Spring season implies the entry of few of my favorite vegetables and greens - Asparagus, Artichokes, Arugula and many versions of Chard greens. Asparagus - grilled, roasted or steamed is a favorite in my home. I've tried to doctor the vegetable with Indian spices, but they seemed too overpowering.
A recent hot favorite in my home are two Middle Eastern spice powders - Za'atar and Sumac. I've been using Sumac in Indian food as well since it renders a nice tangy finish, much like lemons to a dish. Sumac is a much darker, brown colored spice blend with a deep, lemon like tangy flavor. Za'atar as a spice blend is like a silent soldier whose presence is felt yet is very understated and subtle. Za'atar spice blend comes in various combination of spices blended to a dry powder depending on various geographies of Middle East. For instance, a Lebanese version of Za'atar is very different from the ones used in Jordan. The one I use is a blend of Thyme, Oregano, Sumac, Sesame seeds and Marjoram. The usage of Za'atar is diverse and plenty - garnish a bowl of Hummus, season the Falafel sandwich, add as a topping on a Pizza or Bread or use it for a salad.
|Za'atar spice blend - Sumac, Sesame seeds, Thyme, Oregano and Marjoram|
The interesting things about Asparagus is, it retains the moisture and remains juicy even after cooking owing to high water content. We prefer the spears when they are a bit overcooked, but you could stop after 15 minutes and serve.
Pan roasted Asaparagus in Za'atar and Orange Zest
Prep Time: 5 + 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15-25 minutes
Asaparagus (stem removed) - 5-10 spears
For the seasoning -
Za'atar spice blend - 1/2 tsp
Black Pepper Powder (crushed) - 1/3 tsp
Turmeric powder - just a pinch
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
For garnish -
Orange zest - 1/2 tsp
Cleaning Asparagus - The Asparagus spears you get at local markets here are cleaned, trimmed and banded together. Wash the spears under cool water, pat dry. Hold the bottom half and snap off from the top end. The trick here is it will snap at the point where the woody part separates from the tender part. Reserve the bottom pieces for soups, stocks.
Make a marinade of the seasoning ingredients and add the spears. Give a good toss and leave aside for 10 minutes. Heat a cast iron pan to smoking high heat. No need to add oil. Add the spears side by side. Do not use a spatula. Cook on a high flame for 2-4 minutes and cook on low flame for 15-20 minutes. Frequently, give a good toss by gently shaking the pan. Once they are lightly charred, turn off flame and serve hot with a dash of orange zest.