Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Come Spring, A Young Man's Thoughts Turn To...Asparagus?

Okay, so there are a few things wrong with the title of this post.

A. It's not spring (yet).

B. I'm not a young man (but I act like a child a lot).

C. I think it's love, but I try not to limit that to one season.

However, I digress. We're talking about asparagus here. Well, not asparagus FROM here, but asparagus in general. One of the first spring vegetables. And yes, I know I should be buying local, and trying to be a locavore, but please - it's not always possible. I mean, I came of foodie age in the San Francisco Bay area, during the early to mid Alice years. Had a garden in my backyard. Organic. Had 2 or 3 grills at any one time. Not propane. Ate at Chez P, 4th St. Grill, Stars, Postrio - all of 'em. Anyone who thinks that fusion is a fairly new concept never had Puck's food. If you don't know who the chefs were at those places, well there's always google.

Back to asparagus. I was planning on some high-heat oven stuff last night, and happened to have bought a nice bunch of asparagus at the Essex St. Market for $1.99. From Mexico. Even the California stuff isn't in yet, and New York's won't be for another month and a half at least.

Asparagus is one of my favorites and it can be prepared in any number of ways. Make sure it's good and fresh - go ahead and break a stalk - it should snap but don't tell the produce guy I told you to do it when he's not looking. By the way, that's the best way to get rid of the part you don't eat - hold the stalk with both hands and snap it - above where it breaks, it's tender. Below, it isn't...and add the trimmings to that bag of veggies you're saving for stock, please. Then, numerous opportunities await. I generally peel the bottom half - cooking school will do that to you. It can be sliced super thin on the diagonal, salted and then tossed with some olive oil, lemon juice and topped with shavings of pecorino. Thanks, Mario. It can be steamed, boiled, grilled, sauteed, stir-fried (isn't that sauteed?), etc. Just don't overcook it or it's mush. And back to that oven and some high heat - it can also be's a pan of it, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper and ready for the oven...preheated to around 400F.

Give it a few minutes, stir it around (don't burn yourself, that bloody pan is HOT), and give it a few more - I'd say 10 or 15 minutes total, depending on the thickness of the stalks. Remove and consume - more salt and olive oil are always welcome.

Oh, and as I said, I was cooking some real high-heat stuff last night, so I cranked the oven up to 500, and here's what accompanied the first green grass of spring. Just right while waiting for the local stuff to show up, don't you think?

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