madison-press.com

Signs of spring are everywhere — just look

By Linda Conway Eriksson Contributing Columnist

February 15, 2014

In spite of daily sub-freezing high temperatures and even more bitterly cold lows, I know spring is coming. In another month to six weeks, the Arctic Vortex will be a thing of the past for this winter, anyway. The signs are there.


Bunches of pencil-thin bright green asparagus are already populating space in the produce aisles at grocery stores. They, along with tiny fresh baby peas, morel mushrooms, tender fiddle heads and little new potatoes are true harbingers of spring. The asparagus has been calling to me for about two weeks now. It’s telling me to either wrap it with thin pieces of Prosciutto ham or whip up a Hollandaise sauce to accompany the lightly steamed spears. One taste and it’s almost spring at our house.


Every day is just a little longer than the one before it. Early morning doesn’t seem quite so early if the horizon’s showing a bit of light when I open the door to retrieve the newspaper. And how sweet it is to leave my office while there’s still some daylight.


The mounds of snow that look like the Sochi Olympic ski hills in the parking lots are just a little shorter as each week goes by. I feel assured that they’ll melt completely by the first of June.


It’s time to start seeds in those little peat pots indoors to transplant when the danger of frost has passed. My son-in-law (the one with the garden) has a jump on the season already. He usually has a handle on planting times and knows when to move the new plants outside to toughen up. The garden is always prolific at their house.


Finally, the peeps are in the basement, getting a jump on 4-H season. By the time they move to their coop outside, they’ll be big enough birds to be able to deal with the sometimes-brisk spring weather — veritable giants of the chicken world by time for the Madison County Fair in July.


According to the extended weather forecasts, we’re in for some temperatures in the 50s and 60s about as fast as the bitter cold came on us back in the fall. Remember snow at Thanksgiving?


I think I’ll try to bring spring on faster by bringing home a big bunch of that asparagus and part of it will go into this yummy recipe from the cookbook “Perfect Vegetables,” by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated magazine.


STIR-FRIED

ASPARAGUS

1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce


1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup


1 tablespoon dry sherry


2 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil


1 1/2 pounds asparagus, tough ends snapped off, cut on the bias into 1 1/2 inch pieces


3 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press


2 medium scallions, white and green parts, sliced thin on the bias


Mix the soy sauce, maple syrup, and sherry together in a small bowl and set aside.


Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large heavy-bottomed nonstick skillet over high heat until almost smoking. Add the asparagus and cook, stirring frequently, until well browned, about 5 minutes.


Clear a space in the center of the pan, add the garlic, and drizzle with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, and then mix together with the asparagus. Add the soy sauce mixture and toss to coat the asparagus. Cook until the sauce is syrupy, about 30 seconds. Sprinkle with the scallions and serve immediately.


Serves four.


Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached by e-mail at ieatatmoms@gmail.com.