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Test Kitchen tip: Asparagus 101

AsparagusActually a member of the lily family, asparagus is one of those eagerly-awaited-for spring vegetables, traditionally available from February through June.

Stalks harvested towards the start of the season are often the most prized, as they are the first stalks to shoot from the plant and tend to be the most tender; asparagus harvested late in the season or out of season (often shipped in from elsewhere) can be woody and flavorless.

When shopping for asparagus, look for firm stalks with tight heads and good coloring (white asparagus is grown out of sunlight to keep the stalks from coloring). As for thick or thin stalks, it's really only up to you and what you prefer -- they're both fine.

To prepare asparagus for cooking, trim the woody base (2 to 3 inches) at the end of the stalk (some people prefer snapping the stalks -- I don't do this because the break often occurs too high on the stalk and you lose some good with the bad). Peel thicker stalks to remove the heavy skin; thin stalks are tender enough and do not need to be peeled.

For a list of recipe ideas, continue reading after the jump.

If you have any kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment below or email me at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

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-- Noelle Carter
twitter/noellecarter

Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times.

Asparagus recipes from the Los Angeles Times Test Kitchen:

Asparagus with bread crumb-fried eggs

Asparagus with hazelnuts and seasoned currants

Sous-vide white asparagus

Skirt steak carpaccio with raw asparagus and fava salad

Chilled asparagus with vinaigrette and eggs mimosa

Steamed asparagus with brown butter sauce

Asparagus wrapped in crisp prosciutto

Asparagus and shrimp risotto

Raw asparagus salad

Asparagus and ham frittata

Balsamic shrimp and asparagus salad

Pan-roasted asparagus with dill hollandaise sauce

Grilled asparagus and polenta

Mushroom quenelles with spring vegetables

 
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