What sort of bee is in May's bonnet? There must be something in there, because the first twelve days of this month have wooshed by in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it fashion usually reserved for the farmer's market on Saturday mornings when you're heading for the kind man who sells the really good tacos (that sell out!) and you know there's always line.
But May, come on, settle down.
I've been thinking about spring, or at least trying to, but you're all doom and gloom and rainy mornings following frosty nights. There was that windstorm that rushed around corners with a sound that was between a wail and a howl - high and sustained. It blustered its way through the leaves on our trees, sent branches to the ground, and made a right mess.
That was quite a show.
But May, you've almost reached middle age, it might be time to take it easy.
There's a garden to be sorted and windows in dire need of a wash, and this weekend I'd like to have lunch outside. We'll take it slow, I'm not demanding as much as I seem to be, we'll roast asparagus. It's a tentative step at the slower pace I'd like to make habit.
Blasted with the heat of a broiler, the asparagus goes kelly green in minutes and another minute after that it gets slightly shriveled and chestnutty at its ends. Out it comes and into, well under, the fire goes butter-laced breadcrumbs with lemon zest, chili and garlic. Heat meets fragrance and it all goes bright and big. The flavours open up while the crumbs get toasty, it's a win-win. Once they're done, but hot, you stir in Parmesan and parsley and the mixture meets up with the asparagus on the plate.
Crunch meets crisp, with savoury, peppery, cheesy breadcrumbs against a vegetable that is has crunch but is grassy and sweet. The combination is peppy and moreish, the bread swelling a bit and going soft where it lands in the collected juices of asparagus, olive oil, butter, and lemon. Will you look at that, instant vinaigrette at the bottom of your dish. Isn't that clever.
Another habit I might suggest is to serve these with a poached egg on top - the flowing yolk likes that vinaigrette quite a lot, and the melting silkiness of the white gets crusted with the crumbs to form a nubbly coat. It's a routine I can get behind.
So it is settled. This weekend, lunch is on the back deck. There are bumblebees about I see, portly and fuzzy looking fellows, I'm sure they'd be happy to have the company. They're charming in their roundness, yellow kumquats with wings, comical and endearing and not at all the sort to get under anyone's cap.
Roasted Asparagus with Toasted Breadcrumbs
Adapted from a recipe by Donna Hay. The breadcrumbs will be quite seasoned, and you want them so, so much the better to bolster the relatively mild asparagus.
2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cleaned
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Lemon wedges, to serve
Preheat a broiler to high.
In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs with the butter, lemon zest, garlic and chili. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Stir to combined well so that all the breadcrumbs get slicked and spiced.
Toss the asparagus with enough olive oil to coat and season with salt and pepper. Spread onto a roasting pan and grill (broil), turning once, until bright green and tender, and beginning to brown here and there, around 4-5 minutes depending on the size of the spears. Remove from the oven and set aside on a serving dish, drizzle with a little extra olive oil, if you'd like.
If you can, turn the broiler down to low.
In the same pan, spread the breadcrumbs and toast under the broiler, turning often, until golden. Around 2-3 minutes. Stir the Parmesan and parsley into the crumbs and serve over the asparagus. Pass lemon wedges alongside, for extra zip.