Aah, the markets in Paris! Last Sunday morning we wandered at the noisy and buzzing Richard Lenoir Market near Bastille and were admiring the endless long rows of stalls selling skinned rabbits, huge fish and various cuts of meat, neatly piled luscious fruit and veg, and more fresh herbs you'd be able to learn the names of. This being early May, the market had also plenty of asparagus in all shape and form - white (some very fat white ones at that!), green and wild. Whereas I've been roasting green asparagus in my kitchen just recently, and have eaten white asparagus on several occasions, the wild - asperge sauvage in French - was new to me. So in addition to a large bunch of fresh bay leaves, I also got two bunches of wild asparagus to take back to Edinburgh.
Apparently wild asparagus is endemic to coastal areas of Western Europe, especially Belgium, Britain (found mainly in Dorset, Cornwall, Glamorgan and Pembrokeshire), the Channel Islands, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain and the Netherlands. Although it has been previously thought of as a sub-species (Asparagus officinalis ssp. prostratus) to garden asparagus (Asparagus officinalis ssp. officinalis), then recent research seems to suggest that it's a separate species altogether and has been granted a Latin name of its own - Asparagus prostratus. The 'prostratus' in the name implies that wild asparagus stems grow prostrately - the Dutch call the plant 'liggende asperge', for instance. The taste is definitely like a delicate version of green asparagus - very pleasant and light. Here are my two dishes using this new-found gem of a vegetable.
Wild Asparagus at its simplest
(Metsik spargel, lihtsalt või ja meresoolaga)
This 'dish' is inspired by David Lebovitz's post about Paris Organics. The vendor told me (well, my date K. actually, as sadly I speak no French) to boil the asparagus for 5 minutes. David steams his, but I followed his instructions about serving the asparagus - simply dotted with butter and seasoned with Maldon sea salt flakes. Delicious!!! (Very good, if somewhat messy, fingerfood:)
Wild Asparagus with pasta and garlic
(Makaronid metsiku spargli ja kreemja küüslaugukastmega)
Take enough pasta of your choice (I used boccoletti, but might use spaghetti next time) - boil in a generous amount of salted water until al dente.
Meanwhile, blanch wild asparagus in salted boiling water for one minute, then drain thoroughly and cut into shorter pieces (or leave whole if using spaghetti).
Heat a generous splash of olive oil in a frying pan and add some finely sliced garlic. Fry gently for a minute, without letting the garlic to brown.
Add the wild asparagus and sauté for a couple of minutes.
Add some cream (single/whipping/double - whatever you prefer) and heat through. Remember you're aiming for just a light coating of creamy sauce for your pasta, so use less cream than you think you need!
Season with black pepper.
When your pasta is cooked, drain it and throw into your sauce. Stir to combine and serve with some parmesan cheese.
Tagged with Asparagus Aspirations (hosted by Kevin of Seriously Good - read his round-up here) and Weekend Herb Blogging (this time hosted by Ilva of Lucullian Delights - read her round-up here)
UPDATE 6.2.2007: just spotted this post on wild asparagus over at Hungry in Hogtown.