Posts Tagged ‘asparagus in western Massachusetts’

Asparagus Quiche

Friday, May 20th, 2016
It looks as though we're in the midst of a Shakespearean tragedy—but we’re actually discussing diets.

It may look as though we’re in the midst of a Shakespearean tragedy. Actually, we’re discussing diets.

After a wet couple of weeks we finally have enough sun to bring asparagus up in our area. I eat grocery-store asparagus in the winter from time to time. But I CAN’T STOP EATING farm-stand asparagus in the spring. To me the flavor of asparagus embodies this green, lush, delicious season.

I tend to eat asparagus plain, but as the many asparagus recipes in these pages attest I do also put it into other dishes. Yesterday on Mass Appeal Seth Stutman and I put it into a quiche I have served several times already this spring—first with sautéed dandelion greens, then with sautéed spinach, and now with asparagus.

I based it on the idea of a spinach salad so I wanted to add red onion and plenty of cheese. One could of course add a bit of cooked bacon as well—particularly in the spinach or dandelion versions. I’m not sure the asparagus version needed the bacon; it has plenty of flavor the way it is. In fact, another time I might try a milder cheese to let the asparagus flavor dominate more. I’m happy with the recipe as is, however. (I just like to tinker!)

Seth and I also made rhubarb bread. That recipe was adapted from Land O Lakes. If you want to try my version, add 1 tablespoon orange zest to the batter and double the streusel. And if you’d like to use three little pans as I did, bake the bread for less time than the recipe suggests. The mini-breads took 45 minutes in my oven, but when in doubt use that toothpick!

You’ll note from the rhubarb video below that I forgot to add the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. I also FORGOT TO ADD THE CHOPPED RHUBARB!

I’m sure all TV stars have days like yesterday. At any rate, I hope they do.

I stirred the missing ingredients into the batter in the pans before baking the bread and threw a little more brown sugar on top for color. The end result was delicious; the recipe is very forgiving.

quicheweb

My Quiche

Ingredients:

1 red onion, peeled and sliced
2 splashes of extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
2 pinches salt (divided)
3 cloves of garlic, slivered
1 large bunch asparagus, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces and blanched for 1 minute (about 2 cups of pieces)
4 eggs
1 cup cream
5 to 6 ounces crumbled blue cheese
1 9-inch pie shell

Instructions:

Sauté the onion pieces in a little oil until they caramelize (ideally, half an hour or more, but you can get away with 15 minutes if you have to). Sprinkle on a little salt, and remove them from the sauté pan.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Splash a little more oil into the pan, and sauté the garlic briefly (3 to 4 minutes) to soften it. Toss in the asparagus pieces, and sauté them just until they are warm.

In a bowl whisk together the eggs, the cream, and a pinch of salt.

Sprinkle two thirds of the cheese over the pie crust. Top the cheese with the onion, asparagus, and garlic pieces; then pour on the cream/egg custard, and top with the remaining cheese.

Place the quiche on a rimmed cookie sheet to prevent spillage, and bake it for about 40 minutes, until the custard is set and the top is golden. Serves 4 to 6, depending on appetite.

And now the videos….

If you enjoyed this post, please consider taking out an email subscription to my blog. Just click on the link below!

Subscribe to In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens by Email.

Sparrow Grass

Friday, May 15th, 2009

cutgrassweb

When I’m asked one of those silly hypothetical food questions—“What one food would you want to eat on a desert island?” or “What would you choose to eat for your last meal on death row?’’—I never have trouble making a decision. I’m an asparagus girl to the end.

Of course, asparagus is a cool-climate vegetable so it’s unlikely to grow on a desert island. And a prison chef would probably cook it until it was soggy. Nevertheless, I could eat even poorly cooked asparagus every day and be reasonably happy.

This time of year my favorite green vegetable is everywhere in the Pioneer Valley. As David Nussbaum recalled in Saveur magazine a few years ago, the Connecticut River Valley was the world’s asparagus capital between the 1930s and the 1970s.

Hadley Grass, as it was called, was shipped throughout the northeast and occasionally even overseas, where it was purportedly enjoyed by the Royal Family at Buckingham Palace.

When a blight hit the crop in the mid-1970s, Nussbaum wrote, asparagus in the area was hard hit. It took a while to find a blight-resistant strain, and many farmers moved on. Today it is mainly we locals who enjoy what remains of this formerly dominant crop.

Many western Massachusetts asparagus fans still use the term Hadley Grass, adapted from a popular nickname for the vegetable in the 1700s and 1800s, “sparrow grass.” Lexicographer John Walker wrote in 1791, “Sparrow-grass is so general that asparagus has an air of stiffness and pedantry.”

I was seven when I first tasted freshly picked asparagus. My family was visiting one of my father’s graduate-school professors in Wisconsin. Like many Midwesterners the professor and his wife had a huge garden.

When I took my first bite of fresh-from-the-garden asparagus I was amazed at the flavor and texture. It tasted more like butter than any vegetable should. I kept eating—and eating—and eating.

I haven’t consumed that much asparagus at one sitting since then, but I still remember that visit with pleasure. And I celebrate asparagus season every year. One of my yearly ambitions (one spring I’ll fulfill it!) is to taste a unique asparagus treat served about an hour away from me.

A fabulous dairy in Hadley, Massachusetts, Flayvors of Cook Farm, makes asparagus ice cream at this time of year. I haven’t tried it myself, but every other flavor I’ve tried there has been freshly made and imaginatively conceived.

Every summer when we take my nephew Michael on his annual pilgrimage to the Eric Carle Museum we end up indulging ourselves at Cook Farm on the way home.

Just to get you going on your own asparagus journey I’ll be posting a few sparrow grass recipes, starting with this easy roasted grass formula. Don’t feel that you have to use any of them, however. Nothing beats this vegetable simply steamed or boiled, topped with a little butter and/or lemon juice.

Roasted Asparagus

Ingredients:

1 pound asparagus, washed and trimmed
a generous splash of extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 handful feta cheese (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In an ovenproof dish, toss together the asparagus, oil, salt, and pepper. Lay the oiled asparagus in the dish in a single layer.

Bake the asparagus for 6 to 10 minutes (depending on its thickness; I had fairly thick asparagus so I used the full 10 minutes), turning once.

If you want to use the feta, lay it on top of the asparagus after turning. It won’t melt, but it will become warm and soft.

Remove the roasted asparagus from the oven, and garnish it with chives if desired. Serves 3 to 4.

Mother Jan is happy that Sparrow Grass season is here!

Mother Jan is happy that Sparrow Grass season is here!