and all shall fade, the flowers of spring

Whenever Spring rolls round again (I know it’s boring to insist how fast the year seems to be moving but: the year seems to be moving fast) there’s this flurry of asparagus-loving that goes on in the food-related media. Which is fair enough since it’s really delicious and takes its sweet seasonal time getting here and, importantly, its arrival means we’re getting closer to summer. Somehow I haven’t really embraced asparagus much this year – it’s nearly November and this is the first time I’ve cooked it. I’ve been travelling round a bit lately and had a few late nights that slow down my ability to get to the vege market, and while “social life > asparagus” looks good on paper…it’s good to finally have some in the fridge.

I couldn’t fight the inexplicable need to take lots of is-it-isn’t-it-focussed photos of it first.
This would have been a lot more dramatic if I’d had more asparagus, but whatever.
The reason I don’t have more asparagus up my sleeve to take fancy photos of is because I used half my stemmy green bounty earlier this week in something that Nigella calls “Sweet Potato Supper” – a roasting dish of chopped kumara, stems of asparagus, and chopped bacon, sprinkled with thyme and drizzled with oil then baked for an hour. So good.
With the remainder, once I’d finished snapping it from high and low angles, I made a recipe from the Floriditas cookbook. Floriditas is a restaurant down the road and the sort of place that I find myself gazing wistfully at as I pass. Similar to how, if we were ever at the Warehouse in town, I used to ask salespeople to find out how many Spice Girl polaroids there were left in stock, and how much one cost. When they came back and told me I would then sigh and say “okay, thanks” and just stand there, looking wistful. I don’t know why, I guess I was hoping some eccentric millionare would be wandering through the Pukekohe Warehouse and take pity on me or something. Anyway, Floriditas is so, so nice. I’ve only ever been in there for coffee and cake as it’s a bit out of our reach but their elegant cookbook allows it to come closer to home.
It’s divided into months, beginning with December, and recipes reflect the seasonal produce and mood of each time of year. It assumes you know a lot – recipes tend to be sparsely worded – and it could have done with a bit of subediting, but there are a lot of beautiful things to be made, gorgeous pictures and a lovely introduction from Julie Clark and Marc Weir, both of whom can often be seen through the windows serving diners. I only really wish that it had more baking recipes in it – but then as their cakes are so amazing maybe they don’t want to play all their cards at once.
My main reason for attempting their Asparagus and Tarragon Spaghetti with Garlic Crumbs was that I’d spontaneously bought a giant tarragon plant from those stands selling herbs at the supermarket because it felt like a good idea at the time. This recipe not only helped out with that but also is a decent showcase for the asparagus spears sitting in the fridge and the idea of ‘garlic crumbs’ was pretty alluring. It’s a recipe for two people but you fry the breadcrumbs in 100g butter. It’s like they were thinking of me, specifically, when they were writing this.
Asparagus & Tarragon Spaghetti with Garlic Crumbs

Adapted slightly from Morning, Noon and Night, the Floriditas cookbook.

For the crumbs:
1/2 a loaf fresh ciabatta
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
100g butter
2 tsps olive oil

Tear the ciabatta into chunks (I left the crust on, despite being told to remove it) and use a food processor to chop the bread into fine-ish crumbs. I should have done this, but couldn’t be bothered getting out the food processor for one job, so instead I hacked and sliced the crumbs into submission with a serrated knife. In a large pan, melt the butter and oil together, then add the crumbs and garlic, stirring regularly till they are golden and crunchy and starting to colour slightly. It might look a bit terrifying to some at this point but the bread absorbs all that butter very quickly. Anything you steal from the pan at any stage will taste amazing.

For the spaghetti:

100g spaghetti (I upped this to 200g for the two of us – 100 seemed too little)
1 bunch asparagus
olive oil
1/2 cup fresh tarragon leaves
4 T freshly grated parmesan
Optional: I added a handful of frozen peas to the pasta during the last five minutes of the cooking time. With all that butter I wanted a bit of extra vegetable.

Cook the spaghetti as per packet instructions in a pot of boiling salted water. Meanwhile, slice the ends off the asparagus then slice the stems diagonally. Heat a little olive oil in a pan and saute the asparagus till it turns bright green and is cooked through and a little darkly crisp in places. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and toss into the pan with the asparagus, mixing gently to disperse (never very easy, to be fair). Add the tarragon leaves, parmesan and crumbs, mixing gently again, and then divide between two plates.
I knew if I made the crumbs first I’d end up eating them all while the pasta was cooking. So, to save the crumbs and also to save on washing up, I sauteed the asparagus first, set it aside, then made the crumbs in that same pan in the last five minutes of the pasta cooking. I thought this was a good thing but it turned out to highlight how my good intentions don’t always turn out right. Nothing dramatic, I just forgot that I’d set the asparagus – one of the central, yay-it’s-Spring-already ingredients – to the side. It wasn’t till I’d finished taking photos and we’d sat down to eat that I remembered.
So there’s the asparagus, hastily
It was incredibly good – the grassy, slightly scorched sauteed asparagus against the deeply buttery crumbs and intense garlic flavour. It possibly doesn’t sound like much of a meal – bits of vegetable and bread on spaghetti – but it’s not only filling, it also tastes somehow luxurious but comforting, with the smell of fried bread as you stir the crumbs…it’s a fantastic way to celebrate one of the nicest Spring vegetables, but even if you don’t have asparagus you could make this with just peas, or maybe courgettes, to give green juiciness against all that butter and crunch.
Last night Tim and I went to see Sage Francis at San Fransisco Bath House. I didn’t know a lot about him till this year when I read an article about him by Tourettes in the late Real Groove magazine. I’m very glad we went along – it’s supposed to be the last tour he’s ever doing – and whether or not he decides to pick it up later on isn’t something you want to count on. We’ve seen opening act Alphabethead once or twice before and he was as alarmingly dynamic as ever, deftly throwing in So So Modern’s Berlin (a couple of the band members were in the audience) and doing things that I can’t even describe on the turntables but they looked very complicated. And he seemed really happy to be doing it, which is awesome. Sage Francis appeared draped in a flag bearing the logo of his record label and gave us his fired-up, powerful and occasionally humorous material, (at one point ripping off a toupee) delivered with amazing flow – the way he twisted words and rhymes around rhythms (all in his American accent with its hard R’s that Seth Rudetsky would be proud of) was awe inspiring. Tim and I hung back, curious and interested observers, but it was cool to see many in the crowd obligingly throwing his own lyrics back to him whenever he lifted the needle on the track. He finished with the stunning, spine-tingly The Best of Times, which, even if you aren’t sold on my description of the evening, I urge you to check out. Then he jumped into the crowd and started shaking hands and taking photos. We left the true fans to it, feeling like we’d seen something seriously special.
Speaking of turntables, Tim got home from work yesterday holding one. We’ve been together for five years now (‘anniversary’ sounds a bit uncool but there it is) and he decided to get it as a present for us, even though we don’t really ‘do’ presents. I guess it was more of an excuse than anything, but to be fair he did secretly bus to Petone to one particular second-hand music shop to find me some old Broadway records. It’s exciting times – there’s all these ancient recordings and they’re so cheap. I’ve been listening to the original Broadway cast recording of Hair more or less non-stop. Not that we’re going to replicate our music collection on vinyl, it’s more of a case-by-case thing (or for me, a caseload-by-caseload of Broadway thing). Although, now that I’ve fleeced Real Groovy and Slowboat, it might be time to look further afield…especially if I want Sondheim…
Finally in music-related stuff, my dad’s band Apostrophe has their first music video for their song The Skeptic – I’m proud as, especially as I know all the work that went into it. Bear in mind it was all made during whatever spare time was available, with zero funding and relatively unfancy technology. Feel free to check it out by clicking —> HERE.
Title via: Spring Awakening‘s finale, Song of Purple Summer. A beautiful song with some gorgeous harmonies. Going more ‘thematic’ here since there just isn’t a wealth of songs about asparagus.
Music lately:
Amongst the Streisand and the Liza and the (unfortunately skippy) Godspell and so on, we picked up this amazing collection of 38 Bessie Smith songs. All gold, but If You Don’t, I Know Who Will is one of my favourites.
Typical Girls by The Slits. Ari Up, aspirational woman who formed The Slits when she was only 14, died on the 20th aged 48.
Next time: I am in a rare situation where I’ve ended up with a ton of things to blog about so it could be anything depending on what I feel like writing about when I next get some spare time – but my money’s on that crumble.

11 thoughts on “and all shall fade, the flowers of spring

  1. Kay says:

    Love the asparagus photos. Pity your father doesn't like asparagus otherwise it could be an interesting theme for another music video….


  2. Mel says:

    1. I've been getting into asparagus too! Sometimes I even eat it raw 🙂 🙂 Mmmm.

    2. Love the photos and words on this post!

    3. Your dad has a band, oh my goodness! And that music video is super cool.

    4. Went to Floriditas today for the first time in a very long time… the Valrhona chocolate cupcake was a total treat!

    5. Sorry to bullet point a comment, but am afraid my mind is not working splendidly well at 1AM 😛

    Happy long weekend! x


  3. Genelle says:

    I've been in Thailand for the last 3 weeks ( I know I never told you.. tells you just how often we keep in touch! :() I went to the supermarket last night and there was no asparagus.. Don't tell me I've missed it?!

    And this lookd very tasty! I love asparagus!


  4. Anonymous says:

    Bah, it's boring to complain that it's cold all the time but I do it like, every 5 minutes. Love the header of your blog – the Double Brown made me laugh, can't get that over here in Austria. Wish I had some asparagus…


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