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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Early Bird

I don't have an asparagus patch tucked into a corner of our downtown back forty. Because of that unfortunate void,  I have to hit the farmers market fairly early to snag a few bundles of fresh spring asparagus once it starts rolling in. Although fresh spring asparagus has gotten much more plentiful over the years, it still disappears quickly. Very quickly.  Last weekend, at the crack of not-enough-coffee, Michael and I stormed the market for the early bird special. We got lucky.

I typically roast asparagus. Not only is it easy, but it's a great way to subtly mask the slight woodiness of out-of-season asparagus. Most of my big time asparagus moments have involved large hard core events that require tons of out-of-season asparagus. Prepping and cooking thousands of  spears for hundreds and hundreds of people can be somewhat daunting. With a little forethought, well honed timing, and a frenzied two-step between ovens, roasting has always been my go-to method. Olive oil. Salt. Pepper. Roast. Call it a day. That said, freshly harvested spring asparagus is a game changer that doesn't need a heavy hand. It's best to let it speak for itself.

What grows together goes together.
A simple spring salad.

I guess I could have roasted, sauteed, or grilled the asparagus to add depth of flavor, but I wanted to keep it as simple and clean as possible. Using their natural breaking points, I snapped the ends off of a pound of gorgeous Lincoln County asparagus spears. After giving the ends a quick trim with a vegetable peeler, I tumbled the spears into heavily salted boiling water for 4 minutes, scooped them into a salted ice water bath to stop the cooking process, patted them dry with a dish towel, and slid the asparagus spears into the refrigerator to chill.

While the asparagus chilled, I threw together a very basic vinaigrette by whisking together 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon herbs de Provence, a pinch of red pepper flakes, salt, and cracked black pepper.

I tossed the asparagus spears with the vinaigrette and nestled prosciutto ribbons to the side along with tiny Casey County baby carrots. After scattering shaved Silas Farm breakfast radishes over the top, I finished with an additional vinaigrette drizzle, chardonnay smoked sea salt, and flash-fried Madison County mizuna.


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