Cooking Light magazine, in their April 2014 issue published a nice article about pan-charring veggies for a boost in flavor. More than simply offering a recipe, they shared a general method to deal with veggies like asparagus and green beans. Veggies that can take the heat, so to speak. All you need to do is choose three basic components: the fat to coat the veggies after the initial charring, the acidic ingredient to brighten things up and the herbs added right before serving.  No matter which veggies you are dealing with, they will be ready in no time.  I know I sound like a broken record, but when I get home from work and it’s my turn to cook, the last thing I want is a side-dish that takes 45 minutes to prepare.  Give me something fast and flavorful, and I am game!

So here is my take number one on this method: charred asparagus flavored with lemon juice and fresh dill at the end… Before you accuse me of the capital culinary sin of non-seasonal cooking, let me say that this dish was made last May, not too long after I got the magazine. As usual, it takes me a while to go from table to blog. But, since last week I used this method to cook delicious green beans, I am taking the opportunity to talk about both dishes. Clearly, it’s all about the char…


(adapted from Cooking Light, April 2014)

Cooking spray
8 ounces asparagus, cut in pieces
1 + 1/2 teaspoons walnut oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
1/4 teaspoon salt
Heat a medium, heavy skillet (not nonstick) over high heat for 2 minutes.

Coat pan with cooking spray. Immediately add asparagus pieces to pan, shaking them into a single layer; cook, without stirring, 2 minutes or until asparagus is very lightly charred. Cook asparagus 5 more minutes or until crisp-tender and evenly charred, tossing occasionally.

Remove pan from heat. Let asparagus rest 1 minute. Add walnut oil; toss to coat asparagus pieces. Add lemon juice; toss. Turn on heat if necessary to evaporate most of liquid. Sprinkle asparagus with dill and salt; toss. Serve right away.


to print the recipe, click here

And here is my take number two: the exact same method, using olive oil to coat green beans, a touch of apple cider vinegar as the acidic component, and fresh tarragon added at the end. Tarragon straight from the garden of our friend Cindy, who recently visited us with her husband. Remember, I am the lucky woman with the super generous friends…

Now, as I mentioned, this is all about the char… Look at these dark spots, aren’t they making you crave some green beans?


Back in 2010 I  wrote a blog post about “Blasted Broccoli“, stove-top version. We loved that recipe so much that I went through a long phase of cooking it weekly. I can see that this method could be adapted for broccoli too. Or sugar snap peas.  Avocado oil, coconut oil, use your imagination (and your pantry) and play with this method.  You won’t be disappointed…

ONE YEAR AGO: Pomegranate Chicken Thighs and Carrot Mash

TWO YEARS AGO: The Many Faces of Kale

THREE YEARS AGO:  Short and Sweet

FOUR YEARS AGO: Ciabatta, a Classic Italian Bread

FIVE YEARS AGO: Magical Lamb Stew



    • This is much much tastier than boiling them, I hope you give this method a try. Just did broccoli last night, the larger pieces could have been cooked longer, the method needs a little tweaking for broccoli


  1. I love the walnut oil. I don’t have any so I’m going to give this a try with macadamia oil. I bought asparagus this afternoon so we’re up to speed on this one!


  2. Thank you for posting this right in the middle of our asparagus season: bought quite a few bunches in my online grocery shopping just an hour back for a dollar a bunch: that is v cheap here 🙂 ! I have always been too scared to pan-char asparagus fearing that the tenderness and delicate taste would disappear and I normally steam them serving with brown butter or sauce polonaise or similar . . . must try your way!


  3. Oi, tinha aprendido essa maneira de cozinhar aspargos com meu Mestre Jamie (Oliver), e desde entao sempre os cozinho assim. Mas nao imaginava q dava pra fazer com vagem tb. Q bom, aprendi essa hoje! Thanks!


    • Vagem fica uma delicia desse jeito… agora quero aperfeicoar broccoli, mas acho que o lance e’ cortar os florets em pedacos pequenos e uniformes – a work in progress… 😉


  4. Sounds like a great technique … my pancetta fat coated brussel sprout leaves with balsamic vinegar drizzled over is a similar adaptation. I’ve never thought of doing it with asparagus however. Thank you for letting me stretch my veggie legs. 🙂


  5. I have been pan searing asparagus for several years, the result of not having a hot oven one day. Then last year I was doing green beans and did it that way, never having seen them “pan fried” before. It’s our favourite way now. So much more flavour, even without adding any. ;-).


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