The thermometer on the rooftop weather station (yes, we take it that seriously) reads 76 degrees in the full sun. I suspect the nominal temperature is closer to 60, but the high reading makes it feel warmer than it is. It is 8 pm, and there are several hours before sunset, 10:30 tonight, according to the weather service. It seems the first real warm day we’ve had in Anchorage. No blustery wind off of Cook Inlet stirring up dust, and few afternoon clouds to block the light. The bugs are finally out in force, although the mosquitoes are few and far between. The grebes, geese, gulls, and even cranes are raising a cacophony on the lake across the street – the ice just went out, and there are nests to build, eggs to be laid, and eagles to chase off.
One day last week we skipped work and took the raft through snowy mountains to the Kenai River for the first float of the season. We left town in a miniature spring blizzard, feathers of snow dashing against the windshield, but left it behind and found sunny blue skies on the other side of Turnagain Pass. It was early season fishing, the water low and clear, and no trout were even remotely inconvenienced by our presence. Still, it was good to be out again, listening to water flowing on rocks and watching the river come alive again. We used to fish feverishly, almost frustrated and perhaps even angry when things did not go our way. The more time I spend on good rivers, the more I realize the time on water with a best friend matters more than fish. Dad’s been saying that for years…takes us sons a long time to learn what our fathers already figured out. Funny how that works.
A day in the sun at home spent raking leaves, cleaning out the flower beds, getting things ready for the growing season gave me some time to ponder about dinner. Seemed like something seasonal something green, was appropriate. A recipe in the NY Times last week had caught my eye. Eating seasonally isn’t always an option up here, even for those that really want to try. You’d get scurvy and then probably starve to death, although there are already fiddle heads and tender dandelion greens about if you know where to hunt. Our farmer’s markets are just getting going, and fresh pickings will be slim for awhile yet. Some herbs and such started under glass, but the trendy grocery here had some allegedly fresh asparagus, and shiitakes were on sale.
butter-braised asparagus and mushrooms
3 tbs butter
about 2 cups shiitake mushrooms, quartered
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inc pieces
3 thinly sliced green onions
a handful of fresh or frozen peas
1 tbs chopped fresh tarragon.
salt and pepper
Heat a saute pan to medium and add two tablespoons of butter. Add the mushrooms, toss the pan a bit to coat them, add a bit of salt and pepper, and cover for about 5 minutes. I trimmed the asparagus, and then cut each stalk into three pieces. I separated the heads from the thicker stalks, and added them separately, since they don’t take as long to cook.
Once the shiitakes are cooked, add the asparagus stalks and toss the pan to coat with butter. Cover and cook for a few more minutes, and then add the asparagus heads, the rest of the butter, and the onion. Toss, cover and cook for two or three minutes, until you judge the asparagus is done. It will vary depending on how thick yours is. Add the peas and tarragon, toss, cover and cook for another two or three minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.