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Wednesday, April 4, 2007 07:32 pm

Welcome to spring

One sure sign: asparagus shoots poking through the ground

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Untitled Document I’m a firm believer in signs from the universe. Nothing is a coincidence. We meet people for a reason, even if they cause us pain and heartache. We fall in love when we least expect it, and we gravitate to certain parts of the world, sometimes without explanation. Thank goodness for Mother Nature, who keeps track of the master schedule, like a good air traffic controller, knowing at all times who’s arriving and when. In spite of year-round strawberries and hothouse peppers from Holland, I remain dedicated to my local four-season cycle — and Mother, well, she keeps me on track. To wit, I know it’s spring because asparagus shoots are beginning to poke through the ground and show off their pretty stalks at market. Like the yellow parade of daffodils or the sound of a robin twittering outside your window, asparagus is part of Mother’s “welcome to spring” campaign. The very excitement over the seasonal transition is exactly why I won’t eat asparagus from Chile at Thanksgiving; it’s like knowing the end of the story before it even got started. Asparagus is more than a harbinger of spring; it represents potential, the beginning of a new growing season, renewal and rebirth. I feel more alive just thinking about it.
Culinary questions? Contact Kim O’Donnel at kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com
Asparagus-and-White-Bean Salad with Feta-and-Lemon Dressing
Adapted from Farmer John’s Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables, by Farmer John Peterson and Angelic Organics
1 pound asparagus, cut on an angle into 1-inch pieces 1 tablespoon each olive oil and lemon juice 1 teaspoon fresh mint, chopped (I used flat-leaf    parsley instead) Zest of one lemon, chopped 1/4 teaspoon salt Black pepper to taste 1 cup cooked or canned white beans,    drained and rinsed 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese 1/2 cup thinly sliced radishes 2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions One clove garlic, chopped (optional)
Place asparagus in a steamer basket; set it over 1 1/2 inches of boiling water and cover. Steam until asparagus is tender-firm, four to 10 minutes, depending on thickness. Drain, then rinse under cold running water to help stop cooking. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice and zest, herbs, salt, and pepper and whisk until well combined. In a large bowl, combine beans, feta, radishes, and scallions (and garlic, if it is being used). Add asparagus and sprinkle with salt, seasoning to taste. With a rubber spatula, gently stir to combine. Add dressing until well combined. Add more olive oil if the mixture seems dry. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
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