April 29th, 2011 - By Lari Robling
Regional farmers markets are sprouting up all over again, and local asparagus is also beginning to return. Jonathan Waxman talks about this seasonal treat and shares some recipes from his new book, Italian, My Way.
Slowly, but surely, Farmer’s Markets are starting to sprout up around the city, and along with them, the first offerings of local asparagus. Jonathan Waxman, a champion of seasonal and simple since the early days of Alice Water's Chez Panisse, stopped by to chat about this vegetable and share two new ways to enjoy it's brief, but delicious season…
Jonathon Waxman: "Asparagus is so near and dear to my heart. A lot of people don't realize that asparagus is a very difficult thing to grow and it takes two to three years for the crop to bear fruit. So, asparagus to me is something that is so quintessential seasonal vegetable and very versatile."
Lari Robling: "So, you have a recipe for raw asparagus…"
Jonathon Waxman: "Take a vegetable peeler, a raw stalk of asparagus and thinly slice it on top of a bowl so you get these long thin slices. Sea salt, olive oil, touch of lemon juice, and some grated parmesan cheese, and toasted hazelnuts. That’s it."
Lari Robling: "For this recipe I would think that it would have to be very, very fresh."
Jonathon Waxman: "I think all asparagus has to be very, fresh or I wouldn’t use it. If you don’t have a lot of it you can add shaved carrots to it, radishes, you could do shaved beets. Anything that’s a raw vegetable that you want to try, try it."
Lari Robling: "There's a lot of waste with asparagus and it's relatively pricey. So, when you take that dead end off, you have the perfect tip for using that."
Jonathon Waxman: "So, that almost bitter end of the asparagus makes the best soup. What happens when you cook it along time with onions and garlic and other sort of root vegetables the bitterness goes away and what you are left with is that asparagus flavor. And it's really incredibly nutritious as well because there are a lot of nutrients in that stock."
Lari Robling: "So when you take that root end off you're just setting that aside to make the soup?"
Jonathon Waxman: "Correct. You set it aside, and the next day you can chop it up with some onions and garlic, sweat it with a little olive oil, or you could use water, water is fine. A little herbs and then you cook it very gently for 30-40 minutes. Add some water or stock and let it cook for another 30 minutes, let it sit, purée it, and you're done."
Lari Robling: "Serving it hot or cold?"
Jonathon Waxman: "Whatever you like! I think actually, it’s really delicious cold; it’s really delicious hot. You know what? It is a soup that I’ve been doing for a long, long time, and I love it."
Jonathan Waxman's latest book is Italian, My Way.