Asparagus, Marin Farmer’s Market | Mark Lindsay

The dailiness of life has this hum to it. Like an old refrigerator on its last leg, it drowns out the nuances of life. Then the fridge finally dies and...quiet. Birds chirp, you can hear the breeze again. Turning off the electricity might be a prescription for sanity.

For years part of my weekly routine was to visit the Sunday farmer's market in San Rafael. The catch is that one needs to get there early, preferably by 8:00 AM. Lately life's tasks and goals seem to have ensconced themselves between me, the farmers and their market. Sunday morning comes, I take a look at the clock, I passively watch 8:00 come and go. I go to Safeway instead.

The local Safeway has been slowly killing my soul. The music, the bad produce, the indifference, the ads over the sound system, and the corporate sterility all combine to put me in a grumpy mood. This past Sunday I woke up and told myself, "No more Safeway. Can't do it." I found my market baskets and drove up to San Rafael.

My heart swelled when I drove over the small hill at the Civic Center and saw the tents and canopies of the market. A stuffed produce truck meandered ahead of me, casting off a few lettuce leaves in its wake. Patrons scurried from their cars with empty baskets in hand. The warm sun was basking the market in springtime glow. People were smiling. I felt like I was home again.

Every season is different at the market. The dance of the seasons are always in full throttle. In March it is asparagus. Asparagus is like the trumpet section of an orchestra. It blares out, heralding spring's arrival. When local asparagus comes to market, we know that everything is changing. Could summer be far behind? What next? Tomatoes[ Fix on blog]? Sweet corn? Eggplant?

There's no need to get ahead of ourselves with the bright colors of summer. Spring's pastels mean fava beans, tender onions, leafy lettuce, artichokes, and so much more. Summer's assertiveness can wait. There is asparagus to eat! And what could better to celebrate my reunion with the market than to share with you this recipe. It is an asparagus salad with chopped, hard-boiled egg? It makes me think of Easter. It makes me ponder the wonders of rebirth. It brings out the old cooking teacher in me. Enjoy!

Asparagus Salad with Olive Oil, Lemon Juice and Hard Boiled Egg

Serves 4.

2 lbs. fresh asparagus
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
lemon juice – freshly squeezed from 1/2 lemon
salt - to taste
3 eggs – hard boiled and finely chopped

Cut off the bottom inch of the asparagus spears. Peel the lower stem portion of the asparagus with a paring knife so that the tough outer skin of the asparagus is removed. Do so by setting the knife about 1/8 to 1/16 of an inch into the base of the asparagus and gently pulling the knife up towards the tip end. You will want to hold the spear with the tip pointing towards you while doing this. The knife will guide itself and remove only the tough, outer portion of the asparagus. Depending on the freshness of the asparagus, you will remove several inches in length of the skin.

Soak the asparagus in fresh water for about ten minutes, removing any grit that may have lodged in the tips.

Heat a large 12 inch pan filled 2/3 of the way with water until it boils rapidly. Add about a tablespoon of salt to the water and then add the asparagus. You may have to cook the asparagus in several batches depending upon the size of the pan. Boil the asparagus until it just begins to turn limp and then remove it from the water. Drain the asparagus and arrange it on a serving platter. An attractive way to arrange it is to lay down a first row of asparagus and then lay subsequent layers so that they cover the preceding layers beneath except for the tips.

Put the lemon juice in a small bowl. Add a generous pinch of salt. Slowly add the olive oil, beating the mixture vigorously while doing so. Taste the mixture and adjust the ingredients if necessary.

Pour the dressing over the top of the asparagus and sprinkle the chopped egg over it. Serve the dish while it is still warm.