Someday when we have a small patch of land, we will create a dense permaculture garden that features perennial fruits and vegetables, one of which will be asparagus. Until then, we will do our best with container gardening.
Asparagus takes three years to establish itself. Once it is established you can harvest spears in the spring until the weather gets warm. Last week, a friend of ours shared baby asparagus spears with us while we were touring his garden. They were so tender and delicious!
This week, asparagus made its debut at the farmers' market. We decided to make a pasta with asparagus and mushrooms. We really wanted the asparagus and mushrooms to stand out, so we just made a simple buttery sauce. We actually still have dried mushrooms left from our winter stockpile, but because it is a fresh new season we decided to use fresh mushrooms from Hazel Dell Mushrooms.
Serving Size: 4
1/2 lb rigatoni pasta, dry
1/2 lb asparagus
1/2 lb tiny cute as a button mushrooms, whole
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 c. (3.5 oz) yellow onion, finely diced
1/2 c. "earth balance" margarine
1/4 c. mirin or white wine
1/4 c. water
2 T. rice vinegar
2 T. all purpose flour
1 T. tarragon (dried or fresh)
1 T. canola oil
1/8 t. black pepper
salt to taste
Start the onions sauteing in canola oil and add a pinch of salt. Add 3 of the 4 garlic cloves, mushrooms, 2 T. margarine, black pepper, and another pinch of salt. Cook on low/medium heat.
In the mean time, bring water to a boil in a medium pot. You can boil the pasta and steam the asparagus at the same time (deliciously efficient). Boil the pasta for about 10 minutes or until cooked. Steam the asparagus spears over the boiling pasta water for 5 minutes or until they are bright green. Rinse the asparagus spears in cold water so they stop cooking themselves and cut 1 inch segments.
When the mushrooms are soft and golden, add the tarragon and the remainder of the margarine. When the margarine is all melted, mix the mirin/wine, water, flour, the last garlic clove, and another pinch of salt. I like adding garlic at different stages to get different flavors from it. Add rice vinegar and remove the pan from the heat. The vinegar helps to release all of the butter from the pan and adds some zing to the sauce.
Top the pasta with the mushroom sauce and asparagus. Grind black and cayenne pepper on top to taste!
If you can't find any tarragon, you can substitute anise or fennel. Here's a nice quote about tarragon:
"I believe that if ever I had to practice cannibalism, I might manage if there were enough tarragon around." --James Beard