This is a very basic little tip, but helpful perhaps for any of you new to asparagus. Did you know that the woody root ends of asparagus need to be snapped off before cooking? This is actually one of our favorite chores, and it's very easy and satisfying.
Simply take the end of the asparagus between your thumb and forefinger and bend until it breaks. Lest you think we are belaboring such an obvious point, let us say that the fun in this is that the asparagus automatically breaks just where the woody part ends and the fresh, juicy asparagus begins. So you don't need to worry about breaking off too much or too little.
The asparagus breaks this way, we assume, because the end has much less moisture and therefore less flexibility. It snaps instead of bends, leaving you with deliciously green and juicy asparagus.
Our favorite way to cook fresh spring asparagus is to sauté equally sized spears in butter and oil for no more than a minute or two. A hot pan and asparagus - they should be tender-crisp in just one or two minutes.
(All images: Faith Hopler)