I eat bunches, upon bunches, upon bunches of asparagus every spring. It's the one seasonal vegetable that is both easy to prep and also easy to find—none of this crazy ramp hoarding for me. Usually I stick with plain steamed or roasted spears with just a touch of salt, oil, and maybe lemon. This version is quick, easy, and a perfectly wonderful way to enjoy asparagus, but sometimes a new idea is welcome. In Michael Romano and Karen Stabiner's Family Table, Gramercy Tavern chef Michael Anthony presents such a twist. He cooks the asparagus simply, as I usually do, but pairs it with a bright, vinegary tomato relish to add sharp contrast to the spears. It's a fine spring side dish, easily transformed to a light main with a boiled or poached egg.
Why I picked this recipe: It's hard to turn your head in any grocery or market these days and not run into a bunch of asparagus.
What worked: Sweet, faintly grassy asparagus played well with the tangy red relish.
What didn't: I ended up broiling my asparagus because I didn't think I'd get the blistered spots and slightly charred tips with the oven at 375°F.
Suggested tweaks: This pairing would work especially well with grilled asparagus. While you're at it, char the tomatoes before simmering the jam. If you don't want to use early season tomatoes (or don't want to peel), you can use two 28-ounce cans of whole tomatoes, drained. This recipe makes a lot (4 cups!) of relish. Use leftovers atop scrambled eggs or on a ham sandwich.
About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, Berkeleyside NOSH, and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.