19 May 2009

When is asparagus season over?

This is what Seth is asking now. I told him that soon it will disappear from the markets and we won't see it again for a year. That should give him plenty of time to forget the platefuls I've served this month. However, I've got about a pound of it still sitting in the fridge, though, so, honey, it ain't over yet.

Thank you to everyone who gave me feedback on the changes to the blog last week. I'm still tinkering to find the right mix of a quick-hit post as well as enough explanation so that you can make it yourself. This is hard for me. Seriously. Often, I would rather look at a picture of a dish and then just try to recreate it on a whim. But I am trying very hard to remember my brain may be the one out of alignment here. I'll try to offer up a few tips and steps, but they may not always amount to a full recipe. If you have questions, you're more than welcome to ask. I'll respond to comments, emails, Facebook or even the old telephone.

Back to asparagus. Again. This weekend we went to a potluck at my cousin's farm where he divided sidedish and dessert duties by the first letter of your last name. A-M got a side, and N-Z were assigned a dessert. P for Prince would mean dessert. M for McFall would mean a side. I fell to the sweet side and decided to make a flourless chocolate cake since the hostess is a gluten-free gal. In a bit of a hurry, I wasn't a slave to the recipe, and that's where it went awry. Needless to say, the cake was in no shape for a potluck table. Even if I pulled a McFall and asked "Who in the hell brought the uncooked chocolate mess?"

So, I pulled another McFall and decided to think quick, pretending that my mistake was planned all along -- it was all a ploy to get back to asparagus. I do have two last names, and it would be easy to claim the M. We hit up the farmer's market where I bought two huge bundles for my dish. I trimmed the ends and, working in batches, gave them a few quick tosses in a hot skillet with olive oil and salt. Then I transferred them to a sheet tray to cool while I worked on the next batch. The total cooking time was no more than 10 minutes for the entire batch (only about two minutes a batch). When I was done with the asparagus, I toasted a handful of pine nuts in the same skillet. The results were delicious, salty, still crispy spears. When I went to pick up my tray at the end of the evening there were only a couple of lonely spears and scattered nuts. I guess not everyone is sick of asparagus just yet.

Tip: Asparagus will keep longer if you give it a little drink. The bundled spears will stay upright if you keep the rubber band on. You can use just about any dish, but I like to use old yogurt containers. Just put about an inch of water in the bottom and add the asparagus. You'll probably want to change the water in a day or two if you haven't used them by then.

How to buy: Look for bright green bundles that are firm and not limp. The tips should be closed tightly. The size of asparagus does not matter greatly, but the smaller are more tender. If you plan on grilling, the larger ones are great.

Season: Now! Asparagus is a spring crop. If you're buying it in any other season it's probably not from this country. If you want it out of season, look for frozen. The canned variety does no justice to this vegetable.

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