Storified by Arya McLean· Sat, Apr 27 2013 20:41:40
Asparagus has gotten a bad reputation and it truly isn't deserved. This is one of my favorite vegetables. Often when I cook them I'm guilty of sneaking back into the kitchen to grab a few more with my bare fingers, no matter how stuffed I am.
When purchased in a can asparagus does have a different flavor and texture, which could be why so many people dislike it. Canned asparagus is like baby food. It is pure mush and has an obviously canned taste. I often feel like I'm eating an imitation of asparagus rather than the real thing. You can watch recipe videos online at Gourmandia.
The best asparagus is fresh. I can't emphasize that enough, but I hope that will suffice. Fresh asparagus has all the earthy taste and crunchy body you could ask for. Frozen can be used if you're in a pinch, but honestly you're not saving yourself any time and frozen asparagus has often lost most of its moisture.
I like to cook asparagus very simply, and there are two ways that are my favorite.First, I bake it, and as I said, this is very simple, not to mention wonderfully healthy. Below are the ingredients:
I told you didn't I? Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. While you're waiting for it to heat clean and trim your asparagus spears. They should be rinsed under cold water, each spear at a time, paying particular attention to the tips. Be careful with them, though, as the tips are sometimes delicate. Once they are all rinsed, hold each end in both hands, one hand just above the end and one hand about two inches below the tip. Now bend. The asparagus will break naturally at the point where it becomes too fibrous to be enjoyable. Discard the end.
Now pop them into a baking pan, drizzle them with a generous amount of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, cover with aluminum foil and put them in the oven. Baking should take no longer than 25 minutes.
I also like to saute asparagus spears. I use absolutely the same ingredients as for the first recipe, but the result is quite different.
First, heat a large pan over medium-high heat. Add about two tablespoons of olive to the pan and let it warm through. Add your cleaned asparagus spears, whole or cut in half, it's up to you. Toss and coat with the olive oil. Add salt and pepper.
Keep an eye on the asparagus. You'll want to give it a toss often to make sure it isn't burning. Let it get a touch brown, though, because it creates an amazing crunchy texture. The asparagus will cook more quickly with this method, so test it after about 15 minutes. The asparagus will wilt to some degree, but the crunch and delicious, almost grilled taste is phenomenal. Even my nine-year old daughter loves asparagus. The men in my family don't, though, but that means more for us.
This is my fantastically easy asparagus soup
Melt butter in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Toss in chopped asparagus. Let cook for about ten minutes, stirring very often. Add flour and mix until a roux had developed. Allow to cook for another minute to obviate that raw taste of the flour. Add milk gradually, making sure to use a whisk in order to blend it perfectly with the roux. The secret to doing this quickly is to heat your milk up first. Continue until all milk has been added. Allow soup to cook for another five minutes, but don't let it come to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
This soup is a real winner when it's cold and the asparagus lends it a superb flavor.
If you've never had asparagus before, don't let anyone stop you from trying it. I'd heard so many bad reports that I thought I was going to throw up if I tried it. I'm glad I did anyway, though, because it has earned its place in my top ranking vegetables. By the way, I always cook by feel so my measurements are never exact. Remember, when making the soup, that the flour and butter ratio needs to be equal.
Just a tip, though: expect your pee to have a strong and funky smell right afterwards. I don't know what it is in those things that does this, but it's perfectly natural.