Springtime is when the good asparagus appears.
Not the skinny, stringy stuff available out of season and shipped from who knows where, but the plump, fresh and fairly local kind.
I eat my fill of it when it’s available, either grilled, sautéed, or oven roasted, occasionally steamed with hollandaise or béarnaise sauce under a poached egg, or blanched and chilled in a salad or with a dip.
I found beautiful asparagus in Mexico in March and bought some to simply grill with steaks. That was the plan until my husband invited the caretakers of our rental house for dinner and I needed an appetizer.
The caretakers, Karl and Kimmie, have been friends of ours for several years, and each time we’re in Cabo Pulmo we try to get together.
Kimmie owned a Korean/Thai restaurant many years ago; dinners at their house are always a treat and I try to reciprocate in kind.
This year it looked like it wasn’t going to happen so I hadn’t planned and shopped for a dinner party. But plans changed at the last minute, and as necessity is the mother of invention, I had no choice but to scan the fridge and see what I could come up with.
Luckily I had just shopped (as the closest large grocery store is almost 2 hours away) and had ingredients for what turned out to be a lovely and delicious starter.
Poached Asparagus with Smoked Salmon
12 Asparagus spears
4 oz. smoked salmon
½ cup reduced-fat sour cream
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro, chopped coarsely
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
⅛ teaspoon salt
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
Break off the woody asparagus stems (don’t cut them, they’ll break naturally above the woodiest part).
Add the asparagus and blanch them for about 3 minutes, until tender-crisp and bright green.
Quickly chill the asparagus in a bowl of ice water. Once cooled, remove to a towel-lined plate and refrigerate.
Combine the sour cream, cilantro, red pepper and salt in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
The asparagus and sauce will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
Wrap each asparagus spear in a piece of salmon and lay 3 spears on each plate.
When ready to serve spoon the sauce over the salmon.
I needed a garnish for the plates, so some smaller romaine lettuce leaves, a bit of blue cheese and a red grape sliced in half were a nice compliment to the salmon.
And the combination was green enough that we skipped the salad course entirely.
Cooking at this rental house is always interesting. The stove really needs replacing and ingredients found at the Mexican superstores aren’t always exactly what a recipe calls for.
Punting is often required. Mexican crema instead of sour cream is a natural, and many happy accidents have come from these substitutions.
We also attempt to use up what’s in the fridge before we leave, and some really tasty morsels have materialized from that. For instance, have you ever made a quesadilla with cream cheese and Parmesan? Seriously good.
But I bet most of us would eat house shingles with cream cheese and Parmesan on them.
Deb Pepin Bullock is a SouthCoast native, author, traveler and foodie who lives in Fairhaven. Follow her blog at deborahdishes.com, on Facebook at Facebook.com/deborahwhodishes or on Twitter @deborahdishes.