Photography by Emily Caruso
After a long season of root vegetables and winter squash, the vegetable I most look forward to in springtime is asparagus. It lends itself naturally to being a side dish, but we don’t eat many main dish/side dish types of meals, so I’m always looking for ways to incorporate asparagus into things like pasta, pizza, sandwiches, and meal bowls. These melts are the current favorite in our household.
Smitten Kitchen’s Broccoli Melts have been on my menu frequently because they’re easy and delicious and then, as usually happens with much-loved recipes, it started taking other permutations. Melts are good for that! Broccoli became cauliflower and cauliflower became mushrooms and then springtime came and asparagus got added to the mix.
I should mention that these are incredibly easy—shallots, mushrooms, and asparagus are sautéed and then spooned onto toasts and topped with cheese. The asparagus is only lightly cooked, until tender-crisp, because there’s nothing sadder than mushy, olive green asparagus. You could certainly make these into traditional sandwiches or panini instead of open-faced melts, but I like them this way because the cheese gets nicely browned under the broiler.
- 8 thick slices crusty bread (like French or sourdough)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium shallot, chopped
- 4 ounces assorted wild mushrooms, chopped
- 1 bunch asparagus, thinly sliced into rounds
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
- 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 to 1 1/2 cup shredded provolone or jack cheese
- Preheat the broiler of your oven.
- Place the bread slices on a baking sheet and broil them until lightly toasted—I've found that broilers vary in intensity, so check every 2 minutes or so to make sure the bread doesn't burn. Flip the bread over and broil the other side. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring often, for about 4 minutes, until softened and just beginning to turn golden brown. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the mushrooms; cook for about 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms release their juices and it cooks off. Stir in the asparagus, thyme and vinegar; cook for about 3 minutes, or until the asparagus rounds are tender-crisp. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Divide the vegetable mixture onto the bread. (You may have some leftover depending on the size of your bread.) Top the vegetables with the shredded cheese, then return the baking sheet to the oven and broil until the cheese has melted and is beginning to bubble and brown in places (checking every 2 minutes again to make sure they don't burn). Serve immediately.