Monthly Archives: April 2013

Asparagus Salad with an Asian Twist – A Recipe to Celebrate Spring from Helen Chen

Article contributed by leading Asian culinary expert, cookbook author, cooking instructor, and developer of Helen Chen’s Asian Kitchen® cookware and cooking supplies, Helen Chen.

Asparagus Salad

Asparagus Salad

I so look forward to spring.  Not only for the promise of warm weather and longer days, but also for the anticipation of fresh local produce.  What better harbinger of the coming seasonal bounty than asparagus.

In New England, we have a number of farms that grow this delectable vegetable, but in Western Massachusetts, the town of Hadley, crowned “The Asparagus Capital of the World,” is famous for it.  I don’t know if that moniker is still actually true, but here in Massachusetts we are used to hyperbole.  To us, Boston is “The Hub of the Universe!”

Asparagus fits beautifully into Asian cuisine where it is most commonly parboiled or stir fried.  One of my favorite (and easiest) asparagus recipes is a salad I learned from my mother.   She always made it when asparagus were in season.  It’s quick, incredibly easy and pairs deliciously with Asian or Western foods.  I make it all the time and have converted many friends with this recipe.


When buying asparagus, look for bright green spears with tight crowns.  Anything limp, yellowed or wrinkled should be passed by.  I prefer spears that are at least ½” in diameter because I think the thicker spears are more tender and better tasting.   Be careful not to overcook the spears and remember to immediately plunge them into cold water after cooking to maintain that spring green color and tender-crisp texture.

Welcome spring to your table with this tasty asparagus salad.  Happy Spring!

Helen Chen


1 pound fresh asparagus

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

1.  Cut or snap off the tough ends of the asparagus.  Wash well and cut on the diagonal into 1½-inch lengths.  (I like to use my incredibly sharp Ceramic Paring Knife)

2.  Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan over high heat.  Add the asparagus pieces and as soon as the water returns to a boil, drain and quickly cool in cold water to stop the cooking.  Drain well.  (The asparagus may be cooked a day ahead and refrigerated)

3. Just before serving, place the asparagus in a serving dish and toss with the soy sauce and sesame oil.  Serve at room temperature.


Among my (and just about every professional chef’s) favorite and frequently used tools for straining are my “Spider” skimmers and basket.  They are affectionately called “spiders” because of the “web” of hand-woven stainless steel wire that make up the basket.  They drain incredibly fast and thoroughly.  Even better than a colander!

Spider Strainer Basket

Spider Strainer Basket

With the Spider Strainer Basket, simply fill it with the asparagus pieces and place the whole basket into the boiling water. Convenient hooks on the handle allow the basket to be attached to the side of the pot.  When the asparagus are done just lift the basket out of the hot water and rinse under cold water in the sink. See where to find a Spider Strainer Basket near you.

Would you like to meet Helen? See Helen Chen’s Cooking class schedule.

Copyright © 1994 and 2013 by Helen Chen.  All rights reserved.

Biography of the Author, Helen Chen

Helen Chen

Helen Chen

Helen Chen is a widely acknowledged expert in Chinese cooking. Besides her role as an educator and cookbook author, she also is a product and business consultant to the housewares industry. In 2007 she created and developed a new line of Asian kitchenware under the brand name, “Helen’s Asian Kitchen,” expressly for Harold Import Company in New Jersey.

Having been born in China, and raised and educated in the United States, Helen brings the best of both worlds to her approach to the art of Chinese cuisine. She understands the needs of the American cook as only a native can, yet she is intimately knowledgeable with the culinary practices and philosophy of China.

Helen is the author of Helen Chen’s Chinese Home Cooking (Hearst Books,1994), Peking Cuisine (Orion Books,1997), Helen’s Asian Kitchen: Easy Chinese Stir-Fries (John Wiley & Sons, 2009) and Helen’s Asian Kitchen: Easy Asian Noodles (John Wiley & Sons, 2010). For more information, visit

*Not affiliated with Joyce Chen Products

The Pleasures of the Pomegranate and an Investigation of The Pomegranate Tool

Pomegranate Seeds
One of the first cultivated fruits, the pomegranate offers a unique, sweet-sour taste that is ideal for nibbling on alone or incorporating into cooling drinks, vegetable salads, tart stews, soups and desserts.

The pomegranate boasts high levels of antioxidants in the form of polyphenols, tannins and anthocyanins, all designed to help you stay healthy and strong by fighting those free radicals that can cause certain diseases – and premature aging.

But, getting to the heart of the pomegranate and those tiny seeds (called arils), which are the key to those antioxidants, can be a bit frustrating. The arils, which are surrounded by a shiny, tough, white membrane, can be hard to remove — and often quite messy, Working ones way though the ruby juice and seeds can be an act of devotion – an act that might cause one to throw up their hands and give up. But don’t give up on the delicious taste, versatility, and healthfulness of the pomegranate just because you think it is too much work.

It is often suggested to submerge a halved pomegranate in water in order to more easily remove the arils, and more importantly,  prevent splatter of the ruby red juices. But, I find this still a bit messy and also a bit cumbersome.

The new Pomegranate Tool is a quick, clean and easy way to remove those sometimes stubborn arils.

Here’s how it works: To start off, roll the pomegranate on the work surface to loosen and soften the fruit. Then remove the crown and cut the fruit in half. Place the halved pomegranate  face down in the grid, and cover it with the flexible dome, holding the dome tightly against the bowl.

Pomegranate Tool Pom Face Down

Winner of the Fruit Logistica Innovation Award

Pomegranate Tool Cover onPomegranate Tool With Spoon

To remove the seeds, strike the dome firmly, using a heavy spoon. (The arils will be deposited into the bowl beneath.) If any of the membrane breaks free, it can be easily picked out from the bowl of arils.

Pomegranate De-SeededPomegranate Arils

If desired, rinse the seeds first, and then enjoy.

The three-piece set, which includes the dome, grid and bowl, is easy to clean by hand or in the dishwasher.

Pomegranates are typically available in the fall and early winter. For maximum flavor, look for fruits that are rich in color and are heavy, as they will hold more juice. If, when pressed, powdery cloud puffs emerge from the crown, the fruit is most likely dry. You probably will eat them immediately, but if you must store them, keep them whole in the refrigerator for up to three months. The seeds, when stored in an airtight container in the freezer, can also be kept for three months. Find a Pomegranate Tool to take home, here.

See The Pomegranate Tool demonstration from the HIC booth, at the International Home + Housewares Show.

Versatile and Tasty These little gems are great on their own as a snack, tasty when added to yogurt or granola, and a sweet addition on top of ice cream or salads. They add texture, color and a burst of flavor to just about anything you add them to.

Here are a few suggestions on how to enjoy pomegranates:

  • Add some pomegranate juice to maple syrup
  • Add the arils to squash risotto
  • Reduce balsamic vinegar, spike it with a few tablespoons of  pomegranate juice and then drizzle over salmon
  • Create a sweet salsa with jalapeno, yellow pepper, rice vinegar and the pomegranate arils
  • Design a few ‘adult’ beverages including a Pomegranate Caipirinha or Pomegranate Cosmo
  • Incorporate the arils and juice into a delicious Pomegranate Yogurt Dip
  • Add a bit of acidity to a meat or fowl sauce

Once you’ve started eating them, it’s hard to get out of the pomegranate habit. And, the Pomegranate Tool is a handy way to help you enjoy all the flavor and goodness without the struggle.

Laura Everage is a writer, editor, swimmer, yoga-lover, wife, and mother of four. Her days start very early in the morning, but thanks to her favorite beverage, coffee, she is able to start each day on a good note. Laura began her journey in all things food and beverage related nearly 20 years ago, as Managing Editor of The Gourmet Retailer. She continues to write about food, coffee, tea and kitchenware and is currently working on a book entitled Courage in a Cup: Women, Coffee and the Global Economy. Laura is also founder and editor of her own website, Family Eats, and is editorial director/partner of Coffee Universe. Her work has appeared in a variety of trade magazines as well as consumer publications Saveur and Consumers’ Digest. Laura’s knowledge of the industry has landed her appearances on both the Food Network and Fine Living Network. To contact Laura, email