It may seem strange to post this right after posting that spring is officially here, but I was a little bit late on my last post, I guess, and on top of everything, that exceedingly short period that’s one of my favorite moments of spring is over.
Skinny asparagus are gone.
I hope you don’t find me melodramatic in saying that it is a calamity.
I remember when I first moved back to Paris in September and met the Shoe Fiend; we were talking about all the exciting things there were to do and see in Paris, and she lamented over one thing.
“There are no asparagus here.”
I assured her that there would be in several months, but I couldn’t fault her for not knowing. Hailing from a country where you can get strawberries in December means that seasonality is a relative affair. While the white asparagus that are so popular here in France are seldom available Stateside (or rather, such was the case when I lived there — um — seven years ago [I should probably stop overgeneralizing about the States]), the skinny green ones tend to be pretty easy to find in mega marts for most of the year.
Not so in France.
It was only about three weeks ago that the first bunches of pencil-thin asparagus started becoming available at my local Carrefour. I stocked up, not that I distinctly remembered what was coming. I just knew I had to get my hands on as many bunches as I could. And sure enough, after just a handful of recipes, it happened: one day, there were no more skinny green asparagus. My grocery store had replaced them with skinny white asparagus, and my local primeur was stocking the fat ones that the Country Boy likes boiled with a good amount of butter.
I love asparagus. I will eat properly prepared white and fat green asparagus — prepared by someone else. But when it comes to asparagus in my kitchen, I am a spoiled brat. I want pencil-thin green asparagus. I want them roasted. That’s all I want.
I’m demanding when it comes to monocots.
Now before anyone gets huffy, I’m not claiming that these skinny asparagus are absolutely nowhere to be found. I’ve seen organic 400 gram bundles at Monoprix for 9 euros.
I considered them. At length.
Maybe they’ll make a comeback this spring. Maybe I’ll have to wait til next spring. At any rate, Americans, cherish your asparagus; you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.
Asparagus, Radish, Spinach, Buffalo Mozzarella
1 pound pencil-thin asparagus
2 tsp. olive oil
2 hefty handfuls of baby spinach
about a dozen baby French radishes
5-6 leaves basil
fleur de sel
1 ball (125 grams or so) buffalo mozzarella
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Break the asparagus at their natural breaking point. Cut them in half. Place them in a baking dish with the olive oil. Toss together and sprinkle with salt. Roast for about 20 minutes, until tender and slightly charred, tossing once.
Meanwhile, thinly slice the radishes. If they are too spicy, soak them in a bit of cold water.
Place a handful of baby spinach on each place and dress with lemon juice. Plate the asparagus over and to the side of the spinach, and dress with any pan juices.
Sprinkle the radishes over the top.
Place half of the buffalo mozzarella on each plate. Tear some fresh basil leaves and sprinkle over the top. Season with lemon zest and fleur de sel.