Thin and Green: Roasted Asparagus and Green Beans with Red Pepper Vinaigrette

For the past two weeks the weather has been picture-perfect here in Denver. With the exception of today- rain and snow showers are predicted- the temperatures have been in the mid-70s and low-80s. Flowering trees are blooming and we have been spending a ton of time outside. It seems like everyone on my block has been barbecuing, and I'm having a serious hankering for a burger. And steak too. Surprised? You shouldn't be! I've been experimenting with tofu "burgers" and playing around with marinades for grilled tofu steak: chili rub, orange glaze, straight-up spicy barbecue, to name a few. I've also been making some complimentary sides dishes-- ones that are easy to make and take under 15 minutes. I realized long ago that not every post, nor every dish, has to be complicated or fussy. Sometimes a nice, straight-forward vegetable dish is all you need. Today I have two.
The first is for Roasted Asparagus with Lemony Breadcrumbs, which was published in the most recent issue of Martha Stewart Living. I like to use pencil-thin asparagus for this one. Yes, it is more expensive than the wider asparagus, but in this particular dish I think it makes a difference. I tend to use the wider variety when I make asparagus soup. Since there are so few ingredients in this asparagus dish, buy the best quality produce you can find.
The second recipe is for Green Beans with Red Pepper Vinaigrette. My friend Jo Ellen brought this side dish over for a recent playdate/dinner. I made macaroni and cheese and the green beans were the perfect compliment to the pasta entree. Jo got the recipe from her sister-in-law Sara, who came up with it while trying to recreate the flavors she tasted in a similar bean dish. I like to use haricot vert, but traditional string beans will certainly do the trick.
This green bean recipe is one of my new favorites. Flavorful and simple. And now that I think about it, I bet the red pepper vinaigrette would make a really nice drizzle for asparagus. Hey, wait a minute. Is there some sort of recipe development happening here?! I'll try it and let you know how it turns out...

Roasted Asparagus with Lemony Breadcrumbs
Courtesy of Martha Stewart
Serves 6 (You can easily halve the recipe)
2 pounds asparagus, trimmed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup panko- Japanese breadcrumbs (I used high-quality plain breadcrumbs)
1/2 lemon, juiced and zested
Garnish: 1/2 lemon, cut into wedges
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Arrange asparagus on a rimmed baking sheet, and drizzle with oil. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Roast until tender, 18 to 20 minutes, then transfer to a platter.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add panko, and cook, stirring frequently, until deep golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in lemon juice and zest. Season with salt. Top asparagus with breadcrumbs, and garnish with lemon. 
Click the link for another asparagus recipe: Linguine with Asparagus, Egg and Hollandaise. Yes, it's delicious! 
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Green Beans with Red Pepper Vinaigrette 
(Courtesy of Sara Stevens, by way of her sister-in-law Jo Ellen)
2 pounds of green beans, boiled for 5 minutes in salty water, then dropped in an icy bath. 

1-2 cloves of garlic (I go with 1)
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 - 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
Mix the vinaigrette ingredients in a small food processor so that the garlic is pulverized. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Add roasted red peppers from a jar-  1/2 to most of the jar. Whir that up a bit. It doesn't need to be a smooth puree, get the dressing to the consistency of your liking. Adjust seasoning (and keep in mind that the dressing has to stretch over all those a little bit more salt would work.)
Pour the dressing over the beans. Let it sit in the fridge for a while, overnight is good.