Cooking asparagus is simple, requires no fancy pots, and doesn't really require a recipe. So why am I writing this post? I'm writing because I'm appalled at the fancy asparagus cooking techniques and recipes that are touted on television and the internet and that turn cooking a simple, great tasting vegetable into a complex project. It shouldn't be. Unfortunately, asparagus is comparatively expensive at this time of year, but later in the winter new crops from Mexico and other parts of Latin America tend to show up. Many markets also run good specials on asparagus during November and December. If you do decide to splurge on asparagus now, please, please don't use a cooking technique that will hide it's fresh, unique taste. In other words, go gentle on the seasonings and don't hide it under a sauce best used for camouflaging tired or pedestrian foods. So, how to cook asparagus? Microwave it. I'm not kidding. The microwave cooks the spears from the inside out and allows you to preserve taste and nutrients. The asparagus will come out bright green, crisp tender, and in little need of much, if any, adornment.
2 pounds (or about) of fresh asparagus
2 teaspoons of butter (or Smart or Earth Balance)
1-2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Wash the asparagus well and snap off the bottom ends. Some of the stalks may be very hard toward the stem end. Keep moving up the stalk until you find a spot where the end snaps off easily. That's where you make the break. Wash the asparagus well and put it in a microwave-safe casserole or other microwave-safe dish. The asparagus should have enough water left on it from being washed, but, if not, add a tablespoon or two of water to the dish. Dot the asparagus with the butter (or Smart or Earth Balance)and cover the top of the casserole dish with plastic wrap. Microwave the asparagus for 5 minutes on high. Remove it from the oven and use a fork to redistribute the spears a little and check them for tenderness. You want the spears still a little crispy because they'll continue to cook for a couple of minutes as they stand. If the asparagus remains hard, pop it back in the microwave for 2-3 more minutes and then check it again. Err on the side of under cooking the spears. Move them around again with the fork and cover them back up with the plastic wrap, letting the asparagus sit for a few minutes. When you're ready to serve the asparagus, you can sprinkle a little grated Parmesan cheese on the spears, but it's not really necessary.