Serves: Makes 4 servings
- 1 bunch asparagus (about 1¼ pounds)
- 1 pint tiny cherry or pear tomatoes, red or a mixture of colors
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Coarse salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons torn fresh basil leaves
- 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into thin slices
Procedures:Roasting asparagus retains their bright green color, intense green taste, and toothsome texture. In a hot oven, they’re ready in only about 15 minutes. In this recipe, small tomatoes are roasted first and then the asparagus are added. The tomatoes need a head start so that they will have collapsed and caramelized at the same time the asparagus are ready. The dish is finished with slices of mozzarella cheese, which are turned bubbly and golden brown with a chef’s torch.
- Break off the tough stem ends from the asparagus. Use a serrated peeler to remove the scales from the lower section of the stalks. Place the spears in a large, shallow bowl, add cold water to cover, and set aside until ready to roast.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place the tomatoes in the center of a nonreactive rimmed sheet pan and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and a grinding of black pepper. Toss the tomatoes with your hands to coat with the oil. Roast for 10 minutes and then remove the pan from the oven.
- Drain the asparagus and place them back in the bowl. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, a pinch of salt, and a grinding of black pepper. Toss to coat. Spread on the sheet pan. Spoon the tomatoes on top of and around the asparagus. Return the pan to the oven and roast for 15 minutes, or until the asparagus are tender.
- Use tongs to transfer the asparagus to a flameproof baking dish or serving dish. Spoon the cooked tomatoes and juices over the asparagus. Sprinkle with the basil and lay the slices of mozzarella over the top.
- Turn on the chef's torch and, with the flame about 2 inches from a cheese slice, move it slowly back and forth for about 30 seconds, or until the cheese begins to bubble and brown. Repeat with the remaining slices until all the cheese is melted. Alternatively, the cheese can be browned under the broiler: Make sure the vegetables are in a broiler-proof baking dish. Position an oven rack so that the surface of the cheese is be about 3 inches from the heat source, and preheat the broiler. Broil, watching carefully and turning the baking dish as needed, for 1 to 3 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and browned. Serve at once.