Someone once said, after having driven past about the tenth asparagus stand in as many kilometers, “ceux qui ne veulent pas d’asperges ici doivent vraiment faire exprés”–“if you don’t want asparagus around here, you really have to do it on purpose.”
It seems that at every intersection of country roads, there’s a car or truck (the vigneron kind of camionette, not pickups), with a table set up alongside, piled with asparagus. White, green, every dimension from thicker than a thumb to thinner than a pencil.
However, they disappear as quickly as they come. Asparagus season starts in late March and is over by May. As a result, we eat asparagus three or four times a week for the “big month” that we can get it fresh. (I say “big month,” because that’s how the French refer to a little more than a month. A little more than an hour is a “big hour.” A little more than a kilo is a “big kilo.” It works the other way, too: just under an hour is a “little hour”–une petite heure.)
It’s kind of like sweet corn in the Midwest, where folks pig out on it while it lasts and they wouldn’t dream of buying an off-season substitute. Only local and fresh–hence in season–will do.
One of the ways we pig out on asparagus is by roasting it. Nothing could be easier. The longest part is preheating the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, that’s the first step.
Just snap off the woody parts of the asparagus. Oil a baking sheet. Spread the clean asparagus on the sheet and drizzle on more oil. Toss with your fingers to spread the oil over the asparagus. Spread them out in a single layer. Sprinkle a little sea salt and pepper. I set a few sprigs of fresh rosemary over the top, which gives a little flavor without having nasty rosemary spikes between your teeth. Roast for 8-10 minutes, but keep a close eye in case your oven cooks faster. There will be a few browned parts, with the rest tender and juicy. Yum.
Roasting like this works for all kinds of veggies, from cauliflower to broccoli to green beans. A nice way to change things up with minimal effort. You can get fancy with herbs or garlic, but really, good veggies stand on their own, too.
The absolutely easiest way to do asparagus is to break off the woody parts, wash it, spread the asparagus across a microwavable plate, top with a sprig or two of rosemary if you feel like it, cover with microwavable film or a plastic cover and nuke it for 4-7 minutes, depending on how much asparagus you have. Remove the rosemary if you used it, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil AFTER you’ve cooked it. Microwaving is supposed to be the method of cooking that best preserves the nutrients in vegetables, and it’s quick to boot.