What's On the Side: Pistachio-Crusted Roasted Asparagus with Goat Cheese and Fresh Parsley

While I might not count cauliflower among my favorite vegetables, I am solidly on #TeamAsparagus. My favorite way to prepare it is to either grill it or roast it in the oven. I'm not against a brief blanching in boiling water, either. Just, whatever you do, don't boil the heck out of it. That's what I call asparagus abuse. If the asparagus on your plate is limp and terribly bitter, something has gone terribly wrong in the kitchen.

Although it's not quite Asparagus Season up here in the Northwoods, I couldn't help myself and recently purchased a large bunch of asparagus at the local natural foods store, willing myself to ignore the hefty price tag. I'm pretty sure my asparagus craving had something to do with all the lovely and mouthwatering recipes that my favorite Californian bloggers have been posting of late. Someday we'll have fresh local asparagus ready for purchase at the store (and one day maybe I'll be able to harvest some from our own garden, as we have plans to start some stalks this year). Until then, I'll make due with the not-so-local variety.

Although I'm perfectly content with roasted asparagus that's seasoned solely with a light dash of salt and pepper, I'm not opposed to going crazy with a few extra ingredients, either. Recently, Joy the Baker posted a recipe for pistachio crusted asparagus with feta, which originates in the book Handmade Gatherings by Ashley English. Given that I like asparagus, I like pistachios, and I love me some cheese, I knew this would be a recipe that would be right up my alley. Since I already had goat cheese on hand, I swapped it for the feta the original recipe called for, though I think any crumbly savory cheese would do. Plump asparagus stalks, covered in a crunchy crust of chopped pistachios and roasted until tender, then drizzled with a sweet and citrusy vinaigrette? Yeah, springtime flavors don't get much better than that!

Pistachio-Crusted Roasted Asparagus with Goat Cheese and Fresh Parsley
(printer-friendly version)
makes four servings

For the asparagus:
1 pound large asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup shelled roasted and salted pistachios
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

For the vinaigrette:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
pinch of sea salt
several grinds of black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, aluminum foil, or a silpat. Set aside.
2. Rinse the asparagus and slice off about an inch from the bottom ends. (I typically just snap the bottoms off by hand.) Pat dry, then set on the prepped baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 5 minutes to dry the asparagus completely. Remove any remaining moisture by patting dry with a paper towel.
3. Drizzle the asparagus with olive oil and gently tumble to evenly coat each spear.
4. Add the shelled pistachios to the bowl of a food processor with the metal blade attached. Process until completely finely crushed. If you use unsalted pistachios, add in about 1 teaspoon of sea salt and pulse to combine.
5. Spoon the crushed pistachios over the asparagus spears, then turn them over and spoon the remaining pistachios to evenly coat each spear. Place in the oven and roast for 10-15 minutes, or until the asparagus is fork tender.
6. While the asparagus is roasting, make the vinaigrette. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and honey. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.
7. Remove from the oven and top with crumbled goat cheese, chopped fresh parsley, and a drizzle of the vinaigrette. Best served warm or room temperature.

(adapted from this Joy the Baker recipe)