Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Spring Springing

Here is what any knowledgeable foodie can look forward to during the burgeoning weeks of spring, which are almost upon us: ramps, asparagus, morels, fava beans, spring garlic, sweet peas. Spring harvest is almost here, which means a welcome wish goodbye to all those root vegetables we've spent the winter eating.

As an early celebratory move towards a spring feast, I cooked myself a spring meal last night. I grabbed asparagus from the market. It was from California, and I don't usually like to buy produce that's spent so much time traveling, but I was really craving asparagus, and besides, I had 15 quail eggs in the refrigerator, and what vegetable goes better with eggs than asparagus?

I blanched the asparagus for five minutes in boiling water and then transferred them to an ice bath to retain their color. Then I made a simple vinaigrette of chopped chive, shallot, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little bit of truffle oil.

The quail eggs were a little more complicated. I decided to make a good old project out of dinner and found a recipe for deviled quail eggs. Boil the eggs for three to four minutes and remove. Cool the eggs under cold water and peel. Slice in half. Removing the yolks is tough; I used my fingers, which seemed to work better than any kitchen tool. I mixed the yolks (from seven eggs) with one tablespoon mayonnaise--I use olive oil based mayonnaise only--the juice from half a lemon, a teaspoon of dijon mustard, salt, cracked black and cayenne peppers.

The final part of dinner involved sea scallops from the fish market. A note to anyone buying scallops for searing: if the market sells "dry scallops," buy them. Sea scallops are brined in order to make them appear more white and larger. As a result, when you put them over a high flame, they release their internal moisture, making it impossible to achieve a proper sear. My market didn't have dry scallops, so my scallops were lightly brown instead of brown-to-black. But they still tasted good. I kept it simple, with salt and pepper the only adornment.

But added to my asparagus with vinaigrette and deviled quail eggs, that was more than enough. I'm eagerly awaiting the arrival of spring produce.

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