Recipe: Spring in Texas (Asparagus with Pecans)
Cycling through California and then into the Southwest on the lookout for fresh, local food (or a vegetable, any vegetable...) is like going from the farmers market to the parking garage.
We went from the land of milk and honey into the desert, and although we're learning that many of those cactus along the roadside are edible, we forgot to pack our leather gloves. I'll get kicked by a goat, burned by a chili pepper and pecked by a chicken, but I draw the line at a hand (or face) full of nearly invisible needles as the price to pay for my supper.
Put another way, since we left the Pacific coast, we've been at a loss for decent grocery stores. While cycling through the larger towns, the goal is simply to get out and get to a house or camping site before rush hour. Logistics force us to stop for food in small towns, where the produce is slim pickins, if there's anything at all. Recently, however, since the calendar turned over to March (marking our journey's three-month and halfway point!), we've found in the Texas hill country markets a delectable, tender prize among the shriveled heads of iceburg lettuce and limp jalapeños: Asparagus.
Is it local? Not really; it's from Mexico, but that's probably closer than California, which would explain why it looks almost as fresh and bright green as the cacti. Pecans are another local product that we have been indulging in recently; harvested in the late fall, they are shelled fresh for local markets and reasonably priced ($8-$10/lb versus $18 or more at Whole Foods). A flash of brilliance paired tender asparagus with buttery pecans in our tiny frying pan the other night.
We were camping at Lost Maples State Natural Area, so named because it's a "lost" patch of bigtooth maples in among the live oak and desert scrub in an isolated valley near Vanderpool, Texas. The day was hot - 85 degrees - and the evening a perfect 65 or so. After dinner the clouds cleared, and we went on a stargazing walk, enjoying the peace that can only come from a full belly, tired legs and total lack of cell phone service.
Spring in Texas (Asparagus with Pecans)
1 bundle asparagus (when their tips are tightly closed they are freshest)
1/4 c pecan pieces (go for organic; commercial insecticides add a bitter flavor to the nut)
2 T nutritional yeast (a fortifying dose of B-vitamins)
2 T butter (or more if you've got it)
2 t garlic powder (home made is the best!)
optional: lemon juice (we didn't have any but it would have been nice...)
Combine all ingredients in frying pan and sauté over a very hot camp stove for one minute. Put a lid (or your plate) over the pan to let the spears steam.
And another bike-packing-inspired recipe, for those who really want to indulge in the fats:
4-6 oz cream cheese
1 packet of mayonnaise filched from a gas station
lemon juice, again, if you have it
Mash all ingredients together. Eat with crackers.
When you're done gorging yourself, don't forget to hang your food away from the wildlife, or you might wake up to an empty peanut butter jar.