Serves 6 to 8
Fante's is a wonderful gourmet cookware store in Philadelphia. The whole Fante family, including Mariella, seem to work there. When several of us came to town to attend Philadelphia's famous cooking event, "The Book and the Cook," the Fantes had a crowd for dinner. This was prepared by her mother at Mariella's home for one such gathering. I just loved it, particularly since it was sitting at room temperature for several hours with no ill effect, making it an ideal fix-ahead dish.
Don't add the lemon juice until just before serving as it will change the color of the asparagus.
2 pounds asparagus
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup butter
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup pine nuts
Cut off the tough ends of the asparagus and peel the stalks if they are not pencil thin. Fill a frying pan or asparagus cooker with enough water to cover the asparagus and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus. Reduce the heat and simmer until done, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain. Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking and to set the color. Drain. Place the asparagus in a buttered casserole and season with salt and pepper.
Melt the butter in a frying pan. Add half of the butter to the lemon juice and pour over the asparagus. Add the bread crumbs and pine nuts to the remaining butter in the pan and sauté until light brown. Top the asparagus with the mixture. Serve at room temperature. This dish may also be refrigerated, then reheated in a microwave or 350-degree oven if you prefer it hot.
Variation: Roast the asparagus at 450 degrees for 3-5 minutes or until desired doneness according to size.
Nathalie Dupree is the author of 14 cookbooks, including the James Beard award-winning “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking.” She lives in Charleston and may be reached through Nathaliedupree.com.