The ancients appreciated their asparagus. Long before Clarence Birdseye and his US Patent #1,773,079 marked the inception of the modern frozen food industry, Emperor Caesar Augustus had an “Asparagus Fleet”— an elite military unit complete with the fastest runners, who would carry asparagus spears high into the Alps to be frozen for later use. Caesar, in fact, coined the term “Velocius quam asparagi conquantur”—literal translation “faster than cooking asparagus,” colloquially meaning, “get going already.”
Once dubbed the “Vegetable of Kings,” even King Louis XIV’s affinity for asparagus was so passionate he had them cultivated in greenhouses so he could enjoy them year round. The Greek Physician Galen touted the health benefits of asparagus during the second century AD and his claims hold great truth with this vegetable that’s low in calories and a good source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein.
Homestead’s fresh asparagus has arrived from Katona Farms, a fourth-generation operation for over 60 years, dedicated to cultivating Jersey fresh fruits and vegetables. This versatile veggie can be wrapped in prosciutto, tossed in pasta, broiled, baked and grilled. But sometimes, simplicity is what best suits a fresh quality ingredient. Try this delicious recipe for Lemony Roasted Asparagus, courtesy of Cookie and Kate:
Basic roasted asparagus
1 large bunch (about 1 pound) fresh asparagus
1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
My seasonings (use one or all, like I did)
Zest and juice of 1/2 medium lemon, preferably organic
Lemon wedges, from the remaining 1/2 lemon
Sprinkle of finely grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Small handful fresh mint, finely chopped
Light sprinkle of red pepper flakes
Pat or two of butter
Light drizzle of balsamic reduction or regular balsamic vinegar
Toasted sliced almonds
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus (if you sharply bend the asparagus near the base, it will snap in the right place). Discard the ends.
Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper for easy cleanup. Place the asparagus on the sheet and drizzle with 1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil, just enough to lightly coat the asparagus. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the asparagus, and toss until the spears are lightly coated in oil. Arrange the spears in a single layer on the pan.
Bake until the asparagus is tender and roasted to your desired level of doneness (I may have left mine in a little longer than necessary, but I like the crispy tips). Very thin asparagus, like the kind shown here, will take as little as 10 to 12 minutes, whereas thicker asparagus will need 15 to 20 minutes.
Transfer the roasted asparagus to a serving platter and season however you’d like. You could keep it simple with a squeeze of lemon juice, or just Parmesan, or add a pat of butter or drizzle of balsamic vinegar. For my variation here, I grated the zest of about half a lemon over the asparagus using a Microplane, then squeezed the juice of half of a lemon over it, and garnished with a few lemon wedges, for good measure. Then I grated some Parmesan over the dish, followed by a light sprinkle of chopped mint and a very light sprinkle of red pepper flakes.