I love waking up before anyone else is stirring on the weekends. It gives me time to think and write. I feed the bunnies and the ever-growing chicks, water my seedlings, and take a look at the yard and garden. I was gone for 3 days this time, and it felt like a lifetime. I left with a few things in bud. I returned yesterday morning in a chilly rain, to spring having exploded around me. The peach and apple trees are in bud, the raspberry bushes are starting to once again take over the yard, and the daffodils are out.
I’m lucky enough to have a thriving career, and I love what I do, even if it means time spent away from home. The surprise and joy of seeing how Sithean changes from day to day next never ceases to impress me- the setting here means there’s always something new on show.
Last year, just as the garden and yard started to produce, I got about as busy as a human can get at work. I put up less than an eighth of what I had planned to, and a lot of the garden went to waste. This year, with Eli’s help, the big garden will get finished, and we will preserve more of our food. The seedlings are growing quite large, and it’s almost time to start hardening them off, and planting some early cold-weather crops like Edamame and Lettuce.
But nothing, nothing is more exciting than when the asparagus bed starts to produce.
Starting in early April, I check the asparagus bed every opportunity I have. Usually starting way too early in the season. But it’s hard to wait – fresh asparagus tastes nothing like it’s grocery-store counterpart. It is sugary sweet and ideally picked about 2 minutes before it is cooked.
This morning while it was still dripping, I went out to feed the animals and wandered over. And lo and behold, it was there. I couldn’t resist picking it on the spot, even though it’s too early in the day to eat it. This year we seem to be getting an actual spring, if a slightly soggy one, and I think that means we’ll get a bumper crop.
Asparagus can be boiled and then salted and served, or, my favorite, broiled with olive oil, salt and lemon. Grilled. Wrapped in bacon or prosciutto and baked. The simple possibilities are endless.
But if you want to get really fancy, as I will for our annual Mother’s Day brunch here, you make Carolyn Roehm’s Asparagus Fontina Tart. It is simple, and beautiful enough to replace flowers as a centerpiece. I sometimes add tomato slices in a spiral under the asparagus, which adds flavor and beauty, but you could just as easily top it with a few edible pansies and serve as-is.
8 ounces frozen puff pastry thawed overnight in the refrigerator
1/2 cup Fontina cheese
16-20 stalks of asparagus, cut to about 4 inches long
- Preheat the oven to 375
- Roll out the puff pastry on a floured surface until about 1/4 inch thick or slightly thinner than that. Use a saucepan to cut an 8-10″ round and return to the fridge to chill for 20 minutes
- Remove the pastry and place on a greased baking sheet – I like olive oil for this. Pierce the pastry with a fork all over
- Arrange the asparagus in a spoke with a few asparagus tips in the center, upright
- Cover with the cheese to about 1/2 inch from the edges
- Bake for 20 minutes until puffed and golden and you can pierce the asparagus with a fork.
- Serve warm or cool
You’ll look like Martha Stewart for about 10 minutes of your effort .
If you want to be really fancy for dinner too, take the leftover puff pastry, some prosciutto and cut into rectangles about 4″ long. Lay in a slice of prosciutto and 3-4 asparagus spears and bake as described above. When it’s out of the oven melt a little butter with lemon juice, salt and pepper and glaze the asparagus puffs in the lemon butter sauce.
Happy Asparagus Day!