By Jo Cooper
Nothing could be easier, more elegant, or more delicious than roasted asparagus in the springtime. So when I hosted a pot-luck dinner party celebrating a dear friend’s birthday recently, I chose that for my contribution.
Don’t you agree that it’s preferable to have fun at a party rather than suffer from kitchen exhaustion?
This beautiful dish was the perfect solution. To serve 8, I assembled 2 bunches of asparagus, 1 orange bell pepper, 1/2 head of fennel, 4 portobello mushrooms and some red onion. After snapping off the tough ends of the asparagus, I cut the stalks diagonally into inch-and-a-half long pieces, cut the pepper into 1″ squares, and sliced the fennel, asparagus and onion as you see, then tossed everything in a large bowl with some good quality olive oil, coarse sea salt and fresh-ground pepper. I threw them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and topped with some fresh sprigs of thyme (remove when done– they blacken a bit). I popped the tray into the oven set on ‘low’ broil, and stirred around after 10 minutes, cooking probably a total of 15 minutes altogether. The roasted veggies turned out perfectly, looked gorgeous on a colorful platter, and were just right slightly warmer than room temp. Oh! Yum! Such a hit.
On the table I placed a gold cotton napkin in the center of each plate, with a fresh flower from my garden laid diagonally across the napkins at the last minute– an even mix of dandelions and Korean spice viburnum sprigs (fragrant!). Everyone smiled as they sat down.
ps– I can’t believe there was just enough left over for lunch the next day! (see photo)