In Chicago, we eagerly await that first outdoor farmers market as the unofficial start of spring. While other parts of the country have been sunny and bright for weeks, even months, we’re often still plagued with bouts of late season chills, overnight frosts and torrential downpours. That first market is often rainy and generally not the beautiful sunny day of our dreams. BUT it does serve as a harbinger of better things to come, of berries and stone fruits, of tomatoes and peppers, of things other than the root vegetables and onions that have sustained us through another gray, dreary winter. And we know that those first few markets will contain the beautiful stalks of green and purple asparagus and maybe other highly seasonal finds like ramps and green garlic. And we know that close on their heels will follow rhubarb and then their fat red partners in crime, strawberries, for a fleeting but delicious few weeks. And that folks, is what keeps our hopes alive.
As usual, I pounced upon those big, beautiful piles of asparagus like a drowning man grabs a life preserver. I needed their brightness, their freshness to lift me from this ever present winter funk. I bought too much, more than one person could possibly consume in a few days. Then I went back three days later and bought some more. Couldn’t help myself. For the most part, I ate great heaps simply roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper. I worked some into a fresh pasta with a ramp green pesto. And then I spied a rather large chunk of Stilton tucked in the back of my fridge and had an idea.
This time I made a lovely little Stilton sauce for my roasted asparagus and with a quick red onion marmalade for a sweet-sour contrast. It was so delicious and simple I made it three times in quick succession. I’ll probably make it three more times too, as long as that market asparagus holds out. I figure I’ve got a week or two left.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: PUTS A SPRING IN YOUR STEP. I know I say this often, but this is a good one. And really, would I lead you astray? It’s simple enough for a weeknight meal yet impressive enough for a dinner party. As written, it will serve 2 heartily or 4 as a side though it doubles easily. Who doesn’t want a recipe like this in their back pocket?
On this blog three years ago: Rosemary Foccacia
On this blog two years ago: Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies
On this blog one year ago: Banana Fudge Cake
Other spring recipes: Pickled Ramps, Ramp Green Kimchi, Popovers with Strawberry Butter, Rhubarb Custard Pie, Puff Pastry Asparagus Spears, Asparagus & Roasted Tomato Quiche, Late Spring Pea Soup, Rhubarb Syrup for cocktails, Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Pie
ROASTED ASPARAGUS WITH STILTON BUTTER AND RED ONION MARMALADE roughly adapted from this recipe
for the red onion marmalade:
½ medium red onion, finely diced
1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
¼ cup water
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
good pinch each of kosher salt and ground black pepper
for the asparagus:
1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed (about ½ pound)
for the stilton butter:
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
¼ cup crumbled Stilton or blue cheese (1 ¼ ounces)
- For the marmalade: place all of the ingredients into a small saucepan, bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes until the onions are tender with a bit of texture and the mixture is fairly dry. Try to simmer on the lowest heat possible; if the mixture becomes too dry too soon, add a Tablespoon or two of water.
- Transfer the marmalade to a small bowl and allow to cool.
- For the asparagus: Preheat oven to 450°F.
- Trim the asparagus by bending each stalk near the bottom until it naturally snaps – throw the tough ends away.
- Place the asparagus on a foil lined sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil and roll the spears around to coat. Top with a good pinch of salt and a grind or two of pepper.
- Roast until asparagus is just tender, about 8 minutes for thin spears, longer for thicker spears. (Can be prepared 3 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)
- For the stilton butter: In a small pan over low heat, melt the butter then add the crumbled Stilton. Stir gently until melted and smooth.
- When ready to serve, place the asparagus on a plate, drizzle the warm Stilton butter and top with the red onion marmalade.