Look for tight, firm tips. Spears with tips that have begun to splay indicate the asparagus was picked late, and will likely be woody.
Although we tend to look for green asparagus, different varieties have slightly different colours. Often present is a slight purple tone, which is simply a difference in variety and fine to eat. Regardless of the colour, what you should look for is vibrancy. A dullness means the asparagus has passed its best.
Look for firm stalks. Spears that feel rubbery when bent are not at their prime.
The asparagus we eat during the winter is imported and generally uniform in appearance – tall and slender. But when it comes to local asparagus – such as you would find at your farmers’ market, they will vary in size. In this case, the shorter, wider asparagus will be just as tender and sweet as the tall spears.
Cleaning and prepping
Trim the ends – don’t snap them! Snapping the ends results in too much waste. Place your knife on the bottom of the spear, you can feel where the spear turns from firm to tender. Local asparagus will need very little trimming. Don’t peel. Peeling is reserved for aesthetics and for asparagus that has passed its prime and turned woody.
As for cleaning, asparagus is simply not as sandy or dirty as some believe. After trimming off the ends (the sandiest part) often a rinse will do. Otherwise, put a small amount of water in the base of your sink and swish the spears around to remove any dirt from the crevices. Dry thoroughly.
Avoid washing or trimming asparagus until you are ready to use it. Store in the fridge, standing upright in a very small amount of water, or cover the ends of your bunch with a wet paper towel, place it in an open plastic storage bag and keep in your crisper until ready to use. Cooking
How can’t you cook asparagus? It’s an excellent candidate for steaming, roasting, grilling, sauteeing and blanching.
CARAMELIZED ONION TART WITH ASPARAGUS
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 red onion,
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 397 g pkg frozen puff pastry,
- 1 egg
- 1/2 bunch asparagus,
- 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives,
- 1 cup grated fontina or mozzarella cheese
- Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium. Add 1 tbsp oil, then onion. Sprinkle with sugar and 1/8 tsp salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until caramel coloured, about 12 min. Stir in vinegar.
- Position oven rack in lower third of oven. Preheat to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface into a 14×10-in. rectangle. Pastry will be thin, and edges will be uneven. Transfer to lined baking sheet. Beat egg with 1 tbsp water in a small bowl. Lightly brush pastry with egg wash. Set aside.
- Drizzle asparagus with remaining oil and sprinkle with remaining salt. Season with fresh pepper. Toss to coat.
- Scatter caramelized onion and olives over pastry. Sprinkle with 1/2 of cheese. Arrange asparagus spears in 2 parallel rows on cheese. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake in lower third of oven until pastry has puff ed up and cheese is melted, 20 to 25 min. Cut into bite-sized rectangles and serve immediately
Excerpt from Chatalaine.com