How to prepare Asparagus
by Charlie Burke

One of the most eagerly anticipated early crops in New England is asparagus. Prior to its year-round
availability in supermarkets, fresh local asparagus used to be a welcome sign of spring and of the
coming bounty from local growers.  

As efforts encouraging restaurants and consumers to "buy fresh, buy local" gain momentum in Maine,
New Hampshire and Vermont, let's plan to go to a  local farm or farmers' market and take advantage of
native asparagus.  

The taste and freshness are worth the effort!

How to Cook Asparagus

In preparing asparagus, less is more: there is no need to tie the stalks together, use an asparagus cooker
or stand them upright. A large straight sided frying pan is ideal because you can closely monitor the
quick cooking process.

For side dish proportions, plan 1/2 pound per person. Simply bring two to three inches of water to a
rapid boil and add two tablespoons of salt. Add the spears of asparagus (if some are notably thicker than
others, add them a  minute or so before the others).

Remember, uncooked asparagus is delicious, so very short cooking times are needed. Over-cooking
yields a soft tasteless result. You will notice the stalks turn a more vivid  green shortly after they are
added to the boiling water. I like to use  chef's tongs to check progress.  

When the spears begin to lose their  rigidity and bend slightly when shaken they are done. Drain them  
thoroughly. Serve immediately! (If you prefer to serve the asparagus at room temperature, run it under
cold water after draining to prevent over-cooking.)

Serving Suggestions

Toss with extra virgin olive oil and a small amount of lemon juice and add freshly ground pepper and
salt to taste. If butter is preferred, skip the lemon juice.

*Another interesting flavor combination results from tossing with dark sesame oil and sesame seeds;
sesame oil has an intense flavor, so  little is required.   Either of the above oil preparations could be used
at serving time, or substitute your favorite salad dressing

Enjoy New England's bounty!

About the author: Charlie Burke is an  organic farmer and avid cook; with his wife, Joanne, Charlie grows certified
organic herbs, greens and berries at Weather Hill Farm in Sanbornton, New Hampshire.  
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