We’re getting to that glorious time of year when one does not need a recipe, because the ingredients speak for themselves, and they insist upon little more than olive oil, garlic, a sprinkle of chilies, the smallest squish of lemon, and a poached egg. Asparagus has just begun to appear; soon, fiddleheads will beg for the same treatment, and then later on, so will green beans. A pound of asparagus, or one large bunch, will make enough for dinner for two.
There are no drawbacks to allowing your vegetables to insist in this way, because it is an almost instant meal – 15 minutes, maybe, depending on how long it takes your water to boil. You will boil your asparagus in salted water for three minutes, and then you will pull them out of the water and drop them into a hot pan already sizzling with olive oil, garlic, chili peppers, and the zest of half a lemon. Toss your asparagus in the hot oil, 30 seconds, and then squish half a lemon over the whole thing. Serve with polenta and a poached egg. Chewy, crusty bread on the side with a generous smear of butter will tie the whole thing together beautifully.