Friday, April 1, 2011

Spring has sprung—almost

The Beet

Express Staff Writer

Don't let food magazines fool you; spring is not here. The produce on grocery shelves is still coming from places with much warmer climates, and snow will be on the ground for at least another month.

It will be weeks before the light, fresh salads and clean, produce-filled food on the covers of Cooking Light and Bon Appetit begin seem at all appealing.

But the calendar is announcing that spring has begun, and so it's hard to resist the allure of the peas, asparagus and baby lettuces stocked at the local markets.

Our bodies are beginning to crave clean, pure food -- a kind of spring cleaning after the hearty meat-filled chili and stews we've been filling up on all winter.

If it were actually getting warm, blanching these veggies or eating them raw would be the best option. But ingenuity is required to turn premature produce into something that meshes with the weather outside. You can't go wrong by adding bread to anything, in my opinion, and combining asparagus with sausage makes it warming enough for even the coldest of early April days.

Make sure you use Basque or Spanish chorizo as opposed to the less-firm and differently spiced Mexican variety. If spice is not your thing, you could adapt this to use Aidell's chicken and apple or turkey and artichoke sausages, which will be just as delicious with the beans and asparagus.

This is a fairly filling dish, but it might not seem like a complete meal for most meat-and-potatoes dinner people. If you're an egg fan, you can try serving this with an over-easy or poached egg on top, tearing into the yolk with a fork and letting it ooze over the croutons.

If runny yolks are not your cup of tea, pair this with a salad of sliced tomatoes drizzled with balsamic vinegar and a little olive oil. Enjoy -- and happy spring!


Asparagus with Chorizo and Croutons

Adapted from Jaques Pepin

1 lb. thick, firm asparagus, trimmed

1/4 cup olive oil

4 oz. Basque chorizo, cut into 3/4-inch pieces

1 1/2 cups cubed French, Italian or ciabatta bread

1/4 cup whole almonds

1 cup canned great northern beans

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Cut each asparagus stalk into 3 or 4 pieces. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Add all the ingredients except the beans, salt and pepper.

Cover the pan and raise heat to high. Sauté for 5 to 6 minutes, a little bit less if you were not able to find thick asparagus, tossing or stirring the mixture a few times so it browns and cooks on all sides. The bread should turn golden, while the asparagus and sausage will start to caramelize slightly.

Remove pan from heat; add the beans and salt and pepper. Toss again, and serve to four very lucky people. Enjoy the easy cleanup!

Katherine Wutz is a reporter for the Idaho Mountain Express.

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