After reading this article in The New York Times, we started paying more attention to how much of our asparagus was ending up in the trash as snapped-off stalks. Often half the asparagus was lost when we snapped it.
But in the article, Harold McGee makes the point that the tougher fibers at the end of the stalk aren't noticeable if the stalk is sliced very, very thin. You could do this with a knife, but a food processor is eons faster. (FYI, we tried a mandoline, for the sake of research. Not a good idea with something as slender as an asparagus.)
So we trimmed the very end (less than an inch) of a few stalks and then sent them through the chute of our food processor, and we're kind of in love with the results.
First of all, the end slices weren't tough at all once we sautéed them. Also, we really like the smaller pieces of asparagus for a frittata—they disperse through the egg with the other ingredients, so you get pieces of asparagus in every bite rather than a chunk here or there. It's like the difference between using féves in these famous chocolate chip cookies instead of chips or chunks.
This isn't the technique for a stir-fry, where you'd want bigger pieces, but it would work well if you want small bits of asparagus to blend through a chopped salad.
We used the long shredding blade attachment on our food processor, not the normal steel blade that fits in the bottom of the bowl. And we cut our asparagus raw, putting the bottom halves of the stalks in together, then the top halves. Easy, quick, and less wasteful.
(Images: Elizabeth Passarella)