Few vegetables taste as good grilled as fresh asparagus. But how do you prevent the thin stalks from falling through the grate? Project Smoke author Steven Raichlen suggests a trick picked up from Japanese chefs: asparagus "rafts."
Sesame-Grilled Asparagus Rafts
1 pound asparagus
2 tbsp Asian (dark) sesame oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1) Preheat grill to high heat. Take several stalks of asparagus, break off the woody part at the base, and discard. Place stalks next to one another, leaving a tiny bit of space between them. (This will allow asparagus to cook on all sides.) Skewer them crosswise at the top and bottom with toothpicks or slender bamboo sticks.
2) For the marinade, combine sesame oil, soy sauce, and garlic and mix. Brush on both sides of the “raft.” Season with a little salt and lots of pepper.
3) Place rafts on the hot grate and grill until nicely browned, 2–4 minutes per side. Sprinkle with sesame seeds as they cook. “It’s a great, healthy side dish,” says Raichlen.