I have been very patiently awaiting the start of asparagus season here in Ontario, as local asparagus is so much better than the often already wilted grocery store variety. But when seemingly every other blogger I subscribe to has been posting asparagus recipes for almost a month now (apparently asparagus season begins much earlier down south), it's so hard to resist joining in! I finally caved the other week and bought some imported asparagus to have for lunch, but since local asparagus should be ready this week (and since others may not even have their local asparagus for much longer), I thought now was a good time to share this recipe!
When I make asparagus as a side dish, I pretty much always just drizzle it with a little olive oil, generously season it with salt and pepper, then roast it in the oven - simple and delicious. But a few weeks ago I saw a recipe for asparagus with broiled spiced tangerines in Sobey's Inspired magazine and just couldn't get it out of my head, so I decided to be a little more adventurous one day and give it a try with some mandarins I had leftover from this mandarin chicken salad.
The recipe is still quite simple - rub a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and honey on some sliced mandarins, broil them with the asparagus, then serve them together along with a little extra orange zest. You can then squeeze the orange juice over the asparagus so it sits in a delicious puddle of warm orange juice and spices (note that these pictures were taken before doing that). Even though I didn't make this with fresh, local asparagus, it was still so tasty!
I tried eating one of the broiled mandarin slices on its own and then devoured almost all the rest of them the same way - they're so good! I love how the warm spices complement the sweet mandarins in such an interesting way that actually reminded me a lot of Christmas flavours! I supposed it's a strange combination to pair Christmas spices with spring asparagus, but it's actually perfect for a rainy Spring day when you want something comforting but fresh at the same time.
Give this a try if you're looking for a different way to serve your asparagus. If you're already sick of asparagus or are still waiting for local produce, then you should at least try the spiced mandarins as a snack to tide you over while you're waiting!
Broiled Asparagus and Spiced Mandarins
Adapted from Inspired magazine, Spring 2012
Serves about 4 as a side dish
1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
2 mandarin oranges (or tangerines)
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
Salt & Pepper
Preheat oven to broil.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch asparagus for 1 to 2 minutes, depending on thickness. Transfer asparagus to a bowl of ice water to cool, then remove and pat dry.
Zest one mandarin and set zest aside (you won’t need the rest of the mandarin for this recipe so you can just eat it!). Cut the second mandarin in half crosswise. Mix cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, then sprinkle it evenly on the two cut sides of the mandarin. Spread 1 teaspoon honey on each half, then place them cut-side-up on a foil-lined baking sheet.
Toss asparagus with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread in an even layer on the baking sheet with the mandarins. Broil in top third of oven until honey has caramelized and asparagus is lightly blistered, about 4-5 minutes.
Transfer asparagus to a platter and garnish with the reserved zest. Slice mandarins into wedges to serve alongside asparagus – they can be squeezed over individual servings (but also taste great eaten on their own!)