Roasted Asparagus with Smoky Almond Dip

Oven-roasted asparagus is quick and easy, especially if you have the oven on for something else.

1 bunch asparagus
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
squeeze fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Place the asparagus on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Toss to coat. Roast for 5-8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the spears, until tender crisp and starting to turn brown in spots. Watch the tips for charring.

Smoky Almond Dip

This dip started off as Ajo Blanco, aka white gazpacho, the garlicy almond soup from Spain. It’s even better as a dip for grilled asparagus.

2 c cubed stale bread, preferably sourdough (crusts removed)
¾ c cold water (more or less)
&‌frac13; c whole blanched almonds
2 cloves garlic (or to taste)
2 T chopped shallot
½ cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 t (more or less) Spanish smoked paprika (Pimentón de la Vera)
3½ t sherry vinegar
1 t sea or kosher salt

Toast the almonds in a dry pan until just starting to colour. Cool. Soak the bread in milk (or cold water) for 10 minutes. Put cooled almonds into a food processor.

Squeeze excess moisture out of bread and put in the processor. Add a bit of water and blitz until fairly finely ground. With the motor running, add the garlic, cucumber, paprika, oil and vinegar. Pulse until blended, check for seasoning and thickness, adding more water if required, then blend until smooth. Season to taste.

Chill for at least 2 hours.

Place in a serving bowl and garnish with a dusting of paprika and some chopped almond. Serve with the roasted asparagus for dipping.