I say this every April, but spring can never come soon enough! This time of year, I start craving even more fresh veggies and bright citrus flavors. It's my bodies way of naturally detoxing after the cold Northeast winter.
It's truly is amazing what nature provides us right when the weather starts to improve. Take asparagus for instance. It's is loaded with fiber, folic acid, potassium, magnesium, vitamins K, C, and E, plus tons of antioxidants. It's also a natural diuretic, which is exactly what our bodies need after a winter of comfort food and Netflix. It's one of the few vegetables you can't find year-round at the grocery store, so I'm beyond excited when I see those first bright green bundles at the farmer's market.
The trick to preparing asparagus is to not overcook it. A quick blanch, sauté, or trip to the grill is all it needs. This recipe roasts the asparagus until just tender with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a secret ingredient - preserved lemons. It's then topped with chopped roasted pistachios, a drizzle of pistachio oil, and a sprinkle of sea salt.
Preserved lemons are a staple in Moroccan cooking, typically used in meet or vegetable tagines (stews) and salads. They have a unique pickled taste and depth of flavor that unfortunately can't be duplicated with fresh lemons. When roasted, they become incredibly fragrant and the rinds crisp up under the heat. They are worth seeking out on-line or from a speciality food shop, but I found mine at Trader Joe's of all places.
Roasted Asparagus with Preserved Lemon and Pistachios
2 pounds asparagus, woody ends trimmed
1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
large pinch sea salt
5-6 grinds black pepper
1 heaping Tbs. finely chopped preserved lemon, well rinsed
2-3 Tbs. roasted unsalted pistachios, chopped
2 tsp. pistachio oil
Maldon or other coarse sea salt, for finishing
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
Toss trimmed asparagus spears with olive oil, salt, pepper, and preserved lemon. Evenly distribute onto sheet pan and roast for approximately 15 minutes until just tender but still bright green - shake pan once or twice to ensure even browning.
Plate asparagus and top with any bits of lemon left on the pan. Sprinkle with toasted pistachios and drizzle with pistachio oil. Sprinkle with Maldon sea salt.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Note: I found preserved lemons at Trader Joe's. They are also available at speciality food stores or on-line. If you can't find or prefer to not use preserved lemons, you could use the zest from one lemon or Meyer lemon instead, but the flavor won't be nearly as pronounced.