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Posts Tagged ‘asparagus’

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The only real spring product in this dinner was the asparagus, but it was, at long last, local.  This has been such a long winter that any sign of spring has been welcomed with enthusiasm.  Very slowly, spring omens have appeared – first thin stalks of asparagus, just the past week ramps have shown their bright green leaves at the farmers market, but I think that they are being picked far too young as you barely see the white stalks as they are so thin and not scallion-like or bulbed at all.
I sautéed the asparagus with some parmacotto ham that I had leftover from a little pre-wedding cocktail gathering we had for friends.  I seasoned it with a touch of sherry vinegar and that was it.  The sweet potatoes were the last touch of winter and the chicken breast is my year-round go-to for a quick dinner.

 

first-spring-dinner-806

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A few days ago we were in upstate New York spending a couple of days with our wonderful friends, Bee and Doug.  I was on dinner duty with 3 packs of frozen scallops and whatever I could fend from our not insignificant pantry.  I wasn’t too sure about the scallops – although I’m sure most of what we buy in our fancy neighborhood fish store have probably been frozen and thawed – but as it turned out they were quite delicious.  But, that’s not the story.

The weather was not really very spring-like – in fact, big flakes of snow filled the air off and on all day – but Mother Nature had begun her work a few weeks ago when the temperatures hit the 80s – a rarity in summer in the country – and the countryside was rife with daffodils, grape hyacinths, some tulips, wild strawberries spreading in the grass with their delicate little white flowers peeking up—- and the window boxes, although moved inside, had verdant bunches of basil, sage, thyme, and parsley – no rosemary – that was in the winter-over corner where it has managed to survive through 3 winters.

Bee took our man’s best friend, Lena Mae, out for her constitutional and came back with a handful of sweet wild purple and yellow violets and 2 stalks of asparagus (the only 2 big enough to pick).  So, I cooked up those scallops – dusted them with Wondra flour and salt and pepper and gave them a fast and furious sear in clarified butter – layered them on some couscous cooked in lemon/sage scented broth, drizzled the lot with a tangy lemon vinaigrette and garnished the plate with slivered raw asparagus and those little violets.  Added a side of sautéed julienne of carrots and snow peas and Viola an easy and spring-like dinner was on the table in minutes.

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Well, just as we all expected, New York went straight to summer from our long, miserable winter.  No spring to speak of – just rain and cool days – enough warmth to bring May flowers but not much else.  Returning from San Francisco last week we walked off of the plane to 95º and steaming sidewalks.  So, we immediately took to the country where we are usually guaranteed weather at least 10 degrees cooler.  And, of course, it was just as hot there but that meant we could leave the kitchen and get the grill going.

Since the soft shells didn’t know that it was already summer, they were still on the spring menu.  Lynn, my buddy, had ordered up a mess of them and managed to pick enough asparagus before it bolted in the heat.  What a feast we had – soft shells, asparagus and green garlic, and fingerling potatoes – all off the grill.  We finished with some Pierre Robert and La Roche cheese that I had picked up at Zabar’s and a handful of the first strawberries of the year.

You can find hints for grilling soft shells in a June 2010 post.  For the asparagus and garlic, I simply tossed them with olive oil, fresh lemon zest, and salt and pepper.  The potatoes were par-boiled and then doused with evo and cracked black pepper.  So simple and sooooo good!

 

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