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Friday
Apr132012

The Joys of Asparagus Season and a Delicious Recipe from the Gluten-Free Girl

by Shauna Ahern, Gluten Free Girl


We wait for it all year.

That’s not quite true. In July, after 2 straight months of eating asparagus every way I can imagine, I want nothing to do with it. The gaudy months of summer blare out the quieter months of spring. Bright, bedazzling, sun-drenched — the fruits of July and August are far more memorable than spring’s first real green. By the time the cooler months have arrived, we cannot wait for the first glimpse of the muted oranges and sepia tones of autumn squashes. The first month or so of winter, I even look forward to parsnips and celery root.

But, by March, I’ve had it. Grey clouds tamp down the earth for days on end. Nothing seems to have a smell. It’s raining again. In March, people go crazy for nettles in the Pacific Northwest. What are nettles? Essentially they’re a green weed with tiny stingers like  hypodermic needles all along the leaves. They require gloved hands, a blanch in boiling water, and a slow sauté before they’re edible. Why on earth does anyone like them? They’re the first sign of spring around here. It’s coming.

However, by the middle of April, those nettles have been trampled back down. Who needs them when the first asparagus from eastern Washington arrives in our grocery stores? Long stalks, thin stalks, fat squat stalks, and dark green tips — they all make people walking through the produce section grin. 

Sure, within a couple of months, I’ll be tired of the taste of asparagus. I won’t want to roast a single other stalk. I’ll be ready for vegetables of many colors and not simply spring green.

However, after a seeming thousand days of grey rain and cold, those first stalks of asparagus are a sign of hope.

 

Roasted Asparagus Frittata

Frittatas work for breakfast or dinner, any season of the year. Use this recipe as a template for how to create them and then go wild with your own vegetable imaginations. For summer, try zucchinis and fresh tomatoes. Fall? Mushrooms and roasted kabocha squash. Winter? Parsnips and celery root. By the time it’s spring again, you’ll be ready for more asparagus frittata.

1 large bunch fresh asparagus

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

7 large eggs

½ cup grated Mizithra (or a milder cheese like Parmesan)

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

 

Preparing to cook. Preheat the oven to 400°. Pull out your largest cast-iron skillet (or sauté pan). Beat the eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper until they are frothy. Be ready. This goes fast.

Pan-roasting the asparagus. Snap each stalk of asparagus at the point on the woody stem where the stalk wants to break. (Trust me. It will feel obvious.) Cut each stalk into large slices, about 1-inch long.

Set the cast-iron skillet over high heat. Pour in the oil. Add the asparagus stalks to the hot oil. As the asparagus heats, it might spit a bit. Wait and let it cook for a minute. Push the skillet around on the burner to toss the asparagus. When the asparagus has turned bright green, it’s time to beat the eggs.

Making the frittata. Pour the beaten eggs over the roasted asparagus into the pan. Tilt the pan around on the burner to allow the runny eggs to run around the pan and fill in the empty spaces.
 When it looks as though the eggs have started to set, lift the edge closest to you, gently, up from its place, with a thin rubber spatula. Lift up the skillet to tilt it toward you and allow the uncooked egg to run underneath. Place the skillet on the burner again and swirl it gently to distribute the egg. Cook the eggs for forty seconds or so, continuing to lift and tilt until the egg on top is no longer runny.

Sprinkle the cheese and smoked paprika over the surface of the frittata. Slide it into the oven. Bake the frittata until it is firm to the touch, about 5 minutes. Watch it closely.

Gently, guide the rubber spatula around the outside edges of the frittata to loosen it. If you want, you can now flip over the frittata onto a waiting plate for a lovely presentation. Or, if you’re having a backyard picnic, put the cast-iron skillet on the deck when it has cooled, bring a knife and some small plates, and dig in.

Feeds 8

SHAUNA JAMES AHERN is considered one of the most authoritative sources of gluten-free living on the Internet. Her popular Web site, glutenfreegirl.com, was named one of the best food sites in the world by Gourmet.com, Bon Appetit.com, and The London Times. Her book, Gluten-Free Girl: How I Found the Food That Loves Me Back and How You Can Too (Wiley and Sons, 2007) is now in paperback. Her cookbook, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef: A Love Story in 100 Tempting Recipes (Wiley and Sons, 2010), written with her husband Daniel, was named one of the best cookbooks of 2010 by The New York Times.

She currently lives on an island off Seattle with her husband, Daniel Ahern, a professional chef, and their toddler daughter, Lucy. They are happy and sleep-deprived.

 


 

 

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