Steamed Asparagus

Steamed asparagus is easy to make.

Steamed asparagus is quick and extremely simple to make, and is a delicious and healthful seasonal vegetable. Lightly steaming asparagus leaves it tender but not mushy, and with all its nutrients intact.

Choosing Asparagus

The best asparagus is the freshest: buy local if you can. Asparagus loses its sweetness quickly after being cut. When shopping, looking for firm stalks and tight, compact heads. Thick spears are just as good as thin (in fact, they're often better).

How to Make Steamed Asparagus

You can steam asparagus either on the stove, or in a microwave.

For either method, wash the asparagus and snap off the tough bottom of each spear. With very thick stalks, you may want to peel them.

To steam it on the stove, lay the asparagus gently in a steamer basket (trimming the bottoms of the spears if necessary) and steam for 5-7 minutes. (Thick spears will cook more slowly, thin spears more quickly.) Drain and serve.

You don't need a special pot that keeps asparagus vertical to steam asparagus.
To steam in the microwave, lay them in a microwave-safe dish, add 2 tablespoons of water, and cover the dish in plastic wrap. Leave a vent in the corner. Microwave on high heat for 1-2 minutes. Be careful when removing the plastic wrap.

How to Cook Hollandaise Sauce

There are very few calories in asparagus -- an entire pound has about 60 calories, and if you look up the nutrition facts for asparagus you will see that they are a rich source of fiber and one of the best natural sources around for folic acid. You can eat it plain or with lemon juice for a low-calorie side dish, or you can dip it in butter or some other rich, fatty sauce. Here's a recipe for hollandaise, if you want to try it:

Blender Hollandaise Recipe:

3 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup butter
a dash of cayenne or hot pepper sauce
a dash of salt
1. In your blender, put the egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice, and pepper sauce. Put the cover on and blend on medium until it's all combined.

2. Melt the butter. (You can use your microwave or the stove, it doesn't really matter. You want it to be sizzling hot but not burned.)

3. Turn the blender on high and take the cover off. While it's running, carefully pour in the butter in a thin stream.

4. The sauce will thicken very quickly. Serve right away.

If you are concerned about salmonella from the eggs, you might want to use pasteurized in-the-shell eggs if you can find them. (The hot butter does partially cook the yolks but does not eliminate risk.)

Other Ways to Serve Steamed Asparagus

A tablespoon of hollandaise sauce contains about the same number of calories as an entire pound of asparagus. If you're looking for other options, there's nothing wrong with simple preparations. Fresh asparagus has a wonderful natural sweetness that requires very little adornment. Here are some ideas to try:

  • Serve it with lemon. Just squeeze a wedge over the asparagus as you serve it.

  • Top your cooked spears with toasted slivered almonds or toasted pine nuts.

  • Serve it with garlic. Mince a clove or two, saute it in a tablespoon of butter, then brush the spears with the garlic butter after you steam them.

  • Sprinkle shredded parmesan over the spears after cooking them.

  • Add fresh herbs (such as rosemary or thyme) to the steaming water when you make the steamed asparagus

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