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.
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!
ASPARAGUS SALAD RECIPE
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.
COOL TOOL TIP:
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!
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.
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Copyright © 1994 and 2013 by Helen Chen. All rights reserved.
Biography of the Author, 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 http://www.helensasiankitchen.com/
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