A few years ago, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s book, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”. The story chronicles a real-life family that vows to buy food locally, grow it themselves, or do without for an entire year. There was much consternation over when to start this process but, in the end, it was decided that they would begin when local asparagus was available.
As our growing season starts to sprout, I think back to this story. In many ways, asparagus is a harbinger of spring–a delicious teaser of the many fruits and vegetables soon to bombard us. While I’ve never taken on such a challenge, I am fortunate to live in an area where, at least during the growing months, eating locally feels more like a blessing than a burden.
Somewhat by necessity, Kingsolver’s family consumed so much asparagus that year they had no desire to buy it when it was no longer a local option. I tend to be much the same way with this particular vegetable. The season is short, so dig in!
For a alternate, super-simple preparation, toss asparagus with just enough olive oil to lightly coat, and then sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Roast in a single layer for 8-10 minutes, depending on thickness, at 400 degrees to yield perfect spears–bright green and still boasting a bit of snap. (Test for doneness a couple minutes early by piercing the thick end of the stalk with the tip of a sharp knife.) For a French country-inspired meal, top the roasted asparagus with an over-easy or poached egg and sprinkle with a bit of crisp prosciutto. (Click here for that recipe.)
- 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt (non-fat and 2% work equally well)
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice (when caught lemon-less on occasion, I have omitted or substituted ½ teaspoon vinegar)
- ½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs, sold near other dry bread crumbs; see note)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound thick asparagus (about 2 bunches)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. On top of a flat dinner plate, whisk together yogurt, mayonnaise, Dijon, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Put breadcrumbs on another plate.
Grease a large, rimmed baking sheet or line it with parchment paper. Roll asparagus in yogurt mixture to coat, then in breadcrumbs so spears are well breaded. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. At this point, the asparagus may be covered and refrigerated for several hours before baking.
Drizzle asparagus with the olive oil or–even better–spray lightly with an olive oil mister. Then roast asparagus, turning halfway through, for 8-12 minutes, depending on thickness. The spears should be golden brown and tender but still have some bite. For the batch pictured, which were quite thick, I roasted six minutes, turned, and roasted six more minutes. Very thin spears may require 5-6 minutes total.
- For a gluten-free option, Crushed Rice Chex was used instead of panko in this photo and no one knew the difference!