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Asparagus was once known as an aphrodisiac. Now, we know asparagus is high in vitamin K and folate. It is an extremely nutrient-rich vegetable that is good for the urinary tract and helps boost energy. Asparagus contains many nutrients including vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, manganese, and selenium. There are many ways to cook asparagus and highlight its rich, nutty flavor.

Asparagus is a savory vegetable that tastes great prepared in many different ways. Long cooking times or blanching destroy nutrients in asparagus, and many other vegetables. It is easy to cook asparagus as a tasty side dish while preserving nutrients.

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Choosing Asparagus

Asparagus can be grown or purchased in purple, white, and various shades of green. White asparagus is cultivated by piling dirt on the stalks, so they don't absorb sunlight to produce chlorophyll. All colors of asparagus are interchangeable, although the white variety may be a little sweeter. Thin spears have a stronger flavor, while thick spears are mellow. Choose asparagus with tight buds, and avoid spears with dry ends.

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Preparation

Asparagus loses flavor faster than many other vegetables, so it is best to cook asparagus immediately after purchase. If asparagus must be stored, wrap the bunch of stalks in a moist paper towel, and keep it in the crisper. The stalks can also be stored upright in a glass with an inch of water. The only preparation necessary before cooking is a quick rinse and trimming the woody ends. If the asparagus has a tough outer layer, remove it with a vegetable peeler.

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Roasted Rosemary Asparagus

Roast asparagus is a complementary side dish for chicken or steak. Toss asparagus stocks in olive oil or butter with sprigs of rosemary and thinly sliced lemon. Spread the asparagus on a parchment-covered baking sheet, and use salt and pepper according to personal preference. Roast the asparagus for five to seven minutes. The time can be shortened for juicier asparagus or lengthened for a crispier texture.

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Asparagus Parmesan Chips

Asparagus parmesan chips are a healthy and tasty snacking option. This recipe makes between 12 to 16 chips from four or five asparagus stocks. First, remove the woody section from the asparagus stalks. Use a blender or food processor to shred the asparagus, then transfer the asparagus to a paper towel. Use the paper towel to squeeze out excess moisture. The chips are crispier if most of the moisture is removed.

Combine the asparagus, 1-cup of grated Parmesan cheese, and a dash of freshly ground black pepper in a large bowl. Scoop the mixture onto a parchment-covered baking sheet in 1-tablespoon dollops. Leave an inch of space between each dollop. Bake the chips at 375-degrees for approximately 10 minutes. The chips are finished when the cheese bubbles and the edges are golden-brown.

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Roasted Asparagus

This recipe for roasted asparagus leaves the cooked vegetables filled with juice. Prepare 2-pounds of asparagus by snapping off the woody ends, then preheat the oven to 400-degrees. Oil a baking sheet and place the asparagus in a dish to toss with 2-teaspoons of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast the asparagus in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the asparagus from the oven and toss the cooked stocks with thyme and lemon juice. The asparagus can be cut into sections for use in other dishes or added to kabobs.

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Sautéed Asparagus and Tofu

Slice a medium-sized onion, and four garlic cloves then heat 1-Tbsp of vegetable broth in a 10-12 inch stainless steel skillet. Sauté the onion in broth, then cover the skillet for two minutes. Add the garlic, 2-Tbsp of minced ginger, 3-cups of thin asparagus cut into 2-inch sections, a medium-sized red bell pepper in thin julienne 1-inch lengths, and 4-ounces extra-firm tofu cut into 0.5-inch cubes. Add 1-Tbsp of soy sauce and 2-Tbsp of rice vinegar, and allow everything to cook for approximately two minutes. The vegetables should be tender, but still crisp.

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Lemon Asparagus in Coconut Oil

Place asparagus spears in a baking dish or pan. Drizzle coconut oil over the spears and add sesame seeds, lemon wedges, salt, and pepper. Use as many flavoring ingredients as desired. Bake the asparagus at 375-degrees for approximately 12 minutes. The stalks should be tender enough to easily pierce with a fork. This is a great side dish to serve with fish.

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Grilled Asparagus

Grilling asparagus preserves its texture and adds a smoky flavor. Trim and peel asparagus spears, then toss them in some sort of vegetable oil. Coconut or olive oil adds some additional antioxidants. Turn the asparagus spears on the grill to cook evenly. They are usually ready in 10 minutes. Toss the grilled spears in lemon juice and salt, then serve the asparagus spears hot or at room temperature. Top with Parmesan cheese if desired.

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Sweet Honey-Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan Cheese

This sweet asparagus recipe is perfect for kids, and even adults, who don't love eating their veggies. Combine 1-pound of prepped asparagus with 1-tbsp of garlic oil, 1-tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1-tsp of honey, and 1-tsp dijon mustard in a large bowl. Place the asparagus spears on a parchment-covered baking pan, and drizzle the remaining dressing over them. Roast for 10 minutes, then toss the hot spears in 2-tbsp of Parmesan cheese and add salt and pepper to taste.

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Asparagus and Sweet Peppers

Preheat the oven to 425-degrees, and cut the ends off 1-pound of asparagus spears. Cut the spears into 1-inch sections. Remove stems from 10-ounces of mini sweet peppers. Combine the asparagus and peppers in a large bowl with 1.5-Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil. Brush a baking sheet with olive oil, and spread the vegetables in a thin layer over the sheet. Roast the vegetables in the oven for 20-minutes until asparagus is tender and peppers are soft and starting to blacken. Remove the vegetables from the oven, and toss them in the mixing bowl with 1.5-tsp of Dijon mustard and 1.5-tsp of white wine vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste, then serve chilled or at room temperature. Sweet chili or mini bell peppers work well in this recipe, and a few habanero or jalapeno peppers add spice. Cherry tomatoes and cucumbers are also good additions.

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