Asparagus was part of one of my worst eating experiences. I was spending a few weeks traveling, working with one of the top researchers in my field. She’s an intimidating woman, known for her arrogance and her temper. Fortunately, what little contact I had with her was generally pleasant. She even invited me to her house for dinner a couple times.
The first time, she served chicken, asparagus and rustic bread she’d bought at a bakery. The asparagus was horrendous. It was grossly overcooked, plus too little of the woody barely chewable ends had been trimmed. It was all I could do to eat it without gagging, but I had to be polite, especially since I was sort of scared of my host.
This is not that asparagus. This is lightly browned, tender but still crisp at the center. It’s also easy – just put the asparagus and some salt in a lightly oiled, hot, not nonstick pan, and cook it for a few minutes, giving the pan an occasional shake. Squeeze on some lemon juice, grind a bit of black pepper over the top, and try to erase all of your bad vegetable memories.
One year ago: Sichuan Green Beans
Note: Choose thin (less than ½-inch in diameter) asparagus for this recipe, as the thicker stalks won’t cook through evenly. Trim the asparagus by bending each stalk until it snaps. To double the recipe, use a 12-inch skillet.
1 teaspoon olive oil
8 ounces asparagus, washed and trimmed (see Note)
generous pinch salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a medium not nonstick skillet over medium heat until it’s hot. (I judge based on the viscosity of the oil – the thinner, the hotter.) Add the asparagus in a single layer and stir or shake to coat with oil. Continue to cook the asparagus until it’s crisp-tender, 5-8 minutes.