Grilled Asparagus With Aioli Is the Ultimate Backyard Finger Food

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Grilled asparagus with aioli is the ultimate backyard finger food. [Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

The day and age may well be approaching where we go one hundred percent electronic, but as The Dude well knows, there are some things that are simply better done manually. Crushing those eggs for egg salad comes to mind. As does picking crabmeat from the shell and eating a slice of pizza. Topping that list during the summer? Eating asparagus. It's not just that your fingers are the easiest tools for picking up long, slender grilled stalks, but I'm firmly convinced that the asparagus tastes better when you eat it with your fingers.

Dip it into some fresh homemade garlicky aioli and you have one of the greatest treats known to man.

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It helps that asparagus is one of the simplest foods in the world to grill. Here's our method, which barely deserves to be written out as a recipe it's so simple: Just toss the stalks in olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and throw them directly on the hottest part of the grill for a few minutes. No pre-cooking, nothing fancy, just vegetables and heat. I like to pick up fat, finger-width stalks that can sit on the heat long enough to get some nice sweet charring action while still maintaining a juicy snap in the center.

If you want to keep things pure and simple, regular aioli will work wonderfully with asparagus, and my foolproof two-minute method is the easiest way I know to make it. But garlicky aioli is also a great base for all kinds of fun flavors. Here are three of my favorites:

Grilled Asparagus with Tarragon Aioli

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Chopped fresh tarragon leaves and some additional lemon juice make an extra-bright dip with a pleasant anise-scented herbal aroma. This is a classic French flavor combination for a reason.
Get the recipe for Tarragon-Lemon Aioli »

Grilled Asparagus with Harissa Aioli

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Spicy harissa is mellowed out a touch by the cooling aioli. The key here is to use a good brand with plenty of bright acidity and flavor. I'm partial to Mustapha's. An extra swirl of olive oil at the end accents its flavor.

Get the recipe for Harissa Aioli »

Grilled Asparagus with Sumac and Mint Aioli

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Middle Eastern sumac berries have a tart, citrusy flavor that makes them a natural pair for aioli and grilled foods. Chopped mint and olive oil are perfect partners here.

Get the recipe for Sumac and Mint Aioli »