five minutes, but the thicker the stalks, the longer the cooking time will be. You should begin testing it in two to three minutes, depending on the thickness of the stalks. Test for tenderness by inserting a skewer or thin-bladed knife into the thickest part of the stalk.
To microwave: Place 1 pound of asparagus in a dish with tips pointed to center. Add about 1/4 cup water and cover.
To stir-fry: Stir-fry asparagus pieces in a small amount of hot oil or butter. Stir constantly.
To steam: Tie bundles together and place in steamer standing up, with enough water to cover lower half of spears. Cover and cook until tender-crisp.
To boil: Cook quickly in water with or without salt until tender-crisp. Add garlic or onion to the water for extra flavor.
When you are cooking asparagus, don't worry if you make more than you need for a hot serving. Keep in the refrigerator for a day or two to eat cold.
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