(and a Kitchen Tip: How to Peel Asparagus)
Once asparagus has arrived in the markets, it is officially Spring in my kitchen. Asparagus can be prepared raw, steamed, blanched, pickled or one of my favorite ways--roasted. It's odd that such a tender vegetable could withstand the high heat of the oven, but it works. To keep the spears from caramelizing into nothingness, I use large, thick spears. I save the slender ones for pastas, pestos, and tarts. The thick spears are just as tender as the slender variety, as long as they are peeled.
While many of you are probably familiar with the snapping of the ends, I want to share a great all-in-one method that peels and removes the tough ends.
Start by laying the asparagus completely flat on a cutting surface and pinching gently to hold about one-third of the way down the spear.
Using a vegetable peeler, peel down the length of the spear until the peeler stops. The tough part of the spear stops the peeler.
Slide the peeler back to its original position, keeping the peel intact at the base of the spear. Continue to peel, rotating as you go, until the spear is peeled and...
You are left with an asparagus "flower".
Snap the asparagus off at the end of the peel for a perfectly tender spear and proceed with a yummy recipe like the one I am sharing today.
With just a little olive oil, shallots, chives, and fresh lemon wedges, this wonderful recipe and super quick roasting method makes for a delicious first course to a meal or an excellent side to some of those baked hams that will be appearing on tabletops this coming weekend.
Roasted Asparagus with Shallots and Chives
1 pound asparagus, peeled and trimmed
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 small shallot, finely diced
2 Tablespoons minced fresh chives
Fresh lemon juice to taste
Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 500° F.
Arrange the spears in a single layer on a heavy duty baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil, salt, and pepper and toss lightly to coat. Roast, shaking the pan every 2 minutes, until the spears are tender but still slightly firm, about 6-8 minutes.
Sprinkle with the shallots and roast for another 1-2 minutes. Remove the spears to a serving platter and garnish with the chives and lemon wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!
Source: Adapted from The Joy of Cooking, 1997