Reader question: "How do I trim asparagus the right way? It's so expensive and I don't want to waste any."
Sara says: First of all, let’s talk about how to buy and store asparagus. When you go to select it at the store or farmer’s market look for smooth firm stems and tight tops. If there are wrinkles in the stalk or if the top looks frayed or feathery, the asparagus is not very fresh. Asparagus should be stored, stem side down in ice or a little bit of water at the supermarket, and if you are not going to cook them right away you should do the same thing at home. Put them in a measuring cup or wide glass, stem side down in an inch of water, cover the top with a plastic bag and put them in the fridge.
The bottom part of an asparagus stalk is woody and inedible. That woody part is usually about two inches long. You can either snap it off by hand or you can cut it off with a knife. You can reserve the stems to make an asparagus stock for asparagus soup or add it to other vegetable trimmings for a vegetable stock.
If the asparagus is less than 1/3 inch thick you can cook it at this point. If it is thicker you should peel it so that it cooks evenly. You should lay the stalks flat on a cutting board so that they don’t break and peel them from right underneath the tip all the way down to the bottom of the stem. You can add the peelings to the stem ends for a stock. You can also dip them in a light batter and fry them.
Recently, I have been stockpiling all of my vegetable trimmings for a future stock. I just throw them into a designated vegetable scrap bag or container and store them in the freezer until I have enough scraps to make a vegetable stock.
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Sara Moulton is a classically trained chef and author of several cookbooks including Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners, and Sara’s Secrets for Weeknight Meals. She is the Food Editor of ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America”, the former host of Food Network's "Cooking Live." Sara was Executive Chef of Gourmet Magazine for twenty-three years. You can read more of Sara's recipes by clicking here.
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