SPRING!

Apr 16th, 2006

There are many ways to entertain and celebrate, but brunch has to be one of the best. Best I think because menus are pretty simple and usually enjoyed by most. Even people who don’t eat eggs, will often eat them baked into a bread pudding or French toast, and even an egg strata–the universal brunch recipe. I love the fact that when entertaining with brunch, we can have a 4 hour party and still be cleaned up before the evening news. And this is especially important when Brunch is on a Sunday. At least that is true for Bob and me, as we seem to need some time to get ready for the work week.

We served brunch just this morning–celebrating Easter / Passover and Spring. Often we are asked how we decide what to serve. We start the same as we would for any meal–with what is in season. Of course, we mean nature’s season, but right now, Mother Nature’s spring is taking her sweet time to arrive in our little town and I cannot wait. There are certain foods that say spring better than others, and it’s ASPARAGUS for me. If I waited until local farms are harvesting asparagus before I have any–spring would not be the same for me. Bob brought it in for our brunch today from our California neighbors–just for me.

Though asparagus wasnít the centerpiece of our Brunch, the fact it was there made my day. It is not just my spring fetish. I remember a restaurant in WASH DC that would serve every diner a full pound of asparagus for about a week every spring, and people would stand in line for the experience. It is a great vegetable that is often associated with fine dining. Maybe it is because the plant, a member of the lily family, takes three years to mature before the spears are harvested. There is a big debate out there about which are best, the pencil thin or chubby stalks. We think the chubbies are most tender and delicious, but the main thing is whichever you like, consider getting them all about the same size so cooking is consistent.

While I am musing about spring, I cannot help think about my family in Seattle, who are probably all sitting around a decked out-for-spring-table in the living room of my cousinís house, the only room that could hold the table for 28! That is where our family has celebrated many EASTERS, and many memorable meals–mostly pot luck but always someone brings the requisite plate of fresh asparagus for Easter. I miss being there today, but I do enjoy remembering because it adds to my celebration of spring. Here is the menu item that we served with asparagus this Easter Day.

Dressed up Polenta with Asparagus & Oregon Pink Shrimp
1 ‡ cups fine ground organic cornmeal
2 cups water
2 cups chicken stock unsalted, vegetable stock may be substituted
2 oz Mascarpone cheese
4 oz heavy cream
1 TBS roasted garlic (see recipe)
TT sea salt, Pepper, Coriander
2 TBS EVOO or butter as needed to finish

Asparagus:
1lb. washed and cut into 2 inch lengths
EVOO
Seasoning-salt, pepper, coriander

Shrimp:
EVOO for sautÈing
3 oz shrimp per person, peeled, and deveined
1 tsp minced garlic
‡ cup dry vermouth

Sun dried tomato relish, optional
METHOD:
Polenta: In 2 quart saucepan, bring water and stock to boil. Whisk in cornmeal, stirring quickly to prevent lumping. Lower heat and simmer stirring occasionally until the polenta is creamy about 20 min. Add the mascarpone cheese, heavy cream roasted garlic and seasonings. Just before serving add EVOO or butter.

Asparagus: Heat skillet; add EVOO; heat over medium-high. Add asparagus, season with salt, pepper and coriander. Cook about 3-5 minutes or until tender. Set aside off heat.

Shrimp: Heat skillet; add EVOO and heat over medium-high. Add shrimp and sautÈ for 3 minutes or until just pinkóbeing careful not to overcook. Add garlic and sautÈ a few more seconds. Add vermouth. Set aside off heat.

At service, place polenta in bowl, top with asparagus, shrimp, and garnish with tomato relish. Serve.