Saturday, April 21, 2012
Spring, oh spring, thank you! What a delightful beginning to the season of roadside stands and farmers markets. What better way to soothe my sorrows from a dead computer? It's taken a while to get out of the cyber doldrums and re-awaken my blog. All it took was a stop at a roadside stand for purple and green asparagus cut from the ground this morning. And a basket of strawberries that sent me into cyberspace myself!
Isn't it amazing how the sight or smell of certain foods can send you so vividly traight back to childhood? I thought I was going to get my hand slapped when I taste-tested a strawberry this week. As a kid, for one of my 4-H projects, I received 100 strawberry plants which my Daddy help me plant in the field right beside the house, behind the clothesline. It was a sandy spot, not much good for anything other than turning the tractor around, but I planted those berries in the spring. My instructions were to nip the blossoms off the plants when they bloomed, to bring on more berries the next year. Drats! I loved strawberries, and couldn't hardly stand the thought of waiting one more year.
The next spring I had so many berries, bright red and juicy. It was hard to pick a full bucket when I hit the berry patch, for I'd sit and eat my fill, toting the bucket half-full back to the house with juicy evidence dripping down my chin.
A DIFFERENT TWIST FOR STRAWBERRIES - CHOCOLATE PASTA!
While in the Boone area this past fall, I picked up a package of The Pasta Wench's dried chocolate pasta. Truly, CHOCOLATE. Tastes like cocoa that's not overwhelming, and definitely visually interesting for a dessert. Check it out at The Pasta Wench.
That chocolate pasta was a perfect backdrop for the sweet Camarosa strawberries I found at the farmers market this week. The rest of the berries - at least those that survived the car ride home - will find their way into my morning granola, maybe some over ice cream, and some, well, eaten over the sink after a quick rinse!
I look forward to more varieties of strawberries that will ripen later this spring. Hum.....jam? Freeze? Will they make it that far in my kitchen?
My mother, who grew up in a rural area of Ontario, remembers how they'd pick wild asparagus that grew along the roadside ditches on her way home from school. It's still one of her favorites.
I can't decide which way I love asparagus better - coated with olive oil and grilled or baked in a hot oven; barely steamed with butter; with crabmeat, butter and cheese over pasta; or with shrimp & grits. I've sprinkled it with lemon zest and juice, and other times with a ribbon of boiled eggs pushed through a sieve over top. And, how about, as a lot of chefs are doing now, barely steamed with a fried egg and crunches of crisp bacon on top?
With just-picked asparagus, the less you do with it, the better. Let its natural, crisp and rich flavor shine through.
Got a favorite recipe? Open a conversation here, please!
AND TO TOP OFF MY SPRING FEVER . . . . SOFT SHELLS!
The exciting culmination of a trip to the Outer Banks for research was finding fresh soft shell crabs for sale at O'Neals Sea Harvest in Wanchese (www.onealsseaharvest.com/). They've added a great cafe to the retail market. Turn off the main road at the huge old oak tree onto Harbor Drive.
Soft shells are so easy to cook, after they are cleaned at the last minute. I admit I always wait until the hubby is around to take care of that chore for me!
Saute those babies in butter/olive oil combo then douse with lemon herbed butter, or, grill after coating them with butter and hot sauce.
Need a recipe? Check them out in THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK: Recipes & Traditions from NC's Barrier Islands, by moi, Elizabeth Wiegand.