Simple Roasted Asparagus
 Blossoms in Central

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

—Fred Rogers

We heard the news as we headed down to New York City for a few days―the story was unfolding―bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Lives were lost, limbs shattered and destroyed. A joyful event transformed to tragedy in an instant. When we arrived on Manhattan the next day,  the perpetrators of the crime had not been identified. Fully expecting the city to be gripped in the shadow of terror, we were surprised.  Emerging from the cold underground train station, we imagined armed servicemen and extra police on the streets. We expected a somber mood. Instead, we found a glorious day. Trees in bloom everywhere, Times Square was filled with tourists. Fifth Avenue buzzed with people out walking, riding  bicycles, while the Metropolitan Museum was alive with visiting school groups. Central Park—crowded with families coming to play soccer, walk their dogs, or blow bubbles in the wind at the end of the workday—enchanted us in a spirited, almost defiant tone.  We enjoyed this April day along with other tourists and native New Yorkers. Without words,  we expressed solidarity with the runners, with the people of Boston. We honored their lives by refusing to live ours in fear.

Perhaps because Boston is my family’s adopted city―we often go there enjoy a great meal, visit the Museum of Fine Arts, or walk along the waterfront. Perhaps because one of the young brothers who apparently set off the bomb is a college student, the same age as my son―I feel a deep, personal sadness about what happened. It is unshakeable, for now. But as I move forward with the rest of the country, I will look for and become one of the helpers.

This is the first post on the “new” Gathering Flavors site.  I had intended to use it to show you around a bit. I will let that wait until the next post. For now, I leave you with these photos of Central Park in bloom during our enchanted April visit there and  recipe for spring:  Simple Roasted Asparagus.

I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon.


Bubbles in CentralPark/
Central Park Reflections/
 Blossoms in Central
 Simple Roasted Asparagus by Dena Testa Bray


Yield: 4 to 6 Servings


  • 1 pound fresh asparagus stalks
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 425° F.
  2. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  3. Rinse the asparagus stalks and pat dry. If they are thick, peel the ends. If they are thin, trim the ends.
  4. Place on a sheet pan in single layer. Drizzle with olive oil.
  5. Roast the asparagus stalks in the oven until they are tender, ten to fifteen minutes. (Roasting times will vary depending on the thickness of the stalks and freshness.)
  6. Remove from oven. Drizzle with fresh lemon juice. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
  7. Serve hot, cold or at room temperature.
  8. Enjoy.

Notes: Simple Roasted Asparagus is delicious on its own or as a side dish to roasted meats, fish or poultry. Here are more ideas to dress up the asparagus for serving:

  • Place on a bed of greens. Top with a poached or chopped boiled egg. (One egg per person for lunch, two if for dinner.)
  • Use as a filling for an omelet.
  • Make an open-faced sandwich by toasting a thick slice of your favorite bread. Drizzle the bread with olive oil, place the cooked asparagus on top. Add shavings of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or crispy bacon or both.
  • Chop asparagus and place it in the bottom of a soup bowl. Ladle hot stock or miso on top of the asparagus. Sprinkle with freshly chopped herbs.
  • Make them a snack. Serve with garlic or lemon mayonnaise  as a dipping sauce. 

Dena Testa Bray has been writing Gathering Flavors, a culinary blog, since 2011. She is a trained chef & ran a home based cooking school. Dena now designs websites, focusing on work with creative people. You can see her website work at She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and family.