I’m in need of comfort food. The kind that reminds you of warmth and sustenance. The kind that exhales aroma; aroma that dances its way into our homes and hearts, reminding us that there is always something promising ahead.
Spring lets those little phallic asparagus come up in all their glory, and they are exceedingly enticing. Have you seen Al Vogel’s lovely rustic and spindly asparagus at the Saturday Farmer’s Market? I love how wild it seems, how unrefined and real – not to mention delicious.
I ran across this recipe from Nigella Lawson when I was flipping through her book, Nigella Kitchen. I feel like it’s the perfect dish for right now. The wind has been blowing and the seasons haven’t been quite sure how to navigate their path. Winter has been pulling at the end of Spring’s dress, trying hard to keep her from coming into full bloom. I plan to make peace with the seasons’ confusing crossroads by marrying sweet potatoes and asparagus.
Sweet Potato Supper
-Two sweet potatoes or yams (washed and dried but not peeled), each cut into quarters
-Eight ounces (1/2 cup) smoked lardons, cubed pancetta, or 16 slices smoked bacon, snipped
-Eight ounces asparagus tips
-Six cloves garlic, unpeeled
-A few sprigs of fresh thyme or one teaspoon dried thyme
-Three tablespoons cold-pressed canola oil (I would just substitute olive oil here)
-Salt to taste
-Salad leaves, to serve (optional)
-Chili sauce, to serve (optional)
-One large round roasting pan approx. 10-inches diameter, or any regular roasting pan
-Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, and get out a roasting pan for all the ingredients. I use one like a giant tarte tatin pan, but a regular smaller pan would be fine too.
-Arrange the sweet potato chunks in the pan. Then, drop in most of the lardons or bacon, followed by the asparagus tips and garlic cloves and, finally, the remaining lardons.
-Sprinkle with the thyme, pour the oil over, then bake in the oven for 30 minutes, before turning the sweet potatoes over and baking for a further 30 minutes.
-Let everything cool just a little (you’ll only burn your tongue otherwise) before dividing between two plates, strewn (or not, to choice) with salad leaves, and sprinkling with some salt or chili sauce, or both, as mood dictates.
I’ll leave you with a little Nigella-inspired bit of wisdom: in the kitchen, and in life, it’s always best to wait for things to cool a little before taking a bite. You wouldn’t want to get burned. It’s also best to listen to yourself, to make choices about salad leaves, chili sauce, and life paths as your mood and spirit dictate.
Even with all this wind, spring is right around the corner. I can smell it in the gardenia-kissed air. Enjoy!