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Smoky Grilled Asparagus

July 21, 2010

by Elizabeth

These asparagus (asparaguses?) are a revelation. Everyone loves asparagus roasted with a drizzle of olive oil, some salt and cracked black pepper – perfect in their simplicity. At first glance, or first taste even, you might think this dish is just that, simple, everyday, asparagus. But then a subtle hint of smoke and garlic and a slight tangy sweetness hits you – delicious and surprising. What are the magic ingredients, you ask? Mayonnaise and smoked paprika. Sounds a little off-putting, I know. But trust me on this one. Most of the marinade cooks off on the grill, and you’re left with perfectly seasoned and blistered asparagus. Something about the mayonnaise encourages the asparagus to get all crackly and charred – and cooking them on the grill really brings out the flavor of the smoked paprika. This dish will only take you five minutes longer (if that) than simple roast asparagus, and it’s worth it.

Smoky Grilled Asparagus

adapted from Food & Wine

1/2 cup mayonnaise (I used Hellman’s olive oil mayonnaise)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon sweet smoked paprika
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon cumin seeds or 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 pound asparagus, trimmed (I prefer thin asparagus)

In a shallow dish, mix together all ingredients except asparagus. This can be done one day ahead. When you’re ready to cook, light a grill. Toss the asparagus with the sauce, coating evenly, and let them stand for 30 minutes.

Grill the asparagus over medium-high heat, turning occasionally. I find that using a vegetable grate or mesh grill pan works best for small or skinny vegetables. The asparagus are ready when they’re tender and blistered in spots, about 5 – 6 minutes.  You can also cook the asparagus in a grill pan on top of the stove, and roasting would probably work too.

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