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What’s in Season: Asparagus

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How to Cook Asparagus, How to Store, How to Trim, and How to Know When It is Done. 

How to cook asparagus on

Spring is starting to kick into high gear! One of the first freshly harvested vegetables to enjoy is asparagus. Pencil thin or thick and hearty is a matter of personal preference. Regardless of size, when buying it in the grocery store look for spears that are firm and bright green, with intact tips.  Cook it as soon as possible as it deteriorates fairly rapidly.  Store it in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel wrapped around the stems.  It will last 3 to 4 days.

The ends of fresh asparagus can be tough and woody. I prefer to slice off the last inch or so of the stem instead of snapping it off where the spear breaks naturally. Not only is it more visually appealing when all the spears are exactly the same size, but they will also cook at the same rate of speed. Large spears are more mature, less tender, and also need to be peeled.

How to cook asparagus on

Asparagus Pee

Yep, I said it. Asparagus pee has long been the subject of scientific debate. The issue is that if you ask people if they can smell asparagus in their urine after eating it, half the people will reply yes, and half the people will look at you like you have lost your mind.

Scientists used to believe people metabolized this vegetable differently and some folks produced urine that smelled and some did not, but they were wrong. We now know that it is not that individuals excrete the chemicals that make the urine smell, it is the smellee, the person, who can smell them or not. How’s that for news you can use?

How to cook asparagus on

Spring Vegetables

My grandmother, Meme, liked what she called “Asparagus Salad” but there wasn’t anything to preparing it other than opening the familiar shiny silver can. And, even though I know the flavor of canned cannot compare to freshly cooked, I truly relish that taste memory. But, I have a confession: I actually like canned asparagus. And, I have a bigger confession: I never really liked fresh asparagus.

Well, I always thought it was just okay and considered it to be an overrated, snobby vegetable that is most often served with banquet food beef tenderloin or over-cooked salmon at catered events or so-called “fancy” restaurants. It has always been ubiquitous and seemingly season-less.

But, of course it has a season — spring! And, now I know better. Seek it out at your market or farmer’s market. When freshly harvested and prepared, it’s delicious. I hope you enjoy this simple recipe for Asparagus with Fresh Mozzarella.

Bon Appétit Y’all!

Virginia Willis


PS Here are a handful of other great recipes:

Can you eat raw asparagus? Yes, you can! Check out this Raw Asparagus and Lemon Salad.

Celebrate spring with this Asparagus and Baby Vidalia Onion Salad 

Here’s a round up of 12 great Vegan Asparagus recipes curated by my friend and fellow cookbook author, Kathy Hester.


How to Cook Asparagus on

Asparagus with Fresh Mozzarella

Serves 4
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time15 minutes
Course: Salad, Side Dish, vegetable
Cuisine: American, French, Italian
Keyword: asparagus
Servings: 4


  • 1 pound  asparagus ends trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons  extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 slice country bread torn into bits
  • 1-2 balls fresh mozzarella sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
  • Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • Preheat the broiler. Spread out the asparagus spears in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with a nonstick silicone baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil and shake the pan to evenly coat the spears. Season with salt and pepper. Divide into 4 equal portions on the baking sheet. Set aside.
  • Heat the 1 tablespoon of remaining  oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a small skillet over medium high heat. Add the bread bits and season with salt and pepper. Cook until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.
  • Broil until the spears are just tender, 4 minutes for thin and up to 10 minutes for thick asparagus. In the last few minutes of cooking, top each individual bundle with a slice of mozzarella. Return to the broiler and cook until melted and bubbly, about 2 minutes, depending on the strength of your broiler. Transfer the bundles to warm plates. Sprinkle over toasted bread and red pepper flakes. Serve immediately.

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Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis’ biography includes making chocolate chip cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraging for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvesting capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and hunting for truffles in France. She is talent and chef-instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen. Her segments feature authentic and innovative Southern cooking. She was the celebrity chef at the Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Virginia has spoken at SXSW, cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and beguiled celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, and Jane Fonda with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Recently, her work has been inspired by her weight loss success story, Virginia has lost 65# and kept it off for over 2 1/2 years! “If a French-trained, Southern chef can do it, you can, too.” She is the author of Fresh Start; Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all won a James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health Category. Lighten Up, Y’all as well as her first cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’all, were finalists in the Best American Cookbook for the International Association of Cookbook Awards and were also named by the Georgia Center of the Book as “Books Georgians Should Read.” She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, GRLSQUASH, Culture, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude, approachable spirit, and traveling exploits. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in content creation, recipe development, culinary editorial and production services, cookbook writing, media training, spokesperson and brand representation, and public speaking. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board, as well as the Community Farmers Market Advisory Board. She is a food and hunger advocate for No Kid Hungry and a premier member of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. She a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Georgia Organics, and Southern Foodways Alliance.

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