Stick with asparagus, through thick and thin.

Recently a Cook's Illustrated reader wondered whether pencil-thin or fat-and-meaty spears were preferable.

The magazine's team of culinary experts headed to the kitchen for a taste test. They steamed and tossed thick and thin spears in olive oil and salt. Both sizes tasted equally sweet, nutty and grassy.

But the testers expected the thinner spears to be more tender, when the reverse was actually true.

In the end, both sizes were endorsed as "good bets," although testers advised choosing the size that best suits your cooking method.

Thick stalks are better for broiling and roasting because they stand up better to intense dry heat.

Thin spears are better for boiling, steaming and eating raw.

Makes 4 servings


4 to 6 cups Boston Bibb lettuce

1 orange

1 pound asparagus, trimmed

1/4 cup orange juice

2 teaspoons grated, peeled gingerroot

1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Divide lettuce among four salad plates. Zest orange and reserve zest. Segment orange and divide evenly onto salad plates.

Place asparagus on a baking sheet and spray generously with nonstick spray. Roast asparagus 12 to 15 minutes or until tender. Divide evenly on top of lettuce.

Whisk together orange juice, gingerroot, sesame oil and reserved orange zest. Drizzle over salads and sprinkle evenly with sesame seeds.