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Roasted Asparagus with Toasted Bread Crumbs

The best way to trim spears of asparagus is to bend the cut end of each spear until it breaks naturally. The bottom portion will be tough and fibrous; the balance of the spear will be tender. You can cut a thin slice from the base of each spear for a tidier finish. If you have purchased very thick spears, you may also want to peel them lightly to within 2 inches or so of the tip, as the outer skin is sometimes fibrous. Peeling asparagus does not reduce its dietary fiber.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch asparagus, about 1 lb., tough ends removed  
  • 3 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh thyme  
  • 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs, from day-old coarse country bread with crusts removed 
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon zest 
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 450°F.

Spread the asparagus in a baking dish large enough to hold them in a single layer. Drizzle with 1 tsp. of the olive oil and sprinkle with 1 tsp. of the thyme. Toss to coat the asparagus evenly.

Roast the asparagus, stirring once halfway through the roasting time, until tender-crisp, 7 to 10 minutes; the timing will depend on the thickness of the spears.

Meanwhile, place the bread crumbs in a small bowl and drizzle with the remaining 2 tsp. oil; toss to coat. Place a fry pan over medium heat. When it is hot, add the bread crumbs, reduce the heat to medium-low and toast, stirring, until they are golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 tsp. thyme, the lemon zest, a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper. Remove from the heat.

Arrange the asparagus on a warmed platter and sprinkle the hot bread crumbs over the top. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Healthful Cooking, by Mary Abbott Hess, Dana Jacobi & Marie Simmons (Oxmoor House, 2003).