Soaked in a light, bright marinade and grilled, asparagus spears make a satisfying side dish on a spring evening. If you marinate spears in tangy, salty liquid and roast them alongside steaks on a cold evening, they'll be just as tasty. This vegetable's mild flavor means it can easily be paired with any number of marinades, and the cooking process is quick and easy for anyone.
The ideal asparagus stalks are straight with woody ends that aren't dried out, and closed green or purple tips that aren't mushy. Remove the inedible ends by holding each piece of asparagus between your two hands. Bend the stalk until it breaks in two; this happens at the point where the woody end meets the tender part of the spear. Discard the ends and rinse the green asparagus under cool running water. Dry the pieces with paper towels.
Most savory marinades can be paired with asparagus. Because it's a spring vegetable, light citrus marinades are especially fitting. Try combining olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, rosemary and thyme. Infuse asparagus with Asian flavors using a marinade of soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and a pinch of brown sugar, or make a super simple mixture of balsamic vinegar and oil. Any acidic salad dressing can also be used as marinade.
Lay the asparagus spears inside a square or rectangular dish or a plastic zip-top food storage bag. They should fit without bending or curling. Pour the marinade over them and toss everything together with tongs until the spears are evenly coated. Cover or seal the container and refrigerate it. Let the asparagus soak for anywhere from 20 minutes to overnight. The longer they sit, the soggier the veggies become and the more intense the flavor.
Grill or roast marinated asparagus for the best results. These cooking methods crisp up the tips of the spears. Oil the grill or roasting pan. Pull the asparagus out of the marinade and arrange the spears in a single layer on the grill or pan. Grill asparagus over medium heat for between five and eight minutes, turning them occasionally, or roast the spears in a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven for 15 to 20 minutes. They're done when they're lightly brown and slightly softened. You may brush the pieces with leftover marinade while they cook, but any marinade left over at the end should be discarded for safety reasons.
Kathryn Walsh has been writing about health, wellness and beauty for nearly 10 years. Her work has appeared on sites including USAToday.com, Mamapedia and Livestrong.com.