How to Cook Fresh Spring Asparagus


Asparagus is here. The first true spring vegetable. Arranged in abundant bunches on the stalls of farmers’ markets all over town, straight out of an eighteenth-century Spanish still life. Gather me, it whispers. Bathe me in briny heat. Lick golden butter off my languid stems. Asparagus, evidently, brings out the Baroque.

“A lot of people think you should get thin stalks,” says Brian Zuckerberg, manning the John D. Madura stall at the Union Square Greenmarket. “Actually, the thicker stems have more flavor. So get the bigger ones. And don’t do the snapping-off-the-stem thing,” he warns. “That’s a way to waste a lot of asparagus. I’d recommend trimming the very bottom off, then paring with a knife until you feel the difference between the woody part and the stalk. When the knife stops going through easy, that’s where you want to make the cut.”

You can find asparagus on specials menus all over town right now — check out the asparagus topped with poached egg at Irvington (201 Park Avenue South).

How to eat them from your own kitchen:

  • Boiled until just cooked through — a couple of minutes should do it — then drizzled with melted butter and flaky sea salt
  • Tossed in a little olive oil and lemon, then roasted in a hot oven until charred
  • Boiled and served with soft-boiled eggs for dipping
  • Chopped and sautéed with pancetta, garlic, olive oil, and a splash of white wine, then tossed over polenta or into penne
  • Sliced thin on a mandolin and tossed into faro with a lemony dressing and lots of mint
  • Roasted, then topped with crumbled feta, chopped black olives, and a sauce of yogurt with a little harissa and lemon juice swirled in
  • Roasted with a slice of bacon. Puréed with cream, chicken stock, and plenty of pepper into soup — served hot or cold. Use the bacon to crumble over as a garnish