I spent the majority of my life convinced that I didn’t like asparagus.
36 years, to be exact.
I never realized that the whole problem was that I’d just never had them cooked properly until last year, when I was served some at a restaurant. They looked appealing, so I hesitantly hazarded a nibble. And then a bite. And then I scarfed down the lot of them.
Before then, I thought of asparagus as these limp, gray-green, stinky, bitter things. I’d always been served them when they’d been cooked to death – steamed or boiled for an eternity. Once I was served asparagus that had been boiled for 10 minutes, and then kept warm in an oven (thereby cooking them even more) for an hour!!! I can’t even get one bite down when they’re cooked like that.
But cooked like this? All tender, and bright green, and crisp, and sweet, with flavors of garlic and lemon and parmesan? They’re heaven. Absolute heaven.
Asparagus is now my favorite vegetable. As long as they’re cooked right. And I’m not really crazy about vegetables in particular! I make myself eat them because I know they’re good for me, but they don’t really float my boat, you know? But THESE…these things I could eat all day. I have some and immediately want more. I can’t get enough of them!
And that’s not it! My entire family feels the same way…EVEN THE KIDS. When I serve these, we all fight over who gets to finish them off. I am not lying. MY KIDS FIGHT OVER THE ASPARAGUS!! This is how good this recipe is.
They’re simple and ready in just 5 minutes!
Asparagus is best in the spring, but it can be possible to find good imported asparagus at other times of the year. When the local harvest comes in during early spring, though, take a trip to the farmer’s market to treat yourself to some really fresh asparagus! Otherwise, just make sure you only buy asparagus that looks fresh and firm, and is being sold standing in water. Like flowers, asparagus does not stay fresh unless the cut ends are kept moist, so avoid asparagus that’s being sold dry. When you get it home, fill a bowl with about an inch of water and stand the asparagus upright in the bowl until you’re ready to use it.
Timing is everything when making these. You DO NOT want these to be waiting around for the rest of the food to be ready. And for heaven’s sake don’t do them ahead and try to keep them warm in the oven, because they’ll be gross by the time you get to them. The meat can keep for 5 minutes covered while you quick do these at the end. So get everything else ready, and do these last thing before you serve the meal.
When you’re ready to make them rinse them in cold water, and then snap off the ends. Gently hold the asparagus on either end, and bend until it the woody ends snap off. Don’t force it – they’ll naturally break where the woody part starts to turn tender.
Some bunches end up snapping off just a little, and some a lot. Don’t worry if it seems like it’s a lot – they always break where they’re supposed to. This particular bunch ended up having fairly large woody sections.
Swirl some olive oil – about 3 Tbsp – in a large pan and add about 2 Tbsp of butter. Heat until very hot and the butter is frothy.
Gently place in the asparagus spears as well as several cloves of minced garlic.
Use a spatula to toss the spears around in the oil and distribute the garlic a little.
Put on a lid, and turn the heat down to medium high.
Cook for just 2 to 3 minutes. No more!! (I tend to buy thinner spears. Thicker spears might need to cook for closer to 4 minutes.) Asparagus doesn’t take long to cook at all, and the difference between delicious, perfectly cooked asparagus and nasty, overcooked asparagus can be as little a half a minute.
They should still be firm, with a slight bend to them when you pick them up. They should NOT be limp, just bent a little.
Dish them onto a platter, and immediately sprinkle on shredded (not grated) parmesan cheese. Do this right away so that the heat of the asparagus melts the cheese a bit. Then sprinkle on grated lemon zest, salt, and pepper.
Doesn’t that look AWESOME!? I’m hungry for it just looking at it. In fact, I have two bunches in the refrigerator right now, waiting to be turned into this for tonight’s dinner. Last time that ONE bunch didn’t go nearly far enough, so this time I’m doing two!!
So, if the only asparagus you’ve ever eaten has been limp, smelly, and nasty, you have to try this. You have no idea what asparagus really is supposed to taste like until you do!
- 1 bunch asparagus
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 + Tbsp shredded parmesan cheese
- 1-2 tsp grated lemon zest
- salt and pepper to taste
- Store asparagus upright in a bowl of water in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- When ready, rinse the asparagus in cold water. Gently grasp the asparagus spears at both ends and bend until the woody part at the cut end breaks off. It'll naturally snap where the woody section starts to turn tender.
- Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pan until the butter is frothy.
- Place the asparagus spears in the pan with the minced garlic. Gently toss it in the oil/butter with a spatula.
- Cover the pan with a lid and turn down the heat to medium-high. Let cook for just 2 to 3 minutes. When done, the spears should still be firm and bright green, but should bend slightly when lifted up. (thicker spears might take closer to 4 minutes to cook.)
- Remove the asparagus to a platter, and immediately sprinkle with shredded parmesan cheese. (Don't let them cool at all before adding the cheese, because the heat from cooking melts it.) Top with grated lemon zest, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.