I have prepared, cooked and eaten an awful lot of asparagus over the course of my career, so one might guess I have strong opinions about it. Indeed, I do.
I love asparagus. What I hate is to see asparagus mistreated, misunderstood or, worse, overcooked. Hate. My advice, when I’m asked how to prepare it, is always this: Don’t overcook it.
To make sure the asparagus you serve is firm, lively and as bright green as spring, remove the spears from the heat source a little sooner than you think you should. The retained heat will continue to cook them, so err on the side of undercooked. A firm green stalk is sweet. Asparagus actually stands up well to aggressive flavors. In essence, anything you can do with a zucchini, a green bean or a snow pea pod, you can do with asparagus. And you wouldn’t overcook those, would you?
SNAP off and discard bottoms of asparagus, then cut into 2-inch pieces.
SET wok over high heat and add vegetable oil. Add dried peppers and let sizzle, then add asparagus, tossing well to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Stir-fry for a minute or so, then add chile paste, garlic, ginger, orange zest and jalapeno. Continue cooking over high heat for a minute, maybe less, until asparagus is cooked but still firm and bright green.
MOUND asparagus on a serving platter and drizzle with sesame oil. Sprinkle cilantro, green onion and sesame seeds over the top. Yield: 4 to 6 servings