I wreck my brain about asparagus. I know you must be puzzled, why?! Asparagus, you must think (You must! :), is a majestic, European native, perennial ingredient, why the frustration?! Truth be told I just want to fancy it up, but I always come back to square one, roasting it in the simplest form with a touch of olive oil, salt and lemon. Not even freshly ground black pepper. This method and bare bone seasoning purely highlights the tenderness of the ingredient. Especially now that it's in season and the green, purple and white spears appear all over at farmers markets.
Once in a while to slightly jazz it up I will sprinkle za'atar over it just before serving. Za'atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend, not the protected fresh herb Majorana Syriaca that goes by the same name (Food Bridge wrote about it here). Za'atar, the thyme, sumac, sesame seeds among other ingredients mix, can be found in Middle Eastern markets as well as at Whole Foods. Other mainstream supermarkets might carry it too.
The sumac, one of the ingredients in Za'atar, is a ground red berry from a shrub. It's tangy, lemony in flavor. Don't go foraging for it without an expert field guide as some of the species are toxic. You can also find it already ground in Middle Eastern markets. If you wish to make za'atar from scratch, you can find a couple recipes here and here.
Here and there I make asparagus this way with avocado dressing and grated hard boiled eggs, substituting the broccolini with the asparagus. Ottolenghi has another simple version with capers and eggs here. I even made this lemon dill aioli, which I adore, to go with it, or you can make this za'atar aioli I found over at Epicurious.
Quick tip on how to trim asparagus at The Kitchn. I was looking for this video I watched years ago on how to gauge where exactly to snip the asparagus but I couldn't find it. If you find it, link in the comment section below. Thank you.
Asparagus in Olive Oil, Lemon and Za'atar
1 bunch asparagus (about 16-18 spears)
1/4 teaspoon (less or to taste) salt
2 tablespoons (or less) olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon (or less) za'atar (optional)
Pre-heat oven to 400F. Snip or slice tough bottom tips of asparagus. Peel the bottom tips of the stalks as shown in photo, if you wish. Toss with olive oil and salt and layer on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Roast for 20 minutes while giving the asparagus a toss at the 15 minute mark. Add the lemon and zaatar. Once done, serve immediately warm or at room temperature.
Keep in mind that if adding Za'atar it already has salt in the mixture. Ovens vary. I like mine cooked for 20 minutes, if you like asparagus crunchier, reduce the roasting time.