It’s nearly the end of asparagus season here in Madison, but I’m really hoping that we can pick some stalks right out of Nick’s parents’ backyard when we visit later this summer. Asparagus can be cooked almost any way you want to cook it, as long as you don’t overcook it. To prepare it, you’ll want to get rid of the tough bottom part of the stem. The stalks naturally snap at the best point, so I grab the middle of the stalk and the bottom of the stalk in each hand, make an arch out of it, and apply the most bend of that arch near the bottom, working my way up until it snaps apart easily. That sounds really complicated – but all I mean to say is, feel your way for the part that naturally breaks. If you have quite thick asparagus, some people like to peel the fibrous skin all the way from tip to base.
I always used to steam asparagus in a steamer basket, but this way, from Bittman’s book, has given us much better results. After washing and stemming, you can bundle them back up (or not, if your pot is tall and thin) and stand them upright in a pot tall enough to cover them. You’ll want an inch of salted water at the bottom. Cover and turn the heat to high and cook until the thick part of the stalk can be pierced with a knife.
To roast, grill, or broil (my favorite way – the browning really compliments asparagus):
If you are roasting them, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Toss the asparagus with a teaspoon or more of olive oil and equal parts lemon juice, preferably fresh. Roast, grill, or broil until the thick part of the stalk can be pierced with a knife, 10-15 minutes, turning once in the middle of cooking. When they are done, sprinkle with kosher salt (or regular salt, if that’s what you have).
Asparagus is delicious hot, room temperature, or cold. Ever since I learned that it’s actually within strict etiquette rules to eat it either with your fingers or with a fork and knife, I’ve liked it even more.