Asparagus has arrived at the farmers’ markets here in Portland. In an attempt to work Asparagus into my upcoming “One-dish Grains and Beans” class I promptly overdid it. I made a warm salad of pearled barley, asparagus, feta, parsley and chives with a lemony vinaigrette.  Judging from my husband’s face as he ate I knew instantly that this was not going to be taught in class next weekend.

The mediocre Asparagus Barley Salad

It was fine, acceptable dinner fare, but it prompted a conversation with him and then on facebook about when to keep things simple. I am usually a big fan of simplicity and I think asparagus shines, with some exceptions, in simple preparations. So class will feature an asparagus risotto (which I consider one of the exceptions).

I clipped an asparagus recipe from the Oregonian’s FoodDay section years ago for braising asparagus with rosemary and bay leaves. I never would have thought to flavor asparagus with these herbs but it’s extraordinary and it falls squarely in the simple category. This is what I’m going to make with my second bunch of asparagus tonight.

Note: I have neither a rosemary bush nor a bay tree in my yard but both exist in great splendor on my block and both of these plants produce way more than a dozen families could consume. So, look around your neighborhood if you don’t have your own and see what you can find. And you’ll meet some new people in the process . . .

I can’t manage to find a link to that recipe so here goes:

Asparagus Braised with Fresh Rosemary and  Bay Leaves

16 plump spears fresh asparagus
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
several sprigs fresh rosemary
several bay leaves, preferably fresh

Rinse the asparagus and break off the tough ends. In a skillet large enough to hold the asparagus in a single layer, combine the  oil, asparagus, salt, rosemary sprigs and bay leaves. Sprinkle with several tablespoons of cold water. Cover. Cook over high heat just until oil and and water mixture begins to sizzle. Reduce the heat to medium and braise the asparagus, turning from time to time, just until the asparagus begins to brown in spots, 8-10 minutes (depending on the thickness of the asparagus). Serve immediately.

— From Vegetable Harvest by Patricia Wells

And speaking of the Oregonian, there’s an interesting article in FoodDay today about radical homemakers with profiles of some local folks. However radical (or not) you might be, the idea of cooking more at home and spending time with your family growing, procuring and making food, can be an awfully fun and certainly delicious way to spend time.

P.S. There is one spot left in my One-Dish Grains and Beans class on Sunday, April 25 so sign up if you’d like! And I promise there won’t be an barley with asparagus.

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