Given that most produce is available in grocery stores year round, it’s easy to forget that fruits and vegetables indeed have seasons in which they’re at their peak of freshness, when they’re the most colorful and flavorful — and not to mention the most economical. For asparagus, that time to shine is early-to-middle springtime, which means that the bundles at farmers’ markets and supermarkets right now are some of the best you’ll find all year. Celebrate the season’s bounty by putting asparagus to work in quick, family-friendly recipes like vegetable side dishes, healthful salads and quick pastas. We’ve rounded up Food Network’s top-five asparagus dishes — a mix of traditional and creative takes on this simple-to-make vegetable — ideal for casual weeknight suppers and dressed-up dinners alike. Check out our favorite picks below, then browse Food Network’s entire collection of asparagus recipes to find more fresh inspiration.
5. Corn and Asparagus Salad — In just 20 quick minutes, Paula dresses tender asparagus and vibrant corn with a sweet and tangy vinaigrette for a light side dish that complements any hearty entree.
4. Quinoa Salad With Asparagus, Goat Cheese and Black Olives — Think of quinoa as a blank canvas through which you can showcase favorite ingredients and textures, like Bobby does in his five-star recipe by adding to it trimmed asparagus, fresh thyme and creamy goat cheese.
Get the top three recipes
When shopping for asparagus, look for firm, clean and straight stalks. Wobbly stalks and discolored ends are telltale signs not to buy. Use a sharp knife to trim only the very bottom from the stalk; breaking it off causes more of the bottom to go to waste. With “pencil” asparagus, I find the stalks too thin to peel. For larger asparagus, I peel them (because the outer skin can be tough once cooked) and leave the top two inches intact. Not planning to use them right away? Fresh asparagus should be kept refrigerated. Placing the stalks upright in a little bit of water (as you would a bouquet of flowers, for example) can extend its shelf life.
I like asparagus al dente, a.k.a slightly crunchy. A six-ounce serving of asparagus will cook al dente in boiling water in about 2-3 minutes; add enough salt after the water begins to boil until it tastes like mild seawater. Once cooked, transfer the stalks to a bowl of cold water with ice to stop them from cooking further, dry them off and serve them whole drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil. When I serve them chilled, I let them sit in the fridge in the dressing for a few minutes before serving. For something even richer, try a dressing with two parts hazelnut oil, a handful of chopped, toasted hazelnuts and one part lemon juice. Drain the asparagus, dry stalks of excess water and toss them, warm, into the bowl with the dressing. When I serve them warm, I have the dressing ready; I toss and eat right away.
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Creamy risotto is mixed with Bibb lettuce, Parmesan cheese and fresh lemon juice and can be served as a light main or hearty side — perfect for Mother’s Day. Tangy Italian cheese and asparagus top this Italian classic for an extra burst of flavor.
Get the recipe: Risotto With Asparagus
Browse more of Food Network’s Mother’s Day recipes.
We’re teaming up with food and garden bloggers to host Spring Fling 2011, a season-long garden party. In coming weeks, we’ll feature favorite garden-to-table recipes and tips to help you enjoy the bounty, whether you’re harvesting your own goodies or buying them fresh from the market.
While asparagus may be available year-round in your local supermarket, it peaks in April, making it ideal to serve on Easter Sunday. Our taste-buds spring into action when asparagus is roasted, sautéed or just stir-fried — each cooking method bringing out a subtle, nutty flavor.
Asparagus recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner »