Asparagus and mushrooms are particularly good cooked slowly on a heated iron grill, or a la plancha—a method that imbues these vegetables with a clean, pure taste and concentrates their flavors. For best results, I cook each vegetable in its own way, arranged side by side on a grill set over two burners, until tender and charred, then combine them just before serving.
I lightly salt half the grill before setting the asparagus on top, and I lightly oil the other half and spread out the mushrooms. When they are almost finished cooking, I add a dab of pancetta and garlic pureed with duck or goose fat to the mushrooms. This flavoring puree comes from southwest France and is best made in advance, as the flavor improves with mellowing. It will keep for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator and can be used to enhance stews, bean or lentil soups, and any mushroom dish.
As an alternative to the garlic and pancetta puree here, pour some browned butter over the mushrooms and top the asparagus with shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen by Paula Wolfert. Copyright © 2003 by Paula Wolfert. Photographs copyright © by Christopher Hirsheimer. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.