Sunny Summer Asparagus

recipe: asparagus with lemon vinaigrette and chopped egg garnish

the short version:

On the first day of cooking demos at the Union Square Greenmarket, we staged an asparagus demo with steamed asparagus tossed in a vinaigrette of lemon juice, mustard, olive oil, salt, pepper, and a dash of balsamic vinegar. The asparagus was donated by Yuno’s Farm. The beautiful brown organic eggs were donated by Race Farms.

the long version:

The first Greenmarket demo of the spring was on Monday, May 21st. At the market in abundance: leafy greens, radishes, sprouts, and lovely, slender new asparagus. Before I arrived at the market on Monday, I expected that I might make a field green salad with fresh herbs and a shallot vinaigrette. In order to make sure that I would be able to offer tasty samples over the course of a few hours, I wanted to keep things as simple as possible on my first demo day. On my way to the market I picked up a Dijon mustard and five lemons for my vinaigrette. Everything else would come from the market.

When I arrived at the demo tent at 10:30, I was greeted by Mike Morris, who walked me around the market and introduced me to the people that I've been thinking of as "the farmers," but who he called "the producers." As I was gathering tarragon for the salad, I asked if I should be asking purveyors if there is anything they particularly need to move. Answer: please make asparagus.

So I put back the herbs and I went to see Nevia No from Yuno’s Farm. I’d met Nevia a few minutes before in the Union Square park public restroom. She was using the ladies room and I was washing bowls and pans in the bathroom sink.

I should say that the amenities for the cooking demo on one hand are excellent: the Greenmarket supplies the work space, burners, pots, pans etc. All of these are available in The Van, a 15’ box truck that is parked by the Greenmarket information tent. The Van is a treasure trove of materials. There is a stash of pans and bowls, two butane burners, bottled water, a smattering of knives, whisks, colanders, and plastic containers. Also in The Van are Greenmarket banners, tables, tents, tablecloths and a mannequin torso. Obviously, I love The Van.

But the one vital amenity the demo table lacks is running water. This is a bigger inconvenience than it initially sounds. Running to the bathroom every time you need to wash a dish or rinse an asparagus stalk or fill a stock pot is not very convenient. And having to navigate around people using the restroom for its actual intended purpose is a little unpleasant for everyone involved.

This is where Morella Devost, Holistic Health Counselor and cooking demo partner extraordinaire, came in. Morella arrived at about 11:30 and jumped right in to the food preparation. She slapped on an apron and began tending to the food I had already under way. The first item of business for me, once I had the table and burners set up and had gotten some great-looking bunches of asparagus, was to set a dozen eggs in cold water on a hot burner to bring the to a boil. This was easier said than done.

Morella instantly began combating our first enemy, the healthy gusts of wind that kept blowing out out our butane flame. She constructed a makeshift windbreak out of half of a cardboard box which she held against the stockpot to keep our flame going. Despite her best efforts, our butane burner blew out repeatedly, and I began to lose hope that our eggs would become hard boiled at all. The water got warm, then the flame blew out. We rekindled the burner, rewarmed the water, then it blew out and it started all over again.

No matter. I'd decided that if we had to, we could serve just the asparagus in the lemon vinaigrette, and it would still be delicious. The eggs were just the icing on the cake, so to speak. So I concentrated on washing the grit off of the asparagus (in the ladies room) and chopping it into small enough rounds to fit into our demo cups.

I was hoping for olive oil to lubricate the heated sauce pan that I intended to use to use for the asparagus, but I couldn't find it in the recesses of The Van. Very well, I'd use water to regulate the pan temperature, and just steam the fresh asparagus in the sautee pan.

In the meantime, Morella was concocting the lemon vinaigrette so it would be ready when the asparagus was cooked. She did a tremendous job and making sure the oil was added slowly to the lemon juice mixture, and she created a beautifully emulsified vinaigrette.

Once the asparagus was beginning to soften in the sautee pan, it was time to check the eggs again. Miracle of all miracles, the water has actually come to a boil. I turned off the butane burner and pulled out one egg to check for doneness.

Without a doubt, this was my favorite moment of the first Greenmarket demo. Holding the blazing hot egg in my hand, I felt like, after all those incidents with the deadened flame and restarting the cooking process, I had no idea how cooked that hot egg might be. It felt like all the possibility in the world rested in that egg shell, waiting for me to crack it open and check on it.

So after tossing the egg from hand to hand until it was cool enough to touch, I cracked to open and to my delight, I found a perfectly hard boiled egg in there. Huzzah!

At that point the asparagus was cooked but still crisp, and I pulled it off the heat as well. I put the hot asparagus in a steel bowl, added a few tablespoons of vinaigrette, and tossed until the vinaigrette was absorbed.

At that exact moment, a well-groomed woman approached our table with a photographer and asked if she could interrupt us for a few moments. Why of course! Morella had her hands free so started an interview first while I started dolling out the first demo. After she finished, I took my opporunity to answer questions about 'green' products while Morella chopped an egg and added it to the top of the asparagus.

Given the rustic nature of our prep station, the presentation of the asparagus was rustic, too. No forks, no utensils, just plastic sample cups filled with asparagus and egg, ready to be tossed back by the adventurous sampler.

After we'd given out the bulk of the plastic cups, Morella and I took a moment to sample our handy work. Greatly satisfying. The asparagus and its accoutrement were delicious. So was our first day in the wilds of the Greenmarket tent, trying to make delicious food out of delicious ingredients and unreliable fire.

recipe:


1 bunch asparagus (about 20 stalks)

1 lemon

2/3 c olive oil

salt

3 t mustard

splash balsamic

1 boiled egg, chopped fine

Wash asparagus and cut off tough ends of each stalk. Place in hot sautee pan with about 1 T of cold water. Shake asparagus in the pan with the boiling water. If water boils off entirely, add water in small amounts to keep asparagus from scorching. Cook asparagus for about 7 minutes, until cooked through but not limp or overcooked.

In the meantime, make the vinaigrette by squeezing the juice of one lemon into a medium-sized bowl. Add mustard, salt and pepper. Drizzle olive oil in a bit at a time and whisk to emulsify.

When asparagus is cooked, add immediately to lemon vinaigrette and toss until coated. Plate immediately and top with 1 T chopped egg per serving.

Serves four.

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1 comment:

Dana said...

Sounds YUMMY. I never knew that cooking in public could be so fun. If I were a better chef, I'd try it.