Sunday, April 20, 2008

The magical mystery tour of asparagus

I’ve just been on a wonderful adventure in West Marin county and Northern California doing research for my new farm project and celebrating my friend Amanda’s birthday. One of the most magical memories of my trip was discovering the asparagus from Peter Martinelli’s farm in West Marin.

It all started when we went for dinner at the wild, wonderful compound of Evan and Madeline (for important news about Evan and Madeline stay tuned; they are worth a blog all by themselves). This may not sound so earthshaking but the big deal was this: Evan served us asparagus. I noticed the bundle with broken ends, not cut off and the stalks were green straight through, not milky white as you find them from most commercial growers. Amanda, who is a cook at Lucques in LA, was as enchanted by the look of these spears as I was. Evan simply blanched the asparagus and I can promise you that they were incredibly sweet and flavorful. He told us he got the asparagus from Peter’s Farm nearby, and when Amanda and I kept talking about it, he said we had to visit Peter. Luckily for us we were seeing him the next day.

All the way there we were fantasizing about how we would prepare Peter’s asparagus, especially the huge spears that were so juicy. (It’s nice to have a friend who is as nutty about wonderful ingredients as I am).

We got to Peter’s and learned that he really only grows enough for family and friends. Amanda went into raptures about the big spears so he showed us the plant that is responsible for these giants. Peter’s a lovely guy. He knew that Amanda had to have this asparagus so he broke off the last huge stalk and gave it to her. 16 inches tall with a diameter of 1-inch, it was fated for her kitchen.

When we got back she put our giant stalk in a glass of water along with a few other smaller ones to save for dinner the following day. The next morning we got eggs from my friend Susie’s garden to go with the asparagus. Amanda had to get out the largest stock pot in the kitchen to cook this one stalk. I prepped the hard boiled eggs, chopped parsley and shallots while Amanda cut the asparagus in thin slices and topped it with all the eggs shallots, parsley, some olive oil, meyer lemon, and salt.

We sat down with our asparagus and a bottle of Domaine Tempier Rose and were in heaven. It was almost a perfect ending to our perfect week. The only flaw was knowing we had to leave later that day.

Peter Martinelli
Fresh Run Farm


Blogger Unknown said...

I stumbled across your blog purely by chance -- and then realized that I have and love your cookbook.

Your asparagus adventure looks wonderful -- I live in the heart of Massachusetts's asparagus country and am always hoping to find some growing wild in an abandoned field. No luck yet, but the local shoots are still something with with to be reckoned.

May 19, 2008 at 8:35 AM  

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