When asparagus season hits each Spring, this is how it gets cooked in my house nine times out of 10. It’s so easy, a 6th grader can make it….and they did, in my cooking class last week. The group of 11 and 12 year olds gobbled the spears right out of the roasting pan as if they were licorice sticks. That kind of enthusiasm over vegetables? It made my afternoon.
The only “trick” to working with asparagus is to trim off the woody ends. You can peel the bottom of each stalk until you reach the tender center, or go the completely unfussy route by simply snapping off ends. Do this by feel, gently bending each spear toward the bottom until you find the sweet spot where it breaks off with ease.
The asparagus gets rolled in olive oil, Meyer lemon juice and zest right in the roasting pan, no need to dirty a bowl. Use a conventional lemon if tracking down a Meyer will make this recipe even the teensiest bit effortful. It’s meant to be a breeze.
A typical bunch of asparagus fits perfectly in my toaster oven, which heats up quicker and uses less energy than a conventional one. Until recently, I embellished the finished asparagus with shaved Parmesan cheese, which I imagine I’ll get back to at some point. For now I’m infatuated with the garnish Cheryl Sternman Rule uses in her cookbook Ripe: draping a diced, hard cooked egg over the roasted spears. It’s a satisfying mix.
As for nutrition, like every vegetable, asparagus has loads of good stuff to offer, all at just 20 calories in a half cup. I found this terrific rundown on all its upsides by Ellie Krieger, a registered dietitian and host of the Food Network’s Healthy Appetite.
Just before adding the egg, I finish the cooked asparagus with a small pinch of fleur-de-sel, that delicate flaked salt that brightens the flavors of whatever it touches. This is just a fancy flourish; your everyday salt will be perfectly tasty, too.
For a variation, skip the egg and use a vegetable peeler to shave thin shards of good-quality Parmesan cheese over the top.
• 1 bunch fresh asparagus
• 1 egg
• Zest and juice of 1 small Meyer lemon (or conventional lemon)
• 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Fleur de sel (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Snap the woody ends off the bottom of the asparagus spears and discard.
Hard boil the egg using your preferred method. Once cooked, peel and dice. Set aside.
While the egg is cooking, lay asparagus on a baking sheet. Scatter the zest, squeeze the juice, and drizzle the olive oil over the asparagus. Toss to coat. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
Put the asparagus in the oven and roast 8 to 10 minutes until just tender with a little firmness to the bite. The time will vary depending on the thickness of the spears. Cutting a small piece off the bottom of a stalk is one sure way to test for doneness, keeping in mind it will continue to cook a little after it’s out of the oven.
Lay the asparagus on a serving plate. Finish with a small pinch of fleur-de-sel or other salt to taste. Arrange the diced egg crosswise over the center of the spears.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Serves 4 to 5 as a side dish.