Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Bliss of Asparagus and Strawberries

This picture pretty much says it all, doesn't it?  I mean, if you arrive home with these two bunches of delectable beauty and you ain't happy - you ain't capable of happy!  We've been on the usual asparagus binge now for a few weeks. We've thrown 'em in a little salted water for just a minute, dropped on a few pats of butter and feasted; we've made a few asparagus, cheese custard tarts; we've thrown some on the grill for just a minute and bathed them in extra virgin olive oil and a drop or two of balsamico - you get the idea.  We've also been slightly blanching and freezing a few bags too.  I found that, depending on which local farmer I purchased the asparagus from, the bottom of the stalks would be really thick, so instead of tossing these, I collected them and started a freezer bag of them - I am thinking asparagus stock!

And oh, those strawberries!  They are a bit early here this year.  And they have been fabulous, and juicy, and just sweet enough.  They also seem to be in great volume at our Farmers Markets - well I say, keep 'em coming growers, just as long as you can!  We have made a number of batches of rhubarb and strawberry compote.  It's simple, freezes well, and is heavenly by itself, over ice cream, or over shortcake - which I have always found to be an excellent excuse for home made whipped cream - as in, "well, we have shortcake!".  Letting hulled chopped strawberries sit overnight in sugar and balsamic vinegar is an experience everyone needs to have.  I have converted many.  Trust me, it's absolutely heavenly.  A whole new flavor sensation.  I made a Digestivo with strawberries about a week ago.  This is easy with almost any berries and vodka (there's a recipe on the Blog from last year for a mixed berry version). This time I used only strawberries crushed up a bit, a couple of tablespoons of sugar, and two cups of "white whiskey" - the newest craze - which I find to be a little grappa like in taste. I stored it in the refrigerator in a jar for a week, shaking it when I saw it and thought of it. I strained into a container and kept it cold. It worked beautifully on it's own in a little glass as an after dinner drink and we also tried it with a shot of Cointreau and a splash of seltzer - a lovely Appertivo, it really got those taste buds going. Of course, I had to make some strawberry ice cream - my neighbor, friend and fellow ice cream lover said it was my best ice cream ever!  I'm just sayin' . . .it's product!   Lastly, I have to include one of my favorite ways to eat these gorgeous berries:  whole, dipped ever so slightly in a tiny bit of superfine sugar, popped in the mouth and washed down with a swallow of a nice Prosecco.  This Italian bubbly is not as sweet as many champagnes and is a perfect compliment to the berries as well as being reasonably priced and widely available.

Needless to say, we only eat asparagus and strawberries that are grown in our growing region - so we only have one time of year to enjoy them fresh and this is that time.  The asparagus and strawberries we freeze will get all sorts of use over the winter months.  There is truly nothing like opening a bag of really fresh frozen local berries - that you froze when they were perfect - in the dead of winter and making yourself a pie or some shortcakes or just spreading them on toast.  It's affirming and uplifting. I am also already thinking that the asparagus stock will be a nice base for a creamy soup with asparagus and maybe mushrooms and garlic croutons when the weather starts to chill.

But right now!  Right now is pure Bliss!!

What have you been doing with the early bounty of the growing season?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Plantings are In! Amazing Poached Scrambled Eggs

A Salad From "Out Back"
It's an exciting time of year for all gardeners - especially those of us who like to think of ourselves as urban farmers!  This is actually my first year methodically researching, planning, and planting a LOT of edibles.  It has been a lot of work and a good deal of research and bugging friends with endless questions and agonizing over making selections. As of this week, almost all of the planting in our plots and planters has been completed.  We will be spreading some of our fabulous, rich mulch around (the first use of the output of our composter!) in a few days.  Now it is time to hope that the weather, the soil, potential hazards (bugs, etc.), and a ton of other variables cooperate and those little seedlings and heads of green popping up through the dirt will become wonderful things. This years plantings include:  multiple varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini,  two kinds of eggplants, too many kinds of peppers to list - hot and sweet, little and big - kale, Swiss chard, mustard greens, and potatoes. We have been feasting on spinach, arugula, early potatoes, and assorted lettuces for awhile now.  Our herb garden is chock full of onion and garlic chives and multiple basil plants, marjoram, French sorrel, common sorrel, thyme, sage, a couple kinds of oregano, par-cel, and flat leaf Italian parsley.  Whew! Looking at all of that is giving me just a tad of anxiety, I must admit.  It is my intention to keep a running dialogue going here as to how this is all going in our little city garden.  And of course, as things get more identifiable, I hope to be posting some good pictures.  Lastly, I will keep sharing seasonal recipes, and other amazing new find recipes that I have to share.  This following recipe is just amazing, not necessarily seasonal.

Recipe:  Daniel Patterson's Poached Scrambled Eggs

This recipe?  It's a game changer - at least for me it is.  We love eggs.  We are lucky to have a number of sources for fresh, local eggs from pasture raised chickens.  We easily go though a dozen eggs a week, so a new recipe or a new method for much loved preparations always gets my eye.  This recipe is amazing!  If you love scrambled eggs, you will be blown over!  I have made these scrambled eggs three times so far in the week that I have known about the technique.  It's a very forgiving technique, so don't get hung up, you can do it! The fluffiest scrambled eggs you will ever have!  Really!

Serves 2

4 large eggs
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (optional)
Sea Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Use FRESH eggs.  If your eggs are old - if they came from the supermarket and their age is suspect, the creator of this technique recommends cracking each egg into a medium mesh sieve to let the thin white drain away.  Fresh eggs don't need this step; I haven't used it.

Beat your eggs vigorously with a fork or whisk for 20 seconds.

Set a medium sauce pan filled nearly to the top with water over medium heat.  Put a strainer in the sink.  When the water is at a low boil, add a few large pinches of salt, then stir the water in a clockwise direction to create a whirlpool.  Pour your beaten eggs into the moving whirlpool.  Cover the pot and count to 20.

Turn off the heat and uncover the pot.  The eggs should be floating on the surface of the water in ribbons. While holding back the eggs with a spoon pour off most of the water over the strainer. Gently slide the the eggs into the strainer and press them lightly to expel any excess liquid.  Tilt your strainer from side to side to release any trapped water.  You can put the eggs on a paper towel if you really want to insure all liquid is gone.  I haven't done that - the strainer and tilting it seems to be enough.

Scoop the eggs into serving bowls and drizzle each with the extra virgin olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  I have been adding chopped chives - because I have them, and I love the flavor they add.

The possibilities are endless - the flavor and consistency of the eggs is absolutely delicious and wonderful, and once you do it, you have the technique and you'll get more efficient with it.

Try it!