Meatless Monday: Parmesan-Crusted Asparagus

This is an easy vegetarian main course, and it's quick to make, too -- it has to be, or else the egg whites will deflate on you, as Cook's Country explains. It's got a lot of flavor, so serve it on its own, or with rice pilaf for a more substantial meal.

Photo courtesy Cook's Country
Photo courtesy Cook's Country

Parmesan-Crusted Asparagus
Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish
2 pounds (1/2-inch-thick) asparagus, trimmed
Salt and pepper
3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1 1/2 cups)
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Pinch cayenne
2 large egg whites
1 teaspoon honey

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with vegetable oil spray. Using fork, poke holes up and down stalks of asparagus. Toss asparagus with ½ teaspoon salt and let stand for 30 minutes on a paper towel-lined baking sheet.

Meanwhile, combine 1 cup Parmesan, bread crumbs, butter, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and cayenne in bowl. Transfer half of bread-crumb mixture to shallow dish and reserve remaining mixture. Using stand mixer fitted with whisk, whip egg whites and honey on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-high and whip until soft peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape into 13 by 9-inch baking dish and toss asparagus in mixture. Working 1 spear at a time, dredge half of asparagus in bread crumbs and transfer to baking sheet. Refill shallow dish with reserved bread-crumb mixture and repeat with remaining half of asparagus.

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Bake asparagus until just beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining ½ cup Parmesan and continue to bake until cheese is melted and bread crumbs are golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to platter. Serve.

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