Early spring is the best time to find fresh asparagus from the U.S. When selecting this seasonal delicacy, look for spears that bend easily, and produce a squeaking sound when you rub two spears together. When it comes to buying "sparrow grass" for a recipe that specifies cup amounts, it can be difficult to translate weight or stalk amounts to cups. Once you're in the kitchen, a dry measuring cup will make measuring asparagus stalks a "snap." Allow 1/3 to 1/2 pound of asparagus for every 1 cup of asparagus you need. This translates to 8 to 10 stalks per cup.
Rinse the asparagus under cold water, drain in a colander, then pat dry with paper towels.
Find the point on the lower part of the stalk where the tough, unyielding end meets the more flexible upper part. Snap off the tough ends, or cut them off, and discard. Peel away scaly skin on the lower part of the stalk, if necessary.
Chop the asparagus into 1- to 2-inch pieces.
Scoop up the chopped, fresh asparagus and place the pieces into the measuring cup.
Shake the cup slightly to settle the asparagus sections. Don't press down on the asparagus because this can bruise it.
Add or remove pieces so the asparagus is level with the 1-cup line.
Along with the familiar green types, you may also find sweet purple asparagus and tender white types, which have been covered during the growing season. Asparagus can be steamed, grilled, roasted or braised. Use it in quiches, omelets, pilafs, risottos and light soups.
With a focus on food, nutrition, cocktails and the latest dining trends, Melissa J. has been a freelance writer for more than 15 years. Her specialties include articles for such publications as SF Chronicle and National Geographic Green Living, as well as blog posts for the hospitality industry. Her previous positions include newspaper staff reporter and communications specialist for a nonprofit agency.