Charred, tender yet crisp, grilled asparagus captured a flavor that, if I were in charge of the vegetable’s PR, I might call Springtime’s Essence.
Its delicacy was deepened by a turn over the fire, giving its natural winsomeness a kind of side-dish gravitas.
To my mind, everything about spring is epitomized by asparagus. As is frequently the case with converts, I have become a bit militant. If you don’t care for grilled asparagus, then you don’t like grilling and you don’t like asparagus.
The two were made for each other. Boiling, steaming, roasting – none of those methods complement the vegetable’s flavor like a wood or charcoal flame. This is the time of year when asparagus is at its best, and there is no better way of cooking it than putting the green spears on the grill and charring them. It’s a taste of spring that foreshadows summer.
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One question that attends the grilling of asparagus is the same one that bedevils other forms of asparagus cooking: Thick or thin, which is better?
For a long time, I simply chose whatever was at the store. I choose whatever looks good.
Medium-size asparagus, I’ve found, takes well to charring while remaining simultaneously crisp and tender.
A bigger factor than size is freshness. If the asparagus is limp or its spear ends flake easily or any part of the stalk is wrinkled, I change dinner plans and choose a different vegetable.
I most enjoy grilled asparagus, I think, with a simple drizzle of good extra-virgin olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and a grind of black pepper. The problem is, I will then eat one stalk after the other, like potato chips. If I’m not careful, there won’t be any left for dinner.