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Coming to Love Asparagus
Plus, three things I'm loving right now
I never really liked spring. The three words that would pop into my mind were grey, rainy, and muddy. But this year, amidst the forsythia, cherry blossoms, Magnolias, daffodils, and even the humble violets and dandelions, my feeling has changed. Spring is gorgeous. It’s also a time when all that’s green, good and edible starts poking from the ground: nettles, bitter dock, garlic mustard, and wild onion. Mushrooms also start to pop up, scattering across the damp earth.
The supermarket offerings start to shift during this time, too. Asparagus is plentiful. You’ll also find fresh chives, leeks, and maybe a few stalks of rhubarb. Spring is an awakening of the palette for summer, a delicate intro to prep for bold tomatoes, peppers, and the sweetest corn.
A Revelation About Asparagus
One spring vegetable I’ve never possessed much zeal for was asparagus. As a kid, I thought it tasted like stinky swamp, and felt like all I got out of eating it was asparagus-smelling pee. But this year, I’ve already bought and gone through three bunches of it. The reason is Alison Roman’s Butter Baked Fish with Asparagus—with a few tweaks. Roman cuts some asparagus into small coins and others into longer pieces, then roasts them in butter dotted with chili flakes along with some whole scallions (or ramps) and fish. She then tosses the asparagus and scallions in a mixture of lemon juice, olive oil, chives, tarragon and Castelvetrano olives.
My riff on the asparagus, which is still pretty similar to her original recipe, skips the different sized pieces of asparagus, cuts up some scallions ( I don’t know where people easily find ramps) rather than leaving them whole, and adds a dash of Dijon. You can add fish to it, just up the amount of butter to 4 Tbsp, olive oil to 2 Tbsp, and red pepper flakes to 1/2 tsp, and pour over the fish, asparagus and scallions before roasting.
A Revelatory Asparagus Recipe
For the Asparagus:
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp oil
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and black pepper
1/2 bunch of asparagus, trimmed and cut into ~2 inch pieces
3 scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces
For the Dressing:
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp Dijon
2 Tbsp snipped chives
2 Tbsp minced fresh tarragon
pinch kosher salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup pitted Castelvetrano or Cerignola olives, roughly torn (optional)
First, preheat the oven…
Set a rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 350.
Then, melt the butter…
In a small saucepan, combine the olive oil and butter and heat over medium until butter has melted and just started to get bubbly. Add the red pepper flakes, stir, and remove from heat.
Next, prepare the asparagus…
Toss the cut up asparagus and scallions in the melted butter mixture with a pinch of salt. Spread on a large sheet tray and roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
While asparagus roasts, make the dressing…
Combine the first five ingredients for the dressing in a large bowl, then slowly whisk in the olive oil. Taste, and add salt as needed. Scatter in the torn Castelvetrano olives, if using. Set aside.
When asparagus is done, toss it all together…
Add roasted asparagus and scallions to the dressing, toss, and serve.
3 Things I’m Loving This Month
I’m a sucker for a good Aperol (or other aperitif or vermouth) spritz, and this non-alcoholic one from Lyre’s tastes like the real thing. Slightly sweet and with just a hint of orange-rind bitterness, you’d be hard pressed to know it’s 0 percent ABV. Pop in a wedge of orange and skewer a few olives for a light, refreshing drink anytime of day.
As I mentioned before, I used to feel vanilla about asparagus. But this year, I find myself drawn to this vegetables’ versatility. Asparagus is great in stir-fries, served tossed in a lemony dressing, or even for adding a bit of green in baked dishes; I like to toss cut up spears into my go-to easy weeknight meal of Gochujang Chicken with Tortellini.
I feel vanilla about grain bowls. But a bowl of chewy, nutty, parm-and-pepper-flecked farro risotto? That hits just right. When cooked like risotto (with ladles of warm chicken broth slowly added and cooked until absorbed, then zhushed with a generous heap of parm), the popular Italian grain known as farro becomes encased in a silky, starchy brodo of it’s own making, helped along with a splash of heavy cream. It’s creamy, lush, and with a hit of black pepper, gives-off cacio e pepe vibes. It’s also worlds away better than a sad, bland bowl of grains topped with grilled vegetables. Skip the grain bowl and make farrotto.