This recipe is a vegetarian variation on my Sautéed Asparagus with Prosciutto Crisps and Parmigiano. It features both crispy ginger “batons” and chopped fresh ginger, as well as a bit of lemon zest and fresh mint. It’s perfect way to prepare the first local asparagus.

I love to cut asparagus thinly on the bias and cook it over fairly high heat to bring out that nutty flavor. Even with the ginger slicing and chopping, this is a great weeknight side dish since the cooking goes so quickly.

Serves 3 to 4

  • 1 ½ pounds (2 small bunches) medium asparagus spears, ends trimmed (to yield a scant 1 pound)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ to ¾ ounce fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into very thin ginger “batons” (to yield about ¼ cup but as much as 1/3 cup if you like), plus 1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger 
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons cold unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon white balsamic vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest (more if you like)
  • Small whole mint leaves or 1 teaspoon roughly chopped mint (substitute chives if you like)

1. Slice the trimmed asparagus on a very sharp angle (on the bias) into pieces that are about 2 inches long.

2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the ginger batons, turn the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring and keeping an eye on the ginger, until the pieces shrink and become lightly brown (they will begin to brown quickly), 2 to 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the ginger with a fork or slotted spoon to a plate and leave the oil in the pan.

3. Return the pan to medium-high heat, add the asparagus and ½ teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring, until all the asparagus pieces are glistening and browned in spots, about 6 to 7 minutes. They will still be firm, but not crunchy.

4. Remove the pan from the heat, add the butter, the 1 teaspoon chopped ginger, the balsamic vinegar (it will sputter), and the lemon zest. Stir well. Add in half of the ginger batons and half of the mint and stir again. Taste for salt.

5. Serve right away, garnished with the remaining ginger batons and mint.