Guilty, as charged
April 28, 2011By Kim Dannies
I confess. I’m a stalker. There is simply no defense for my obsession with the magnificent vegetable, asparagus. When those spring stalks land in my kitchen crosshairs, I cook them into every conceivable dish until even my piggy pugs refuse them.
The simple-sublime way to enjoy asparagus is to start with a big bunch of fat-fingered stalks. Asparagus preparation is easy: simply remove the bottom stems by snapping the bases. If the stalks feel a bit tough, peel them gently. Toss the spears in a little olive oil. Fire up the grill and roast the asparagus until they blister and glisten, about 5 minutes. Asparagus is cook-friendly: you can roast it, steam it, sauté it, or zap it in the micro with fine results.
I like to serve a big batch of asparagus on a platter sprinkled with sea salt and fresh pepper. If I have an orange, I’ll grate a bit of the zest and then squeeze the juice over the spears. Finely chopped hard-boiled egg looks great, too. There is no better accompaniment to grilled asparagus than a spicy herb aioli. Chop 6 to 8 garlic cloves and a bunch of mint leaves in a mini-processor. Add 2 cups of mayonnaise. Season to taste with hot sauce and salt. Blend well. This dish alone will keep me on my best behavior — at least until strawberry-stalker season begins.
Orecchiette Spring Fling
Boil water to cook a pound of Orecchiette pasta. Chop a large onion. Heat a large pan. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté the onions 15 minutes; stir often. Prep and cut 2 pounds of asparagus stalks into thirds. Add to the sauté along with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 3 chopped garlic cloves. Sauté for 5 minutes more, stirring often.
Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta water to the sauté pan along with a 1 cup of ricotta or crème fraiche. Stir well. Fold in pasta. Blend well, season to taste. Cover and heat for 5 minutes. To serve, top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh chives. Serves 4.
Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three college-aged daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.