Since it’s asparagus season, and I’m able to buy it directly from one our local farms, I’ve been trying to eat this wonderful vegetable as often as possible. But since I don’t want to put my family into an asparagus coma, I’ve been trying to prepare it in different ways. My standard go-to is to pan roast the stalks with a bit of butter and olive oil over pretty high heat until they break down (you cook them for about 10 minutes with the cover on and flip them once about half way through). This may seem like a very indelicate way to prepare asparagus but what happens is that they become crispy on the outside very tender on the inside. Serve with some pecorino grated on top, maybe a drizzle of very good balsamic if you have it handy. It’s not pretty but they are delicious like this.
My other fave is just to quickly steam or boil them for a couple of minutes until just tender and still firm in the middle (not floppy!)–maybe thrown in some peas for the last minute–and then put them on a platter to compose a warm salad: sprinkle with lemon juice, walnut oil, finely chopped shallots, pepper, and fleur de sel. This way is also very flexible because you can add other spring vegetables like raw or steamed sliced radishes, sauteed ramps…
But my new attempt is to roast the stalks with slices of shallots and lemons on the same baking sheet tossed with just olive oil and salt and pepper. I love squeezing the hot roasted lemon juice (imagine how this might taste with Meyer lemons!)into the pasta, then drizzling in whatever olive oil is left in the pan and maybe topping with some chevre (if you’re feeling frisky you could even add cream that you’ve warmed with some lemon zest). But then the question is this: I like it to look and feel a little rustic so I keep the lemon in there and the stalks whole…would this freak you out?
Keep in mind that when I made the dish I only had capellini on hand and this is not the right shape pasta for this, you need something sturdier like fettuccine or perciatelli. The alternative would be to remove the lemon after squeezing out the warm juice, slice the asparagus into smaller pieces, and making the dish more manageable for those who may complain (family members who just don’t understand your vision).
What do you think? Leave the lemons in or out?