Whenever asparagus is in season, I grab it, and toss it on the grill with whatever else I'm cooking. This helps me feel like my grilling isn't just all protein, all the time.
*When I first started cooking for us, Diane would always complain because I didn't have any vegetables in my repertoire. "Can you cook us something green? Anything? All I want is a vegetable that isn't all starch." Now I've flipped the other way; I always try to serve two vegetable sides and a starch with every meal.
This is a great weeknight side dish, if you're grilling dinner. I can usually squeeze it in on the side of my grill.
*I'm not just saying that because my grill is huge. I used to do this all the time when I had a (relatively) smaller Weber Genesis.
Recipe: Grilled Asparagus
Cook time: 10 minutes
- Grill (I used a Weber Summit 650. Here it is.)
- (optional) Vegetable grate - see notes section
- 1 lb Asparagus, tough ends trimmed
(See here for my vinaigrette basic technique)
- 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1. Preheat the grill: Set your grill up for direct cooking at medium heat. For my Weber Summit, this means turning all the burners to high and preheating (lid closed) for 10-15 minutes, then turning them down to medium. If you have a vegetable grate, put it on the grill to preheat.
2. Prepare the asparagus: Trim the tough ends off the asparagus, and put in a baking dish. Make the balsamic vinaigrette by whisking the ingredients together in a small bowl, then pour it over the asparagus. Let the asparagus marinate in the vinaigrette until the grill is ready.
3. Clean the grill: After preheating, clean your grill grate by brushing it with your grill brush, and wiping it with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil. (I usually use canola oil.)
4. Cook the asparagus: Turn the heat down to medium, and put the asparagus on the grill, in one layer, perpendicular to the grill grate. Set the baking dish with the vinaigrette aside. Turn the asparagus every couple of minutes, until browned and tender, 5-10 minutes.
*The cooking time depends on the thickness of your asparagus. My first test is sight - is the asparagus should be browned and starting to wilt. Then I test by picking a thicker spear and eating it; I want it to be tender, with just a little bite still to it.
5. Serve: Put the asparagus back in the baking dish with the vinaigrette, and toss to coat. Serve.
*Vinaigrette mania: Use any vinaigrette instead of the balsamic - the lemon dressing goes especially well with asparagus.
*I try to get thin to medium-thick asparagus; it takes longer than I'd like to cook thick asparagus. That being said, in some of the pictures above you can see some locally grown asparagus I bought because it was wonderfully fresh, but the sizes were all over the board.
*It was worth it. Fresh asparagus is a treat when all you usually get is from the local grocery store.
*The traditional method for removing the tough part of the asparagus is to snap each one off individually. I use a shortcut. I leave the rubber band on the bunch of asparagus, pull one out, snap off the tough end, then put it back in the bunch. Then, using the snapped one as a guide, I cut the tough bottoms off the whole bunch.
*The trick to cooking asparagus on a grill without losing it all is keeping it perpendicular to the grate. Don't worry about perfection; I usually lose a spear or two while doing this. If you are worried about it, see my comments on vegetable grates below.
*I use a "rolling turn" approach" to the turning - my grill tends to be hotter in the front than in the back. Using my tongs, I grab a handful (tongful?) of the asparagus from the front, move it to the back, and then roll the rest of the asparagus towards the front of the grill. If you do this every couple of minutes, you will have rotated your asparagus across the entire grill by the end of your cooking time.
*I'm not a big fan of vegetable grates; they tend to be flimsy, stamped stainless steel, and everything sticks to them. This one is the exception. It's a cast iron grate made by Lodge, the company famous for their cast iron cookware. It weighs a ton, soaks up the heat, and dishes it back out to whatever you're cooking. Just make sure to season it with some oil after every cooking session, so the cast iron doesn't rust.
What do you think? Questions? Better ideas? Leave them in the comments, below.
Catherine St. John's grilling classes at the Western Reserve School of Cooking in Hudson, Ohio
Lodge Logic Pre-Seasoned Barbecue Grill/Grate