The Asparagus Spears Are Snapping

Yes, I finally got to feel some sun this week. I went to my CSA to pick fresh asparagus and spent the whole ride home planning my menus for the week. Mojito chicken with roasted asparagus, a fancy frittata, and a quick lunch of simple steamed asparagus with fresh butter and coarse salt. Ah, it tastes like spring!

Food has been on my mind a lot lately, since the farmers markets are finally opening up and I can see the end of those drab, tasteless grocery-store vegetables. I plan to take a new approach this year so that I can leave the grocery store behind as much as possible from now on. I signed up for full shares of vegetables and fruit at my CSA. It will be far more food than my family of 3 can eat, so we plan to put a lot up for the coming winter. It will be an adventure since the farthest I’ve gone with food preservation in the past includes some freezing and a few batches of amazing jam. I hope those of you who have done this for years will send me advice and encouragement. I’ve been warned that it will be a lot of work.

Getting away from the grocery store has become a bit of a passion.

I’ve been reading some influential books this year that have turned me off of eating (or spending my money on) food that has traveled a thousand miles to reach my plate. Besides the CSA, my family bought shares of a cow from a local dairy, so we can get raw milk, butter, cheese and yogurt that, as my uncle used to say, “is so fresh it still has the MOO in it!” The same farm also provides us with eggs and pastured beef and pork. As for staples, I found a local food-buying cooperative (a small but growing group of committed locavores) who search out organic sources of whole grains, oil, even popcorn that are grown in or near Colorado. That will keep us stocked with some snacks and home-baked loaves of bread every week.

There are some things I can’t get locally though that I just can’t leave behind. Wild salmon, olive oil, coffee and chocolate, for sure.

And I can’t be so fanatical as to cut my 3-year-old off from her favorite fruits, grapes and bananas. At least as occasional snacks. It is 2008 after all, and treats are available for us to take advantage of, as long as we’re making an effort toward positive change.

I’m sure there are others of you out there who are making similar decisions regarding your food. My CSA filled it’s membership in record time this year, so it’s evident that the word is getting out about the health and economic benefits of fresh, local victuals. I would love to hear about your experience! Meanwhile, here’s that Mojito chicken recipe I made with my first batch of April asparagus:

Mojito Chicken and Roasted Asparagus with Almonds
Copyright, 2006, Robin Miller, All rights reserved

• Olive oil cooking spray
• 2 bunches asparagus (2 pounds)
• Salt and fresh ground black pepper
• 1/4 cup slivered almonds
• 2 teaspoons olive oil
• 1/2 cup chopped onion
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 1 pound cut-up skinless boneless chicken breasts
• 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
• 1/2 cup rum
• 1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
• 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
• 1 cup couscous, cooked according to package directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

Arrange asparagus on baking sheet and spray with cooking spray. Season with salt and black pepper. Roast 10 minutes. Top the asparagus with almonds and roast 5 more minutes, until fork-tender and almonds are golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and sugar and cook 3 minutes, until soft stirring with wooden spoon. Add chicken and saute 3 to 5 minutes, until golden brown on all sides. Add lime juice and carefully, off the heat, add the rum. Return to the heat and add lime zest, salt, pepper and bring to a simmer.

Simmer for 3 minutes, until chicken is cooked through, about 12 to 15 minutes. Serve chicken, garnished with mint, over couscous with the almond topped asparagus on the side.

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