Asparagus, synonymous with spring, grows well in coastal climates, has an extensive culinary history and is exceptionally nutritious. There are recipes from the Roman Empire in some of our earliest recorded cookbooks, amorous for asparagus. In the culinary world, asparagus at one point was a delicacy, but now with global farming and distribution, it’s considered commonplace and reserved as an accompaniment.To showcase this lovely vegetable, I wanted to bring out not only its earthy qualities but its delicate woody bitterness. Pairing with creamy navy beans — that are brightened with citrus and popped spices — lends substantial flavor and a wonderful juxtaposed texture to the al dente asparagus. This dish is a nutritional powerhouse, packed with dietary fiber and many essential vitamins. I could eat this as an entrée all to myself.
makes ~4 servings
1 bunch asparagus, bottoms trimmed
½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 can white navy beans, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon grated ginger
½ serrano, minced fine
½ lemon, juiced
Chopped cilantro, for garnish
Toss asparagus with ½ teaspoon salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Cook for 3-5 minutes in a 350-degree oven. Set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a pan. Just before the oil reaches smoke point, add cumin seeds. Immediately add the beans, ginger, serrano and salt (to taste). Sauté for a few seconds, then add ¾ cup water. Let cook for 1 minute and then mash a few of the beans to get a creamier consistency.
Finish by topping the bed of asparagus with the navy beans then garnish with lemon juice and chopped cilantro.
ideas / variations
If you would like a softer texture from the asparagus, continue cooking another 2-3 minutes.
Try zesting the lemon and garnishing with the zest for an extra pop of citrus.
The navy beans could be replaced with your favorite varietal of bean or with lentils.