When I was a kid, my family cooked asparagus to death. Pencil-thin or thick-as-your-thumb stalks emerged from boiling water as droopy as they were slimy. I ate them—reluctantly—but I didn’t really know what asparagus was supposed to taste like until I began cooking on my own.
Then, the taste and texture of fresh, perfectly steamed (just slightly al dente) asparagus captivated me. I ate it to distraction. I craved its green, springtime grassy flavor. Stalks robed in hollandaise, drizzled in browned butter or simply dipped in lemon mayonnaise were enough for me, until … they weren’t. Then, I discovered roasted asparagus.
Roasting asparagus at a high temperature with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkling of sea salt creates an entirely new personality for this springtime staple. It maintains the essence and the inherent moisture of the asparagus but adds a depth of flavor, caramelizing the exterior while cooking the stalks to the perfect stage.
Here’s how: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rinse asparagus (thick spears are best) and trim or break ends off and peel the bottom three inches of each spear with a vegetable peeler. Arrange in a single layer on a metal baking tray (with sides), drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with coarse sea salt and, if desired, lemon zest. Roast for about 10 minutes, turning and tossing the stalks once or twice, then test for preferred doneness with a sharp paring knife.
Delicious as is—but you can also make a quick, elegant dinner of roasted asparagus topped with sizzled prosciutto and a poached or sunny-side-up egg with plenty of freshly ground pepper. Not quite enough for dinner? Add another egg, chop it all up and toss with just-cooked pasta in a pre-warmed bowl. Add finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and dig in!