Roasted to perfection

Entertaining: Asparagus spears roasted in the oven at high temperature have a delicious taste.


Several weeks ago, I substituted roasted asparagus for another vegetable in one of my cooking classes and was surprised when the students were more interested in this vegetable than in the pan-seared salmon fillets that were the main course.

It turned out that many people there that night had never roasted asparagus and loved the delicious taste that results when these spears are roasted in the oven at a high temperature. The class members also were delighted to discover that it takes under 10 minutes to roast asparagus.

Two days ago when friends asked me in a panic what to serve for a last-minute dinner party for which they were grilling porterhouse steaks and making a salad, I immediately thought of roasted asparagus. I suggested that they top the spears with shaved Parmesan cheese and some chopped walnuts. My friends, who are excellent cooks, confided that they, too, had never roasted these green spears, so I explained the technique. They telephoned later to say that the asparagus had been the hit of the evening.

When entertaining, I love to roast vegetables and am particularly fond of using asparagus. All that is necessary is to trim the tough ends from the spears, arrange them on foil-lined, heavy baking sheets, and finally to drizzle them with olive oil. After 5 to 8 minutes at 500 degrees, the spears should be tender when pierced with a knife.

Roasted asparagus are delicious served unadorned and sprinkled with salt, but garnishes are a nice addition when you have time. As well as the Parmesan and walnut combination, you could try crumbled blue cheese and toasted, chopped pecans. Or, you might like to julienne some thinly sliced prosciutto, saute the strips in olive oil until crisp and sprinkle them along with chopped rosemary over the spears. Even simpler is a garnish of grated lemon peel and chopped mint or dill.

Roasted Asparagus With Shaved Parmesan and Walnuts

Serves 6 to 8

3 pounds medium asparagus spears

about 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more if needed

salt, preferably kosher salt

1 (2-ounce) chunk Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano, at room temperature

2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts

Arrange oven rack at center and lower positions. Line 2 heavy baking sheets with aluminum foil.

Cut off and discard tough stems from asparagus. Arrange spears in single layers on baking sheets. Drizzle with olive oil, so asparagus are lightly coated, using more oil if needed.

Roast asparagus at 500 degrees until tender when pierced with sharp knife, 5 to 8 minutes, depending on thickness of spears. Remove from oven. Season with salt to taste.

Place on serving platter. Using vegetable peeler, shave strips of Parmesan cheese over asparagus. Shave just enough to garnish spears (you will probably not need to use all of the cheese). Sprinkle with walnuts. Serve warm.

Pub Date: 06/27/99

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