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.
Excerpted from Famly Table: Favorite Staff Meals from Our Restaurants to Your Home, copyright 2013 by USHG, LLC, and Karen Stabiner. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- Yield:serves 4
- Active time: 30 minutes
- Total time:1 1/2 hours
- Tomato Relish
- 6 large tomatoes (about 5 pounds)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 celery stalks, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
- 1 small onion, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
- 1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 bunch medium asparagus, tough ends snapped off
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Fleur de sel or other coarse sea salt
For the relish: Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Cut a shallow X in the bottom of each tomato. Blanch the tomatoes for about 20 seconds, just until the skins start to loosen. Drain in a colander and cool under cold running water until cool enough to handle. Peel the tomatoes. Cut them in half, squeeze out the seeds, and coarsely chop.
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the celery, onion, carrot, garlic, and coriander and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften, about 5 minutes.
Add the vinegars and chopped tomatoes, season with salt, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 30 to 50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the relish is concentrated and has a marmalade-like consistency (the cooking time will vary based on the ripeness of the tomatoes). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let cool to room temperature. (The relish can be made up to 7 days ahead and refrigerated, covered; bring to room temperature before serving.)
For the asparagus: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Toss the asparagus with the olive oil in a wide bowl. Spread the asparagus on a baking sheet and roast until browned and tender, 10 to 12 minutes, depending on the thickness.
Transfer the asparagus to a platter. Drizzle the lemon juice over the asparagus and season with a pinch of fleur de sel. Spoon the relish over the top and serve.