I love to garden.
Let me rephrase. I love going into my back yard and harvesting vegetables to eat, and love the idea of having grown them myself. But I’m not terribly successful at the actual gardening part. I have issues.
- I lack patience. I don’t have the patience to properly prepare the soil, which is apparently crucial to a successful harvest. My soil amending consists of tossing a bunch of whatever I find in the shed into the area I plan to plant. If the soil is as hard as a rock, which is often, I break it up with a heavy javelin shaped pole, figuring I’m getting in my upper-body workout for the month. But it’s exhausting work, so one side of the garden is noticeably better prepared than the other.
- I’m inconsistent. I start things like gangbusters, ideas clicking away, enthusiasm singing from every pore. This phase peaks with ideas of how to franchise my efforts to solve global hunger, and provide husband, puppy, and me with a cushy lifestyle. The euphoria inevitably fades as I realize not even my hunger will be solved by this garden, and I move beyond to greener pastures of new newest ideas, and start the cycle again. The garden slowly deteriorates until my husband takes pity on it, while pointing out he doesn’t enjoy gardening.
- Even though I know something’s risky, I think it will somehow all work out. Years ago, I shared a backyard garden with two friends. We planted tomatoes with huge success, and all kinds of greens. Heady with all the success, I expanded the garden to an area in front of the house, even though I knew our ‘hood was besieged by marauding deer at night along with a coterie of raccoons and skunks. Those plants lasted 3 days until I found them nibbled down to the ground. Corn was another fail for everyone except for the birds, who were delighted with the corn silk. Those sparrows couldn’t have cared less that the ears of corn were small, and covered with irregularly shaped kernels only Picasso could have loved. Yes I knew the San Francisco foggy cool summers weren’t ideal for growing corn, but I figured it could work since the local gardening place was selling the seedlings.
- I don’t research enough before planting. I’ve tried growing garlic – so easy everyone says, but I think something burrowed through and ate the cloves because I never got any garlic growing, and never could find the cloves again; bush beans — bugs marshaled an epic war and won; and zucchini — the ends rotted before they matured. One year, I searched for asparagus plants for months and finally hit pay dirt with some small seedlings. The earth was still cold, so I started them in a sunny, warm kitchen window and they flourished. And then I planted them in the ground. Over the next few weeks, I watched them slowly die while I frantically googled ‘how to grow asparagus’ to no avail.
We’re planning to re-landscape our small backyard and I’ve been deliberating whether I want to (try to) grow vegetables again. I almost feel sorry for the seedlings I bring home. I’ve found some great wall-mounted planters that would be ideal (at least on the whiteboard in my head), and we have some really nice sunny spots, and filtered sun areas, but will I get my act together this time?
After much thought, I’ve decided, I can do this thing. Have you seen produce prices lately?? We will ALL need to grow vegetables in the near future. So I’ll be giving you updates on my garden success (or failures) through the spring and summer. Hopefully it’s more of the former than the latter.
Meanwhile this asparagus is not from my garden, which is why it’s so lovely. This dish is perfect for an Easter brunch, or any Spring brunch. I use enough eggs that it approaches a mayonnaise-less egg salad with lots of asparagus. Even the resident mayonnaise-loving carnivore loved it. And that’s an epic win no matter where the food came from.
- The rice vinegar is key to the success of this dish – look for Marukan Seasoned Gourmet Rice Vinegar. It has the best balance of tart and sweet I’ve tried, and makes this dish sing.
- Gribiche is a traditional, mayonnaise-style French sauce made by mashing hard-boiled egg yolks into a paste and whisking them into mustard and a neutral oil until emulsified. The sauce is typically finished with chopped capers, cornichons, parsley, chervil and tarragon, and a flurry of julienned egg whites.
- The roasted asparagus and gribiche sauce can both be made ahead of time and assembled just before serving.
This would be wonderful with smoked trout for a picnic or served as a side dish alongside grilled trout.
- 1 bundle of asparagus
- 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
- lemon juice from ½ lemon
- 3 hard boiled eggs
- ¾ tsp finely chopped garlic
- 2 Tbsp rice vinegar (ideally Marukan Seasoned Gourmet Rice Vinegar)
- 2 tsp Dijon country mustard
- 1 Tbsp capers, coarsely chopped
- 2 Tbsp chopped Italian parsley
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ tsp kosher salt (optional)
- 1 Tbsp thinly sliced green tops of scallions
- Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice off the bottom ⅓ of the asparagus and discard. Wash, dry, toss in olive oil and lay on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
- Roast until tender, about 15 minutes.
- Remove the yolk from one of the hard boiled eggs, and place in a medium bowl. Mash thoroughly with a fork and whisk in the garlic, rice vinegar, mustard, capers, parsley, and thyme leaves.
- Slowly whisk in the olive oil to emulsify. Add salt to taste - you may not need any because of the capers.
- Lay the roasted asparagus on a serving dish, top with the sauce.
- Julienne the remaining eggs and arrange on top. I use a potato ricer with the disk of the smallest holes, and it works fabulously.
- Finish with the green tops of the scallions.
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