by Jessie Woodward
“Nothing excites me more about spring than seeing my favorite produce starting to pop up all around me— literally! From mushroom hunting morels on the south facing hillsides, to foraging ramps and fiddleheads in the woods, and even to snapping off fresh spears of asparagus just as they emerge from the soil after a long and dreary Midwest winter,” Jessie Woodward says. She explains that the patch of asparagus has been on the farm for over 50 years and is so tasty and crisp that you can eat them raw after a hard afternoon in the garden.
“This is the official start to the new season for me. As I’m just finishing up the last of my canned produce from the season before and turning off the oven from long braises and roasts, I’m just longing for fresh, raw, herbaceous dishes, “ she continues. This asparagus recipe is one that is simple and easy to make and is sure to celebrate spring around your table.
When cooked in a cast iron skillet, you’re able to get nice dark char marks on the flesh of the asparagus, which not only adds nice color for visual interest, but it also a depth of flavor. Because let’s be honest, everything tastes better when cooked in a cast iron skillet!
4oz crusty bread
1 tablespoon oil
1 bunch parsley chopped, about 1 cup
Zest of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 pinch of red pepper flakes
1 bunch of asparagus
1 shallot, sliced into thin rings
Salt and Pepper
Flakey salt for garnish (like Maldon sea salt flakes)
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Make the gremolata:
Smash the garlic with the heel of your knife. Add a pinch of salt to the cloves and roughly chop. Place the parsley over top of the garlic and continue to chop until you have a coarse mince. Grate the lemon directly on top, sprinkle with cheese, and add a pinch of red pepper flakes. I like to run my fingers through the mixture to incorporate the ingredients. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
Make the breadcrumbs:
Drop the crusty bread into a food processor with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Pulse until you have what resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Heat up your cast iron skillet over medium low heat; add a tablespoon of oil and then the breadcrumbs. Stir and toast until golden brown – about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, set aside, and wipe out any breadcrumb residue.
Turn the heat up to medium and get the pan nice and hot - this step is important! Add a swirl of oil and then add the asparagus. Season generously with salt and pepper. Try not to turn the asparagus right away so the char marks can form.
After about 5 minutes, add the shallots and roll the asparagus to cook on all sides.
Once the asparagus is tender and a beautiful green color, about 3-5 minutes more, remove it from the heat.
Top it with the gremolata and toasted breadcrumbs and serve!