I always serve asparagus with the tips pointed away from my guests. Asparagus is an aggressive looking vegetable and I’d never want anyone to feel threatened or attacked by their meal.  Sure, people laugh at me when I express my opinion about proper asparagus placement, but I am willing to let my culinary freak flag fly in order to be certain that anyone who’s plating up asparagus will remember to lay the spears away from their family and friends as it comes into peak season this month.

The green goddess of spring, asparagus, has long been considered a delicacy and care should be taken by cooks to treat this expensive seasonal star with respect.  Asparagus comes in green, purple, and white varieties.  White asparagus is often prized for its subtle flavor, but I’ve always preferred the more readily available and robustly flavored traditional green variety to any other.  

In the market, look for spears with tight tips without unruly out growth and avoid purchasing over sized or super skinny spears; spears that are just larger than a pencil are perfect for most recipes.  Fresh asparagus will never have an off putting odor, feel slimy or look dry.  Bunches of asparagus should be stored in the refrigerator with the ends submerged in a cup of water and should be cooked and consumed within two days of purchasing. 

Asparagus has a tender stem that turns unpalatably woody at the end; the thicker the spear the more fibrous the stem will be, but asparagus spears will naturally break where the tender turns tough.  Simply hold the spear by both the tip and the end and gently bend it until it breaks.  Discard the end and confidently proceed with cooking the tender tips.  As an added bonus, using asparagus as a guide in this fashion eliminates the need for any pesky peeling.

Asparagus is a quick cooking vegetable and should be steamed or boiled for less than five minutes until they are just crisp-tender.  Overcooking not only makes asparagus soggy and lackluster, it depletes the copious amounts of vitamin K and other nutrients they offer diners.  

Properly cooked spears are welcome additions to omelets, frittatas and salads.  Blanched asparagus is lovely served along side delicate citrus dips or folded into simple pasta dishes, but roasting is my long time favorite cooking method for these spring green standouts.

High heat roasting offers cooks a simple and healthy way to look at asparagus in a new way. Try roasting to develop natural complexity in this sublime seasonal vegetable, but no matter the cooking method be sure to serve asparagus with the tips pointed away.  

Happy spring!

Roasted Asparagus with Smoked Paprika and Balsamic 

If there is an chill in the air opt to roast asparagus in the oven, but if the sun is shining throw it on a hot grill. This recipe can be doubled with ease.

  • 1 pound  Asparagus spears, broken and woody ends discarded
  • 1Tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika*
  • 2 Garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 525 degrees (or prepare a hot grill).  Toss the prepped asparagus with the olive oil, smoked paprika, garlic, and salt.  Spread asparagus in a single layer on a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet.  Roast or grill asparagus until just tender and tips are browned slightly (7-11 minutes based on thickness).  Remove from the oven and douse with the balsamic vinegar and fresh pepper to taste just before serving.

*Smoked paprika is available at finer grocery stores and spice shops.

Join the discussion on social media!