I have tried, in recent months, to create not only a list before going to that temptation-laden den that is the grocery store, but also a meal plan for the week, so that I can see as I shop how the seemingly random ingredients I toss haphazardly into my cart (inevitably squeaky, sticky, or with a bum wheel) fit together.
Of course, this doesn’t always work. Usually I veer off from my established course (from the meal plan, that is. The shopping cart leads me physically astray throughout the voyage) when I hit the produce section. In very late fall and very early spring, my weakness is asparagus. Pencil-thin spears, that woody green color of new growth – at this time of year these bunches of promise not only attract me from a flavor perspective, but they mean something about the weather. Since it is only February, this is sometimes a lie, but they give me something to look forward to – they permit me brief rememberances of what Spring means (in the sense that the weather warms and the sky blues, not that the allergens arrive).
My new favorite way to cook asparagus is not on the stovetop, as Mom taught me, but in the oven.
I snap the stems of the asparagus and combine them, a scattering of cherry tomatoes, two or three minced cloves of garlic, the juice from half a lemon and the juiced lemon half, sliced, on a baking sheet. I toss my veg liberally with olive oil, then add black pepper and sea salt. At 400, a bunch of skinny spears usually takes about 15 minutes to cook. If you’re feeling less technical about the whole thing, once most of the tomatoes have begun to burst it’s a good time to check for doneness.
We had our roasted asparagus with big, beautiful pan-fried salmon filets. Just salt, pepper, olive oil, and a sprinkle of dill on each.