The Spring farmers markets are in full swing now! When I hit up the Dupont Circle Farmers Market this past Sunday, asparagus was everywhere! And that’s not an exaggeration…save for the dairy, meat and bread/baked goods vendors, asparagus was out on every vendor table. And not just the lovely green asparagus either. Spring Valley had asparagus the color of a deep lavendar dotted amongst the greenery. Piles of the ‘gus jumped out from the tables, much to the delight of many market shoppers. We picked up three bunches, one of which was the purple variety (how can I resist that color).
Ramps were also, well, rampant throughout the market. Because of its limited growing season, ramps always get a huge push around this time. Newspaper food sections, cooking/food magazines and the food media practically trip over themselves trying to give their readers ideas on how to use these lovely, pungent wild leeks. As I was walking past Next Step Produce, I overheard a woman tell her friend to boil the ramps and use the resulting broth in a risotto. While I must admit I was intrigued by the idea, the thought of boiling ramps seemed to be a waste of these gems. I’ve made a sublime ramp risotto using homemade vegetable stock that threaded the rich flavor of the ramps throughout each rice grain. No ramp “broth” needed.
Over at Sunnyside’s tables, I stumbled across a bunch of regular leeks and it struck me that I’ve never actually cooked with them before. Sure I’ve done my fair share of wild leek cooking – from ramp biscuits to pan roasted ramps (shameless plug for this post). But when it comes to the traditional leek, I’m still a virgin. A vague recollection of a recipe for pizza using caramelized leeks urged me to pick up one of the bunches on the table.
Looking around for something to accompany the leeks, my eyes fell on the pearls of red cherry tomatoes on the other table. Recalling the complex dance of sweetness and tartness from the roasted cherry tart (another shameless plug), it struck me how well they would pair with the leeks. As I was carefully placing two boxes of the cherry tomatoes into a bag, my hand brushed against the green onions lying in close proximity. And almost like a thunderbolt (okay, maybe not that cheesy), the idea for a Spring pad thai came into my head.
When I lived in Charlotte, I became really good friends with an older couple who shared my love of cooking. Once a month, we would gather at their house, cook a meal from scratch and then spend hours talking over fresh brewed tea. I learned a lot of different cooking techniques and the importance of quality ingredients from these get-togethers. However, the most valuable lesson I learned was the art of a simple pad thai. The husband was stationed in Thailand early in his Army career and the young couple embraced living in a foreign country. They immersed themselves in Thailand’s culture and language and of course, its food. One of the first dishes they mastered was pad thai, partly because of its ease and partly because it was so versatile. They taught me how to make a chicken version of the traditional street food and encouraged me to play with the ingredients to come up with unique combinations. With the asparagus and green onions in my bag, I knew I could turn out a Spring version of the dish.
Recipe: Spring Pad Thai
- 8 oz rice noodles or rice sticks
- 2 bunches asparagus, cut into diagonal pieces
- 4-6 oz mushrooms, sliced
- 1 green onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 tbs vegetable oil
- 3 eggs
- 4 tbs fish sauce
- 2 tbs sugar
- 1 tsp Paprika
- 1/4 cup ground peanuts
- Soak the rice sticks in warm water in a large bowl for 35-35 minutes. Once the noodles are tender but firm, drain them and set them aside.
- In a skillet, add 1/2 tbs of the oil and over medium high heat sautee the asparagus and mushrooms to your desired texture (I like my asparagus tender but still with a slight crunch to it). Remove the skillet from the heat.
- In a wok or large skillet, heat the remaining oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic and stir for about 15 seconds. Add the eggs and scramble until just done (don’t let them burn).
- Reduce the heat to medium low and add the drained noodles. Working quickly, stir the noodles around to coat with the egg and garlic. Then add the fish sauce, sugar, paprika and green onions. Toss to mix everything up and then add the asparagus.
- Give the noodles one more toss to incorporate the asparagus fully. Continue cooking until the mixture starts to get a little dry. Remove from the heat and top with the ground peanuts.
Number of servings (yield): 6
Want other ideas for cooking market fresh asparagus? Try some of these recipes!
- Market Asparagus Salad with Bacon and Wild Mushrooms from Adventures of a Florida Girl in DC
- Savory Asparagus Bread Pudding from 101 Cookbooks
- Asparagus and Gruyere Tart from Closet Cooking
- Roasted Asparagus with Red Pepper Puree and Microgreens from the Garden Apartment
- Spring Grilled Chicken and Asparagus Linguine from Foodie Tots