Monday, May 11, 2009

Striking It Rich

When we purchased this house, several people from the community entertained us with stories about its history. Supposedly, back in 1913 (or so) when the house was built, the owner was the proprietor of the downtown billiard parlor. Rumor has it that the off-the-record gambling that took place in the back room of his business caused the owner to hide money in the walls of the house. Our purchase of the home could be our lottery ticket to riches.

After many renovations (although, we are still facing many more), I can report that no money has been found in the walls. We do have a near mint condition Prince Albert can from 1918, a bottle of Three Feathers Pre-War Whiskey (blended with neutral spirits and distilled from potatoes), and several newspaper clippings, but no cold, hard cash. I have decided that aside from the riches of the original woodwork, hardwood floors, claw foot soaking tub, and wavy panes of the old windows, our best score with this house has been the established asparagus bed in the backyard.

Each spring, I clear the leaves and winter debris from the slightly weedy spot. Nobody will accuse me of being a great gardener, and if not for the bricks laid carefully in what was once confused as the outline for a grave, you might not realize that the spot holds any significance. The grass grows well, even if it is stubborn in other parts of the lawn. But, it also parts and allows the tender shoots of asparagus to break through the earth. They spike upward in various shapes & sizes. Some are thick and hearty; some are thin and spindly. All are delicious.

A few years ago, I found asparagus seedlings at an area greenhouse and rapidly snapped them up. I carefully chose a bare spot in the existing bed and planted them. Each year, they come up again, but the results have been reed thin and not really harvestable. I am not sure if I did something wrong, or if the roots just need more time to mature. Regardless, even those fern-like shoots make me happy. Fresh asparagus in my backyard is a goldmine to me.

I just had my first cutting of asparagus over the weekend, and tonight added it to a delicately flavored pasta dish with shrimp. Usually, our shrimp dishes are very heavy with garlic, but I like this version because it allows the beauty of the asparagus flavors to shine through. Shallots, garlic (use more, if you must), butter, dill, and the starchiness of the pasta water create a light sauce that pulls together a really pleasant spring dish. The true jackpot is the asparagus patch in my backyard that allows me to create Shrimp and Asparagus Pasta with Dill Sauce On My Plate.

Shrimp and Asparagus Pasta with Dill Sauce

1 lb penne pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
1/2 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut in 2 inch lengths
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
1 lb medium shrimp,peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt, to taste
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
grated Parmesan cheese, to taste

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
Add the pasta and cook according to the pasta package or until the pasta is tender.
Meanwhile, heat the tablespoon of oil and the butter in a medium skillet until the butter melts and melds with the oil.
Add the shallots and garlic and cook until softened, about 2 minutes.
Add the asparagus and saute lightly, about 2 minutes.
Add 1 cup of the pasta water, raise the heat to medium-high, and boil until the asparagus turns bright green, about 2 minutes.
Add the dill and shrimp.
Remove from the heat and stir in the additional olive oil, salt and pepper.
Drain the pasta and toss in a serving bowl with the shrimp and asparagus.
Top with grated Parmesan cheese. (Serves 4)


  1. Your own harvest??? Oh my, I would love to come to have a taste of the asparagus in pasta. Looks so delish!

  2. I thought you were lucky to have finally found Prince Edward in a can! But your own asparagus? Beyond lucky!


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