There is something to be said for simplicity. A fresh, still-warm vine-ripened tomato from my cousins’ organic farm in Connecticut drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and a bit of balsamic vinegar with a sprinkle of sea salt, for instance. Maybe it’s eaten outside, at the weathered picnic table steps away from the fields. Maybe it’s lunch or a snack or a side dish with dinner.
But it’s not summer yet. It’s months before local tomatoes will be ready.
It’s also weeks before we’ll see fresh asparagus here in Maine (okay, more like slightly less than two months). But at the grocery store, fresh spring asparagus is plentiful and affordable at less than $2 per pound. My kids and I are trading the heavy, comforting root vegetables of wintertime for the lighter flavors of spring.
What should you look for in your fresh asparagus? According to “The New Food Lover’s Companion,” by Sharon Tyler Herbst, stalks should be firm with tight tips and a bright green color. Unless, of course, you opt for purple or white asparagus — though I haven’t yet spotted these here in Maine. — in which case the coloring would be … not green.
You’ll want to enjoy the asparagus soon after purchasing. Be sure to trim the tips just before cooking. To do this, gently hold the asparagus near the end and closer to the middle and bend it in half. It will naturally break just above the woody part.
When I taught my children to do this last week, they marveled at easy it was. And really, it is. No knives needed.
My go-to method for cooking fresh asparagus, which I also taught my kids, is roasting it. On a nonstick baking sheet, you arrange trimmed stalks of asparagus and drizzle them with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then roast them until they’re tender — it only takes a few minutes. It’s so simple, but delivers a bright, tender, light vegetable side dish.
I love this hot or cold, in salads or alone, wrapped with prosciutto or not. When we have leftovers, I love to tuck them into delicate omelets with Swiss cheese.
Of course, if you’d rather wait for Maine asparagus to be ripe, I understand. Save this recipe for then … it will still be a delicious, easy way to enjoy these lovely green stalks.
- 1 bunch asparagus, ends removed
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place the asparagus on a nonstick baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 7-10 minutes, until tender. Enjoy.