For restaurateur Neal Brown, asparagus is the quintessential spring vegetable—which pokes through the Indiana soil for an eye-blink of a growing season in late April and early May. So Brown, who operates Pizzology, Stella (now closed), and Ukiyo, squeezes as much life out of his favorite vegetable as he can. “I gravitate toward the pencil-thin asparagus, because it gets nice and crispy when you roast it. But I like all sizes of asparagus, depending on how I am going to use it,” says Brown. “And by the way, I eat asparagus with my fingers. I think everybody should eat asparagus with their fingers.”
- Asparagus (Look for the freshest spears you can find at your favorite farmers market. No matter the size, the tips should be tight, with no fraying.)
- 1/4 stick of butter
- Olive oil
- Juice of half a lemon
- Pecorino Romano or Manchego cheese
- Fresh herbs*
*Local Source: For just-picked spring herbs like parsley, dill, and chives, hit up the Saturday-morning Indy Winter Farmers Market, which runs until April.
- Heat oven to 450 degrees.
- Snap the asparagus at the natural break (where the woody part meets the tender stalk). You can use the woody ends for vegetable stock.
- Preheat a baking sheet.
- When the oven and baking sheet are hot, put the butter on the sheet and immediately add the asparagus.
- Roast in the oven for 6 minutes.
- Turn the asparagus over to expose the other side of the stalks to the butter. Season liberally with salt.
- Roast for 8 more minutes or until the asparagus is crisp and brown.
- Place on a serving tray, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with the lemon juice.
- Use a vegetable peeler to cut large ribbons of pecorino Romano or Manchego cheese on top.
- Top with torn fresh herbs and serve immediately.