Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Inspiration



“I look for inspiration from the main ingredients, not the exact proportions or techniques.”
Alice Waters
(Chez Panisse, Berkeley)








Cooking is a lot like love. You can read about it. You can read about it and do something with that knowledge. With a little patience, you develop a level of comfort so that what happens in the kitchen comes naturally.

Perhaps because I never ate it as a child, I find asparagus to be subtly sensual. Even though preparing it is simple, it isn’t something I prepare for just anyone.
The best thing to do with asparagus is as little as possible. Think of these slender members of the lily family as young ladies- better wholesome than spoiled by too much attention or adornment.

This is an excellent way to learn to love asparagus and learn to feel your way through the kitchen.

Which asparagus to use - the freshest- this is a vegetable which does not age gracefully. The finer stems tend to be more tender. Thicker ones will need their sides pared or eathing them can be like biting into a tree trunk. Look for spears with tightly braided tops.

If you can’t cook as soon as you and the stalks are in the kitchen- an inch of water holding a bunch like flowers in the vase is the most satisfactory way to hold them overnight in the refrigerator. Not in the coldest compartment- you don't want the water to freeze.

When ready to cook- heat a good grade of extra virgin olive oil- just enough to cover the bottom of a largish frying pan.
Snap the bottoms off the stalks to rid of the woody bottoms. Roll the spears, a single layer at a time, gently rolling the stalks over, until their color starts to turndown a notch. Sprinkle with salt.
Now is time to make them sweat a little. You do this by splashing the pan with just enough chicken broth or white wine to make steam rise. When the spears are just beginning to wilt when lifted- quickly toss in a handful of pine nuts. One minute more or less over the fire- and you are done.
Taste the wholesomeness of such simply prepared asparagus. You can guild her with sauces or grated this and that. But for my money- she won’t be any more delicious.
Asparagus can be tricky to mate successfully with a wine. To create a complementary couple- try serving with a California Gewürztraminer.

To your health- Salud!

Photograph by Gene Sasse. Used with permission. http://www.genesasse.com/

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lydia,
Asparagus is something I have been cooking nearly every night for a week. I found a great deal at Staters for just .99lb. When you find a deal like that you buy a bunch!! I just keep them wrapped in their plastic bag and put in the veggie drawer of the frig. I have cooked them various ways lately. Tonight I stuck them in boiling salted water with a tad of sugar. After a few minutes I strained out the water and tossed in some butter and some garlic from a jar and of course some seasoned salt and pepper. Yummy and fast and easy! Earlier this week I sauteed them in olive oil then added the butter and garlic. Never thought to pour in wine or broth. With asparagus, all ways are good! I have always heard about asparagus with hollandaise sauce! Never made that but I'll bet it's yummy! It's pretty high in calories so maybe that's why I never tried it! :) However, every morning on a cruise ship I order eggs benedict!! Who counts calories on a cruise?
Good one Lydia!
XOX Trisha

Lydia said...

Good morning Trisha-

Sometime you feel particularly decadent- eggs benedict WITH asparagus.

This is almost always a brunch offering. So grapefruit juice instead of wine.

Anonymous said...

When I was in San Gabriel this last trip I found some white asparagus at Ralph's. OMG. It's firmer and just soooo good! I cooked it in a frying pan with a tad of water and salt and pepper. Didn't cook it long, just enough to slightly soften. The kids LOVED it too. Try it when you can find it. I'm with you, L, I like to cook mine al denté in olive oil too. Homegrown, and I have several plants, never makes it to the kitchen. I eat it raw in the garden. Mmmmmm...... so tender and flavorful.
xo Oregon Sue

Lydia said...

Good morning, Sue! The next time I run across the white asparagus- I am going to treat my husband to some. The local grocery stores are limited in selection- but "in the big city" (aka Pasadena or Newport Beach) Bristol Farms- I've seen them there. And probably Gelsons.
Maybe an olive tapenade on ciabatta toast for a light springtime lunch break.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

I very much enjoy using Asparagus in an Omelet or sometimes just in a sort of scrambled egg mixture with some other goodies, like Avacado, Cheese and Asparagus.....I use a non-stick pan with nothing on it and I don't use salt---figuring there is enough salt in the cheese, for me....lol! It is quite yummy to me.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

It is interesting that you mentioned Alicia Keys....I did not recogbnize her...She has done something to herself---I don't know what---BUT, she looks nothing like she did, say---a year ago...! And for me---It Is Totally Disconcerting! She is a very young woman! I was talking to a friend in New York today who happens to know Alicia Keys' mother, but doesn't want to ask her...But she noticed that she looks very very different, too.
I thought it was a very very GOOD Show, generally speaking. I love The Oscars....it has such a special thing to it for me.
I thought most evryone looked quite amazing....Meryl Streep, as you said...Elegant.

Lydia said...

Hi, Naomi (aka Old Lady of the Hills)! For anyone who doesn't make the connection- she is the legendary blogger who captures the most wonderful wildlife shots and is a Hollywood Insider of the classic most wonderful kind. Her blog is a must read for me.
Much of the difference is in the hair. I commented about how much I enjoyed the Oscars this year- and how mesmerizing Alicia Keys looked. The eye make up gave her an almost oriental mystery. And the dress was the most feminine color.