While it’s not quite spring weather up here in the North, our grocery stores are starting to show hints that spring and summer are on their way. The hearty winter fruits and vegetables (like apples, squash, and brussels sprouts) are getting sadder looking and more sparse. And spring vegetables such as asparagus are now if full abundance. And the asparagus looks good. It’s hearty and green with strong, tight tips. After months of asparagus deprivation, I start devouring this by the poundful when I see the really good stuff in the stores. Sure, I could eat it (and any vegetable) throughout the year; but asparagus just doesn’t taste quite right in the midst of winter as it does when spring arrives. During this time of year, it’s so sweet and barely needs any coaxing to taste delicious – a simple steam followed by a drizzle of olive oil and a coating of egg yolk could satisfy my long awaited desire for this veggie spear.
However, I’m not opposed to adding a bit of flavour to my side dishes. So while perusing Jamie Oliver’s latest book (yes, we’re going back to another Jamie Oliver recipe…but I am in the midst of reading his cookbook, and keep coming across so many recipes I want to share with you), I came across a recipe for asparagus that incorporated tiny little sweet tomatoes and briny olives. I could just imagine how the salty olives would compliment the subtle sweetness of the asparagus and tomatoes; I had to make this right away.
I changed the recipe somewhat – adding some chili flakes for heat and tart red wine vinegar to round out the flavours – but the base of asparagus, tomatoes, and olives remains credited to Jamie Oliver. This is one of those dishes that I wish I would have thought of years ago. So simple and so delicious. We served this with the BBQ Chicken Pizza we recently made; not because it was an outright compliment, but because I am eating asparagus as often as I can until I get my fill. This side dish would be excellent served with grilled fish or chicken.
Pan-Fried Asparagus & Tomatoes
Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Meals in Minutes
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1 lb asparagus, ends trimmed & cut into thirds
2 small tomatoes, cut into large chunks
8 kalamata olives, pitted & roughly chopped
2 tsp red wine vinegar
Heat a olive oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and chili flakes and saute for about 30 seconds. Add the asparagus and saute for approximately 5 minutes or until beginning to cook through, stirring frequently. Add the tomatoes and olives and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes, stirring vigorously to release the liquid from the tomatoes. When everything the asparagus is cooked, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the red wine vinegar. Serve hot or at room temperature.