Thursday, May 17, 2007

Simplest is the best: fresh local asparagus, roasted with feta cheese

I had the most exiting discovery at the Tallinn Central Market (Keskturg) yesterday morning - fresh, local asparagus. Having got used to eating fresh and seasonal asparagus during late Spring/early Summer in Scotland, I was not inspired - not even a little bit - by the sad-looking Dutch specimens on offer here. As far as I was concerned, asparagus wasn't grown here in Estonian. Or let me refrase it - asparagus is widespread in Estonia, but as in asparagus fern you see in flower arrangements, and not as a vegetable. It was to my great delight then that I read from the May issue of Oma Maitse that one of the farms near Tallinn grows this delicate vegetable. The Uus-Kongo talu - that's how the farm is called - has a stand at the Central Market, so early yesterday morning I decided to pop over to check if the rumours are true. And they were!!! Just before 9am, there were only few 100gram bunches of asparagus left, as one keen asparagus lover had bought 4 kilos of precious spears at 8am! I was immensely happy about my purchase, as I hadn't thought you can get fresh & local asparagus in Estonia and eat it within 24 hours from picking. I was in asparagus heaven!

The asparagus season in Estonia - (who knew I'd ever get to use such a term!?) - only started last weekend, so there's 5-6 more weeks of asparagus eating ahead. Move over, rhubarb, I've got a new seasonal favourite!

PS Uus-Kongo talu lett asub Tallinna Keskturul, tagumisel turuplatsil. Lisaks müüvad nad linna parimat hapukapsast, samuti kõiksugu krõmpsuvaid salatilehti ja hõrke ürdipotte. Nende sparglit peaks hea õnne korral leidma ka Stockmanni kaubamajast. Aga hooaeg on lühike, nii et püüdke kindlasti lähinädalate jooksul jaole pääseda. Hetkel maksab sparglikilo 200 EEKi.

You don't want to mess around with such great produce - the simplest treatment is the best. A classic way to serve fresh green asparagus would be steamed with hollandaise sauce. But if you love feta cheese, then this is the dish for you. The recipe is from Epicurious, and has been approved by the Queen of Vegetables, Alanna. Although the original recipe scatters feta cheese on top after roasting the asparagus, then I followed Alanna's advice and added the cheese before that. Feta cheese melts into most fantastic gooeyness on top of those herby-tasting asparagus spears.

Roasted asparagus with feta cheese
(Röstitud spargel fetajuustuga)
Serves 2

300 grams of fresh asparagus
1 Tbsp olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
75 grams feta cheese, cubed or crumbled

Break off and discard the lower woody parts of asparagus spears. Place asparagus in a single layer in a small oven dish (no need to blanch them first, providing they are fresh and not too thick). Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast in a 220 Celsius oven for 7 minutes.
Scatter feta cubes on top and return to the oven for another 3-7 minutes, until cheese has started to melt a little and asparagus has softened enough.

Other asparagus recipes @ Nami-nami:
Asparagus with pinenuts, lime and browned butter (May 2007)
Roasted green asparagus with Parmesan cheese (May 2006)
Wild asparagus with butter / Wild asparagus with pasta & garlic (May 2006)

Green asparagus recipes @ other foodblogs:
Alanna's asparagus eggs benedict and roasted asparagus with lemon
Bea's strawberry asparagus country tart
Elise's asparagus frittata and ham & asparagus quiche
Heidi's savoury asparagus bread pudding and asparagus & brown rice
Johanna's asparagus risotto and Asparagus with poached egg, pecorino and truffle oil
Kalyn's asparagus with basil pesto and roasted asparagus with garlic
Molly's asparagus flan and asparagus vinaigrette


Pene said...

I love fresh asparagus also, Pille! Looks like I'll have to go hunt for some in Tartu's turg.

Lydia said...

Hooray for fresh asparagus, wherever you find them! We are just coming into the peak of asparagus season here in Rhode Island, and I'm in heaven.

Kalyn said...

What a perfect recipe, and I do LOVE feta cheese. I will be trying this one for sure. Thanks for including my recipe links; what a great collection of asparagus yumminess.

K & S said...

love asparagus as well! this is a great recipe! thanks for sharing.

Carit said...

Tere, Pille!

Olen Sinu retseptikogu ammune austaja, kasutasin seda nii Eestis, kui nüüd Londonis elades. Hiljuti avastasin ka selle blogi ja nüüd loen huviga uusi sissekandeid.

Tahtsin tänu avaldada - toidu valmistamisel ideedest puudu ei tule :)

PS! Täna õhtul on menüüs spargel fetajuustuga!

Kajakas said...

Tere Pille :D

Mina kommin kehvasti, sest ma loen inglist suht kehvasti :D
Aga ma ikka kogu aeg üritan...

Chloe said...

i've had some fresh asparagus just now, inspired by your recipe. They were delicious. The simplest things are the tastier too.

joey said...

Lucky you to have those gorgeous asparagus! :) I could feel the excitment of your post :) I like them too and I'll definitely try this out soon!

Alanna said...

I'm quite sure this was my very first "real favorite" with asparagus when I started blogging. It's so simple, yes? I'm so glad you've found a source of local asparagus, there's nothing beating it. I'm still buying four pounds a week!

ParisBreakfasts said...

A wonderful idea!
Particularly since I live in Feta-ville (Astoria NY) and can get 18 kinds of Feta.

Pille said...

Pene - I'm not sure if you'll have any luck in Tartu. As far as I know, then Uus-Kongo farm is the only commercial asparagus grower in Estonia, and they only sell at the Stockman supermarket in Tallinn and at their stall at Tallinn Central Market. But who knows, you might find an entrepreneurial vegetable grower in Tartu after all!

Lydia - lucky girl, you too:)

Kalyn - I've realised that you like feta cheese;) Have you had a chance to try halloumi as well now? That's another brilliant cheese from the region.

K&S - you're welcome!

Carit - rõõm tutvuda! Ja tore, et eesti- ja ingliskeelsest Nami-namist kasu on olnud. Kas proovisid seda spargli-fetarooga? Kuidas maitses?

Kajakas - no aga ikka kommid, kui meelitatakse:)

Chloe - how nice of you. And it must have tasted even better with all that brillian feta cheese you've got in Athens!

Joey - I was excited:)

Alanna - it's so simple and yet delicious indeed. Four pounds a week is quite a lot!!

Carol - lucky you! It's hard to find good feta cheese here sometimes, but things are improving.