Sunday, March 29, 2009

Living by the seasons

"I have the best job in the world" he crooned in his deep Columbian voice, "because I am lucky enough to live and work according to the seasons". Even through the interpreter I could feel the passion in his voice. It gave me goosebumps then and still does when I think of his powerful speech at Terra Madre in Torino, Italy urging us to embrace simple living and take pride in our labors as farmers.

Today I thought of that wise Columbian farmer as I picked the first spear of asparagus and ate it straight from the garden in all its glory.  Have you ever enjoyed locally grown, organic asparagus in season?  It is crisp, tender and heavenly.  Fresh asparagus, straight out of the garden, is one of those vegetables that has utterly and completely spoiled me and has made it impossible to purchase a single stalk out of season.

Anticipation is such a reward of this life and our “get it now and get it whenever you want it” society has stolen the joy of anticipation. I hope you relish in the season of asparagus and learn to treat yourself to the anticipation of season to come.  Seasonal eating is a marvelous part of simple living, and a delicious way to support sustainable farming!  Eat local and eat in season!

Organic Cooking: Asparagus Basics
Steam or boil fresh spears vertically in an asparagus steamer or horizontally in a large fry pan (not a crowded saucepan) and serve hot, topped with melted butter and a squeeze of lemon juice, or cold, dressed with vinaigrette.

Asparagus is heavenly when coated with olive oil and roasted in the oven or grilled. Slender spears are good sautéed in a bit of olive oil or butter and tossed with pasta; stockier spears are great additions to soups and stews.

Look for firm stalks and tight, dry and often purple-tinged tips, avoiding those that are moist looking. The cut end should look freshly cut and not too dried out. If there is slight spreading at the top, the spears are still good. The length of the stalk should be all or mostly green. The white at the bottom should be discarded before cooking.

Cook asparagus as soon as possible after purchase. If you must store it, cut off an inch or so of the stalk at the base, set the bunch in a shallow pan of water and refrigerate for up to 4 days.

Roasted Asparagus with Lemon
2 lb. asparagus
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
Zest of 1 lemon
Celtic Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 organic lemon, cut into 8 wedges
Position a rack in the upper third of an oven and preheat to 450°F.

Snap off the tough stem ends from the asparagus spears and discard. Arrange the spears on a baking sheet.

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, garlic and lemon zest. Brush the asparagus evenly with the oil, turning the spears to coat well, and season generously with salt and pepper. Arrange the lemon wedges around the asparagus.

Bake until the asparagus is tender and just turning golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the asparagus to a warmed serving platter and drizzle with the pan juices. Serves 8.

Recipe via Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.

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