Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tender to the tip

The trees are filling out their winter nakedness with new green leaves creating a softness for the eye and soul. But these flourishing moments are not the only nascent growth of the season of renewal. The quintessential icon of the season, asparagus, this happily pushing their tight little tips skyward. These stalks are the new growth of a fern that if allowed to go unchecked will fan out in a preening peacocks display of leaf and desire.

For me, the pencil thin ones are best, and I single-mindedly turn over bundled pointy top clusters to ensure I do not take home any bulky stalks. I am also making sure that these immature ferns have been freshly harvested – the cut bottom should not look dried and scabbed over, and their tips should be tightly closed and not mushy, wet. If I need to store them for a few days I land them in a glass with a bit a water in the refrigerator until their time has come to celebrate their moment. Trimming asparagus takes on two different techniques. If they are the pencil-thin ones all you just have to line up the asparagus and lop off the bottoms about 1 inch from the base. If they are a thicker ones you want to gently snap them towards the base. I tend to snap a few to start with and then use those as a my guide to trim the remaining asparagus…Line them up at the tips for this and then cut off the base.

Blistered Asparagus - yields 6 servings
I adore asparagus so much that I fantasize of following Spring across the globe in order to continually capture one of her finest offerings. For this recipe it is best if you can get the young pencil-thin asparagus. The reason is two fold: they are less fibrous than their older brethren, and I think they have a more delicate flavor.

1-1/2 pound asparagus
1/4-cup olive oil
1/4-teaspoon salt - such as kosher or course sea salt
Freshly ground Black Pepper to taste
1 lemon – juiced (about 1/4 cup)
4 ounces goat cheese or Feta cheese - crumbled

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Trim the base of the asparagus and wash well cold running water. Pat the asparagus dry and then toss to coat with the oil. Lay the asparagus on a parchment paper lined baking tray in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper to taste. Roast in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes depending on thickness of the asparagus. The pencil thin asparagus need to cook those only five minutes. Transfer the asparagus to a serving platter and sprinkle with the crumbled goat cheese and drizzle with lemon juice. Serve warm or room temperature.

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