Despite what the rest of the country seems to think (I'm thinking of you, in particular, Nelson and Hawke's Bay), we do actually get some pretty decent weather in capital city. As the saying runs, you really can't beat Wellington on a good day, and though it has only just flipped into October, we have already had some cracking days. With the warmer weather comes the opportunity to eat some of my favourite fresh foods.
It's not that I dislike winter food - I love root vegetables, and brassicas, and cabbage and all that hearty winter stuff. But it is always kind of exciting when my favourite spring veges start to appear.
Last evening Plus One and I bowled round to collect Lola Dog from where she had spent the day with her best dog friend Lucy. We had agreed to have some sort of dinner, and I had thought of fish and chips (I reckon Brooklyn Fish Supply is pretty good), or our fave cheapie Malaysian, KK Malaysian in Ghuznee Street. But when I popped over to see Sanjay at Cuba Fruit for my afternoon fruit fix (a pear, and an orange), I formulated a new plan, based solely on how marvellous the produce looked. Two things caught my eye - asparagus, and strawberries. There you go - dinner basis; sorted.
I texted LVH and said "I have asparagus and strawberries - shall we fix something for dinner?", and she seemed perfectly happy to roll with it rather than takeaways. I know she keeps a decent store cupboard and would have enough stuff on hand for us to fix a pretty good dinner. Plus, she has a really nice kitchen. And razor sharp Wusthof knives. I wasn't sure exactly what we would have, but I was probably going to enjoy cooking it.
I busted the woody ends off the asparagus and set a pot of water on the boil. I steamed the asparagus over some spaghetti until they were both cooked al dente - still firm to the bite, but with just a little give. I strained the spaghetti, keeping the salty pasta water to loosen the spaghetti, and stirred through the chopped, steamed asparagus with mint, basil, feta and lemon zest and juice. I ground some black pepper and added a couple of pinches of salt. I finished the plates with a dash of lovely Village Press olive oil (I am on a crusade to not cook with olive oil so much - rather, to use it "raw" as flavouring or seasoning).
For dessert, I simply took the tops off the strawberries and chopped them in half, and we had them with vanilla icecream and some chopped Whittakers dark chocolate.
And - that was that, really. An extremely simple and satisfying meal that showcased how good and fresh the asparagus was, and felt like a real welcome to the produce of the warmer months. None of this food was complicated or fussy, or difficult to prepare, but all of it tasted good, and fresh. PJ and I were searching for a word that adequately described the flavour of the berries; what we ended up conceding was that they tasted profoundly of strawberries. Which is pretty much what you want.
We ended up having a conversation about the fact that whereas strawberries themselves are delicious, strawberry-flavoured things are not. I am no great fan of strawberry jam, or strawberry milkshakes or ice cream. I would always go for a raspberry flavour over strawberry - raspberry jam, raspberry milkshake, and so on. (I feel the same way about oranges - love oranges, not that keen on orange-flavoured things...)
I quite like the idea of going to someone's house for dinner and taking something to be the feature of the meal, augmenting it with stuff they already have, rather than simply getting a takeaway. It seemed egalitarian. And I like using great knives in a nice kitchen, especially seeing as mine is still in a state (not long now till the renovations are done - surely?!).
As we wrapped up, LVH said to me "thank you for bringing the taste of summer into our house!" And I recollected - almost a year ago - I declared bagels to be the taste that reminded me of my summer. What a fool I was - asparagus and strawberries - now there's a taste of summer.
Have you cracked into the new season's asparagus and strawberries yet? Or, do you take some stuff and go to a friend's place to cook dinner? And - how do you cook asparagus?
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