Oven-Roasting Asparagus

Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews

A marvelous, easy-to-make meal

As we enter the final days of the Ann Arbor asparagus season, it seemed a good time to advocate one of my favorite ways to eat it—roasted in the oven!

There’s still a whole lot of really fine fresh asparagus at the farmers market right now, which you can turn into an array of good things to eat at home. If you’re going to be cooking some in your own kitchen, let me suggest oven-roasting it. While the more typical preparation style of steaming asparagus is OK, to my taste it tends to come out a bit watery. Oven roasting, on the other hand, concentrates asparagus’ wonderfully unique flavor. I like it almost crispy with a bit of browning, probably darker than most people are used to. You can serve the asparagus as a side dish or cut into smaller pieces and toss it on everything from pastas to pizzas. It’s also excellent on sandwiches.

Cooking doesn’t get much easier than this. And when the asparagus is as good as it is right now, it doesn’t get much tastier, either. Start with a pound or two of fresh asparagus. Trim the ends off, toss with extra virgin olive oil (we use the Moulins Mahjoub oil in the 3-liter tins regularly at our house), and a bit of sea salt (that organic Portuguese salt I reference above would be wonderful). Preheat your oven to about 450°F. It’s important that the oven be very hot, so make sure it’s actually preheated properly before you put the asparagus in! Lay the prepared asparagus on a large baking sheet. I like it as is, but you can certainly also add a clove or two of fresh garlic, some of the local garlic scapes that are coming in, a bit of fresh tarragon, or crushed fennel seed. Place the baking sheet in the oven and roast the asparagus, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, occasionally stirring. The asparagus is ready when the outsides are slightly golden brown, and the middle is very tender. Dress it with a bit of really good extra virgin olive oil. The roasted asparagus is also good at room temperature. And it’s great on a sandwich—toast one of the New Yorker Onion Rolls from the Bakehouse, brush with olive oil or mayonnaise, lay on the asparagus, then top with an over-easy fried egg, and/or some great bacon! If you have asparagus left over, cut it into pieces and toss it with pasta, risotto, or salad!