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21 April 2008


asparagus for sale

Finally. Finally.

The other morning, when the Chef and I were driving to work, we stared out at the window at the prickles of snowflakes hitting the ground. We looked at each other in confusion. And then we laughed.

There’s no explaining this fickle, freezing spring. These past few weeks have been like a small tired child, changing his mood every few minutes. He’s tired, and he just doesn’t know what to do. And so, it hails, and then snows, and then the sun breaks through the clouds with one of those smiles that make you stop moving and just breathe it in. And then the grey clouds lower, and in the distance, black rain moves over the hills and starts falling on the neighborhood next to this one. From what I have heard, Seattle has not seen this kind of weather — and especially this cold — since the 1920s. Winter, we really want to be done with you. Why don’t you just surrender and lie down for a nap?

Before we left the house, we had been watching that week’s episode of Jamie Oliver’s show. For more than twenty minutes, we sat and watched that ebullient man grow even more joyful for sitting outside in a summer garden. Enormous lavender plants, paths of thyme and oregano, and solid sunlight shining down — oh my, the world really does look like that sometime. Little Bean kicked and kicked (you won’t believe this, but LB really does kick during his show, every single week), and we beamed, thinking of what is coming this summer. And all show long, the lovely man made lovely concoctions with asparagus. Oh, we sighed together. Maybe someday asparagus will show up here.

That afternoon, as I walked into the grocery store where I was making a public appearance for the book, the Chef called me. “Guess what I have?” he taunted me.
“Locally grown asparagus.”
“Oh thank goodness. We can finally eat it.”
And when I hung up the phone, and walked through the produce section, I spotted some. Stalks of green, bunched together with purple bands, their woody ends resting in an inch of water. Almost as far as my eye could see — asparagus.

The snow flurries outside no longer bothered me. Spring is here, dammit. Asparagus has arrived.

The Chef and I, we’re a little stubborn. California asparagus has been in the store for weeks. If we lived in California, we would have celebrated weeks ago (and probably have tans instead of pasty white skin). We both happen to think that asparagus grown east of the mountains in Washington tastes better than that grown in California. At least it does here. Eating asparagus that has been picked only a day or two before? Its bright green taste, the fibrous texture, the way the tips are tender and the stalks need a fork and knife to cut right through — these are best when the asparagus has only recently left the earth.

It’s here! It’s here.

Later that afternoon, I stopped by the Chef’s restaurant to say hello. He swooped a plate down before me: crispy seared halibut with soft white meat inside, lying on a bed of roasted asparagus. Drizzled on top of it all a thick balsamic reduction sauce in Jackson Pollock spatterings. Need I say how good it tasted?

Oh, but I’m not focusing on that meal, as much as it lingered. I’m just excited about every possible way I can eat asparagus for the next two months, now that it is here.

(Of course, asparagus has not shown up yet in the farmers’ markets. Snow keeps the farmers’ away. But soon, oh soon, I’ll see what I saw in this photo I took last year — stalks and stalks of asparagus in a white plastic tub. And since I waited until the end of the day to take a photograph of the bunch we have sitting in our kitchen, I was thwarted by the dreary rain clouds again. So let this photo be something to dream by, for all of us.)

What will you be doing with your asparagus soon?


At 12:17 AM, OpenID swankette said...

I could eat asparagus for breakfast, lunch, dinner and between-meal snacks while it is in season.

Usually all I do is snap off the ends, drizzle a little olive oil over the top, a wee bit of salt, a health dose of fresh cracked pepper and pop them into a 400 degree oven for just a few minutes.


At 5:09 AM, Blogger sweetpea said...

I don't have the same self restraint and succumb to what ever is organic and in the store right now. This winter has been too unforgiving for me to wait for locally grown asparagus! It has been too unforgiving to wait for fresh sweet peas. I am just crazed these days for fresh, in season locally grown produce but everything is so hard to come by with the late spring. I made a fresh asparagus soup with coconut milk, mint and a dollop of lime creme fraiche a few weeks ago that was wonderful. I posted the recipe on my new blog. I love asparagus grilled, or roasted topped with thick slabs of parm and drizzles of balsamic, or simply steamed tender crisp with nothing else to compete with the simplicity of the woody spear.

At 5:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Shauna,

I know this isn't anything new but we love our fresh asparagus just roasted on high sprinkled with olive oil and sea salt and cracked pepper. We eat it right off the pan from the oven. My two daughters actually love it too.

At 6:34 AM, Blogger Il Fornaio said...

Oooh... we just made the potato asparagus tart from this week's episode of Jamie at Home. It was fantastic. But I, too, can't wait until asparagus is in abundance (not just the small bunch I managed to grab at the union square farmer's market this week). Roasted with a squeeze of lemon or splash of balsamic, in risotto, under fish, sauteed with spinach and edamame for a greens powerhouse... mmm. I'm getting excited now too!

At 6:43 AM, Anonymous Debbie said...

Simple is our favorite of all - roasted with a pinch of kosher salt & drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.......could eat it every night - and we often do!

At 6:46 AM, Anonymous Sally said...

I was delighted to find such beautiful asparagus in the market yesterday afternoon; I was overjoyed when my little girl took the plate with the largest portion of roasted asparagus!

Thank you for the delicious photos and words of inspiration.

At 7:08 AM, Anonymous Tori said...

Portland saw it's first asparagus a few weeks ago, I paired it with the tiny artichokes I bought from a woman who harvested them the night before about 75 miles from here. Those two vegetables went perfectly together with leeks and aborio rice for a creamy Risotto Primavera. The secret? Add the leek tips, woody asparagus ends, and artichoke trimmings to the stock and cook for 20 minutes before starting the risotto. Flash cooking the asparagus and artichokes first until barely tender, then folding them into the nearly finished dish to keep them from turning to mush really helped too.

A small amount of lemon zest, fresh mint and parsley chopped fine and sprinkled o'er made everything sing.

At 7:09 AM, Blogger Gluten free Kay said...

Homegrown asparagus season has arrived in Indianapolis! I have picked three asparagus spears from my garden! More will come.

When I am inundated, I will pickle some. I use a dill pickle brine recipe, any will do. Frozen asparagus and home-canned asparagus get mushy. But the pickled ones stay crisp. I keep jars of them in the garage refrigerator and use them all year long.

Of course, they are delightful in an anitpasta. I arrange them with other vegetables I've brined - carrots, tiny onions, beans, peppers, green cherry tomatoes, baby zucchini.

My favorite way to eat them is in a big Greek salad. I use them instead of artichokes. They are a little salty and a little tangy and just right! I make my dressing (a vinaigrette with lots of oregano) the day before and let the pickled asparagus marinate in it overnight. Oh, I can taste it now!

I posted a photo of my first asparagus spear on my NEW BLOG! And I thanked you for coaxing me along to better health and a positive attitude. You've been a great help! I hope to be able to participate in GF blogger events soon.

Please visit me at:

At 7:21 AM, Blogger Rachael said...

Yesterday, The Ombudsman and I were lazing on the beach, (did you say it is snowing there? Oy!) eating local strawberries, and wondering what local and seasonal really means these days. We were in Ventura, a mile or so from where the berries had been picked but wondered, are they really seasonal? (We were near Oxnard, where most strawberries come from these days) The farmers plant at least six varieties every year, so that something is always being picked. So is that local and in season? Confuses me.
I guess it just depends on where you live.

At 7:46 AM, Blogger Cicero Sings said...

We are going to plant asparagus as soon as the snow leaves us and we can buy some roots!

We will eat it lightly steamed with "browned butter" drizzled on top.

At 8:15 AM, Blogger Lora said...

Since I'm in southern CA, I've been eating asparagus for a few weeks, including last night. I used a recipe from Giada deLaurentiis. Heat some olive oil and then add a sliced shallot and chopped garlic. Once that is warmed up, add 8oz quartered crimini mushrooms and sautee until a deep brown. Add 1# asparagus that's been cut into roughly 2" pieces and a bag of thawed artichoke hearts (I don't know how much I used but it was a LOT...I have an ongoing love affair with the choke). Heat through and then toss with a dressing made of olive oil, white wine vinegar, fresh tarragon and salt and pepper. Should serve 4 but at my house, this was for 2. I will be making this again very soon...the dressing is what totally brought the flavors alive!

At 8:17 AM, Anonymous Ishkadebble said...

Sauteed with mushrooms, scallions, and cilantro.

Then finish:

Butter/olive oil/black pepper/grey sea salt
toasted sesame oil, a splash of tamari, sprinkling of gomasio

Also lovely grilled after marination in olive oil and balsamic, or OO and lemon zest

steam lightly, dip into toasted sesame oil or lemon butter

At 8:20 AM, Anonymous La Niña said...

Oh, I aspire to eat grass... We love asparagus on the grill with olive oil, a little butter, salt and pepper... but really the best way is to wait a week or two when the spring MORELS come in, and have asparagus sautéed with morels and shallots. It's even better with some ika (squid) sautéed, too.

And then there is the "after-effect" of eating asparagus... Just a funny little reminder of what you ate before.

At 9:17 AM, Blogger ninaluna99 said...

Guess what I coincidentally made last night with your savory black beans?! (Yum, btw.) Asparagus! with olive oil, Pepperman pepper, 400 degree oven until eye-popping green - sometimes I sprinkle a little parmesan if I'm feeling fancy.

Thank you!

At 9:31 AM, Blogger Sasha said...

The best asparagus dish I've ever eaten was at a restaurant called Castagne in Portland, OR. The asparagus had been roasted, I think, and was topped with morels sauteed in something delicious with white wine, and a poached egg with a very soft yolk that got all over everything. I would eat that dish every day of spring if I could.

At 9:34 AM, Blogger Roux said...

Cream of asparagus soup, modeled after my favorite French bistro. Oh yes, I can just taste it now. And like you, my Gluten Free Goddess, I prefer the tender stalks that come from the Yakima Valley and Walla Walla regions.

At 11:29 AM, Anonymous FatB said...

That is one of the nice things about living here in Cali, all the asparagus you want. Just roasted it last night.

But the beauty of the first asparagus of the year is that your not ready when you take a piss the next day. You think you might have some serious disorder until you figure it out ;)

At 11:58 AM, Anonymous lsparcl said...

Yes, we've had asparagus in the farmer's markets for a month or so here in Northern California -- but we've also had lots of chilly weather, so we're a bit behind on our suntans....

We've been enjoying asparagus roasted , baked with eggs and parmesan then drizzled with balsamic vinegar, in soups, and stir-fried with chicken and black beans.

At 12:32 PM, Blogger Carrie said...

We made, just last night, the 'Spring Minestrone' from "Super Natural Cooking". Locally, our sugar snap peas are in season!

At 12:50 PM, Anonymous AngAK said...

Asparagus is actually fabulous eaten raw with a dip. I first tasted this at a fancy oil company function where the veggie trays were laden with lovely fat spears of raw asparagus. It took some courage to try them raw, but I'm ever so glad I did. So sweet and fresh. (if this posts twice, sorry)

At 12:55 PM, Blogger melissa said...

You know you're a true asparagus lover when you go to the bathroom afterwards, smell that distinctive smell, and instead of wincing, you think, "mmh, that asparagus was good." I eat it often enough in season that I hardly notice it.

Although my husband loves it sliced and sauteed in butter and soy sauce, I too prefer it roasted with just a little olive oil, pepper and sea salt.

At 1:16 PM, Blogger Kate said...

Roasted asparagus with sea salt, pepper and a great balsamic-mustard dressing that we make.

It's best when roasted over the fire or grill.


At 1:48 PM, Anonymous lisawhip said...

I just love how you know it's spring in Seattle when everyone's pee starts to smell funny from the asparagus.

At 1:50 PM, Blogger GREEN KEY said...

On the weekend of April 5th and 6th I photographed, painted, wrote up a soup recipe and a sonnet (!) for my blog - all inspired by a beautiful bunch of asparagus!
Shauna, I love your blog!

At 1:50 PM, Anonymous courtney said...

Definantely roasting or stir frying. I don't like steamed asparagus. I think I might roast some and have it with a poached egg on top. Hmm, might have to do that for lunch since I don't think my husband would care too much for it (plus that just means more for me).

At 2:41 PM, Anonymous Karen in Northern CA said...

My cravings have leaned towards artichokes this spring. On some days I eat more than one!!!

The best way is to cut it in half and steam it in my bamboo steamer, then to dip the leaves and heart in Sequoia Canyon Parmesan Peppercorn spice mix (from Savory Spice Shop in Denver) mixed with Meyer Lemon olive oil and some sea salt.

I fully expect to use this same spice on my asparagus when the craving for this hits me!

Here's the ingredients:
This blend contains parmesan cheese, medium cracked black pepper, parsley, minced garlic, sugar, Mediterranean thyme, Greek oregano and California basil.

At 4:29 PM, Blogger Allison the Meep said...

I really don't have a recipe to share, besides the fact that I just like to roast my asparagus with some olive oil and salt in the oven. But I would like to comment that asparagus pee is the funniest thing EVER.

At 5:36 PM, Blogger Ellie said...

I live in SF, and yup, we've had asparagus for weeks, but (aside from one very hot weekend), little sun. I'm pretty pale!

I like good asparagus raw - the slender kind - maybe dipped in hummus or yogurt dip. Or just plain.

At 7:19 PM, Anonymous Gluten Free Gastronaut said...

I like to make a shrimp and asparagus risotto with lemon... but your fish sounds amazing.

At 7:41 PM, Anonymous Laura said...

I found asparagus at the farmers' market in Issaquah last Saturday and I can't tell you how excited I was! I took it home and roasted it with olive oil and salt and pepper, then I sat down and ate about a pound, all by itself, for lunch. Mmmmmmm!

At 7:50 PM, Blogger Nick said...

I picked up some locally grown asparagus over here the other day. It was only $0.99 per lb, what a deal! My favorite thing to do with asparagus:

Pour 1t olive oil in one hand and take 1/2 lb asparagus in the other and rub it all over. Then pick up the other 1/2 lb and rub the rest of the oil from your hands onto it. Place on a baking sheet and generously sprinkle salt on top. Bake at 400 degrees 15-20. Comes out perfect every time!

- The Peanut Butter Boy

At 8:12 PM, Blogger Zoomie said...

Don't forget the Hollandaise sauce - another great way to enjoy asparagus is under Hollandaise sauce! Buttery, lemony, rich and beautiful in counterpoint to those lovely green spears! Top them with a poached egg and drizzle with Hollandaise. Oh, yeah!

At 8:36 PM, Anonymous Sho said...

Wouldn't a crustless asparagus quiche be devine?

At 8:45 PM, Blogger Heather said...

Thank you so much for sticking to your "guns" and supporting Washington state farmers. My father is a eastern Washington farmer who's livelyhood and farm relies on the sales of his asparagus. Major Kudos to respect for you and Chef has just doubled in my book!

At 3:54 AM, Blogger d said...

I like to blanch it very lightly, 30 seconds to a minute and then refrigerate it till it is really cold! Nibbled like candy with maybe a dip in mayonaise or mustard. Yum!

At 4:05 AM, Blogger Argy said...

What I did last night with my first fresh asparagus was this salad:

steamed fresh peas and fresh broad beans

roasted the asparagus with a dash of olive oil

then...half an avocado in the blender with olive oil, lemon and lime juice, fresh garlic, and a handfull of leaves from my lemon verbena made for a very interesting dressing

the peas and beans on the bottom, the asparagus on top, the dressing all over

freshly grounded pink pepper...just cos i felt for some other colour than all these gorgeous shades of green


(Im cooking without measuring im afraid :( )

At 6:37 AM, Blogger Geekgrl64 said...

Love, love, love asparagus! I live in the south, so we actually have some here already in the stores. I found some nice bunches the other day. One bunch has been blanched and eaten with simply salt and not much of it at that. I think I will roast the other.

Love all your recipes, etc!

At 9:44 AM, Blogger dc365 said...

I like mine lightly steamed, and topped with a poached egg and just a touch of parmesan, salt and pepper. The poached egg yolk melts the parmesan and you get this amazingly rich and incredibly simple sauce all over those little green stalks of spring.

At 10:21 AM, Blogger Christine said...

Boiled or steamed til tender, cut into two inch sticks, stir fried for a minute in some olive oil with plenty of ground pepper and salt, and then simply pour some beaten eggs over it for a quick and easy frittata. YUM.

At 11:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do asparagus simply like most people here - drizzle of olive oil, lemon juice, and maybe some diced garlic and then pop it on the BBQ for 3 minutes!

At 1:21 PM, Anonymous Stephanie said...

I admit mine's not local, though a few have shot up in my garden and I can't wait to eat them! BUT:
Last night, I made potato-starch crepes and filled them with sauteed shitakes, asparagus and ramps + some gruyere.
Tonight, I'll make a frittata with probably the same ingredients plus some beet greens or collards that I have waiting for me.
When it's time to use the grill, I soak it in salt water, then rub it in OO and sprinkle a little kosher salt on top. The soaking in salt water seems to keep the inside a little crisp & salty but let us cook the outside to blacken a little.

At 1:50 PM, Anonymous Robin said...

I have been waiting to make an Asparagus Soup that I love. It's a recipe from my local Natural Foods purveyor, I've made a few changes, like drizzling truffle oil on top and sprinkling with red sea salt or smoked sea salt, but check out the recipe here:
I usually make it with the spinach and I love the added texture from ground almonds!

And Shauna, fyi- the Boston Globe had a feature articel about glutenfree/celiac on the front of the Food Section today entitled "Diary of a celiac"

At 2:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

mmm... I'm making asparagas tonite. I saute in olive oil for a few mins. on its own, then add a just as much halved strawberry tomatoes. When it's just about perfect, I add tons and tons of minced garlic, just for the last 2 minutes or so of cooking. Usually I mix it up with a pound of cooked GF pasta (hot) and serve it with plenty of freshly grated romano. Num. Loooooove asparagas....


At 5:52 PM, Blogger Debbie said...

I think I will try roasting it.

At 4:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shauna, we bought asparagus yesterday, it wasn't local, too early here in upstate NY. But after reading your blog post about it my 11 year old Daughter (who eats nothing) was inspired to try it! She really enjoyed it and even said, "I have learned to like a new food!" Thank you for making it seem appetizing to her. We steamed it by the way, and had it with Catfish and a salad.
Ann in NY

At 7:22 AM, Blogger Lauren said...

Mmm...I love asparagus. Whenever we make it at my house we steam it, or put it in tin foil with some butter and herbs, then put it on the barbecue when we are grilling the rest of our food.

Such a nice, simple, versatile vegetable.

At 10:26 AM, Anonymous courtney said...

I just read that asparagus is really high in folic acid, so it is really good for pregnant women. So you have another reason why you HAVE to eat it, it's not because you want to it is because bean NEEDS it.

At 8:08 PM, Blogger *kel said...

Those asparagus you've got there are lovely. The closest thing I can get are these organic ones from Thailand I get from my local supermarket. I usually just saute them quickly in olive oil, sea salt and crushed garlic. Sometimes I put a lid on and turn of the fire and let it sit for a few minutes while it gets to the right softness.

At 9:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love asparagus roasted with garlic and salt. I also love it in a cold soup - you just steam the asparagus till it is crisp tender, then cool in water. The soup is chicken broth (or vegie broth), and two cucumbers, peeled and seeded, the asparagus, and fresh dill all blended together, and served with a dollop of sour cream. Yummmmm.

At 9:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never met a stalk of asparagus that I didn't absolutely love! I love it grilled; I'll roast it, broil it, boil it, or saute it - and while I don't think I've done it yet, I'd probably microwave it! I'll boil it until it is totally mushy because that's the way my mom likes it. I'll have it as a side dish, I'll eat it in a salad and I'll have it in my breakfast omelet. Have I left anything out?

At 9:52 AM, Blogger Chocoholic said...

I feel like a stalker because I keep drivign by the local asparagus farm, waiting for it to be ready. I love it roasted in the oven with oil, pepper and sea salt. It the best, quick veggie side. I really want to try some different things with it. Not sure how well it would work with the gluten free bread, I don't have celiac so I haven't tried this, but the book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" has a recipe for asparagua and morel bread pudding in it. *sigh* I can't wait for fresh veggies.

At 9:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to say that the roasted asparagus I just made with olive oil, black pepper and the smoked sea salt I recently bought (based on references to it in your blog), topped with goat feta at the end, was simply fantastic!! But this is one of the delights of my adult years. When I was a girl my mom often served steamed asparagus from our garden in a cheesy white sauce on toast.


At 1:32 AM, Anonymous MotherLode said...

I've got to get out more. I have only had (and made) asparagus by steaming it, and then sauting it in butter (or coconut oil) before serving.

Asparagus is my favorite veggie.

Once in the veggie section my DH asked me how to pick choose asparagus.

I told him you want it to be like the proverbial "perfect woman" - long and thin.

A woman standing near us laughed out loud, nodding vigorously.


At 8:06 PM, Blogger Anna Lee said...

My favorite way to eat asaragus is simply to roast it with a little salt and olive oil and eat it like French fries while watching my movies. I see that's the way others like it too. Glad to see it. Cheers to Spring!!


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