by Susan Hanna

This recipe from Cook’s Illustrated is a quick and easy way to dress up the season’s asparagus. Cook garlic, tomatoes and olives in a skillet for a few minutes, then set aside. Cook the asparagus in the same pan until tender-crisp and bright green. Plate the asparagus, top with the tomato-olive mixture and serve.

Serves 4-6.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Look for olives with no sulfites added and butter that does not contain colour. Genuine Parmesan cheese (check the rind for the lettering spelling out the name of the cheese) is additive-free. For more recipes using all-natural ingredients, visit Eye For a Recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 1 pint (500 ml) cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ⅓ cup (83 ml) brine-cured black olives (such as kalamata), pitted and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) unsalted butter
  • 2 pounds (907 g) thick asparagus spears (see note), ends trimmed
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons (60 ml) chopped fresh basil (optional)
  • 1 ounce (28 g) grated Parmesan cheese (about ½ cup/125 ml)

Preparation:

  1. This recipe works best with asparagus that is at least ½ inch (1.25 cm) thick near the base. If using thinner spears, reduce the covered cooking time to 3 minutes and the uncovered cooking time to 5 minutes. Do not use pencil-thin asparagus; it cannot withstand the heat and overcooks too easily.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon (15 ml) oil and garlic in 12-inch (30-cm) skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic turns golden around edges but does not darken, 2 to 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and olives; cook until tomatoes begin to break down and release liquid, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer mixture to bowl and cover with foil. Rinse skillet with water and dry well with paper towels.
  3. Add the butter and remaining oil in the skillet. When butter has melted, add half of asparagus to skillet with tips pointed in one direction; add remaining spears with tips pointed in one direction. Using tongs, distribute spears in even layer (spears will not quite fit into single layer); cover and cook until asparagus is bright green and still crisp, about 5 minutes.
  4. Uncover and increase heat to high; season asparagus with salt and pepper. Cook until spears are tender and well browned along one side, 5 to 7 minutes, using tongs to occasionally move spears from center of pan to edge of pan to ensure all are browned. Transfer asparagus to serving dish, top with tomato mixture. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper; sprinkle with basil and Parmesan. Serve immediately.
  5. To Serve 2-3: Cut all ingredient amounts in half. Cook asparagus in 10-inch (25-cm) skillet over medium heat, covered, for 3 minutes. Remove cover and cook over medium-high heat until tender and browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Do not adjust heat when cooking garnishes; however, cooking times for garnishes should be reduced by 1 to 2 minutes.

From Cook’s Illustrated