Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Oven-Blasted Asparagus: A Rite of Spring

Here in the Northwest, winter is dragging on. They're predicting cold temperatures again this weekend, perhaps even some snow.

I'm more than ready for warmer temperatures and sunshine. Thank goodness hope has arrived in the form of fresh asparagus! Those stalwart spears look so perky and cheerful, it's enough to (almost) make me forget that the weather is awful.

Oven blasting is a technique I learned from Mauny Kaseburg, one of the founders of I use it to cook vegetables all year long; cauliflower and red peppers are one of my favorite combinations. I also love snap peas, carrots, and green beans; they all take on a wonderful, almost caramelized flavor when cooked quickly at a very high temperature. Oven-blasted asparagus is in a category of delicious all its own.

I've perfected my oven-blasting technique over the last few years, and although cooking times for asparagus will vary depending on how thick the spears are, the basic method is the same.

I start by preheating the oven to 500 degrees. Then I wash and prep the asparagus, bending each stalk gently until it breaks naturally. When the oven reaches 500, I put my large cookie sheet inside and let it get nice and hot (5 minutes or so). I pull it out, drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of good-quality olive oil over the surface, add the asparagus, and toss with tongs to coat.

I blast the asparagus for about 4 minutes, shake it around in the pan a little, and cook for another 3-4 minutes. When it's ready (it looks brown in places and quite shiny) I pull it out, sprinkle it liberally with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper - then try not to eat it all myself before even getting it to the table!

This very simple preparation is delicious just as it is, but a garnish of fresh lemon juice and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano is lovely too, and makes a nice presentation for guests. If you want something truly special, splurge on a bottle of Katz & Co. Meyer Lemon Olive Oil and drizzle away - heaven!

Tutti a Tavola!

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