Market basket

Fill your French market bag!

There’s a warm light at the end of the long winter tunnel. For vegetable and fruit fans, this is the time of year when Oregon shines. At the downtown Shemanski Park farmers’ market every Wednesday, you can stock up on baskets of artichokes and crates of juicy asparagus from 10 am to 2 pm. Don’t wait, the season is short, especially for the most tender specimens.

Asparagus is sweetest and juiciest in the first two weeks of its very short six week season. According to Nigel Slater in his recent book, Tender, A Cook and His Vegetable Patch, it loses its sweetness by the hour. He writes, "It is almost impossible not to respect those first spears of the year." Slater carries them straight home, as I do in my French market bag, and after a brief blanching in boiling water, he devours the spears with a drizzle of melted butter and sea salt.

Asparagus is one of the easiest vegetables to prepare. After a quick rinse and snapping off the tough ends, it’s ready to go. I like it in every form: thinly sliced into salads, roasted quickly in the oven, or pureed into a creamy spring soup. Here’s a breakfast or brunch favorite – my version of bacon and eggs, and asparagus, of course.

Asparagus with Bacon & Eggs

2 ounces pancetta or bacon, cubed
1 bunch spring asparagus, tough ends removed
1 teaspoon white vinegar
2 eggs, each in a small cup
Several shavings Parmigiano Reggiano
In a small skillet over low heat, fry the pancetta or bacon cubes until cooked, but not crisp. Remove to paper towel to drain.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, blanch the asparagus for 2 minutes, until just cooked but still very firm. Don’t overcook. Remove the stalks and set aside, leaving the water in the pot.

Add the vinegar to the water and bring up to a simmer. Using a long spoon, create a whirlpool in the water and carefully put each egg in one at a time. Poach for about 2-3 minutes and remove to a plate to drain.

Place the asparagus stalks on a warm platter and sprinkle over the bacon. Place the two eggs on top and shave some parmesan over the top. Serve right away with a large spoon, letting the yolks break and run over the asparagus.