april 5, 2013
Being a fan of all things winter, I must be dragged kicking and hollering into the freshness of spring. I got my wish for one last snow in Richmond March 24. Like most southern snowfalls, it arrived magically and left town abruptly, leaving traces here and there and front yard snowmen with collapsed torsos and lumpen, tiny heads.
Being at odds with my peers, who look for signs of spring in every warmish winter day, I turn peevish at the appearance of late winter daffodils. Give me a stark winter landscape, with magnificent multicolored sunsets and skeletal, ethereal tree branches, plus a nice crackling fire, and I’m a happy girl.
The only food that can coax me into spring thinking is asparagus. I’m impatient for the local variety, but I do insist on domestically grown, in-season asparagus. You won’t see asparagus on the winter menus of The Good Eats Company personal chef service, but each year clients ask for my shrimp and asparagus cakes with ginger garlic tartar sauce and I love to see my clients smile.
People clamor for skinny asparagus spears, but any cook worth her salt knows that fatter spears pack the meatiest flavor. Look for bright green color (pale yellow may translate into a stale, bitter taste once cooked), compact tips with a lavender hue, and smooth, unwrinkled stalks.
The less done to asparagus, the better. This orange mustard vinaigrette lets the asparagus conduct its business, like the polite background applause to an important asparagus speech.
This dish is a great side or salad and would make a comfortable bed for grilled meats or seafood. Brunch egg dishes will enjoy the company of this asparagus, as will simple starches like risotto, roasted potatoes or pasta dusted with parmesan cheese.
You may have lots of vinaigrette left over, but how can one complain? See my previous post about the value of making your own salad dressings.
Okay, I give in. Spring is here, and it’s not so bad after all. The fragrance of purple hyacinths greets me in the early morning hours and my herbs are flush with new growth. I have a nice bowl of asparagus with orange mustard vinaigrette in the fridge for dinner and if the weather report holds up, I can enjoy dinner on the deck starting next week. I can get used to springtime.
Let’s revisit the topic of asparagus when the local spears start showing up at farmer’s markets.
asparagus with orange mustard vinaigrette
recipe by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company
one pound asparagus, ends trimmed and stalks cut into 3-4 pieces
scant 1/4 t kosher salt
1 generous t extra virgin olive oil
one large navel orange, preferably organic (about 8 oz)
1 T finely minced shallot
3/4 T coarse grain mustard
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
1/3 c canola oil
pinch finely ground white pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- On large baking sheet, toss asparagus with kosher salt and teaspoon of olive oil.
- Bake 9 minutes for thick stalks, and less time for thinner stalks; bake until just easily pierced with point of thin knife.
- Remove immediately from baking sheet,place in serving dish and top with zest of navel orange (use zesting tool to make long strands; you will need about 2 teaspoons).
- When cooled, drizzle or toss with vinaigrette to taste; use remainder of vinaigrette as salad dressing on reserve.
- For vinaigrette : in shallow mixing bowl, with moist hand towel under bowl to keep it steady as you whisk, whisk together juice of the navel orange with the mustard, shallot and white pepper. Combine the oils and, whisking, drizzle the oils in a steady stream until dressing is emulsified.
- Dressed asparagus will last in the fridge for up to 3 days; serve chilled or at room temperature.