Asparagus is the classic Spring vegetable, and the farmers markets are beginning to brim with it. I for one like to eat enough of it when it is in season that I am sick of it by the time its season is over, and don’t crave it again until next spring. Since I first saw it in the market a few weeks ago, I have had it in stir-fry, as a side vegetable, as a first course, and in raclette. One of my favorite things to do with it is make a simple frittata that can serve as dinner, breakfast, brunch, or lunch. A recipe is below.
Have you ever wondered if there is a plural of asparagus? Is it asparagi?? Asparaguses?? Looking it up in my dictionary gave me little guidance, and I am forced to conclude that asparagus is both the single and the plural — like one fish, two fish rather than octopus and octopi. Still I did learn one interesting fact from my dictionary: asparagus was, for two centuries, called “sparrowgrass” in English!
I make frittatas all the time, using whatever produce I find in season at the farmers market.
One bunch asparagus
1 large or two small leeks
4 hen’s eggs from family farm chickens, or 1-2 goose eggs, or 3 duck eggs
1/4 cup cream, half-and-half, or whole milk (from a family dairy, if possible)
1/4 cup grated cheese such as cheddar or monterey jack, or crumbled feta (cheese is optional)
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper
1. Preheat oven to 300.
2. Break off tough ends of asparagus. Cut asparagus into 2-inch lengths (on the bias) and steam (or blanch in boiling water) until barely tender — just a couple of minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool quickly (or plunge in ice-water).
3. Slice leeks in thick rounds and put in a bowl of cold water and mix to get the dirt out.
4. Melt butter in an oven-safe skillet (cast iron or stainless steel), and when it’s hot lift the leeks out of the water in handfuls, shake off excess water, and put in the pan. Saute over medium heat until just soft.
5. Meanwhile, mix together the eggs with cream, milk, or combination.
6. Add a generous amount of salt and pepper, and a grating of nutmeg.
7. (Because I buy farm fresh eggs, I always taste my raw egg mixture and don’t worry about salmonella — this way I can taste whether it’s salty enough. For my palate, the egg mixture should be salty enough to taste the salt, yet not overly salty…)
8. Add the asparagus to the pan and pour the egg mixture over, then add in the cheese, pressing it gently into the eggs. Let cook on stovetop over low heat a few minutes, and then transfer to the oven and bake until the eggs are just set. (You can also finish under a broiler, as long as the pan isn’t too deep and you keep a close eye to make sure it doesn’t burn).
9. Remove from oven and slice and eat, served with salad and good bread, and maybe a few new potatoes.
Copyright 2004 Jessica Prentice