During a recent cooking class, I was put on the spot with a question from a student. Usually I have no problem fending questions relating to recipes or food, but this was one that I had to think about a bit.
The question was: "What is your favorite food?"
Problem was that I like most all food.
As I was thinking, one of my regular students came to my rescue. She said, "You like fresh."
She was right — I like most anything if it is fresh. When it comes to produce, it depends on the time of year.
In the spring, I love tender asparagus and the first locally grown strawberries of the season.
Come summertime, I can't wait for the first ripe tomatoes to appear or to eat the fresh corn just plucked from the stalk, still sweet and tender.
Later in the summer, my favorite would be fresh peaches — not the flavorless ones that are picked green and shipped in from another country. Nope. The ones I am talking about are allowed to ripen on the tree, are oozing with juice and have an aroma that tells you it is definitely a delicious peach.
In the fall, my favorites would be crisp apples, juicy pears and sweet butternut squash.
But do you see a pattern here? All those items are my favorites when they are in season. When fruits and vegetables are allowed to mature naturally on the plant, they are bursting with flavor and have superlative texture.
Fresh foods enjoyed in season just taste better. They are plentiful, usually less expensive and contain more nutrients. Using quality, seasonal ingredients will make any recipe better. Your cooking is only as good as the ingredients you use.
Here is one of my favorite recipes for spring asparagus. Try it while asparagus is still tender and plentiful. Roasting asparagus is a very easy preparation technique. It is quick, fabulous and has been a favorite of my culinary students.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
2 pounds medium asparagus
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon sesame seed (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Snap the fibrous ends from the asparagus. Wash well and place the stems on a large, rimmed baking sheet so that the tips are pointed toward the center of the pan and the stems are pointed to the pan edge. The tender tips will cook faster, so this configuration will allow the asparagus to cook evenly.
3. Combine the oil and garlic and brush or drizzle the oil over each asparagus spear. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with sesame seed if desired. Roast the asparagus until tender, about 10 minutes, giving the pan a good shake about halfway through.
The Wichita Eagle—06/22/11