Side dish
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Steam Sauteed Asparagus

It’s spring! It’s asparagus season! I’m waiting patiently* for my first CSA share of the year from Crown Point, and the big bunch of asparagus it usually contains.
That is…not very patiently. I share my CSA with my friend Pam, and I’m letting her get the first week’s share. She got us into the CSA, so fair’s fair. As a result, I have to wait an extra week for my first CSA box. Hurry up!

While I was waiting, I got a surprise gift. Our backyard garden has finally produced asparagus! We planted the asparagus two years ago, and had to wait until this year to get anything from it. Diane proudly presented me with…two asparagus spears.
By We, I mean my lovely wife, Diane. She does all the gardening around here. I built some Square Foot Gardening boxes for her to use a few years ago, stood back, and she took off with the rest.

I had to go to the grocery store to satisfy my spring asparagus cravings. Here’s the recipe I use for a quick, weeknight side dish of asparagus, following the steam-saute technique from Pam Anderson’s How to Cook Without a Book.
How many more days until my CSA box arrives?

Recipe: Steam Sauteed Asparagus


  • Wide saucepan or fry pan with a lid


  • 1 pound asparagus, stem ends snapped off at the tough part (see notes)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil or butter (optional, but the asparagus is pretty plain without it)

1. Steam the Asparagus: Put the asparagus in the pan. Add 1/2 cup water, 1/2 tsp kosher salt, 1/4 tsp ground pepper, and 1 tbsp oil or butter. Cover the pan, and put over medium-high heat. Wait for the water to come to a boil, then cook, covered, for 5 minutes (for thin asparagus) to 10 minutes (for really thick asparagus).

2. Saute the Asparagus: Remove the lid, and cook, tossing the asparagus occasionally to rotate new spears to the bottom of the pan. Keep cooking until all the remaining water boils off, the asparagus is tender, and it is just starting to brown. This will take another 2-3 minutes.
*The asparagus will start to sizzle in the pan once all the water is boiled out, because all that is left in the pan is fat. That’s when the saute part actually starts. I test for doneness by biting into a spear as a test. Depending on how you like your asparagus cooked, it should either have just a hint of crunch to it, or it should be perfectly tender.
**I like mine with just a bit of crunch.

*Garlic: Add a minced clove of garlic (or two) with the asparagus and other ingredients.

*Citrus: Add a tablespoon of citrus zest to the asparagus after you’re done cooking – I like both orange and lemon zests for this.

*Vinaigrette: Skip the butter, and when you’re done pour a vinaigrette over the asparagus.

*Traditionally, you should snap the bottom off of every spear of asparagus to remove the tough bottom part of the spear. That’s too time consuming for me. Here’s how I trim asparagus, the quick weeknight way. Take the bunch of asparagus, and remove the bottom rubber band, leaving the top rubber band on the bunch to hold it together. Now, pick a spear on the top of the bunch, grab it in the middle (without removing it from the bunch), and snap off the bottom of the spear. This gives you a guide mark – use a chef’s knife, and cut the entire bunch where that spear snapped.
*Or, do what I did in the pictures to make it easier to see – remove the one spear, and line it up with the top of the bunch after it’s snapped to see where your guide line is.

One spear snapped
as a guide
…and the rest of the bunch
is done with one chop!

What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts:
Grilled Asparagus
Steam Sauteed Green Beans
Steam Sauteed Leeks

Adapted from:
Pam Anderson: How to Cook Without a Book

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Filed under: Side dish


Hi! I’m Mike Vrobel. I’m a dad and an enthusiastic home cook; an indie cookbook author and food blogger with a day job, a patient spouse, and three kids who would rather have hamburgers for dinner.


  1. @Live 2 Cook:
    My wife is a big fan of Square Foot Gardening – but we’re moving the boxes to the other side of the house this year, to try to get them some more sun.

  2. My Dad decided to skip his normal garden this year and give the square foot gardening a try. He’s loving it so far, although he just planted over the weekend.

  3. @AYOTG: My wife loves the square foot gardening book – it’s been the basis of all our vegetable gardens for years now.

    The only thing I can keep alive is Thyme, but that’s because it’s almost impossible to kill.

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