Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Baked Asparagus with Tarragon and Shiitake

Tonight I tried Melissa Clark's Baked Asparagus With Shiitake, Prosciutto and Couscous, although I left out the prosciutto because I forgot to pick it up at the store. I'm not sure what her angle is but she writes an article each week for the NY Times and every dish seems like some serendipitous and totally off the cuff success. Naturally, I hate her a bit for that but I forgive her because I always, ALWAYS want to eat what she's making.
She describes a method for cooking asparagus that yielded an asparagus like she's never tasted before (her sentiment), apparently a slow-cooking method made it absorb the other flavors of the dish without getting overcooked. Yes, it was delicious, although I think it would have been equally delicious if I sauteed the whole thing in 10-12 minutes versus waiting a whole hour to slow roast at 200 degrees. I do think the tarragon made the dish, in fact, I liked tarragon before but I don't know if I ever tasted it in a dish that made me like it as much as this one. Actaully, I think the tarragon flavor was such a wow factor, that I have re-named the dish Slow Roasted Asparagus with Shiitake and Tarragon. Couscous soaks the juices up nicely (and I so wish there were more!) but really, does it need to be in the title? I think not. It would be fine over rice or quinoa.
Eat with Marques de Caceres white rioja.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


When I was in Chile, the words and the stories were a constant feed running through my head. I also had a lot more free time. I can blame my much fuller schedule or that I am not in a new country, full of prompts for me to comment on. Whatever the case though, I've been feeling remarkably stagnant, missing that steady stream of playful phrases and clever stories. The best way to remedy that, as I know, is just to start. So even though I may not be witty or remarkable in any way, I like to look back on this day last year and know that I went to dinner at Atano with Alberto and had perhaps my favorite wine while I was in Chile, Ventolera, a pinot noir from the Leyda Valley (I didn't know that as I started writing this but was just able to look it up because, go figure, I actually documented it, unremarkable as it may have been that day!). Maybe in May 4th, 2011 I will be interested to know that I enjoyed a glass of Li Veli Passamante today, which I liken to drinking liquid violets.

Tonight, Ben and I went to Cooter Brown's for oysters and they were perfectly salty and not too cold and just wonderful. Add to that the nostril-clanging burst of horseradish and the muskiness of Lea and Perrins and I was in heaven. Eating oysters seems particularly poignant right now, in light of the oil spill in the Gulf. It makes my time in New Orleans seem all the more precious, not just because my seafood consumption may be severely limited very soon, but because this region just seems to be hit again and again, threatening the way of life here in a very permanent way. After our oyster dinner, we walked around the Riverbend neighborhood, quiet, stately, picturesque. I could smell the dank moisture of the river and house after fence after tree was loaded with wild jasmine, making me just want to fall into the blossoms and breathe deeply. We also saw a magnolia tree in its first bloom.

I've been in New Orleans now just over seven months, which is longer than the whole time I spent in Chile. That realization makes me a little sad and wistful. I remember thinking the same thing when I realized I had been back in Buffalo longer than I lived in New Orleans. A good reminder to take it in, breathe deeply, walk enchanted streets at dusk, reflect but mostly, be here now.