Once you buy local asparagus, two things happen. You can't go back to the grocery store variety. And greed sets in. You need to have it every day, until it's gone again. Most times I'm happy to have asparagus plain, or nearly. I tend to sprinkle it with aromatics or textures, like this recipe with pancetta and breadcrumbs. This year, the young garlic has been plentiful at the market, and while I admit the following makes me sound like a food jerk, I had extra young garlic in the fridge. It's true, I did. Don't hate on me people. This is my job!
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Because I'm too lazy to saute the garlic to ease its aroma, and because I love mellowing onions and shallots by rubbing them with salt and letting them sit, that's what I did with the young garlic. I pulled away the tough outer layers (save them for infusing the stock you're making with that pastured chicken -- See? I can't help myself.) and thinly sliced the entire bulb and even a few inches of the stem. After rubbing them with kosher salt, I let them sit for a few minutes while I cooked the asparagus.
Two months ago, I would have insisted that you must never blanch asparagus -- that it must be sauteed in oil or butter so that you intensify its flavor. But then a scarring incident with gritty local spears changed my tune. Blanch your asparagus (unless you know it's not gritty, in which case, saute it in oil for 2 minutes and proceed with the rest of the recipe as is) to release all the grit. Then it's just a bunch of slicing and sprinkling and grating your way to seasonal self-satisfaction.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).
Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.