Monday, July 7, 2008

Fresh from the garden

My grandparents have grown their own vegetables their whole life. Salads, potatoes, leeks, carrots, radishes, turnips, pumpkins. The list goes on and on. I feel so privileged to have been able to take advantage of their harvest. There simply isn't any comparison between a green salad fresh from the garden and a store bought one. I am lucky enough though, to have a great supermarket who sells wonderful fresh products right next to where we live here in Austin.

Outdoor markets in France, happen weekly or even daily, depending on where you live. For my village, it is every Saturday. There are several fruit and vegetable stands (among other things), all of which have big displays. Vendors yell out to attract customers: "regardez ces belles peches madame" ("look at these beautiful peaches ma'am"). They make you taste the product before you buy it. They point out to you which fruit or vegetables are at the peak of their flavor. 

It is a place where I love to go. I feel so alive when I'm there. The smells, the colors and the sounds permeate all your senses. If you go to a small town market (like the one where I go), you will see people talking everywhere, catching up, greeting each other with kisses on the cheeks. It's of course the place of many gossips (usually very important reports such as "Mrs P. told me that the daughter of the neighbor of Mrs B. is having an affair with the mailman's son"). 

But anyway, there is one vegetable that I really enjoy buying at that time of the year and it's asparagus. And in my family, we enjoy them boiled, cold, with homemade mayonnaise or vinaigrette.

For two persons, I count about 7 small asparagus each.  Lay the asparagus in a large skillet filled with just enough boiling water to cover them. Reduce the heat a little and cook for 5 to 7 minutes. Drain, allow to cool and store in the fridge. While the asparagus cook, prepare the mayonnaise. You will need:

1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
salt, pepper
1 cup of corn oil

Whisk together the yolk, the mustard, the lemon juice and salt and pepper. Whisk vigorously and pour the oil, one drop at a time. Before adding the next drop, make sure it's well incorporated. Keep whisking  (keep going!) while you slowly pour a little more oil in a thin steady stream. Repeat until the texture becomes very smooth and you have used all the oil. The key is to not pour the oil too quickly and make sure the ingredients emulsify before you add more oil. When you have a nice mayonnaise you can add more lemon juice and salt and pepper if you want to. Keep in the fridge until you are ready to eat.

To serve, I usually put the bowl of mayonnaise with a spoon and the plate of asparagus on the table. Everyone scoops how much mayonnaise and asparagus they want on their plate. To eat, I like to dip my asparagus in the mayonnaise (and double dip, but it's okay because it's in my plate!).

Serve with fresh bread like pain de campagne or baguette.

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