The difference between ‘charred’ and ‘burnt’ comes down to intention and degree. A controlled intense sear is what you’re going for in this recipe. When steamed or blanched, Asparagus is prized for its wonderful green, vegetal flavors. When charred, it creates a woodsy, slightly bitter side, while maintaining many of its more delicate charms. In this recipe, what you are looking to do is strongly sear one side of the asparagus, then flip it and sear the other side. This balances the flavors produced by the char, while maintaining the subtle flavors of the asparagus.
The second part of this recipe is the olive mix that sits atop the charred asparagus. Delicious and versatile on its own (try tossing it with some pasta), the tart, salty and bitter flavors of the olives pair really nicely with the asparagus. Use one variety, or as many as you would like (a mix of black and green would be tasty and look great!). Everything is tied together with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a generous drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Once the pre-prep is done, this dish comes together really quickly. The best part is that it is just as tasty hot, straight from the pan, as it is at room temperature, so it makes a great pot luck dish. If you absolutely had to, you could char the asparagus and let it cool, storing it wrapped on a paper towel lined plate for up to a day. Some of the bright green color will fade for sure. Just don’t put the olive mix and finishing touches on it until you are ready to serve it.
- 1 ½ lbs asparagus, pencil-thin, tough ends removed, washed and dried
- 1 cup black olives, pitted and roughly chopped (that’s around 24 olives)
- ½ tsp lemon zest, finely grated using a microplane
- 1 medium clove of garlic, tough stem end removed, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 generous tablespoon chopped basil (around 4 leaves)
- 1 generous tablespoon chopped parsley
- Juice of half a lemon
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Toss the washed and dried asparagus in a little olive oil, just enough to make it glissen. Set aside until you are ready to cook.
- Combine the olives, lemon zest, garlic, half of the basil, half of the parsley, a squeeze of lemon, and a little olive oil. The exact amounts of the oil and lemon juice are not vital here, just enough to add some flavor, around 1 tablespoon of each.
- Heat a cast iron pan over med high heat until it is very hot. Add just enough asparagus to cover the bottom in a single layer. Leave it undisturbed for 2 minutes. If it looks like the asparagus isn’t touching the pan, press down on it with a spatula, or even set a flat-bottomed stainless steel mixing bowl on top to ensure that it’s contacting the hot pan.
- After two minutes turn the asparagus over to the other side. There should be a nice layer of blackened spots down the length of the each spear.
- Continue cooking for another 2 minutes, then transfer the asparagus to a serving dish.
- Repeat with the remaining asparagus.
- Spoon the olive mix over the asparagus.
- Squeeze the rest of the lemon half over everything as well as a nice drizzle of Olive Oil.
- Sprinkle the reserves herb over everything as well as a few grindings of black pepper.