Local Spring Produce
By Barbara Voris Eastman
There are so many reasons to love May on The Beach Coast! At the top of my list? The re-opening of the Farmers’ Markets in nearly every Beach Coast community. After months of buying vegetables at the grocery store, it is a pleasure to take in the sights and aromas of the local Farmers’ Market. A gentle breeze may bring with it the delectable fragrance of freshly baked croissants or crusty baguettes. And who can walk by the cheese booth and not be drawn to the distinctive aroma of a beautifully veined bleu or stilton, or the nutty smell of gruyere or smoked gouda? The fragrance of hanging baskets of flowers can be intoxicating and you’ll find all your senses awakened by the fresh produce and other goodies you’ve been missing.
My favorite early spring vegetable is asparagus and this is something you should find in abundance in May. I especially like the tender, pencil thin stalks. Snap off woody ends (or trim them with a knife) and you can cook them several ways. Cut the stalks on the diagonal into 1 ½” pieces. Fill a medium sized saucepan half way with water, bring to a boil. Add the asparagus and reduce heat slightly to a simmer. Parboil the asparagus for exactly 2 minutes. Drain the hot water. While still hot, toss the asparagus in a bowl with 1-2 tbsp. olive oil, Parmesan, and lemon rind. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or room temperature. Or, place asparagus in a jelly roll pan and drizzle with olive oil (1-2 tbsp. to a pound). Roll the stalks to coat evenly and season with coarse salt. Roast in the a hot oven (375º) for 10 minutes. You can also prepare in the same way and place on the grill, turning to brown evenly and being careful not to burn the tips. Squeeze on fresh lemon juice at the end and serve with shaved Parmesan.
The Morel of the Story
Early spring is the time when morels begin to appear along The Beach Coast. Pick them up at the Farmers’ Market and you will pay $20 or more per pound. Morel lovers won’t bat an eye because they are available for such a short time that they consider the delicacy worth the splurge. But there is a way to avoid the high cost of this favorite fungus. Hunt them yourself! Put on some jeans or other long pants, bring along a pillowcase or paper sack to carry home your treasure, and find yourself a plot of woods (avoiding any that say “Private Property”). Morels grow around dead elm trees, ash, tulip poplars, oak, and in old orchards. They have distinctive caps that look like very porous sponges, and they range in color from pale beige to golden yellow, and there are varieties that are grey and black. They look unlike any other mushroom, but if you have even the tiniest doubt, look them up on the internet and compare yours to photos you’ll find there. Cooking them couldn’t be easier. Use them in any recipe that calls for mushrooms or just let them shine on their own. Rinse and dry them. Remove the very end of the stem, slice the caps and sauté in butter with a little minced garlic. Sublime!
June (will soon be)
Bustin’ Out all Over
Every week there will be new items at the Farmers’ Markets (look for strawberries starting in June) and with the warm weather we had in March, maybe some items will even be there ahead of schedule. That’s what’s so much fun about of going to the market each week. You never know what you’ll find but, whatever it is, it’s sure to be delicious and, best of all, fresh!
Barbara Voris Eastman grew up in Michigan City and moved back to the area after spending nearly 35 years working in Chicago. She is both the editor and a regular contributor to www.thebeachcoast.com.