With spring weather finally warming, the first good asparagus of the season is arriving, though it can sometimes be difficult to find. Because it can be finicky to prepare, we developed three recipes that deliver full flavor and consistent results. First, we char and then steam asparagus in a skillet for perfectly cooked, crisp-tender spears, which we top with bright sesame and lime dressing. We borrow from the dry curries of Kerala, India, for a boldly spiced stir-fry of asparagus coated with coconut, mustard seeds, cumin, and turmeric. Lastly, we simply chop and steam it, then add it to a romaine salad with an updated, tofu-based green goddess dressing.
Pan-Roasted Asparagus With Sesame and Lime Dressing
Makes 4 servings
Our quick and easy method for pan-roasted asparagus starts with an initial blast over high heat to give the spears a light char that develops sweet, nutty flavor, then finishes with covered cooking with a little water to render the spears perfectly crisp-tender. A drizzle of a simple honey-spiked sesame and lime dressing adds brightness and crunch. You will need a 12-inch skillet with a lid for this recipe.
Avoid extra-thick asparagus, as it requires longer cooking. Look for spears that are no larger than ½-inch thick. But don’t use ultra-thin asparagus, either, which will end up overdone.
1 teaspoon grated lime zest, plus 3 tablespoons lime juice
1 medium shallot, minced
2 tablespoons grape-seed or other neutral oil
2 pounds asparagus, trimmed
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons honey
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
In a small bowl, stir together the lime juice and shallot; set aside. In a 12-inch skillet over high heat, add the grape-seed oil and heat until shimmering. Add the asparagus, sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt, and cook, tossing once or twice, until lightly charred, 2 to 4 minutes.
Add 1 tablespoon water, immediately cover the skillet, and reduce to medium heat. Cook until the asparagus is crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Leaving any remaining water behind, use tongs to transfer the asparagus to a platter.
To the lime juice and shallot mixture, stir in the lime zest, toasted sesame oil, honey, and red pepper flakes. Drizzle the dressing over the asparagus, then sprinkle with the sesame seeds.
Spiced Stir-Fried Asparagus With Coconut
Makes 4 servings
In the southern Indian state of Kerala, vegetables often are stir-fried with spices and coconut. These dishes, known as thoran, generally require just enough liquid to help the vegetables cook, but not so much as to create a sauce. Hence, they are called dry curry. For our version, we stir-fry asparagus, not a typical vegetable on the Indian table, but its sweet, grassy flavor pairs well with the spices and coconut. For less chili heat, seed the jalapeño before slicing.
Avoid pencil-thin asparagus; it will quickly overcook and turn soft and soggy. Opt for thicker stalks.
3 tablespoons coconut oil (preferably unrefined), divided
1½ pounds asparagus, trimmed and cut ½-inch thick on the diagonal
1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 large shallot, halved and thinly sliced
1 jalapeño chili, stemmed and sliced into thin half rings
1 teaspoon yellow or brown mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon of oil and heat until shimmering. Add the asparagus in an even layer and cook without stirring until deeply browned in spots, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.
Return the skillet to medium, add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, and cook until shimmering. Stir in the coconut, shallot, jalapeño, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring often, until the shallot is softened and lightly browned, about 4 minutes.
Return the asparagus to the pan, increase to medium-high heat, and stir in 1 tablespoon water. Cook, stirring often, until the asparagus is just tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Taste and season with salt if needed.
Asparagus and Romaine Salad With Green Goddess Dressing
Makes 8 servings
The green goddess dressing uses silken tofu instead of the usual mayonnaise to achieve a smooth, creamy consistency. The tofu’s lightness allows the fresh, clean flavor of the herbs and the brightness of the vinegar and lemon to sparkle. For a salad brimming with color and texture, we pair the dressing with shaved radishes, steamed asparagus, grated hard-cooked eggs, and crisp romaine and endive leaves.
To steam the asparagus, in a pot fitted with a steamer insert, bring 1 inch of water to a boil. Add the asparagus, cover, and steam until crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes; transfer to ice water just until chilled, then drain and pat dry.
The dressing is best prepared at least an hour in advance, which gives the flavors time to meld. Assemble the salad when you’re ready to serve as the delicate endive will wilt if left to sit too long after it is dressed.
Avoid super-slim or extra-thick asparagus; look for stalks about the diameter of a pencil. They’ll combine nicely with the other salad ingredients.
For the dressing
8 ounces silken tofu, drained
¾ cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/3 cup roughly chopped fresh chives
¼ cup grape-seed or other neutral oil
3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh tarragon
1½ teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 anchovy fillet
1 small garlic clove, peeled
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
For the salad
4 hard-cooked large eggs, peeled, whites and yolks reserved separately
2 medium heads romaine lettuce, trimmed and cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
2 pounds asparagus, trimmed, cut on the bias into 2-inch lengths, and steamed
2 medium heads Belgian endive, trimmed and cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
6 medium radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
To make the dressing, in a blender, combine all ingredients with 3 tablespoons of water. Blend until smooth and uniformly pale green, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a container, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 4 days.
To prepare the salad, use the medium holes of a box grater to grate the egg whites into a bowl. Grate the yolks into a separate bowl. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the romaine, asparagus, endive, and radishes. Drizzle with ¾ cup of the dressing and gently toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper, then toss again.
Mound the salad onto a large serving platter. Sprinkle the grated egg whites and yolks over the top, season the eggs with salt, then serve with the remaining dressing on the side.
Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of complete digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Go to 177milkstreet.com/globe. Send comments to email@example.com.