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?

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