Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Stalk This Way

Spring might have been a little slow in coming this year, but I'm finally starting to believe that it's here to stay. My morning walks to work in the growing sunlight have provided a feast for sight and scent alike, with trees and flowers bursting into colorful bloom and releasing their fragrant welcome to a season of renewal. I've felt rather like Sleeping Beauty, awakening into a new and vibrant world of wonders, and each day brings new delights to dazzle my eyes and -- I dare hope! -- my taste buds.

On Sunday, just when I was feeling a little more than tired of eating from the pantry, a new friend (evidently one worth keeping!) brought me the amazing gift of a small bunch of fresh asparagus from her garden.

I don't want to discount the pleasure I've found in eating the tender greens I had growing on the windowsill or in foraging for fresh spring greens, but this gift truly represents the first spring produce of the growing season around here. Lettuce I can grow during the winter, dandelions and chickweed grow of their own accord, but asparagus takes more effort and only lasts for a short time.

And for the first asparagus of the season, what could I possibly make that would bring out the brilliant green flavor and make it a celebration?

In a very recent conversation with the Archivist, she mentioned that she and her husband had been making a lot of crepes lately, both sweet and savory. Since it's been a few months since I made my own crepes, the thought of rolling asparagus into thin pancakes immediately caused my mouth to water.

I headed into the kitchen as soon as I got home from work and fired up the oven. Then, after trimming the asparagus, I tossed the spears in a loaf pan with chunks of local garlic, a sprinkling of dried dill from my garden and black pepper, and a substantial drizzle of olive oil.

I don't usually roast asparagus, but I really should more often: the roasting makes the stalks tender but even more flavorful, and I'm a sucker for the crunchy toasted garlic that went with it.

While the asparagus roasted, I whisked together the batter and started making the crepes, stacking them until I was ready to start assembling dinner.

Having given the matter considerable thought earlier in the day, I had stopped at the grocery store on the way home to pick up a small packet of goat cheese crumbles. After laying a few asparagus spears on each crepe, I added a sprinkling of chopped toasted walnuts and some goat cheese, wrapping it all up while they were still warm.

The Renaissance Man joined me for dinner and agreed that the simplest approach might well be the best approach, for that fresh asparagus flavor, enhanced by the creamy cheese and the warm toasted crunch of the walnuts, sang out loud and clear.

Now that I have the first spring food under my belt, I feel a little more alive and a little more enthusiastic about cooking again. I've been feeling like my cooking has been somewhat half-hearted of late as I've been working through the pantry. Now, though, my dreams of farmers' market produce have revived, and the ideas for new recipes are churning through my brain once more.

In the meantime, I hope I'll have another chance soon to stalk up on asparagus!


At 5/09/2008 4:30 PM, Blogger Ed Bruske said...

Jennifer, I normally cook asparagus one way--poached--but roasting them in parchment is a revelation. Peel the stalks first, then drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Add a sprig of tarragon if you like.

At 5/09/2008 7:48 PM, Anonymous Janet said...

I had my first asparagus yesterday. I did a brief saute of it and also green onions, then added eggs and lemon balm. Turned into scrambled eggs with asparagus instead of an omelet, but it was a springtime revelation just the same. And all local!

At 5/10/2008 4:41 PM, Blogger cv said...

I like asparagus cooked for 2 minutes in the microwave, then marinated in basalmic vinegar and olive oil and tossed in with a good salad and eaten with crusty bread.

At 5/12/2008 6:17 AM, Blogger Kelly said...

roasted is amazing, as is grilled. Tho I've been making this sesame noodle dish too, and just chopping the asparagus and blanching it for a few minutes in salted water, then draining well to toss in the noodle marinade. Pretty dang yum, too!

I'm so happy to see it at the farm stand and popping up in my garden (tho that's not to eat yet...one more season of fallow).

My spring greens are so happy to have this cool weather right now.

At 5/12/2008 7:05 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Wow, all your suggestions sound so tasty! I never thought of poaching them, Ed, but I might have to give it a try. I have enjoyed asparagus with eggs (lemon balm sounds like a nice twist, Janet), balsamic vinegar, and in a stir-fry or fried rice, though not the sesame noodles.

And it's only the beginning of asparagus season! Happy sigh! :-)


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