Blu Aubergine Blog

Spring on a Plate, Pasquetta Perfection

We all know that the almighty egg is the signature food of spring: it symbolizes rebirth and renewal, and it's pretty much a miracle ingredient, for all the forms it can take and things it can do together with other ingredients. 

Think about it: what other single item turns into fluffy scrambled eggs or an omelette or frittata, eggs benedict when poached or deviled eggs or egg salad when hard-boiled? What else helps a souffle rise, makes a cake light and fluffy -- then helps a meatball or a crab cake stay together? What else can top a cocktail and make a meringue? I could go on...

So it makes sense that I feature a simple, humble preparation of an egg in a delicious dish for today, also known as Easter Monday in some places -- and pasquetta, or 'little Easter' in Italy. Yes, it's a national holiday in Italy, a kind of forced picnic day up and down the Italian peninsula. But who's arguing? Everyone packs up leftovers from the Easter meal (lamb sandwiches? frittata squares?) with some fresh salumi and cheese and bread, and heads to the parks and the hills. 

But maybe you want something light, a dish that works for breakfast, lunch, OR dinner. Something that won't fill you up too much during a time of vernal equinox celebratory meals. Something that can be made kosher for Passover. Something that uses the ingredients of spring to their fullest, with the lightest touch and least amount of fuss. Then you want...Asparagi e Uova. Asparagus with egg.

The brilliance is in the pairing: fresh egg with a yolk the color of the sun, and crisp green stalks of asparagus, which taste best at the height of spring. Feel free to play around with the preparation and any other ingredients you may like to add to the pairing. You could scramble or poach the eggs, add some smoked paprika or truffle butter. You could maybe serve the dish with another related spring veggie, the artichoke. If you're a pork lover, add some crisped bacon. It's easy to enhance, refine, play with, and make it your own. Best not to put all your eggs in one basket, as they say. Be flexible and creative.

My way as shown here?

1. I blanched and shocked the asparagus --  that is, boiled the trimmed stalks in a pan of well-salted water, then dumped into ice water when they were bendable but still firm. Dumped the water out of the pan and put back on the burner.

2.  I added a little extra virgin olive oil and a clove of garlic to the pan, warmed it, and added the asparagus to sear it a touch and warm it through. The first cooking helps to lock in the bright green color and crisp texture; this just adds some searing to the outside. Place the asparagus in line on a plate.

3. Crack a fresh, organic egg into the pan with a little melted butter, sprinkle with sea salt and cracked black pepper, and cook until the yolk is firmed up but not cooked through. Slide the egg out of the pan and on top of the asparagus.

4. I sprinkled some fresh shelled peas (also blanched and shocked ahead of time) around the plate, shaved some parmigiano reggiano cheese over top, and added a few slices of bresaola (like lean beef prosciutto -- the kosher version of which you can find in the Jewish ghetto in Rome as well, called carne secca, or "dried meat"). 

5. Break into that oozy egg, magna (pronounced 'MAHN-ya', Roman dialect for "eat").