Why It Works
- The intense heat of the grill caramelizes and chars the asparagus stalks quickly. The short cooking time keeps their interior crisp and sweet.
- Tossing the asparagus stalks with oil prevents them from drying out, helps them cook efficiently, and ensures that they do not stick to the grill grate.
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 crab meat 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.
It helps that asparagus is one of the simplest foods in the world to grill: 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. Find three of my favorite variations in the note below.
1 pound (455g) asparagus, trimmed and peeled (if desired)
3 tablespoons (45ml) extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, halved crosswise (optional)
Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over half of the coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. If using a gas grill, preheat half the grill to high.
Toss asparagus with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add asparagus to hot side of grill and cook, turning occasionally, until well-charred and tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Meanwhile, if desired, place lemon halves cut side down on grill and cook until charred, about 3 minutes. Transfer asparagus to a large serving plate, drizzle with remaining olive oil, squeeze lemon over top (if desired), and serve immediately.
You can whip up a regular batch of aioli and call it a day, but these variations on the basic recipe are worth exploring:
Tarragon and Lemon Aioli: 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.
Harissa Aioli: 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.
Sumac and Mint Aioli: 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.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 10g||13%|
|Saturated Fat 1g||7%|
|Total Carbohydrate 5g||2%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||8%|
|Total Sugars 1g|
|Vitamin C 9mg||44%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|