Finding really good ingredients on the road has been more difficult than I had anticipated. In California we are spoiled by countless, wondrous organic farms, great butchers, fish mongers, and specialty food shops. New Zealand is lush with green and I imagined it to be an organic veggie-growing paradise. My illusions of Garden of Eden fertility did not bear fruit. With supermarket culture dominating much of the food landscape in New Zealand, I had a surprisingly hard time finding really fresh veg.
We hit up farm stands and farmer’s markets wherever we could. The bustling Saturday market in Nelson is an institution and each of the delicious ingredients for this dish comes from the market. (I won’t give up anyone’s cover, but the salty fresh feta was a contraband, raw, unregulated treat.)
Having limited access to top notch ingredients while traveling has been a good reminder that keeping my cooking simple - which is the way I like it anyway - makes for really tasty meals. The success of this dish is completely dependent on the quality of the ingredients you use. When you have farmer’s market delights, keep it simple.
- 1 bunch asparagus
- a few ounces tablespoons fresh salty goat or sheep cheese - feta or ricotta salata
- a few sprigs of chervil
- really good olive oil
Wash and trim asparagus. I trim my asparagus by breaking off the tough ends. Peeling the stalks can be a good idea, but with the slender young asparagus peeling isn’t necessary. You can save ends for a nice veggie broth.
Steam asparagus. Cooking time will depend on thickness. Don’t over cook. The asparagus should still firm but cooked through. Place in ice bath immediately after steaming to retain flavor and color. Asparagus should be room temp for this dish.
Arrange asparagus on serving plate.
Crumble, dice, or shave cheese. Set aside.
Trim and wash chervil. Separate leaves and discard the stalks. Leave leaves whole.
Drizzle a tiny bit of flavorful, high quality olive oil over the top of the asparagus.
Sprinkle with a tablespoon or two of cheese.
Top with chervil.
Note on seasoning: If you use a flavorful salty cheese, there is no need for additional salt or pepper in this dish.
This is my last installment from New Zealand. We are now settling into our little Bali kitchen, collecting ingredients, and discovering local markets. We’ll be sharing our new finds next post.