Lemony asparagus with mushrooms is a simple springtime side dish that can be sautéed or roasted.
While roasting brings out the flavor of asparagus like nothing else can, this recipe is all about flexibility — maybe you don’t want to turn on the oven for a side dish. But if you’re baking something else at the same time, then roast, by all means.
This is a fantastic choice as a side dish for springtime special occasion like Easter or Passover, but it’s easy enough to make for everyday meals. Aside from serving this just as is, you can used leftovers tossed into salads or cooked grains.
Asparagus of a medium thickness is ideal for this dish. Too thin, and you’ll basically be getting a lot of skin. And as far as the lemon, using the lemon’s zest is optional, but I highly recommend it for extra lemony flavor!
A few asparagus tips (pardon the pun)
- Slender asparagus is often seen in spring, but too slender, as mentioned in the recipe, isn’t a good thing. You want stalks that are succulent, or you’ll just be getting a lot of skin and little flavor.
- Choose bundles with firm spears; the tips should be closed, plump and green.
- Avoid bundles whose ends look withered — a sure sign that they’re past their peak.
- If you won’t be using the asparagus right away (though you should use it within a day or two of buying), wrap the ends of the stalks with a damp paper towel and put them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
- You can also stand asparagus spears upright in a glass filled with 2 to 3 inches of cool water. That’s even better!
When you’re ready to use it
- Wash the asparagus stalks, then cut about an inch off the stem ends.
- If the skin looks tough toward the stem end, peel about half of the stalks toward the stem end with a vegetable peeler. This isn’t a lot of fun to do, but your finished dish will be that much better for it!
- 12 to 16 ounces medium-thick asparagus
- 6 to 8 ounces cremini or white mushrooms, stemmed and halved or sliced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 tablespoons), or more, to taste
- Zest of 1 lemon (optional but highly recommended)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Fresh herbs of your choice (rosemary and/or fresh oregano are particularly good)
- If you’ll be roasting, preheat the oven to 400 to 425º F, depending on how hot it runs, or if you have something compatible in the oven at the same time.
- Trim about an inch from the bottom of the asparagus stalks. Peel the bottom halves of the stalks if they're thicker or if you see that the skin looks a bit tough. Cut in half.
- To roast: In a mixing bowl, combine the asparagus with the mushrooms, oil, lemon juice, and optional zest. Transfer to a roasting pan (parchment-lined, for easier clean-up). Roast for 15 minutes, stirring once or twice during that time, or until the asparagus is tender-crisp and starting to get a nice nutty roasted aroma. Season gently with salt and pepper.
- To sauté: Heat the oil in a large skillet or stir-fry pan. Add the asparagus and mushrooms and sauté over medium heat for a minute or two. Continue to sauté until the asparagus is tender-crisp and the mushrooms are wilted. If any liquid has formed from the mushrooms, drain it off. Drizzle in the lemon juice, stir in the optional zest, and season gently with salt and pepper.
- Whether you’ve roasted or sautéed, once done, transfer the asparagus and mushroom mixture to a serving container. Sprinkle with fresh herbs of your choice. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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Photos (top and middle): Elena Veselove / Bigstock