I think I might cry when asparagus goes out of season here in Michigan. It's the first actual vegetable to come in, so it becomes cheap and plentiful at the farmer's market and roadside stands, and oh-so-delicious. I got two half-pound bundles for $2.00 each. Each one was plenty enough as a side for JD and me.
When picking out asparagus, look for smaller, thinner stalks, not larger. As it gets larger it gets woody and tough. They should be a rich dark green with purplish tones on the tip. Your thumbnail should easily pierce the skin on the bottom 1/2" of the stalk with a crisp snap, and they should not be limp or yellowed (unless you're buying white asparagus of course). If you're buying from a roadside stand or farmer's market, look for the ones who store and display with the bottom of the stalks in in a pan of cool water. This keeps them fresh longer. Avoid the ones that have been sitting out on a table in the sun all day.
BTW, don't stick your nail into the stalk higher then the bottom 1/2" of the stalk. Someone else might buy them and fingernails are just gross.
Mine kept in the fridge for a week just fine, by the way, so you don't absolutely have to cook them right away. Of course mine were picked by a local farmer two hours before I bought them instead of their sitting on a truck from California for five days.
Wash well. Chop the bottom inch or so off the stalks (more if the stalks seem fiberous/woody.) Cut the stalks in half.
To cook up 1/2 pound (a good double-handful of stalks): Mix 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon soy sauce (optional: add 1 tablespoon sesame seeds to add a nutty overtone). I like to use a wok or non-stick heavy-bottomed pan for even heating. Heat the mixture on high until a drop of water sizzles violently. Watch this carefully as it goes from hot to burned pretty quickly.
Toss the asparagus into the pan and stir briskly and constantly. If the mixture starts to smoke lift the pan off the burner for a five seconds, still stirring, then put it back. The asparagus is done when it becomes a little bit flexible (but not limp); maybe 3-5 minutes. Pull a stalk out, run it under cold water for a second to cool, then bite to test. It should be crisp on the outside but yummy and smooth on the inside. Once you're happy with the texture, take it off the heat and serve.
I made this last night as a side for blackened burgers with melted feta cheese and black olives. mmmmm..... tastes like summer.....
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