Tuesday, April 2, 2013

asparagus or sex?

Lengthening daylight paired with rising mercury conjures virtuously exciting images of eye popping flowers along with visions of consuming warmer weather local produce, along with some not so virtuous images as the sharper colors and scintillating scents of spring converge around us. Farmers markets are flush with seasonal fare spilling off tables beckoning salaciously to shoppers. Spring time officially arrived last month ensuring us that along with the promise of anticipated late spring fruits our beloved asparagus is here for a nice long visit to the Bay Area. Long, smooth, thin or fat, stalks in differing shades of green with tight purplish tips, asparagus will not disappoint those eagerly awaiting the seasonal debut. As we see more and more friends and neighbors yards coming alive with chickens it reminds me of my favorite way to welcome asparagus to my palate at firs showing. Sauté small slices of asparagus in olive oil and green garlic to just opaque. Beg, borrow, steal or purchase some of those amazingly rich local eggs with the obscenely perky yolks and softly scramble into sautéed asparagus with a nice grate of Manchego and a few slices of snipped baby chives to start a perfect spring morning and send anyone smiling out the door. Simply steaming in chicken stock, draining and slathering in butter can be nirvana. Alternately getting fancy with heavenly indulgent hollandaise sauce is always viscerally memorable. Asparagus lends itself well to the grill by just lubing up with a bit of olive oil and a few cracks of salt lovingly placed onto sizzling hot grills to caramelize green sugars happily transforming an entire day. Drizzle grilled asparagus with balsamic glaze and eat with your fingers. Wrap fat stalks with good prosciutto, roasting until the prosciutto gets soft and supple, ready to begin the awe inspiring release of characteristically rich, salty juices mingled into softening asparagus spears. Serve drizzled with lemon oil and shaved spring pecorino and hold on to the table as you veer close to an intensely sensual swoon. Roast succulent pieces of asparagus until just soft and serve in a spring greens salad with sliced oranges and toasted local almonds, dressing with good olive oil and rice vinegar. Sauté copious amounts of sliced asparagus, green garlic and fresh shitake in olive oil, stir into creamy risotto, garnishing with reggiano and spring herbs. Roast asparagus in a hot oven tossing with lemon oil, salt and pepper. Shave feathery puffs of dry aged Gouda on top sprinkling with chopped fresh oregano and a squeeze of lemon juice. Slice into small pieces sautéing with green garlic, white wine and parsley. Toss into hot pasta creaming the dish with thrilling dollops of chevre folded in. Asparagus soup is as easy as sautéing baby onions and a few pieces of sliced up green garlic in olive oil and adding cut up asparagus. Sauté for a few minutes and add some white wine and chicken stock. Simmer a little bit and embellish with a few drops of half and half. Puree and garnish with several small spring peas sautéed with finely chopped mint creating astounding shades of greens found nowhere on a color wheel for a pivotal food moment. Eaten steamed out of the pot, with a crack of sea salt, a luscious squeeze of Meyer lemon and a glass of local sparkling wine is the epitome of early spring. We are indeed fortunate to reap the bounty of local Brentwood and Stockton asparagus. Mangia! This recipe is a favorite among the students when we cook on the quad!! Asparagus Quinoa w/ Green Garlic and Cremini Mushrooms 3 tablespoons olive oil 1 pound cooked quinoa 1 cup vegetable or chicken stock, heated 1 pound asparagus, sliced in ½ inch pieces 4 stalks of green garlic, cleaned and sliced 1 cups sliced cremini mushrooms 6 ounces of Reggiano parmesan cheese 3 tablespoons chopped parsley Kosher salt and freshly grated pepper Heat olive oil in a deep sauté pan. Add green garlic and sauté for about 3 minutes until it begins to caramelize. Add the mushrooms and asparagus and sauté for 3 to 4 more minutes. Add a cup of stock and let it come to a boil. Simmer for a few minutes until asparagus turns bright green. Add quinoa and heat through. Season w/ salt and pepper and toss in parsley. Garnish w/ shaved parmesan. Serves 4.

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