I ended up with three pounds of asparagus about two weeks ago. For free. Because I’m a physician.
A non sequitur, I know. For National Doctors’ Day, a holiday which I was sure was concocted by some disgruntled physician or some brown-nosing staff member (actually, it was George Bush in 1991), I quietly and somewhat relucantly celebrated with my many-faceted group of colleagues over lunch. (Lunch is usually when we can catch up with morning paperwork — there is never enough time allotted to do this during “normal” work hours.) My workplace, Kaiser Permanente, presented the physicians with a nice lunch and a spread of fruit and vegetables, essentially a “free” farmers’ market, cloth bag distributed to each of us so that we might fill it with whatever produce we desired. I was too late for the kale, unfortunately, my colleagues securing those bundles early. My salad obsession still runs deep and the kids are still gorging themselves on kale chips whenever they can. The strawberries were prolific, just dripping off the table. I would taken more than just three pounds, had I not felt conspicuous in doing so. Ten pounds of strawberries could have easily ended up in my kitchen, juicy remnants around Grub’s smile, staining the Peach’s fingers.
And then there was the asparagus. The often ignoble asparagus, that harbinger of spring, its tender nubby tips poking up through the dirt when the crocuses are forgotten, chided for its malodorous aftereffects in those people who are “excretors”: this was my go-to plant. Three pounds of it were not missed by the farmers’ market. And all three pounds of it were eaten by my family that weekend.
The magic happens in the marinade: I used mayonnaise for creaminess, the grainy mustard for a vinegary tang, and some lemon for a little sour. This is a great dish to prep ahead of time, before a big dinner or party, as it tastes great warm or at room temperature. Marinade can turn even the most unloved, smelly vegetable into one that is appreciated and eaten by vegetable scoffers.
- ¼ cup grainy mustard (thick, whole grain is best)
- ¼ cup good quality mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 pound thick asparagus, trimmed or snapped* (The small spears are fine, but try to get stems that are about the same circumference. Otherwise, you'll have uneven cooking times between sizes. There may be some overdone spears.)
- Whisk all ingredients except asparagus together. Pour over asparagus to coat. Allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- While marinating, preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
- Using a large pan, arrange asparagus in one layer, without too much crowding.
- See that leftover marinade in the bowl? DON'T throw it away. See notes below.**
- Another cooking option that is even better than the oven: place the asparagus on a rack, then place pan underneath. This prevents the asparagus from over steaming. The original recipe gives instructions to grill over moderately high heat for about 8 minutes, creating a nice blistered, flavorful char. I found this hard to duplicate in the oven, but the end result was still very flavorful.
- If using the oven, check every couple of minutes. They are done when the asparagus tips begin to char and the spears soften slightly.
- Serve immediately or at room temperature.