Years ago, before produce was shipped from other hemispheres, fruits and vegetables were more seasonal than they are now. One day, in the middle of the winter, I saw asparagus in the market and though it was expensive, I bought it.
When I served dinner that night, I told Kathy, "I hope you enjoy the asparagus. It cost more than the meat."
She said, "it's better than meat."
That comment made me think. I noticed that, in my mind, meat was the star, the centerpiece of each meal. I've been conditioned to think of certain things as delicacies. But that night, she was right. The asparagus was better than meat. It started me on a path toward considering each thing for its own merits.
This is my favorite way to prepare asparagus (and most vegetables). The dry heat concentrates flavor and the surface browning adds sweetness and complexity. It's more technique than recipe: modify at will!
Fat spears of asparagus are better in general; when roasting, it's especially true.
1 lb. asparagus, preferably fat spears
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon minced or granulated garlic
1 tablespoon herbs of your choice (e.g. rosemary, sage, thyme)
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Trim asparagus to remove fibrous portions. The easy way is to snap a spear to see where it breaks, then use a knife to chop the other spears to the same length. Less wasteful, but more work, is to trim just the most fibrous end (about an inch) and use a peeler to take off the outer skin, where most of the fiber is.
Test a plastic bag for holes by inflating it, twisting it closed, and squeezing it to verify that it holds air. Place trimmed asparagus in the bag with vegetable oil, salt, pepper to taste, and herbs. Shake gently to mix. Drop onto an oiled sheet pan (lined with foil if you want to ease cleanup).
Roast in oven until bright green, about ten minutes. Shake pan and roast another 5-10 minutes until tender and browned in spots.