dimanche 30 mars 2008

Oven Roasted Asparagus

Spring is here and it is time for spring vegetables. Things like asparagus, radishes, green onions, tiny purple artichokes should be showing up in the markets. We can buy these vegetables year round but this is when they are at their best. The asparagus is pencil thin and crisp, artichokes are tiny purple buds with little or no choke, green onions are slender stalks with long thin bulbs.
When I moved to Paris, I heard of the French spring tradition of sliced radish and butter sandwiches. Since radishes are available year round now, I don’t know if this spring rite still elicits such excitement. I haven’t had radishes in a sandwich but they make a lovely addition to salads.
The pencil thin green asparagus so common in Canada is rare in France where the preference seems to be for the fat green and white varieties of which I am not so fond.
Italy is probably THE place to be in spring. Italians have the most amazing selection of spring vegetables that are of the ‘here this week, gone the next’ variety.
Thin green onions also seem to be missing in this part of Europe. Usually, we get thicker green stalks and large round white bulbs. The thin ones are often available in Asian grocery stores (at somewhat elevated prices). But yesterday, I spotted some true slender spring onions in the local grocery store.
I like to keep it simple for these vegetables. For asparagus, to retain all the flavour and goodness, grill or oven roast then sprinkle with lemon juice and slivers of Parmesan cheese. Artichokes should be steamed and served with lemon and butter dipping sauce or grilled then drizzled with a good quality extra virgin olive oil.

Oven Roasted Asparagus
Makes 4-6 servings

1 kg (2 lb) asparagus
15 mL (Tbsp) olive oil
2.5 mL (½ tsp) freshly ground black pepper
1 mL (¼ tsp) salt
60 g (2 oz) Asiago or Parmesan cheese, shaved

Hold asparagus by stem end and bend stalk to snap off woody end. In oven proof baking pan, gently toss asparagus with olive oil, pepper and salt; spread out evenly. Bake for 15 minutes in a 200°C (400°F) oven.
Meanwhile, using a vegetable peeler, cheese planer or knife, cut cheese into thin slices. Arrange over asparagus; bake for 2-5 min. longer or until the asparagus is tender-crisp and cheese is melted.

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