March two years ago, during beautiful bloom, an incredible Healdsburg Jazz concert was held at the home of patron Judy Voigt. In the Dry Creek Valley, her home nestles into the hills naturally and organically, with curated sculptures thoughtfully placed throughout the grounds. Artwork and beauty abound.
Pianist Helen Sung and California’s former Poet Laureate Dana Gioia paired up for this special event. They had met years ago and decided a collaboration was in order. They produced an album that’s truly sublime, “Sung with Words,” a combination of spoken word and music that explores a range of themes about human nature. My husband Brian and I are hooked, and we listen to it all the time. At this event, Dustin Valette provided the nourishment, and not just ordinary appetizers. He did a spring soup, his house-made charcuterie, delicious bites and he featured asparagus throughout, for it was in season.
Asparagus is in season now. When we bought the farm 21 years ago, yes 21, we had an acre of asparagus. It was not organic though, so we expanded the orchard and replaced the acre with more stone fruit trees, all organic. Whenever asparagus is in season, I think about that acre, and know that fresh asparagus, snapped right from the ground, is unlike anything else. You can just eat it, so fresh. There are many ways to work with it too. Like much of the fruit and produce grown here, the season is fleeting, so when it arrives, it’s time to get to work. Spring can feel like winter or early summer, it varies day to day. Here are a few recipes that comfort, no matter the temperature or weather conditions.
Preheat oven to broil
Wash and dry fresh asparagus spears and snap off ends (save them for the soup coming next!). They will naturally break at a dividing point.
Spread spears on a baking sheet
Coat with olive oil — use your hands so they are completely covered
Finely chop a large garlic clove or two and sprinkle over asparagus
Sprinkle with salt
Roast for a few minutes, until just tender
Serve on a platter, warm or cool, sprinkle with mustard flowers. So pretty!
Creamy Asparagus Soup (without dairy)
This recipe is adapted from a favorite Julia Child recipe for potato leek soup. I add asparagus when it is in season. My son Patrick recently developed an allergy to dairy, so I am always looking for recipes that don’t require any, and I love this one. This makes a small batch for one or two, but it is easy to double, or triple, or more.
One cup peeled and diced potato
One cup diced leek, using white part and a bit of green
Three cups water
One cup diced asparagus
Bring potatoes, leeks, water and salt to a boil, then simmer for about 20+ minutes, partially covered, until very tender.
Add one cup diced asparagus (you can use ends here saved from above recipe if you have them), simmer for another 5-10 minutes, until asparagus is cooked through.
Let cool, blend. Salt and pepper to taste. Yum!
Gayle Okumura Sullivan is co-owner of Dry Creek Peach and is the Executive Director of Healdsburg Jazz.