It may be cold and rainy in Vancouver, the temperatures no different than they were in January, yet spring has definitely sprung. Hay fever has left me with a red nose and itchy eyes. Last weekend I blew my nose into half a box of Kleenex in one afternoon.
But the surest sign was the asparagus. I was wandering through the aisles of my favourite local market the other day when I saw them, their color a bright and playful green punctuated with purple tips, the stalks no thicker than a reed. Now, asparagus isn’t hard to find. In fact, my market carries it year round. But it’s the hothouse kind of asparagus–often thick and stringy. Eating it is like chewing on a piece of bamboo.
This asparagus, I was sure, would be nothing like that. They had compact heads–not wrinkled or ruffled, and they were firm with just the right amount of bend, promising to be both tender and crisp.
I took the asparagus home, wondering how I would cook it, what I would eat it with. It didn’t seem to matter; I had already decided that the asparagus would be the star attraction on my dinner plate. As for preparing it, I decided on roasting. Roasting vegetables has become my favourite way of preparing them. I had always steamed my asparagus. I would dot it with butter or a dollop of mayonnaise and I was content with that–until I discovered roasting. Roasting is what I’d always done with potatoes and carrots, sometimes zucchini and eggplant. I had never thought of preparing green vegetables this way until I stumbled upon a recipe for roasted broccoli, which turned out to be surprisingly delicious.
I tossed the asparagus spears with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and put them in the oven for ten minutes. That was all. Sometimes it’s hard to think of what to do with vegetables, especially when you like them with a little pizazz. The balsamic here is perfect. The heat caramelizes the sugars and gives the asparagus a flavor that complements it nicely.
How to Roast Asparagus:
1) Wash the asparagus under cold running water. Do not soak. Rub the tips to make sure no grit is caught in them. Pat dry with a paper towel.
2) Place the asparagus on a cookie sheet and drizzle with 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar. Add salt and pepper. Combine by tossing the asparagus with your hands. Finish with some more salt–I like fleur de sel.
3) Bake 8-10 minutes, or until tender but not soggy.