It took me a whole three minutes to choose asparagus for my March food focus. California asparagus is showing up at good prices in most of the grocery stores and local organic crops will be following soon.
Asparagus is a wonderful side vegetable for almost any main dish. It can be steamed or roasted, sautéed or flash fried. It stands alone as a starter, dipped happily in butter, hollandaise, or mayonnaise. It is a perfect salad substitute, steamed and marinated in a lemon vinaigrette. (It’s even considered polite to use your fingers to pick up undressed spears for dipping!)
Among my favorite asparagus recipes is a riff on Midnight Asparagus and Creamy Eggs from Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift’s wonderful cookbook: The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper. Once you know how this recipe works, you can play around with it a bit and add ingredients to it, like cut up peppers or left over chicken.
1¼ to ½ pounds slender asparagus (1/3 – 1/2 inch thick)
Good tasting extra-virgin olive oil
½ – whole large onion, fine chopped
½ t. kosher or coarse salt
¼ t. fresh ground pepper
4 large eggs
¼ C. grated cheese – Parmesan, cheddar or other hard cheese
Juice of ½ lemon
4-5 slices crusty/chewy bread – lightly toasted
Cut asparagus into 1 ½ inch pieces.
Put oven rack in center of the oven, about 5 inches below heat source and preheat the broiler.
Film the bottom of a straight-sided 12-inch sauté pan (with ovenproof handle with olive oil. Set the empty pan beneath the broiler to heat for 2 minutes.
Pull oven rack out. Taking care to not touch the handle, put onion, asparagus, salt and pepper into pan. With wooden spoon, mix asparagus to coat with oil (add more oil if necessary) and spread pieces out.
Cook under broiler for 3 minutes, stirring once. You want them brown but not mushy – that might take another few minutes.
Again, being careful to not touch pan, push asparagus to edges of pan, leaving space in center. Carefully break eggs into center – they will look like a four-leaf clover. Sprinkle cheese over them.
Broil for 1½ more minutes, until cheese is melted and eggs barely set and remove pan from oven.
Squeeze lemon juice over everything.
Serve directly from pan or divide onto dinner plates. The runny egg and cheese become the sauce for the bread.