In the kitchen asparagus are a very versatile ingredient, whether they are used as a simple side dish or for an elaborate lasagna they are always quite successful. Asparagus plants have been cultivated since ancient times. It seems that the first crops date back to the year zero in Asia Minor and Egypt and that they were a very popular dish for the emperors of ancient Rome. Today on the market there are mainly four types of asparagus, different in appearance but not for the nutritional properties:
- white asparagus, with a very delicate taste, owe their color to the absence of light in which they grow
- purple asparagus, with a more bitter taste, are nothing more than white asparagus exposed to the sunlight
- green asparagus, tastier and sweeter on the palate, are the most common asparagus type
- wild asparagus are thinner and more pungent in taste.
How to clean asparagus
To clean asparagus, you must first of all free them from the rubber bands that generally hold the bunch together, taking care not to break the tips. Then, just follow these instructions:
- Wash the asparagus under running water and arrange them on a cutting board next to each other;
- With a knife, cut off the hardest white tips;
- With a potato peeler or even with a knife, just put it below the tip and cut the surface to remove the harder and outer part;
- Give the asparagus another rinse and proceed with cooking.
There is also a grandmother's method of cleaning asparagus without a knife. After washing them, take some asparagus in your hand. You will feel that they have a precise breaking point, so break them, keep the tip aside and throw away the harder part. Using this method, unlike the previous one, the asparagus will not all be the same length, because for each asparagus the percentage of the softest part changes.
How to cook asparagus
Asparagus can be cooked in several ways, some people cook them even on the grill. The main cooking methods, however, are two; boiling if you need whole asparagus, and browning if your recipe requires the asparagus to be cut into chunks.
To boil the asparagus in the asparagus pot, tie the asparagus together with a piece of string in a narrow and high pot suitable for cooking this type of vegetable. Then put the pot on the fire with the water, add fine salt and when the water reaches a boil add the asparagus with the tips facing upwards. Be careful, though; it is better not to immerse the tips in water because they risk breaking, so better leave them out and let them steam.
To boil the asparagus in a normal pot, wait for the water to boil, add fine salt and gently place the asparagus in it. In this case, there is no way to cook the tips only with steam, so you must pay close attention to the cooking to prevent the tips from breaking.
Asparagus usually cook in about 10 minutes, but if you have any doubts you can pierce them with a fork; if they are soft they are ready. We remind you that asparagus must remain compact. Once boiled, the asparagus can be simply seasoned and served as a side dish or blended to obtain a cream to be used in more elaborate recipes.
For browning, once the asparagus has been cleaned, cut them into chunks and brown them in a pan with a knob of butter, or a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and a little chopped onion. When they have softened you can proceed according to your recipe. This cooking is recommended, for example, for the asparagus omelette, spaghetti with asparagus and speck and the risotto with asparagus, shrimp and saffron.