asparagus

The sheer joy of Hadley asparagus

The sheer joy of Hadley asparagus

Slicing north to south through western Massachusetts, the Connecticut River Valley is some of the richest farmland in northeastern North America. We like to have an excuse to drive 90 miles west from our home in Cambridge at selected moments in the growing season. And as far as we're concerned, the agricultural season begins at the opening letter of the alphabet. “A” is for Asparagus, proudly priapic. When we saw the sign above at North Hadley Sugar Shack (181 River Drive/Route 47, Hadley, MA; 413-585-8820, northhadleysugarshack.com), we couldn't help but smile. Hadley was famous for asparagus from the 1920s until the Fusarium blight struck in the 1970s, decimating the 50-ton annual production from Hadley and adjacent river towns of Hatfield, Sunderland, and Whatley. Farmers fought...Read More
‘New Spanish’ gives NYC accent to Iberian food

‘New Spanish’ gives NYC accent to Iberian food

Chef Jonah Miller and restaurateur Nate Adler are the combined force behind Huertas (huertasnyc.com) in New York's East Village. The restaurant skews Basque in its inspiration, but the pair's cookbook, The New Spanish, is a playful take on contemporary Spanish cooking with a pronounced NYC accent. Case in point: “Arroz al Chino” is a mashup of paella and Chinese fried rice inspired by Zhou Yulong, the Chinese restaurant in the parking garage beneath Plaza de España in Madrid. It's saffron fried rice with lots of bacon, shrimp, and pea tendrils. Covered with zigzag tracks of aioli, it's not far from the fried paella balls that many Spaniards make at home with leftovers. It's pretty clear that Miller and Adler are most at home in “Green...Read More
Realizing a 150-year dream: Ravine Vineyard Estate

Realizing a 150-year dream: Ravine Vineyard Estate

Norma Jean Lowery Harber's family has farmed the 34 acres of Ravine Vineyard Estate (ravinevineyard.com) in St. Davids since 1867. Indeed, her great-grandfather planted the Niagara region's first commercial vineyard here in 1869 and the land was in orchards for many decades. Norma Jean and her husband Blair Harber bought the farm from the rest of the family in 2004. They set about creating organic vineyards and an organic winery. Norma Jean's father had grown wine grapes, and the couple replanted vineyards to focus on the three classic Bordeaux reds (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc) along with Chardonnay, Riesling, and small amounts of Gewürtztraminer. The wines are reason enough reason to visit Ravine. As luck had it, we missed the tasting room hours. But...Read More

Even Japanese cooks love asparagus

In Cook Japanese at Home, author Kimiko Barber demystifies Japanese cuisine for western cooks. But she never dumbs it down. The new cookbook, available this month in the U.S. from Kyle Books, provides 200 recipes that most cooks could replicate without any special equipment—or terribly exotic ingredients. Emma Lee's photographs show how classy the dishes can appear. Barber observes that western appreciation of Japanese cooking has made a quantum leap since she first moved to London in the 1970s. She does a marvelous job of summarizing Japanese culinary history and the influence of Zen aesthetics on the preparation and presentation of meals. But as true as she is to the spirit of Japanese cuisine, she does not shy away from fusion dishes. Her Japanese-style beef...Read More

Pouilly-Fumé complements asparagus-prosciutto risotto

We sang the praises of Sancerre a few weeks ago, lauding its round fruit combined with tart minerality. We are continuing to welcome the spring and summer seasons with other Loire Valley wines. Sancerre's sister Sauvignon Blanc wine, Pouilly-Fumé, certainly has a strong family resemblance. With a bit flintier taste than Sancerre and a haunting smokiness, Pouilly-Fumé pairs wonderfully with asparagus. We had a couple of bottles of Saget La Perrière 2013 on hand when we acquired up a nice bundle of just-picked asparagus from the Connecticut River farms in Hadley, Massachusetts. We immediately thought of our favorite risotto treatment for the vegetable. That recipe was created for Pinot Grigio, so it uses San Daniele prosciutto and Grana Padana cheese. It's easy to adapt the...Read More

A is for Asparagus in new Alain Ducasse cookbook

It's asparagus season in our neighborhood. The fields of Hadley, Massachusetts are yielding the delicious spears that once made the Connecticut River Valley the asparagus capital of North America. The industry has never quite recovered from a mid-20th century blight, but the farms are producing some stunning asparagus for a few weeks each year. We are eating as much as we can while it is in season. Alain Ducasse grabbed our attention with a brilliant recipe for asparagus and soft-boiled egg in his new cookbook. It's called Simple Nature: 150 New Recipes for Fresh, Healthy Dishes. Ducasse launched his first “Simple Nature” cookbook five years ago. This second installment is, if anything, simpler and more natural. The celebrity French chef penned it with chef Christophe...Read More