Despite asparagus being available year around I still think of it as a Springtime vegetables. When I was a child one of the highlights of our Easter dinner was the platter of fresh, first of the season, asparagus that my mom always served with baked ham and creamed new potatoes and peas. Asparagus is one of my favorite veggies as long as it is cooked the way I like it – barely fork tender. And I like the big fat spears that don’t show up in the markets too often any more. The wimpy little pencil sized spears just don’t do it for me because their flavor can be strong and they overcook if you take your eye off of them for a second. I can often find the large spears at Costco where, for some strange reason, shoppers don’t like the large stalks and throw the occasional bag of them to the back of the stack of boxes where I can quickly find them. I know, it’s all a matter of taste. An asparagus vendor will be in the booth next to me when the farmers’ market opens next week and he will be swamped by people buying those spindly little spears.
My favorite way of preparing the jumbo stalks is to pan roast them. They cook quickly, brown beautifully, and retain their sweet, fresh texture and taste. This technique only works on large spears, those at least the diameter of a dime. When asparagus is steamed it can turn into a grey-green mush in a matter of a minute or two if it’s overcooked. That won’t happen if you pan roast them (and keep a close eye on them as well).
Wash the spears by letting a strong stream of water hit them from above so any bits of grit will be dislodged. Trim off 2 to 3 inches of the woody stem. Snapping off the bottom section is way too wasteful and isn’t necessary. Peel the bottom 3-4 inches with a potato peeler. Dry the spears well. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a medium skillet and heat to medium-high heat. Add the asparagus and cook for about 7-10 minutes (uncovered) depending on the thickness of the spears, turning them constantly so they don’t burn. They are done when barely fork tender. If you want them to brown more turn up the heat a bit – don’t cook them longer.
When the spears are cooked to your liking remove from the heat and place on a serving platter. Drizzle a mixture of 2 tablespoons melted butter and 1 tablespoon lemon juice over the spears and season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with parmesan cheese shavings and serve. For a scrumptious appetizer wrap the warm spears in a paper thin slice of proscuitto and serve with a small lemon wedge.
Pan roasting asparagus is so quick and easy and you won’t believe how much better it tastes when it’s cooked this way. I had some leftover spears for lunch today that I dunked into homemade blue cheese dressing. Sinful…but so good.
- 1 pound fresh asparagus spears
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- Sea salt
- Black pepper, freshly ground
- Parmesan cheese shavings
- Wash asparagus and trim off the bottom several inches of the spears. Peel 3-4 inches of the lower stem with a potato peeler.
- Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a medium skillet and heat to medium-high. Add the asparagus (don't cover) and saute 7-10 minutes until barely fork tender. Watch carefully so it browns nicely but doesn't burn.
- Remove to a serving platter. Drizzle with melted butter and lemon juice. Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with parmesan cheese shavings.