Grilled Asparagus Spears to the Heart
Grilled asparagus develops rich flavors you just can't get by boiling or steaming. Seasoned, grilled, drizzled with good olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and topped with curls of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, this is by far my favorite prep.
Asparagus is freshest, sweetest, and crispiest in spring. Look for spears with firm closed tips and select bunches that are about the same diameter so they cook uniformly. Watch out for soft mushy tips. Some folks think that skinny spears are best, but I've had fabulous fat asparagus. The Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board says "Larger diameter spears are more tender." So there. Just make sure to cut off the woody part of the bottom of the stalk. Whatever you do, don't substitute canned asparagus. It is mushy and just does not taste right. Frozen is better, but there is no substitute for fresh.
Some fun facts about asparagus:
Grilled Asparagus Recipe
Yield: 2 servings
About the cooking oil. You can also use melted butter, nut oils, or mix in 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil.
About the spices. I often reach for my Simon & Garfunkel spice blend. It's perfect for this.
About the finishing oil. Most of the cooking oil drips off,so adding a little fresh oil at the table rally perks things up. At the table you can substitute butter for the olive oil if you wish, especially if you cooked with butter. If I cook with olive oil, I finish with olive oil.
About the balsamic. I recommend a tradizionale or a reduction of an inexpensive balsamic as described in my article The Zen of Balsamic Vinegar. If you don't have balsamic (and just why don't you?), then use a splash of fresh lemon or lime juice.
Optional. Sometimes I like to throw some macadamia nuts, cashews, or peanuts in a pan and heat them on medium high for a few minutes until they toast but don't burn, and then I sprinkle them on the asparagus just before serving. 1/4 cup is more than enough for this recipe.
2) Chop off the woody part of the spear near the bottom. Lay the asparagus on a platter or in a pan and pour the flavored oil over them and roll them around until they are well-covered. Let them marinate for about 5 minutes.
2) Preheat the grill to medium hot. Place the asparagus at a right angle to the grid of the grill grates so they don't fall through. If one commits suicide, just leave it alone. Don't try to retrieve it now. Grill the asparagus, lid on, until they brown slightly on one side, about 5 minutes, roll them and grill for only 2-3 minutes on the second side. A few char marks are OK, but don't incinerate them. Stand by your grill. Bite into one near the base to make sure the doneness is the way you like it (I like it with a bit of crunch).
3) Arrange on a platter when they are done so they are all pointing in the same direction. Let them cool for about 5 minutes. They do not have to be red hot when served. Now sprinkle with the cheese, the oil, and the vinegar. You can substitute lemon or lime juice for the vinegar if you wish.
This page was revised 5/13/2011
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