You are fully invited to roll your eyes at the simplicity of this recipe. It’s not even a recipe. It’s more like a plating, a way of getting asparagus from market to table that I’ve been hooked on for over a year.

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Here’s what makes it perfect: I love sauteed, roasted, and grilled asparagus, especially when the spears are sizzling hot and have crackly, charred spots, a mix of textures. But each of these methods has a tiny flaw, and that is timing. Roasted and grilled asparagus are amazing piping hot off the flame, but shortly after are a bit soggy. Still good, sure, but it goes further downhill the longer you wait to eat it. Poaching asparagus and popping it in an ice water bath preserves this perfectly-cooked, crisp-tender, bright green moment in time… for days.

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This poached, cooled asparagus waits patiently until you’re ready for it and when you are… you just dump it on a plate. [“Nobody writes recipes quite like the Smitten Kitchen!” said nobody, today at least.] Drizzle it with olive oil, lemon juice, crunchy sea salt, and red pepper flakes (I’m using these) to taste and, if you’re us, you have a small puddle of (gasp!) mayo on the side for dipping, but if you hate mayo, and you’re about to tell me you do, you could also use a lemony or garlicky sour cream or yogurt sauce too, or a lemony tahini dressing, or really any dressing that makes your asparagus sing. What I cannot explain is why this is so inhalable — I often make it and leave it in the late afternoon partly with an eye towards dinner prep, partly so anyone home can have something to graze on, and it just vanishes. Cold, boiled asparagus! Gone in 30 minutes! It’s either wizardry or just objectively good and I’d be fine with either.

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Previously

6 months ago: Old-School Dinner Rolls
1 year ago: Spring Asparagus Galette
2 years ago: Roast Chicken with Schmaltzy Cabbage
3 years ago: Cannelli Aglio e Olio
4 year ago: Fig Newtons and Cripsy Tofu Pad Thai
5 years ago: Granola Bark
6 years ago: Caramelized Brown Sugar Oranges with Yogurt and Potato Pizza, Even Better
7 years ago: Why You Should Always Toast Your Nuts (Please!) and Obsessively Good Avocado-Cucumber Salad
8 years ago: Dark Chocolate Coconut Macaroons and Baked Eggs with Spinach and Mushrooms
9 years ago: Spinach and Smashed Egg Toast and Bee Sting Cake
10 years ago: Over-the-Top Mushroom Quiche and Banana Bread Crepe Cake with Butterscotch
11 years ago: Blackberry and Coconut Macaroon Tart
12 years ago: Baked Kale Chips and Almond Macaroon Torte with Chocolate Frosting
13 years ago: Artichoke-Olive Crostini and Chocolate Caramel Crackers
14 years ago: Spring Panzanella and Lemon Yogurt Anything Cake
15 years ago: Arborio Rice Pudding and Gnocchi with a Grater

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Snacky Asparagus

  • 1 pound fresh asparagus, woody ends trimmed or snapped
  • Olive oil
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • Flaky sea salt
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons mayo or another dressing
Bring a few inches of salted water to boil and have ready tongs or a spider/slotted spoon and a big bowl of ice water. Boil your asparagus for anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes, depending on thickness. [1 minute for super-skinny pencil asparagus; 3 minutes for thick spears; when in doubt, or when it looks like the ones you see here, I default to 90 seconds.] Scoop the asparagus from the boiling water and drop it directly into the ice water. Leave it there until the asparagus is fully cool, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Drain the asparagus and arrange the spears on a large, absorbent kitchen towel. Roll them up in the towel (like a cinnamon roll), grab the sides of the towel cigar to hold it closed while you shake it vigorously a bunch of times, allowing all of the excess water to wick off. Free the dried asparagus from the towel and you can now chill it in the fridge for 2 days, until you’re ready to eat it, or get it ready for snacking right now.

Arrange the asparagus on a large plate and drizzle generously with olive oil, the juice of the first half of the lemon, flaky sea salt, and pepper flakes. Put the dressing in a tiny bowl off to the side and have the second half of the lemon on the plate if the spears need more. Grab and dip spears to your belly’s content, or until the spears disappear, whichever happens first.

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