I was surprised by the affinity that anchovies have with asparagus. The salty, briny flavor of the anchovies just tames that little acidic bite of the asparagus. You can chop the asparagus into pieces or leave them whole, depending on the size of your skillet. Salt and black pepper are optional here; there’s already red pepper, and anchovies can be salty. Taste a piece before serving and add these seasonings if you think they’re needed.
2 T vegetable oil or butter, or a combination
1 T minced garlic
1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste; or 1/2 t chile powder, or a good dash of cayenne
a pound or so of asparagus spears, woody end snapped off and coarsely chopped, or not
1 or 2 anchovy fillets, minced, or 2 – 3 t anchovy paste
a splash of water or broth, if needed
salt and black pepper, to taste, optional
a squeeze or two of (fresh) lemon juice
1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute or two, until the garlic is fragrant. Don’t let it brown.
2. Add the asparagus and the anchovies. Cook, stirring, until the spears are cooked to the desired tenderness. If the skillet seems to be drying out, add the splash of water or broth and continue cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated. Transfer to a serving dish (or not), sprinkle with lemon juice and serve.