Late spring and early summer is when you’ll find asparagus in its prime. And that means now. With an unique flavor and texture unlike much else – except perhaps fiddleheads – you don’t want to miss out on its relatively short growing season.
For many, the grill takes the reigns as the prime cooking tool for the summer. Good news. You’ll find that asparagus and the grill pair very well together. In a matter of a few short minutes and with minimal prep, asparagus is ready to go as a healthy side to your other grilled foods.
But don’t let the possibility of what is commonly referred to as “asparagus pee” prevent you from eating this super nutritious food. Not everyone can even notice the side effects – it’s actually a trait determined by genetics. And those who do notice it should not fear. The odor is an indication that a sulfur-containing amino acid has been successfully broken down. Asparagus is low in fat and calories, high in fiber, a good source of Vitamin C and B, and contains the highest amount of glutathione – a powerful antioxidant and phytochemical – of any fruit of any vegetable. Glutathione helps prevent aging and a number of diseases like cancer, heart disease and dementia.
To start, (even if you don’t intend to grill), you want to purchase thin, tender stalks. They should be about the size of your pinky in diameter. If you have unusually large hands – think about the width of a pencil. Though as the season progresses, and it already has to some degree, you’ll notice thicker stalks (more like the width of your thumb) for sale, and these are still perfectly fine. It’s just that the thicker the stalk, the woodier the asparagus might taste. Some people like to peel the stalks of thicker asparagus to remove some of that toughness. I’ve never done so, though.
Regardless of the size of your asparagus, you store it all the same way – upright, in water, in the fridge, and at a temp below 40F. But first, trim the ends of the stalks slightly, as you would a bouquet of flowers. Asparagus is just one of those produce items you want to use as soon as absolutely possible – because it will lose its flavor and nutritional value pretty quickly.
When you’re ready to eat, the first thing you want to do is break off the woody bottoms. This is more necessary in thicker stalks than thinner. But all you have to do is hold the stalk with both hands and bend the bottom until you find its breaking point. Discard the ends and save them (with any peelings, if you choose to peel) in the freezer for your next batch of vegetable stock. Afterwards, give your bunch of asparagus a good rinse and pat dry with a towel.
For grilling, coat the asparagus in an equal mix of lemon juice and olive oil. Sprinkle with a little kosher salt and some minced garlic, if you’d like. Place the stalks on your clean (this is important!), hot grill. I like to cook them over a medium high flame for about 5 minutes. This leaves them with a good amount of crunch – just how I like them. There is really no need, however you choose to cook asparagus, to overcook them. Doing so can confuse people into thinking asparagus is a bland and mushy vegetable. And no one likes those.
- 1 bunch fresh asparagus
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Kosher salt
- 1 clove minced garlic
- Clean and preheat your grill with a medium-high flame.
- Give the asparagus a good rinse and pat dry with paper towels.
- Break off the woody ends of the asparagus.
- Lightly coat with the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and a couple pinches of salt.
- Arrange the asparagus horizontally on the heated grill.
- Rotate every couple of minutes with tongs, cooking for a total of about 6 minutes for a crunchy bite, or a bit longer for less.
- Sprinkle a little more lemon juice and salt over the cooked asparagus and serve.