April 23, 2016
What’s better than a crisp spring day with a sky so blue it just sings to you?
One of the two finest fruits of spring (the other being strawberries). I speak, of course, of asparagus.
Now, you understand, I never ate asparagus growing up, for the simple reason we didn’t grow it, and I didn’t know anyone who did. So I was grown before I tasted asparagus. And that was the canned variety, and I thought THAT was pretty wonderful. I used to make a salad of cut asparagus, English peas and mushrooms, all the canned variety, with an oil and vinegar dressing and parmesan cheese from the green can, all served over sliced tomatoes.
Thought I was hot stuff, I did.
Then I learned how to cook it. And I was convinced I had died and gone to heaven. (When I had my first roasted asparagus spear wrapped in proscuitto, I was pretty doggoned sure of it.)
And then I had my first LOCAL, really fresh asparagus. It was almost like eating sushi in Japan; damn near ruined me for anything else. I really do have to pig out on asparagus during its woefully short season, and then do without for three or four months until the taste-memory fades, then I can have the occasional grocery store variety.
Asparagus has been in season here for maybe six weeks, maybe a tad more. I hadn’t had any local asparagus, because our farmers’ market doesn’t start until May. I could have driven to the Memphis market, a roughly 70-mile trip one-way, and wanted to do so, but I haven’t had a free Saturday in April.
My asparagus connection is a farmer in Tyronza, Arkansas, about halfway between me and Memphis. I was down that way for lunch t’other day, and I asked him if I could pick up some at the restaurant, being that’s only about 30-odd miles and worth a trip for lunch or dessert, anyway. He said sure, and how much did I want, and when did I want to pick it up? Saturday, I told him, and two bunches would be nice. He typically sells it in bunches that are about a pound apiece.
So this afternoon, I headed that direction. My asparagus was, in fact, there. Three and a half gorgeous, beautiful pounds of it. For which I paid the princely total of $15, and was proud, I tell you, PROUD to do so. I hadn’t really planned on three and a half pounds — probably four meals’ worth — of asparagus, but hey, I’ll sure manage it with no trouble at all!
Gorgeous stuff. I love his purple asparagus. It lacks the bitter-ish taste you sometimes get in the green variety, and though I will generally get the green for salads and such, I really prefer the purple to eat warm.
So, obviously, there was going to be asparagus tonight. I settled on the simplest, easiest prep out there; roasting. About a meal’s worth of the spears were thicker than my thumb; I picked those out for tonight. Broke off the woody ends, peeled the ends of the stalks, drizzled them with a good olive oil, sprinkled them down with sea salt, stuck them in a 450-degree oven for 10 minutes. Boom. Done. (Well, they could have stood another two or three minutes. But I couldn’t wait.)
Child A had hers plain, with a fish filet poached in lemon butter sauce. I had asparagus with two poached egg yolks, which I love even more than I love asparagus with hollandaise. Barely cooked egg yolks, mind you (I overcooked one because I broke it when I was separating it). I did not eat anything else. I did not want anything else. Why would you want a side order with perfect?
Tomorrow, we will have it pan-sauteed, though it doesn’t really go with pork loin and baked beans. No big deal. I may eat the pork loin and baked beans…or I may not. Monday I’m gone, but will be spending the night with my friend Kate, so I think I’ll take some asparagus and pick up some proscuitto, and wrap and roast it. Later in the week, we will be looking at some asparagus perhaps in a frittata, or perhaps roasted, cut up and tossed with cubed cantaloupe and cubed fresh mozzarella in a lime viniagrette for one of my very favorite salads. If I can find fresh peas, I’ll saute my own mushrooms and grate some real parmigiano to recreate that old favorite salad.
I might even share some with you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em. Because after all, I can get Keith to bring me some more next Saturday. And after that, our local market will be open! Yeah, y’all, it’s asparagus time.