Roasted Asparagus with Sauces for Dipping

After tulips, asparagus is the first sign that spring has arrived in Connecticut, where I live. In fact, we are home to the largest asparagus farm in New England, so once these gorgeous, deep green and purple-tinged stalks start to grow, we take the opportunity to enjoy them in many dishes. Roasted asparagus makes a lovely first coarse to any spring meal. It’s rich in vitamins A and C and fiber. Look for deep green stalks with tight, purple tinged tips. The thickness of the asparagus has to do with the age of the plant and has no bearing on the tenderness. Big, thick asparagus stalks are from mature plants and thin ones are from younger plants, so let your personal taste dictate.

As soon as you get home, wrap a moistened paper towel around the cut ends of the stalks. Place a paper bag over the tops. Refrigerate the asparagus. Proper storage and cooking within a few days will help to preserve the asparagus spears’ natural sugars and prevent the dryness that leads to toughness. Before cooking, rinse the spears well, especially the tight tips because asparagus is grown in sandy soil.

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Ingredients

    Roasted Asparagus

  • 1 pound asparagus, thick or thin (my favorite is thick)
  • 1 teaspoon Italian extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground organic black pepper, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons organic butter

    Sauces

  • ½ cup low-fat organic plain yogurt or organic mayonnaise, divided
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated organic lemon, orange, or lime zest
  • 1 teaspoon tamari or organic balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon organic black olive spread, tapenade, or finely minced organic black olives
  • 1 tablespoon minced organic sun-dried tomatoes—if using oil-packed, drain well

Method

  1. To make the asparagus, preheat oven to 400°F. Thoroughly rinse the asparagus, then drain. Cut or snap off the tough bottom 2 inches of the stalks; discard or save for making stock. Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick organic olive oil spray.
  2. Arrange the trimmed asparagus in a single layer in the prepared pan. Drizzle the olive oil evenly over the asparagus, then sprinkle sea salt and pepper to taste. Using your hands, roll the spears to coat with the oil. Dollop little bits of the butter evenly over the asparagus.
  3. Roast in the preheated oven for about 5 minutes, then carefully shake the pan back and forth to distribute the melted butter. Continue roasting for another 10 minutes or until just tender when tested with a fork. Meanwhile, prepare the sauces.
  4. To make the sauces, divide the yogurt or mayonnaise into four bowls. Stir the zest into one of the bowls, the tamari into another, the olive spread into the third, and the sun-dried tomatoes into the remaining bowl.
  5. To serve, arrange the asparagus on a serving platter. Place the sauces at the table with the asparagus, allowing everyone to choose which sauce (or combination of sauces) they would like to drizzle atop their asparagus.

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