Through the Kitchen Window

June . . . school ends, summer begins, gardens start to look lush and lovely and in the local farmer’s markets we can find the first crops of the season. This is my favourite time of year for finding the best asparagus and the sweetest, most fragrant strawberries.

Even the local supermarkets jump on the band wagon and I have consistently been able to find, over the past few weeks, farm fresh asparagus at as little as $1.69 per pound, CANADIAN!!!

I think, if truth be told, asparagus is for me a rite of passage. Its arrival in the local markets heralds a new, fresh season with all the home grown bounty that it brings with it.

So, in the markets, or in the grocery store, I’ll be the one filling up bags of the wonderful green, flower-like spears.

By far my most favourite way of eating it is lightly steamed, dabbed with butter and onto my fork. This is when you truly taste spring in every mouthful! My kids think I’m nuts, after all, this is a green thing that I rhapsodize over.

But you have to admit, whether you enjoy it plain as I do, or slathered in Hollandaise, which ain’t bad either, it even looks springy on your plate. I find that making it an addition to a dinner menu just makes me “happy”.

Giving too much credit to a green vegetable??? I don’t think so at all. Next time you’re at your local market, pick some up. They’re so simple to prepare, just steam till tender crisp. Depending on the thickness of the stalks this could take as little as a couple of minutes, but never more than 5 or 6. Drain them well, place them on your service platter then dot generously with butter. These tender spears don’t even require salt.

Alternatively, once they’ve been plated, dress them with a light vinaigrette. Just use three parts extra virgin olive oil, one part white wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Either way, the leftovers, if there are any, are just as good straight out of the fridge the next day, or as a snack later that night. One thing I will point out though, if you dress them with vinaigrette, they’re marinated the next day and even tastier.

If you serve them plain with butter, leftovers can be pushed into service the next day as omelette stuffings, quiche fillings, or the basis of a great cream of asparagus soup. In fact, my chef-in-training son, Matthew, uses the trimmed stems as the foundation for his Cream of Asparagus and Celery Soup and any leftovers are diced and added to the pureed soup for texture and extra flavour.

And before I forget, berries. The following is my favourite way to eat strawberries.

Rinse and hull as many berries as you can eat. Let them dry then halve them and place in a non metallic bowl. Sprinkle liberally with balsamic vinegar and allow to macerate at least an hour, but longer is better. When you’re ready to serve, drain them of the marinating liquid and spoon them into a dish. The berries can be served with vanilla ice cream but I really recommend serving them with crème fraiche. You can make a creditable version of this French dairy treat at home by simply mixing equal parts of 35% cream and sour cream till well blended and leaving it in a warm, dark place over night. (I use my microwave oven for this.) In the morning, remove from your dark place, stir again to recombine and refrigerate. Serve well chilled, spooned generously over Balsamic Berries.

Enjoy your spring bounty!!! I look forward to hearing all about your adventures!!!


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