Sunday, May 15, 2011

Asparagus with orange, two ways

There was a movie released in the 1980s called Ladyhawke, which I have actually never seen. Part of the plot is that two lovers are doomed to lifelong separation by a demonic curse invoked by the corrupt and jealous Bishop of Aquila: by day the woman is transformed into a hawk, while at night the man becomes becomes a black wolf, and they can only meet each other very briefly at dawn and at dusk.  Sometimes, my marriage reminds me of this.

I am a morning person.  I almost always wake up before my alarm, which is set at 6 am. The exception is weekends when I don't set my alarm but usually seem to wake up between 5 and 5:30.  Amy drags herself out of bed at 7 with difficulty when I am leaving or have already left.  On weekends, she almost never wakes up before 9.   Amy generally gets home later than I do, and we may have meetings or classes on different nights.  I will start to fade around 9, while she is up dealing with a combination of insomnia and addiction to the real estate channel.

This also reminds me of asparagus with orange flavor, a wonderful combination.  Although it is possible to get everything all year round now, for a price and considerable carbon impact, asparagus is at its peak in the early spring, whereas oranges are at their best in the winter.  They seem to cross briefly in March to May when oranges are in decline.  The classic combination is steamed asparagus with maltaise sauce, a variation on hollandaise which substitutes orange for the lemon.  While this is a fine combination, you can hear your arteries harden while you eat it, so here are two dishes that combine the flavors or orange and asparagus in a way more in accord with how we eat now.

Asparagus with orange vinaigrette

  • Trim 2-3 pounds of asparagus and cook however you want.  I generally just put it in a large pot of salted boiling water and for thinnish asparagus, cook it until just before the water returns to the boil which makes it just a shade or two more tender than al dente.  You can also steam it in an asparagus steamer (lots of luck here -- I find that These steamers are a waste of money and the asparagus always slips out of the steamer basket) or cook it in a microwave.  Remove from the pot, steamer or microwave and cool in a colander under cold running water.  There are two many variables to even give times here.
  • Make a vinaigrette with the grated rind and juice of and orange, the juice of a lemon, and as much olive oil as you feel like, between 1 and 6 tablespoons. 
  • Dress the asparagus just before serving.  (It doesn't suffer much from marination, but I find it better freshly dressed.)
  • We serve this dish every Passover, and you can adjust quantities for a family meal.

Pan-roasted asparagus with orange flavor

  • Wash a pound of asparagus, trim off the tough bases, and cut in 2-3 pieces to separate the stalks from the tender tops. 
  • Put some olive oil in a nonstick skillet, heat it, and add the stalks.  Saute, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes.  Add the tops, sprinkle with salt. and continue to saute another 7-10 minutes. For medium thin asparagus, 10-15 minutes on medium heat seems to do it, but you have to adjust cooking times to your own taste.
  • Grate the rind of an orange.  Smash 2 large or 2 small cloves of garlic with the side of the blade of a broad knife, and a large pinch of coarse salt, and with the side and edge, work it into a paste.  Combine with the orange, and if you want it a bit spicy add a very large pinch of Aleppo pepper or a very small dash of cayenne. 
  • Push the asparagus to the side of the skillet, turn heat down to medium low, and add a tablespoon of oil in the open space.  Add the paste and saute in the oil until it begins to loose its raw aroma.  
  • Mix into the asparagus, taste for salt, and cook another minute or two to combine the flavors.
  • Serves 2-4 s a side dish

1 comment:

  1. Cooking time varies in relation to thickness and age of asparagus. Freshly picked asparagus requires no more than 2 minutes to steam.