I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets nervous if there isn’t a green dish somewhere amongst the dinner menu. I need to have at least one dish that has green in it. Or a whole bowl of green all by itself. Broccoli rabe is my first go-to green. I love Swiss chard, too. String beans. Escarole. Dandelion. And even romaine for a salad.
Then there’s asparagus. What an unusual animal. No other green quite like it. A tall, completely edible (almost), stalk. Ever see how they grow? They rise from the earth like mini-skyscrapers (yet I’m sure they have no interest in going any higher than your knee and even that’s “stretching” it). And, yes, ancient people loved them, too. There’s a recipe for asparagus from Apicius (Roman Empire gourmand with a fondness for recording recipes…thank you!): “…immerse in boiling water backwards,” which reminds me there is even cookware made especially for cooking asparagus (I’ve never used any). Wikipedia just told me that Romans would even freeze asparagus up in the snowy Alps so they’d have plenty for the Feast of Epicurus (no, not the website).
I make asparagus a million different ways. They cook so fast so they pop up as the green at the table often. Here’s one way that gets you asparagus PLUS 3 flavors (1. garlic 2. lemon 3. parmigiano) all in one.
First: peel and slice (thinly) 3-4 cloves of garlic. Heat a little olive oil in a small sauté pan. Add the garlic slices. Sauté till they become deep brown. You’ll be doing what everyone always says “DON’T do.” Cooking garlic to dark brown. Trust me. It becomes chewy and yummy, not bitter. Lift garlic out of oil with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Don’t throw out the oil.
Rinse and dry a lemon. Cut lemon into 1/4-inch tiny pieces. Peel and all.
Line a sheet pan with foil and drizzle a little olive oil over it. Snap the woody ends off the asparagus (or cut them all off in one fell swoop). Lay out the asparagus on the sheet pan in one layer. Drizzle more olive oil (don’t forget the garlic oil). Sprinkle more salt. And a little pepper. Sprinkle lemon pieces.
Roast in 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes until tender or crisp-tender. Transfer asparagus and lemon pieces to serving plate and sprinkle golden garlic. Toss to combine. Add a dusting of about 1/4 cup of grated parmigiano.
Oh. Yeah. Enjoy.
About 15 minutes later witness the great mystery that’s been observed since early man. Asparagus pea (yes, I just spelled that wrong. Just couldn’t say the other word around food).