Once upon a time, I was utterly grossed out by the Smelly Green Veggie Group. I grew up in a world where broccoli was boiled until grey and covered in Velveeta, and asparagus…well, it came out of cans. My mom was, and is, an excellent cook, but the value of fresh veggies cooked just enough had yet to really settle into the public consciousness, and canned foods were still king. As far as I was concerned “vegetables” were canned corn, green beans, and peas.
In my late teens we started experimenting with the new crop of frozen mixed veggie dinners that you added meats to, which are now all over the place but were then quite a novelty. My first exposure to teriyaki sauce came in the form of a Create-a-Meal package that contained broccoli, water chestnuts, peppers, onions, and carrots.
Thanks to Mom’s willingness to try this pseudo-Asian chow, I realized that I loved the hell out of broccoli. It’s still one of my favorite vegetables, which is a good thing, as broccoli is full of the same nutrients found in leafy greens, which I despise.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve made a point to periodically try foods I don’t like, just to make sure that the Broccoli Phenomenon isn’t in effect for them as well–some foods just aren’t all that great unless they’re prepared certain ways. Tofu, for example. There are a zillion ways to screw up tofu, and several ways to make it awesome.
About a year ago I applied the same “what the hell” principle to another Smelly Green Veggie: asparagus. I took the advice of the Veganomicon and dispensed with steamers and grilling, and went straight to one of my favorite vegetable preparations…oven roasting.
All I can really say about that is, OMG.
Since right now asparagus is on sale at my local market, I’ve had it at four meals in the last two weeks and am basically sick of it, but I wanted to share the basic recipe for this lovely, nutty, crazy nutritious veg that has the added advantage of making your pee stink to high heaven.
And really, doesn’t love having stinky pee?*
When you buy asparagus I recommend going for thinner shoots, which are more tender–a general rule of thumb for veggies is that larger specimens don’t have as much flavor. I usually cook mine the same night I buy it, but if you can’t, store it upright in about an inch of water in your fridge, as if it were cut flowers (I do the same with fresh herbs and they last much longer). Wash it thoroughly and trim off the woody bits–take one spear and break it where it naturally snaps, then cut the rest to about the same length, and you’ll have more uniform cooking. Roasting asparagus, as opposed to steaming or grilling, brings out an amazing texture and pumps up the flavors (as it does with most veggies).
Oven-Roasted Asparagus of Love
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
What You Need:
- 1 pound (1 bunch) asparagus, trimmed
- 2 teaspoons or so extra-virgin olive oil
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Let’s Get it On:
1 ~ Lightly coat a baking pan (sides are a good idea, since it likes to roll) with cooking spray.
2 ~ After washing and trimming the asparagus, drizzle olive oil over it. The measurement is really up to you; you want it coated but not drippy, and you can get away with a fairly small amount if you really, really care about that kind of thing. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the asparagus, then toss to coat (use tongs if you like).
3 ~ Lay the asparagus out on the pan in a single layer. You could also do up some wee potatoes if you like and bake in the same pan, but bake them separately for 20 minutes first, then take them out, fill up the space with asparagus, and go forth. Pop the pan in the oven and leave it for 15-20 minutes. The tips will be a bit brown and the spears will be slightly crinkled.
4 ~ Consume in mass quantities.
Roasted asparagus goes with all sorts of meals, and it really likes being paired with earthy things like potatoes and Portabello mushrooms. It also appreciates nuts, particularly pine nuts or slivered almonds sprinkled over top (after roasting). You can add herbs to the mix if you like, to tailor the flavor to whatever sort of cuisine you’re preparing; I sometimes hit mine with an Italian seasoning blend I have that came in a grinder.
I eat asparagus with my fingers, just so you know. I imagine most people cut it and eat it with a fork.
* – Asparapee is caused by natural chemicals in the vegetable such as methanethiol and dimethyl sulfide, which break down into sulfur compounds. What’s really interesting about it is that while pretty much everybody’s asparapee is smelly, only about 22% of people can actually smell it.Become my patron for exclusive online content and read new stories before anyone else!