Sometimes creating recipes is like dating. You have to know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. I recently broke up with a chopped broccoli dish because we had no chemistry. It just wasn’t happening. I might have been depressed if not for another broccoli suitor that swept me off my feet. This guy—well, as mom likes to say, he cleans up nice. Maybe it’s the company he keeps as well; surrounding himself with fresh basil, red bell peppers, a little lemon . . . they’re a sprightly crowd, fun to hang with, and healthy, too, full of anti-inflammatories and other anticancer properties.
You can learn a lot sitting on the tailgate of a pickup truck. That’s where my buddy Chris, from Zuckerman’s Farm, used to sit me down and teach me about all things asparagus. Chris worked hard—awfully hard—as a farmer. He was true salt of the earth, and as generous as they come. Normally, there’s an invisible line: farmers behind their wares and buyers on the other side, but Chris always insisted I “step into his parlor.” Both of us were always so excited when the first asparagus of the season showed up. He’d put aside a bunch for me, and then we’d both hop up on that tailgate and talk—about recipes, how amazingly nutritious asparagus is, and, a lot of the time, about life and family. Chris passed away not long ago, and I felt the best way I could honor him was to create a recipe featuring his favorite veggie. I think he would have enjoyed this, and I hope you will too.