the hubster has to remind me I forget that just because something is embarrassingly easy doesn’t mean that it isn’t any less delicious or blog-worthy. This quick sort-of-salad side dish is a great way to welcome spring with all those delectable pencil thin asparagus prominently displayed right now at the market. The balsamic vinegar imparts a slightly sweet tang with more depth than cider vinegar or citrus and the creamy, salty parmesan adds another layer of flavor. Broiling the asparagus not only brings out a smoky note but also allows this dish to grace your table in under 20 minutes and that includes cooling time. And just in case the ease and yumminess make you feel guilty, not only is asparagus visually striking, it’s also pretty healthy. 1 cup contains 2.9 g protein, 70% of the RDA for vitamin K, 16% of the RDA for iron, 2.8 g fiber, and just 27 calories. Not bad, huh?
Thick or thin, which is better?
Opposite to common wisdom, thin spears are not younger than thick spears, actually, younger plants have a tendency to produce thicker asparagus at first. So, which is better? Maybe the question should be, how do you like to eat your asparagus? If you’re a fan of grilling, thicker is better cuz they hold up to the heat of the grill better and don’t just wilt or fall apart. If you want a quick stir-fry or a velvety purée, thin is where it’s at cuz thin asparagus have less of a fibrous sheath or peel which is also a time saver cuz you don’t have to peel it off like with the thicker variety. For broiling like with this dish, thin to medium asparagus work well but thick works fine too as long as you peel the stems and try to find ones that are uniform in thickness. And in terms of choosing for freshness, it’s pretty intuitive. If the heads look wilty or dry or the stems have air pockets you’ve got an older specimen that’ll taste about as tough and leathery as it looks.
1/2 bundle (~1/2 lb) asparagus
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 oz shaved parmesan cheese
Break off woody stems from asparagus by bending the end of the stalk between your forefinger and thumb, the stem will naturally break above the tough fibrous woody area cuz it’s not as flexible there. Cool, huh?
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil then pour olive oil and balsamic vinegar onto foil. Place asparagus on foil and mix to coat with oil and vinegar. Lay out in a single layer over the baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Broil on the highest oven rack till asparagus is lightly browned ~7-8 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool ~10 minutes. Top with shaved parmesan. Serves 2 as a salad or side dish.