Saturday, May 26, 2007

Asparagus!

I'm not a big fan of the summer months. I don't like the heat and my skin truly hates the sun. However, I do look forward to eating beautiful summer food. I get excited when I see the first showings of sweet organic Washington asparagus at the farmers market. Even though it's not that warm out yet, seeing these little bright green spears tells me that almost time to pull out the 1000-block sunscreen. It's a shame that people love to boil vegetables until they're lifeless and mushy. Don't do that! You're just provoking the farmers into hating you. Asparagus should have some crunch to them when you eat them. Here's two of my favorite ways to eat asparagus.

Grilled Asparagus with Balsamic Vinegar and Parmesan
1 bunch of asparagus, hard bottom ends trimmed
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tsp lemon zest (optional)
olive oil
salt and fresh ground pepper
In a pot of barely salted boiling water blanch the asparagus for 4 minutes. Remove the asparagus and shock in ice water to stop cooking. Heat up the grill or grill pan to medium high heat. Brush the grill with olive oil and cook the asparagus in a single layer flipping them over after about 1 or 2 minutes. Once you get good grill marks on both sides remove them to a serving dish. Toss them with salt, pepper, and lemon zest. Drizzle them with the balsamic vinegar and sprinkle parmesan on top. Simple and delicious.

Asparagus with Serrano Ham and Manchego
1 bunch of asparagus, hard bottom ends trimmed
1/4 lb serrano ham, as thinly sliced as you can get it
1/2 manchego cheese (semi-hard Spanish sheep-milk cheese), cut into thin strips
salt and pepper
Same as above, blanch the asparagus 4 or 5 minutes and shock in ice water. Take a slice of serano ham and lay it on a flat surface. Place a spear of asparagus and a piece of manchego on the ham and roll it up. The asparagus should be sticking out of both sides of the ham. To make the manchego slices I use a vegetable peeler to make thin strips. It works perfectly and don't worry if you don't get solid strips. Rustic looking food is a good thing. If you have trouble finding the ingredients, proscuitto ham and parmesan will work well. Plate them on a serving dish and serve. I can eat these guys all summer long. It makes a perfect snack.