The asparagus (and swordfish, sugar snaps, fingerlings and strawberries) cure
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After a long, cruddy month of weekends spent in bed with the flu, I guess I went a little crazy when I finally got to the Long Beach farmers market Sunday.
As soon as I walked in, I noticed that, thankfully, Zuckerman’s Farm still had some of their jumbo asparagus. I almost went down on my knees in thanks. This is one of my favorite foods of the year, and I’d been depressed at the thought of a spring without it. On to fishmonger Pete Siracusa, who talked me into a couple of pounds of California swordfish. Neil Ims from Weiser Family Farms sold me on some Ozette fingerling potatoes. I found some crisp, sweet sugar snap peas at another stand and scoured the market to find the best strawberries (for some reason, most of them seemed a little blah … could be all the rain we’ve had recently).
The asparagus I prepared in my usual way –- steaming it until it’s completely tender, then dressing it just with good olive oil, some lemon zest and juice and a little sea salt. This time I added a twist, sprinkling the spears with toasted breadcrumbs just for a bit of crunch. If you haven’t tried these jumbo asparagus, please, you really need to. They’re as big around as my thumb, and when cooked, they have an intense flavor and an almost mousse-y texture. It really is one of my highlight dishes of the whole year. I always serve it as a first course by itself (well, with a bottle of Navarro Gewürztraminer, year in/year out, the perfect match), and four of us almost finished three big bunches.
The swordfish I sliced into four thin paillards, seasoned with salt, fennel seed, red and black pepper and some olive oil and then broiled. The potatoes were roasted, the sugar snaps briefly steamed and tossed in sizzling butter and shallot chives (the green tops of the plants from my garden). We ended with strawberries sugared and spooned over vanilla ice cream.
It’d take more than four weeks of flu to ruin my spring. What are the foods you love most at this time of year, and how do you prepare them?
-- Russ Parsons