Tomorrow is the first day of spring. I trot around our garden, looking for the green shoots of daffodils poking up through the fallen leaves. There are purple and white crocus blooms emerging in unexpected places, where the squirrels have redesigned my grand garden scheme. I’m pretty sure it is the squirrels, because I find their other contributions: acorns and pecans tucked into the soil in window boxes and in some of the neglected pots left outside all winter. We are all waiting and watching for winter to move on. We are hungry for change and new, green beginnings.
Winter makes us cocoon for warmth and comfort in wooly sweaters and warm scarves, candlelight and cosy fires. With spring nearly upon us we can pivot, and put the dark wools away. I have found bright colors squirreled away in the back of the closet. I can’t wait to discover new and tender, fresh green spears of asparagus at the farmers’ markets, just in time for Passover and Easter feasts. We can eat trucked-in asparagus all year long, but the spring-time emergence of local, farm-fresh asparagus sparks joy. Goodbye, stodgy winter stews. Hello, asparagus.
Have you ever noticed that asparagus changes color when you blanch it? It goes from an inert olive-y green to a wild, dramatic chartreuse, verging on grass green in a flash. I always thought the change of pigment was magic, but instead, as Thomas Keller explains, it is science. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmIutCFXpHE
Who better to sing the praises of asparagus than the French Chef, Julia Child? Julia exhorts preparing asparagus the way the French do, by trimming the bottom of the stalk, and peeling tough outer skin with a vegetable peeler, just like Keller. But we are concentrating on asparagus that has just been plucked from the earth, and is brand spanking new, and does not need much peeling. This is the immediacy of springtime asparagus. Bon appétit! https://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_B0D9EDA444FC425C8932E0BE8198AAA5
Passover is the holiday of spring, and asparagus is the perfect seder dish. Passover starts starts on Saturday, March 27th. Green is key to Passover, which celebrates spring, family, freedom and the Exodus. http://kosherlikeme.com/welcome-spring-green-to-your-passover-table-with-asparagus/
This past weekend we tried something new, with grocery store asparagus, so imagine how much more delicious it will be with slender, farm fresh asparagus. We love anything that includes capers. Thank you, Melissa Clark: Roasted Asparagus With Crispy Leeks and Capers. https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1021977-roasted-asparagus-with-crispy-leeks-and-capers?
1 pound thick asparagus, ends trimmed
2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 large leek, white and light green parts, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons drained capers
Lemon wedges, for serving
¼ cup parsley, leaves and tender stems, torn
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons drained capers, finely chopped
1 small garlic clove, finely grated or minced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper
Heat oven to 425ºF. Put asparagus on a rimmed sheet pan and toss with 1 tablespoon oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt until well coated.
In a small bowl, stir together leeks, remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Sprinkle leeks on top of asparagus, then sprinkle with capers. Roast until asparagus are tender and golden brown, about 12 to 18 minutes.
While the asparagus stalks roast, make the mustard sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together mustard, capers and garlic. Slowly whisk in olive oil a few drops at a time to create a thick, emulsified dressing. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Once asparagus stalks are out of the oven, squeeze a lemon wedge over it and sprinkle parsley on top. Serve with mustard sauce and more lemon wedges on the side.
Frittatas always seem decadent and impulsive for dinner, yet completely respectable for breakfast. Thus, this dish can only get better with a glass of wine: https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/frittata-with-asparagus-and-scallions-358321
A light take on risotto: https://www.skinnytaste.com/spring-asparagus-risotto/
Heartier fare comes from Ina Garten’s kitchen: https://barefootcontessa.com/recipes/asparagus-prosciutto-bundles Bundles of asparagus are wrapped with prosciutto and dusted with grated Gruyere cheese. (And you will be glad to know, are gluten free!) These will be perfect as Easter side dishes, or a light spring dinner as you sit by an open window and feel the cool evening breezes waft through the back yard. Keep looking for the first fireflies.
“For a lot of people, poetry tends to be dull. It’s not read much. It takes a special kind of training and a lot of practice to read poetry with pleasure. It’s like learning to like asparagus.”
–Thomas M. Disch