Five ways to enjoy these tender spring stalks
1. Grilled: Mix asparagus with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, then grill until tender and starting to brown (a grill basket is helpful), 3 to 4 minutes.
2. In salads: Slice tips and tender stalks very thinly on the diagonal and add, raw, to tossed salads.
3. Steamed: Cook asparagus in a basket or bamboo steamer over boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes. Drizzle with a vinaigrette of lemon juice, olive oil, and chopped fresh mint for an easy side dish.
4. In a gratin: Lay asparagus stalks in a shallow baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and top with grated parmesan cheese. Bake in a 400-degree oven until asparagus is tender and cheese is melted and browning, about 10 minutes. Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
5. Stir-fried: Cut asparagus into bite-size lengths and stir over high heat in a little hot chile oil with minced garlic and ginger until tender-crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Splash on a touch of rice wine or dry sherry at the end.
Snap off the stem end where it naturally breaks when you bend it ― or to make the entire spear edible, peel the bottom half with a vegetable peeler.