Spring is racing by and asparagus are plentiful right now here in sunny Northern California. But it won’t last. This is the time of year when this beautiful vegetable tastes best. It is true that nowadays one can buy any vegetable or fruit basically whenever but the difference is in taste and in the size of the carbon footprint. I am always dubious about veggies that arrive at my table following intercontinental flights. They’re often as flavorful as cardboard. I’m not impressed. We’re better off eating seasonal and local ingredients as much as possible.
Speaking of local I’m thinking of planting some asparagus in our community garden plot. The reason I didn’t before is that our last plot was a bit too small. Asparagus plants take about two years to produce and you can’t rotate crops in the area where they’re grown. A couple of the other community gardeners have them growing in their plots. It’s cool to watch the spears shooting out from the ground in springtime. Left alone, they grow into big wispy bushes: very interesting and even decorative. If I do it now, maybe in a couple years I can make this salad again with asparagus grown on Potrero Hill, just a few blocks away. Now that’s very local!
This recipe is so good that it can’t wait. I like the combination of legume and vegetable here. The flavors that the Meyer lemon, sesame oil and mint impart to the dish are singular: smoky, herby and slightly tart. You can serve this dish either warm or at room temperature as a main dish with a green salad or as a side dish to go with anything really. I’ve adapted it from asparagus recipes.
roasted asparagus and chickpeas with toasted sesame oil, Meyer lemon and fresh mint
2 bunches of asparagus, rinsed, dried, each spear cut into 3 pieces
3½ cups prepared chickpeas, drained (canned is okay)
4 tbsp olive oil
¾ tbsp toasted sesame oil
Kosher salt to taste
~ 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Several fresh mint leaves, chopped
Juice of 2 Meyer lemons
Zest of 1 Meyer lemon
Pre-heat the oven to 450F.
Place asparagus, chick peas, sesame and olive oils, salt and black pepper in a bowl and toss to combine. Spread in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Roast for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and toss. Position rack closer to grill, return to oven and continue roasting for an additional 5-8 minutes. This will allow for some of the chickpeas and asparagus pieces to brown. Remove from oven and let it cool for about 5 minutes. Toss in lemon juice, lemon zest , mint and serve!