Did I mention the asparagus?
It’s been an unexpectedly insane week for me. First, there was recovering from the insanity of my pre-election and polling day activities. Then, on Monday, I started training the new admin officer for my floor, who is also the first person I’ve ever had to manage, and I quickly realised I was going to have to figure out both how to split my job and how to manage someone without turning into the boss from hell. That was surprisingly exhausting, too, though it’s going to be good, I think. My new off-sider is incredibly competent, so I’m going to have to make sure I can live up to her…
Then on Friday, the little work choir that I conduct gave its first ever concert that wasn’t just us wandering around the Institute singing Christmas carols. Instead, we did a program of opera choruses, with a handful of actual opera singers (who just happen to be scientists, too) singing the solos and duets. The concert was successful beyond our wildest hopes – we hadn’t been sure if anyone would even be interested, but I think most of the Institute turned up, and everyone was most enthusiastic – and I was incredibly proud of my little community choir, who sang perfectly and had dynamics *and* diction, and even watched me most of the time, which is just about unheard of in any choir. So that was exciting.
But conducting a choir manages to leave me both too hyped up to sleep (planning the inevitable next concert!) and too exhausted to make sense, so by the time I got to the farmers’ market this morning, I was absolutely manic and bouncing off the walls. And that was before I even found the asparagus.Did I mention that there was asparagus?
Just checking. We wouldn’t want to miss any asparagus.
Our first port of call at the market was not, in fact, asparagus, which I wasn’t actually expecting (nobody expects the asparagus acquisition!) (its chief weapon is surprise… surprise and joy… joy and surprise… and Catherine bouncing around the market like a maniac), but the ever-delightful Take Me Home stand, which was living up to its name by making me want to take everything home. Everything. Only then I would have had no money for vegetables. We gazed at pizza bases (always excellent), pasta (ditto), crostate and pizzas, but then were totally seduced by all the different flavours of gnocchi.
Felicity had been talking about finding wild fennel and feeling like her Nonna making gnocchi with it. Dad has talked about my Nonna picking fennel, cardoons, nettles and other wild greens on their way back to Corleto from his grandparents’ place, so I felt a certain solidarity with this. And then, lemon gnocchi, which I can’t possibly imagine as a flavour combination was irresistible. Which of course meant that I was now compelled to buy beetroot gnocchi, too, to complete my Italian tricolore flag.
We then started doing our proper lap of the market which was where I discovered a whole stall full of asparagus. I bounced up to it, exclaiming with loud glee.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am about asparagus!”, I told the stallholder, as I bounced up and down, talking extremely fast and pointing out the asparagus to Andrew, who had, in fact, noticed it all on his own, because he is quite perceptive like that.
“I think I’m beginning to get an idea,” the stallholder responded, drily, as he helped me pick out a kilo – a kilo! – of wonderful, fresh, gorgeous, spring-like, green, asparagus, asparagus, ASPARAGUS!!!
(already I’m regretting not getting more asparagus. I had about ten recipes in my head before I even got home, and they will need more than 100g of asparagus each…)
I then left the stall and danced around exclaiming to Andrew about the presence of asparagus, which was something that it turned out he was up to date on. It’s good to know that he is paying attention. Our friend P turned up, so I danced and exclaimed at her too. Then L turned up, and also had to be danced and exclaimed at, even though he doesn’t like asparagus, which is probably a sign of some terrible lack in his psyche. Failing to inspire him about asparagus, I instead dragged him over to the pasta stall and tried to make him buy pizza bases. (No dice. He’s a strange boy.)
I really was almost too excited about the asparagus (they had asparagus! A whole stall full!) to make a proper lap of the market, but I managed to calm down enough to go and look at Under the Pickle Tree, not so much for the pickles and sauces as for her olive oils, which she infuses with the most glorious combinations of ingredients. We tried all of them, and were fascinated by the combination of lemongrass and wild lime (which I might use to sauté some asparagus! I explained this to the stall-holder, along with a lengthy digression about asparagus. She seemed amused.), as well as needing to re-stock on the wonderful wild lime and blood orange.
Next, I expressed my determination to buy some non-asparagus vegetables, but instead we investigated the lovely vegetarian pies at Hidden Secret. They had an absolutely beautiful range this time, and we tried a three-cheese, leek and fennel pie and a winter vegetable pie, and also looked longingly at a summer vegetable pie and a broccoli cheese pie, before settling on the winter vegetable one.
Almost next to them was an even more intensely exciting stall that was selling nothing but frozen blueberries and truly gorgeous blueberry pies. I don’t actually like blueberries that much, but there is something about blueberries in a pie that is irresistible. They are so beautifully, darkly purple-blue, and so sweet, and… well, I just have a thing for hot fruity desserts, and these hit the spot.
After that, I swore to stop buying things that other people had made, and went in search of vegetables that were not asparagus. Did you know that it is now asparagus season in Melbourne? Actually, I really should check whether my little asparagus bed is producing anything this year, or whether it has been eaten by weeds.
We bought some free range eggs from Inverloch, which technically have been made by other people, if by people you mean chickens. I resisted the urge to go on an instant holiday to Inverloch.
There were a number of meat stalls there, and I still have a freezer full of lamb, so I didn’t need that, but the poultry stall had poussins and chicken and quail and duck. I don’t really see the point of quail, but duck sounded interesting – I’ve never cooked it, and didn’t really like it on the couple of occasions I ate it, but these occasions were nearly twenty years ago, and I’m fairly sure that I would like just about any form of poultry more in a salad with blood oranges and berries than I would deep fried. I quizzed the stallholder at length on the proper cooking of duck breasts, and brought two home to experiment with.
(Actually, I should do that now, since it’s nearly eight o’clock and we haven’t had dinner yet. To be continued after dinner and singing practice…)
(Also, in another random aside, here’s where I confess that I’m about four weeks behind on reading blogs and livejournals and such, so if there was something you wanted me to read or if you thought I was ignoring you, I apologise. I kind of was, but I was actually ignoring everyone in an entirely equal opportunity fashion…)
Hmm, I would call that a moderately successful experiment. Bits of the duck were perfect and bits were decidedly not. Next time, Gadget. The salad, on the other hand, was excellent.
Now, where was I?
Ah yes. Vegetables. Incidentally, if you are getting the sense that I’m distracted, you should have seen me at the market this morning. And speaking of distractions, apparently my pedometer thinks that one gets steps from typing. Eleven steps since I started typing this paragraph. Hmm.
Vegetables! We got some! There’s a lovely stall which always has very young, fresh, happy-looking vegetables, and today was no exception.
I babbled to them about asparagus, but also bought peas and baby carrots and spinach (for a sort of pasta primavera, possibly to be served with lemon gnocchi), as well as cauliflower and broccoli and parsley and spring onions. I love spring Oh, and pumpkin, because we never have just one season’s worth of goodies at the market.
(It’s weird to think that up until about five years ago, I never bought cauliflower or broccoli. Now I make a bee-line for broccoli at every opportunity, and cauliflower nearly as often. As for asparagus, I’d never even tasted the non-tinned kind until five years ago, and thought I detested the stuff. Astonishing.)
The mushroom man had oyster mushrooms this week. I haven’t seen that variety before, and have no real clue what to do with them, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me buying them. Especially as they are rather spectacular to look at (I’m shallow like that. Flashy vegetables seduce me every time.) Apparently, you want to cook them really quickly. I have a recipe somewhere for asparagus and mushroom ragout – I wonder if they’d work in that (added very fast at the end, presumably)?
I probably didn’t strictly need to get frozen berries, but really, who could possibly resist them when they are so glowingly red-purple?
And then it was home again for a nap, because I was seeing very strange things out of the corners of my eyes, which is generally a bad sign (especially if they are not real things) (actually, given the things I tend to see, even if they are real things).
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~One year ago: Recipe: Somewhat Sicilian Fennel and Orange Salad Two years ago: Recipe: Orange Me Up (Scotty)