April 25th, 2010
The garden plots have been plowed and the stakes planted. I took this picture before we worked in the community garden yesterday. The soil looks rich and not at all like the usual red clay soil that is found in most of North Carolina. The view of Chimney Rock is inspirational and makes spending time in the garden worthwhile. Yesterday we hoed and raked the soil and enclosed our space with poles and wire mesh. David added lime and manure to the plot and planted tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash. I will post more pictures soon. One thing we could not plant was asparagus. Asparagus takes a few years to develop and we do not have a guarantee that we will have the same plot next year. But asparagus is in the market right now and it is the best time to enjoy it.
This recipe appeared in The New York Times last Wednesday. It originated with Paula Wolfert in her Slow Mediterranean Kitchen Cookbook. There are so many ways to cook asparagus and one of my favorites has been to roast the spears drizzled with olive oil and salt and pepper. But this was a new way to cook asparagus and I loved it. The asparagus is sealed in parchment paper and cooked in a slow oven for over an hour.
The parchment paper insulates the asparagus and cooks it evenly so that the tips and the bottoms of the stalk are equally tender. This recipe added shiitakes, prosciutto, olive oil and fresh tarragon which infused the spears with wonderful flavor. The slow cooking enhanced the flavor even more. Give it a try. I will be posting about that wonderful chicken cordon bleu next.
BAKED ASPARAGUS WITH SHIITAKE AND PROSCIUTTO
1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed
1/4 pound shitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into 1/4 inch strips
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
3 tarragon sprigs
1. Heat oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (it should be twice as long as pan). Lay asparagus in a pile in center. Scatter mushrooms and prosciutto on top. Drizzle with 2 tablespoon oil and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt, the pepper and nutmeg. Toss vegetables to coat evely. Lay tarragon over top.
2. Fold parchment to completely enclose vegetables, and staple top and sides shut. Transfer pan to oven and bake for one hour. Asparagus should be just cooked through. If too crisp, return to oven until done to taste.