I was a kid who ate a very limited number of vegetables. I tolerated green beans. I choked down lettuce a few reluctant bites at a time. Beyond that, I pushed the green stuff to the edge of my plate, which makes my transformation into a vegetable lover all the more notable.
Somewhere between ages 15 and 25, I did a 180. I learned to love broccoli, Brussels sprouts and peas. I discovered chard and zucchini. But learning to love vegetables was easier than learning how to cook them.
Busy with work and then with small children, I had to develop some quick-cooking methods. Like many, I grill whenever I can to add flavor fast and make cleanup simpler. However, asparagus just didn’t turn out right. But I discovered that when I precooked the asparagus, basically blanching it in boiling water just until the stalks were barely tender and immediately chilling it in an ice-water bath, the asparagus would grill perfectly in 2 to 3 minutes. Even better, I could precook the asparagus in the morning. A little salt and pepper, olive oil and freshly grated lemon zest complete the quick, easy and delicious dish.
Make Ahead: The asparagus can be blanched, cooled, wrapped loosely in paper towels and refrigerated up to 12 hours before grilling.
Servings: 3 - 4
- 1/8 teaspoon salt, preferably kosher, or to taste, plus salt for the cooking water
- 1 pound asparagus, woody ends trimmed off
- About 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Freshly grated zest of 1 lemon
Fill a large bowl with ice and cold water.
Fill a medium straight-sided skillet with 1 to 2 inches of water. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat, then lightly salt it.
Add the asparagus; once the water returns to a boil, cook for 1 to 2 minutes for thin stalks, 3 to 4 minutes for medium-thick ones and 5 to 6 minutes for thick ones. The asparagus should be firm and barely tender.
Immediately transfer to the ice-water bath; cool for about 5 minutes, then drain and pat dry with paper towels. At this point, the asparagus can be wrapped in dry paper towels and refrigerated for up to 12 hours.
Prepare the grill for direct heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high (450 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them evenly under the cooking area. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for about 4 or 5 seconds. Lightly coat a grill rack with oil and place it on the grill.
Place the asparagus on a shallow plate and drizzle the oil over the stalks. Season the asparagus with the 1/8 teaspoon of salt and the pepper to taste, then roll the stalks on the plate to coat them evenly. Place the asparagus on the grill in a single layer and fairly close together, so they don't fall through. Close the grill lid and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, then turn the asparagus with tongs to grill all sides evenly. Close the lid and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Once the stalks have some light grill marks (not char), transfer them to a serving dish.
Scatter the lemon zest on top and toss gently to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.
From Nourish columnist Stephanie Witt Sedgwick.
Tested by Stephanie Witt Sedgwick.
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