Thursday, May 29

Happy Spring

I've never understood why we celebrate each new year in the middle of cold, sleepy Winter when there's a much more fitting season available. A season of fresh green shoots bursting from the earth, soft leaves unfurling from spindly branches, frogs singing in raucous symphony from every pond, and birds flocking home from their southern sojourn. A season when the world is coming back to life in verdant glory after a long, still sleep. Now doesn't that sound like a season for celebrating a new year? The season, of course, is Spring, and we are in the happy midst of it.

For all it's beauty and charms, it's a slow season here at Fern Glen Inn, and indeed in the rest of the Almaguin Highlands and Muskoka. There are a few reasons for this lull between winter's fun adventures and summer's mass appeal: the bugs have started; the weather bounces unpredictably from cool to hot and back again; the lakes and rivers are still too chilly for swimming; and life gets busy for people in the city as the weeks slip by in a blink.

But for the those who do come for a spring visit, the rewards are many, though sometimes subtle. It's a time away from crowds, when quiet and peaceful days are the perfect antidote to the hectic pace of 'real life'. A time for sitting beside a still lake or rushing river; lounging by the Coop with a stack of books at your side; walking in the woods, focused on nothing more than what is under your feet (like the moose tracks I saw this week!).

Spring is the time for woodland wildflowers. Delicate little flowers like Spring Beauty with it's candy stripes (pictured left), soft violets, red and painted trilliums, and yellow trout lilies. They all put on a show now while the sun can still reach them low on the forest floor. Once the lush summer foliage closes in, they don't stand a chance.

Other gifts of spring grow right in our back yard and quickly make their way to my kitchen. Rhubarb and asparagus are classic springtime ingredients, and best of all, they don't need any help from me to grow. Many people shy away from the sharp tang of rhubarb, but it makes muffins and coffee cakes wonderfully moist while adding a bright note perfect for a spring morning.

Asparagus, though, is what I most look forward to. Even as a kid, I loved this odd vegetable. I remember tagging along beside my Grandma over to the asparagus patch that grew in the grass next to the garden. Paring knife in hand, she'd cut the ready stalks that would be served up with dinner within an hour of picking.

There's nothing like freshly harvested asparagus. I add it to omelets and
fritattas; toss it with pasta and pesto; roast it with olive oil and garlic until it takes on delicious caramel spots. The other night for dinner, Jim and I ate roasted asparagus spears topped with soft poached eggs and shaved parmesan. Simple can be sooo delicious. Paired with a glass of crisp white wine and followed up with a slice of rhubarb coffee cake, it's a meal fit for ringing in a new year.

Roasted Asparagus with Poached Eggs
Serves two.

1 lb asparagus
1 small clove garlic
1/4 tsp coarse kosher salt
1 Tbsp olive
fresh ground pepper
splash of white vinegar
2 - 4 eggs (1 or 2 per person)
parmesan and lemon wedges for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 F. Rinse the asparagus thoroughly; snap off and discard the woody ends. Arrange the spears in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Mash together the garlic and salt to form a paste. Combine the garlic paste with the olive oil and a few grinds of pepper. Drizzle over the asparagus and turn to coat. Roast asparagus until just tender and starting to brown in places, 15-25
minutes, depending on the thickness of the spears. Can be served hot or at room temperature.

While asparagus is roasting, fill a large, wide pot or skillet with a splash of vinegar and 3" of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer. Have ready a slotted spoon and clean dish towel. When asparagus is just about done, poach the eggs. Crack an egg into a shallow bowl or saucer, then gently slide the egg into the simmering water. Repeat with remaining eggs. Cook eggs until whites are firm but yolks are soft, 3-5 minutes.

While eggs poach, divide the asparagus between two plates. Use a slotted spoon to remove the eggs, resting the spoon on a clean dish towel to absorb the excess water. Place 1 or 2 poached eggs on top of each plate of asparagus. Top with fresh ground pepper, shaved
parmesan and a squeeze of lemon if desired. Enjoy!

Quote for the day: Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons. It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth. - Walt Whitman

No comments: