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I grew up not liking very many kinds of vegetables. I came from a large family with six kids and money was tight, so we ate mostly frozen or canned vegetables since they were the most economical – but they weren’t always very flavorful. I discovered my love for vegetables – and asparagus in particular – once I was older and cooking for myself with fresh produce.
This recipe for Perfect Asparagus is really all about technique. Although we’re sharing our recipe for cooking asparagus to tender perfection, this technique can really be used for many other kinds of vegetables such as green beans or pea pods.
The trick to cooking vegetables is simple – don’t overcook them! Otherwise they get mushy, they lose their flavor, they lose their vibrant color, and most critically – they lose their nutrients!
This recipe uses an ‘ice bath’ to ‘shock’ your vegetables so that they stay crisp and tender. An ice bath is simply a bowl full of ice water into which you plunge (or shock) your cooked vegetables so that the cooking process immediately stops and prevents your vegetables from getting overcooked and mushy. Here are the simple steps:
Prepare your asparagus by rinsing them and snapping off the hard ends. Asparagus will naturally break right where the hard, tough ends and the tender stalk meet. Discard the ends (or better yet, compost them!).
Prepare your ice bath (or in more simple terms, fill a large bowl full of ice water). Set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a strong boil.
Toss in your entire bunch of asparagus.
Your water should come back up to a boil again fairly quickly. Here’s the important step: Cook the asparagus in the boiling water for exactly 2 minutes. Please time this to avoid over-cooking!! (Note: We cooked average-sized asparagus for this recipe. If you are cooking very thin asparagus stalks, your cooking time could be as little as 1 minute once the water comes back to a boil. If your asparagus stalks are particularly thick, your cooking time could be 2½ to 3 minutes – but please, no more than 3 minutes!)
Turn off the heat under the pot, and with tongs, quickly remove the asparagus from the hot water and plunge into the ice bath.
See how bright green the asparagus stalks still are? The ice bath is stopping the cooking process and preventing the stalks from cooking any further. Additionally, the asparagus will be perfectly tender (and not mushy!) for eating.
Allow the asparagus spears to cool for 1 to 2 minutes, then drain well.
Serve as is, or with a drizzle of our Favorite Vinaigrette.
- 1 bunch asparagus
- large bowl of ice water
- Prepare your asparagus by rinsing them and snapping off the hard ends.
- Fill a large bowl full of ice water. Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a strong boil. Toss in your entire bunch of asparagus.
- As soon as the water comes back to a boil, cook the asparagus for exactly 2 minutes (or 1 minute if your asparagus is very thin; up to 3 minutes if your asparagus is very thick).
- As soon as the cooking time is up, turn off the heat and with tongs, remove the asparagus from the hot water and plunge into the ice bath.
- Allow the asparagus spears to cool for 1 to 2 minutes, then drain well.
- Serve as is or with our Favorite Vinaigrette.
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