Whether the Missouri route or the Arkansas route, it is a long drive back to Oklahoma from Tennessee. The first few hours down the music highway or along the Kentucky byways are pretty enough, but cross the Mississippi and the simplest route on budgeted time is the interstate. Hours on end and the scenery blurs together, especially when you’ve been driving since shortly after one in the morning and exhaustion kicked in with the bright glare of the morning sun.
Alternate drivers, push through, make lists for projects waiting at the house, sing along with radio, admire the Bostons on the horizon, almost to the state line. A few hours later and home, all draped in bright spring green, everything budded and bloomed, shimmering virescence has shrugged off the last signs of winter in our week long absence.
Strange how quickly things can change, how when you aren’t looking the next season marches in leaving no trace of what was beginning to seem permanent. Just days ago we left blistering winds, drought dried air, and blowing pollen clouds like yellowy smoke from some b-rate horror, but this morning the sun shone softly through the pines and the world looked clean and new. The crepe myrtles and oaks are brilliant green with new leaves, the trees in the orchard have shed their blossoms for crescent shaped emerald leaves and budding fruit, and the early planted section of the garden is maturing rapidly; heads of lettuce, tendrils of climbing peas, first sprouts of potatoes, and heart shaped radish leaves all over. The irises along the fence are blooming velvety purple and pale yellow and even my Japanese honeysuckle is in full bloom, bold fuchsia red against a pallid plains backdrop.
Best of all, the asparagus planted last year has taken excellent hold and has even produced a small harvest, promising for next year. In excitement for all flavors earthy, bright, and infused with spring, this: a simple twist on roasted asparagus and mushrooms which pairs them with the bright flavor of lemon and a ginger-lemongrass vinaigrette I like to make. The leftover dressing can be stored for use on a fresh spring greens salad as well.
ROASTED ASPARAGUS AND MUSHROOMS WITH LEMONGRASS-GINGER DRESSING
½ pound cremini mushrooms, halved or quartered if large
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
3 tablespoons quality olive oil
Sea salt & fresh ground black pepper
Ginger Lemongrass Dressing (follows)
Sliced lemons (optional)
Preheat oven to 425. Place the asparagus and mushrooms on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, then toss to coat the asparagus completely. Arrange asparagus and mushrooms in an even layer then sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Roast in the preheated oven stirring once, about 15 minutes or until the asparagus is tender but still crisp.
Transfer the asparagus and mushrooms to a serving platter and drizzle with dressing to taste. Garnish with slices of lemon if desired.
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and finely chopped
2 tablespoon chopped ginger
1 tablespoon chopped shallots
1/2 tbsp chopped garlic
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
½ tsp chili flakes
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp tamari
Shake all ingredients to combine.
With regard to the dressing, I like spice, a known fact. If you prefer the spice turned down, cut the chili flakes by half. And if a bump in sweetness suits your palette, add a tablespoon of honey to the mix in lieu of the tamari.
The dressing will keep for a few days covered and refrigerated.