Asparagus has been a favorite of mine since back in the day when we picked it wild, growing along the side of country roads. Grilled, roasted, steamed, or stir-fried it is welcome at our table. Thankfully, it was one of the vegetables our kids would eat, though somewhere along our homeschooling journey they read that asparagus heads can be toxic and refused to eat them. They were happy to munch on the rest of the stem, but the tips were always left behind. Pretty sure it was the texture that turned them off, but they were adamant in their reasoning. It’s funny what stays with kids … not sure if they remember all the states and capitals, but the possibility of being poisoned by asparagus, stuck.
Okay. Don’t eat the heads. Whatever.
Like any parent happy their kids would eat any part of a vegetable, we decided that wasn’t a hill to die on and accepted the rejected heads. Besides, I’m happy to trade ya a spear for your heads.
In the wide world of side dishes, roasted asparagus is my go-to side because it pairs well with grilled, roasted, or braised meats, and its distinct flavor needs little more than extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. Though traditionally served with hollandaise, which is glorious, it doesn’t have to have heavy sauces to be elegant. In this recipe, caramelized onions add a delicate sweetness and balance the tangy blue cheese, while pine nuts bring an extra dimension of texture. It is a simple, yet gorgeous dish for a dinner party or dinner with a few friends on the patio.
Since the recipe starts with caramelizing onions, which takes an hour to reach deeply browned splendor, there’s lots of time to tend to the main course. I’m not even sure this should be called a recipe at all; it’s more like an idea, a notion of combining separate delicious things into a single bowl of inspired goodness. One more way to serve asparagus, one more way to enjoy caramelized onions, and one more reason to carve off a hunk of Blue cheese before it goes bad. (I’ve always wondered how anyone would know when Blue cheese went bad…) Blue, Gorgonzola, or feta cheese all work here—the amount is up to you.
For information about storing, prepping, and cooking asparagus, check out my earlier post Asparagus: Coveted Spears of Spring.
- 1 pound asparagus
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil -- melted
- Caramelized Onions (see recipe below)
- ¼ cup pine nuts -- or more as desired
- ½ cup blue cheese -- or more as desired
- sea salt
- Begin caramelizing the onions first, as that will take the longest. (See Caramelized Onoin recipe.)
- Position top oven rack approximately 12 inches under broiler and turn broiler on HI. Prepare asparagus by trimming fibrous ends, about 2 inches from the bottom. Discard ends and cut the remaining stalks into 2 inch pieces. Arrange asparagus on a rimmed baking sheet so it is spread out a little without crowding. Drizzle with oil and using your hands, roll asparagus to coat well. Season with salt and pepper.
- Set asparagus under the broiler for 10-12 minutes, checking every few minutes until lightly browned in spots and crisp tender. Cook slightly longer if a softer texture is preferred.
- When asparagus and onions are done, toss together in a large bowl with pine nuts and top with blue cheese crumbles.
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2½ cups sweet yellow onion -- sliced (Vidalia or Maui type, if available)
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon coconut palm sugar (optional) -- or other unrefined sweetener
- Heat olive oil and butter in a cast iron skillet over medium heat until oil covers the pan evenly and is hot. Add the sliced onions and stir enough to coat the onions with the oil and butter. Continue to cook onions over medium heat, stirring occasionally until onions begin to brown, about 10 minutes.
- Season with ½ teaspoon of salt and unrefined sugar, spread onions evenly over bottom of skillet, reduce heat to low.
- Allow onions to gently caramelize over the next hour, stirring occasionally to ensure they caramelize evenly. Onions should be deep, golden brown when done.