Turns out, most of Europe prefers white asparagus; green is quite uncommon. At that time, it seemed to me that white asparagus was the height of elegance; besides that, I loved the name in German too: Spargel, (pronounced spar'-gull) as though it were sparkling.
Back in the U.S., even green asparagus seemed like an upscale vegetable during the Mad Men era. It was served on special occasions, usually with a decadent hollandaise sauce.
Nowadays, asparagus is an everyday vegetable, a welcome harbinger of springtime in the markets.
Lately there seems to be a trend for horizontally slicing all manner of raw, fresh vegetables into ribbons, including asparagus. Zucchini sliced into ribbons can replace pasta, great for the gluten free or the health conscious (see my blog post: "Zucchinis Take Over the World" from 8/5/2011). I've seen trends for beets, turnips and kohlrabi sliced this way for roasted chips, a la kale chips, too.
When I tweeted about making Kokkari Prawns from Tim Ferriss' Four Hour Chef (great book, wonderful dish, by the way) - he favorited my tweet. My brush with celebrity! I was thrilled. I'm sure it was auto-generated, but still, it's fun. My friend's daughter has even tweeted back and forth with famous chefs.
Here's an example of asparagus pizza from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman: ribbons of asparagus topping a homemade pizza.
I made this one day when I wanted to try out all the great looking pizza dough variations in the Smitten cookbook. Pros: thought the greens topped pizza and regular pizza were very good, but what everyone really loved was the eggplant calzone. It was a perfectly balanced temptation of eggplant, creamy cheese, and oozing mozzarella, not too much of any one element. LOVE.
Eggplant and Three Cheese Calzone adapted from the Smitten Kitchen
Prepare the dough, or purchase 3/4 pound of pizza dough:
1/2 cup warm water (between 110 and 116 degrees)
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (NOT rapid rise)
1 1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour or bread flour, plus more for kneading
1 teaspoon table salt
olive oil, to coat bowl
Warm oven to 200 for 5 minutes, then turn off.
Pour the warm water into the bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle the yeast over it and let stand 5 mins. Add flour and salt; mix with a dough hook at medium speed until the dough just comes together. Change to low speed and mix for 5 minutes until smooth and elastic (or mix by hand, and then knead).
Coat a mixing bowl with oil, drop in the dough, cover with plastic wrap and place in the warmed, but turned off, oven. Let rise for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Prepare the filling:
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium eggplant (about 3/4 pound), sliced 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup ricotta (8 oz.)
1 cup mozzarella (4 oz.), coarsely grated
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan
1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp. water
bit of fresh basil
1 cup tomato sauce
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with foil, spread with the olive oil. Dredge the eggplant slices, on both sides, lightly in the oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast 20 minutes, flip, roast another 10 minutes. Remove from oven, but leave oven on.
Roll the dough out to a 12 inch circle. Mix the cheeses together, season with 1/2 tsp. salt, and the pepper and oregano to taste. Fold in the eggplant, and mound it in the center of the round of dough. Pull the sides of the dough up and over the center, crimping it to seal.
Brush the outside all over with the egg wash.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until deep golden brown (a pale crust will be less flavorful). Serve with tomato sauce on the side, preferably with someone who loves good food!
I'll be teaching the next Twitter Basics class in June, so please sign up, come to the class, see what's trending, and maybe take out some great (cook) books while you're here.