A conversation with Barbara Kingsolver last week has me thinking more than usual about eating locally. She made a good point – that rather than ponder what we feel like eating for dinner, we should consider what’s local and in season, and plan our meals around those ingredients.
With that in mind, I picked up a few bunches of asparagus over the weekend at the farmers’ market, and read a bit of Jamie Oliver’s advice on growing your own – I don’t often hear about people growing asparagus in their back yards, but I know it’s possible in our climate. Serendipitously, my friend A called on Saturday afternoon and asked if I wanted the small gathering of asparagus that was popping up through her lawn and being trampled by her three boys. Did I! From what I know, it takes 3 years for planting to picking asparagus, and I haven’t yet found a garden centre that sells asparagus plants (although, admittedly, I don’t frequent garden centres… my tomatoes, zucchini and pea seeds came from the Superstore).
I went over and dug it up; it was a monster. A mess of roots and an unseen giant tuber of sorts that supported my weight on the shovel (we gave up before digging that deep) with about 6 stalks emerging from it. I replanted what we could salvage beside the fence in my back yard, about five minutes before W and L conspired to snap off the shoots and throw them over the fence.
So today I still have the asparagus from the market. It’s cold and wet, and so dark I could hardly take photos. I didn’t much feel like cooking, so I threw a pot of pasta on – long squiggly pasta I picked up somewhere – I have vowed not to buy any more pasta until I use up all the half bags of assorted shapes on my shelf. While at the market I also picked up a package of peppered Boursin cheese (decidedly not local, I realize, but on sale), a soft, incredibly decadent cheese that my sister and I sometimes set on the table and spread on crackers while we work on our laptops at the dining room table. I thought I’d crumble it into the hot pasta and toss about until it melts, lubricating it a bit with some reserved pasta water. I imagine any sort of soft cheese would work; goat, ricotta (with lemon!) or even flavoured cream cheese.
While the pasta cooked I snapped the tough ends off the asparagus and cut them into pieces. When the pasta was a couple minutes from being done, I threw the asparagus in with it so that it would be tender but still crisp, and all done at the same time. It was all returned to the pot and tossed with crumbled Boursin and a bit of hot, starchy pasta water. I imagine some chopped roasted chicken would have gone well in this too.
For dessert, leftovers from BT this morning. I made gluten free brownies for Jill, who has celiac disease, and they turned out pretty well if I do say so myself! I made them with brown rice flour and millet flour, but I imagine you could use any number of gluten free flours. Because brownies are so dense and fudgy (or should be) and call for very little flour, they are fairly easy to make gluten-free. Next time, I’m trying quinoa flour.
Gluten Free Brownies
Try quinoa or other gluten-free flours such as buckwheat or tapioca in these dense brownies.
½ cup butter, softened
4 oz. semi sweet or dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. instant coffee or espresso, dissolved in 1 tsp. water
¼ cup cocoa
¼ cup brown rice flour
¼ cup millet flour
a handful of chopped nuts and/or chocolate chips or more chopped chocolate (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F and spray an 8”x8” baking pan with nonstick spray.
Set the butter and chocolate in a stainless steel or glass bowl set over simmering water and let it melt, stirring occasionally, or melt it in the microwave. Set aside to cool slightly. Stir in the sugar, and if it’s not too hot, the eggs, vanilla and coffee.
Add the cocoa, flours and salt, and stir until blended. Stir in some nuts or chocolate chips, if you like. Pour into the pan and bake for 25 minutes, until the edges pull slightly from the pan but the middle is still soft. Set on a wire rack to cool.
Makes 16 brownies.