This recipe from 2010 is still my favorite thing to make as soon as asparagus comes into season. It’s light, fresh, and pretty easy, and the first time I make it each year, I feel like spring has officially started.
I found this recipe on the CraftZine RSS feed (back in the days when Google Reader was a real thing… a wonderful time), and it introduced me to my first “favorite” food blogger, Katie Goodman at Good Life Eats. I was not an ambitious cook in those days. Actually, that’s not exactly true – but the dishes that were ambitious for me then seem pretty simple to me now. I used to visit my more-established friends who cooked a lot – who read Cooks’ Illustrated, and had stacks of Le Creuset pots, and lined their kitchen with custom-built display shelves of beautiful dry goods in Mason jars. I would gaze in wonder at their neat rows of colorful lentils, and be utterly flabbergasted that someone my age (mid-20’s) was responsible enough to live this way. At any given time they might be making pizza on their grill, or some kind of complicated French carrot soup requiring a million steps, and it was just casually assumed that this kind of effort could be easily built into their daily routine. Personally, at dinnertime I would march exhausted into my little kitchen, and stare down my three mismatched pots like we were squaring off for a fight.
I liked trying new recipes; I just wasn’t very good at it. (Yet.) It was very common for me to burn a lot of time and energy on a new recipe I’d found, only to be totally underwhelmed by the results. Good Life Eats was a great find for me, because it introduced me to lots of fairly simple recipes that were actually worth the effort. It helped me to analyze recipes more effectively, figuring out where the flavor was coming from and whether it would be strong enough to be satisfying. I followed her blog religiously for at least a year, before ultimately branching out and discovering other sources that I liked and trusted. I’ll definitely do a full week feature on Good Life Eats someday soon.
Anyway, this springtime pasta has stood the test of time; I look forward to it every year, and it was great this time around as usual. The only disappointment was that my local grocery store didn’t have shallots in stock. Kind of a heartbreaker, as the mild shallots (which I find underwhelming in most other recipes) actually get a chance to shine in this simple dish. But I just substituted half a red onion, and it was still delicious.
It always seems alarming to me to roast the asparagus/onion mixture for only six minutes; surely that won’t be enough? And in fact, this time I did broil everything on low for an additional two minutes after my six-minute timer went off. I don’t think it’s strictly necessary, but I like to see at least a little bit of browning on any vegetables I roast, and especially with onions, I think it brought out a tiny hint of extra sweetness. I was also starting with pretty substantial, thick asparagus stalks; more tender ones certainly wouldn’t have needed any extra time. Some years I completely forget that the veggies are supposed to be roasted at all, and cook them all on the stove in a frying pan, and it turns out fine that way too. It’s really one of those dishes that will be fine no matter what you do to it. And it’s fairly healthy too – just lemon, garlic, mustard, salt, pepper, and a little bit of olive oil are all that’s needed to highlight the vegetables. A fresh & simple combination of flavors that is wonderful to enjoy on a spring day.