It’s basketball playoff season again. I don’t care for any sport under the sun, I most certainly don’t understand football and I did try to grasp baseball in a patriotic effort but boredom set in rather quickly. Thanks to my father, with whom I don’t have much else in common, I started breathing, eating and following basketball at 13 and never looked back. I thoroughly enjoy and understand the intricacy of the game, which means that these days I can be found on the couch, beer in hand every time the Lakers are on the court. Yes, I live in LA and I am a Lakers fan (Clippers who?). To go with the beer I try to cook some simple meal that will not take too much time and can be eaten while sitting on the edge of the couch – something I would normally abhor.
As it’s spring, I find I am eating asparagus at least twice a week – it’s such an easy vegetable to love: pretty color, funky shape, lovely crunch (if you don’t boil it into oblivion), nearly fat and cholesterol free, not to mention full of folate and anti-oxidants that are apparently so good for us.
You know by now I am obsessed with knowing where food comes from, the etymology of words and whatever bits of history has come down to us through the centuries or, in the asparagus’ case, the millennia. Asparagus, which is indigenous to Europe, North Africa and West Asia, is mentioned in the first cookbook ever published, Apicius’ De re coquinaria (Of Cooking) from the third century. Botanically, our friend is from the lily family and closely related to garlic. The name comes from the Greek asparagus, in turn derived from the Persian “asparag”, meaning sprout.
From Apicius to contemporary Italy where asparagus is typically paired with eggs – a couple of fried eggs, a bunch of asparagus barely steamed and their tips dipped in the runny yolks….divine…Last night I incorporated it into another Italian staple, frittata, which I munched down while watching the Phoenix Suns take a deserved beating (can we actually dispense with the Suns altogether and directly move to the Finals with Boston?).
A bunch of thin asparagus
1/4 C Fontina – grated
6 Slices of Prosciutto, chopped in small pieces
Salt and Pepper to taste
A pinch of nutmeg
Some Parmesan Cheese
- Cut off the thick part of the asparagus stems and discard. Blanch the asparagus in a pot of heavily salted (to retain colour and enhance flavor) boiling water. Drain while still crunchy and chop into 1” pieces.
- Break the eggs in a bowl – add the chopped asparagus, prosciutto and fontina and mix. Add salt and pepper to taste (consider the prosciutto is fairly salty so don’t go too heavy) and a pinch of nutmeg.
- Place a 10” non stick pan on medium high heat and, according to preference, grease it with either olive oil or butter. Pour the egg mixture and cook, undisturbed, for a few minutes. Using a spatula lift the edges of the frittata and swirl the pan around to make sure the uncooked egg move around. Keep on checking the edges until the underside easily detaches and is starting to brown.
- Slide the frittata on a 10” dish and then invert it back into the pan (unless you can flip it). Keep cooking it and, when nearly done, grate some Parmesan on top, and put the pan under the broiler for 30” to a minute.
- Serve with a beer, maybe a salad and a Lakers’ game.