Asparagus with Citrus and Oregano

asparagusCombining three colors of asparagus makes an interesting and appetizing display and the citrus adds a lovely bit of color. The purple asparagus will turn green with cooking, but it will be darker, richer green than the green asparagus, which take a on a bright, vivid hue with cooking. Microwaving the asparagus helps retain their bright colors and ensures crisp texture. However, if you like them cooked a bit more, you could steam them, covered, in the olive oil-water-citrus peel mixture. Use a bit more water than the microwaving calls for. For the citrus topping, you can substitute clementines or sweet Meyer lemons for the navel oranges or use a combination. Combine all the juices when making the sauce.

2 oranges, preferably navel
6 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 t fresh lemon juice
1/8 t hot pepper flakes
½ t dried oregano or 1 t minced fresh oregano
2 scallions, finely chopped or 2 t minced chives
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
16 stalks asparagus, green, purple or white or a mixture (about 1 lb.)

Zest oranges; set zest aside. Slice off the ends of each orange. Working with one orange at a time, set an orange on end; with a small knife, slice off and discard the peel and the white pith. Holding the orange in your hand, use a knife to cut the orange segments away from their membranes. Place segments (supremes) in a bowl and set aside. Over a separate bowl, squeeze the remaining orange pulp to extract any remaining juice. Repeat with second orange. Whisk 4 t oil, lemon juice, oregano, and scallions into orange juice and season with salt and pepper; set dressing aside.

Prepare asparagus: Bend each stalk to snap at its tender part; reserve lower half for another use. Line up all spears and trim so they are reasonably similar in length. Transfer asparagus to a 9″ x 13″ microwavable baking dish. Sprinkle asparagus with half the reserved orange zest and drizzle with remaining oil and 1/4 cup water. Cover pan loosely with plastic wrap and microwave on high heat for 2 minutes. Rotate dish and microwave until asparagus is just tender, about 2 minutes more. Toss asparagus with reserved citrus dressing and season with salt. Top with orange segments and remaining zest. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

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