Archive for May, 2011

Asparagus for a Party

May 1, 2011

Last weekend, we hosted a 30th birthday party for our babysitter Erika.  Babysitter is not really the right word.  To me, it implies someone doing their homework and watching TV while your kids sleep.  Nanny is not the right word either; she was with us too few hours and besides, “nanny” sounds condescending to me somehow.  Erika is a unique and special woman who has shared her love and her kind heart with our family for the past 4½ years.  What do you call that person?

As I told you here, we met Erika at the Boyer Clinic where Graham started on his speech therapy journey.  When Graham was diagnosed, I was five months pregnant with Spencer.  I could not imagine how I was going to bring a child to a twice weekly appointment with an infant in tow.  As with everything we moms do, I figured it out.  But it caused me a lot of stress.  I would often have to wake Spencer up so that we could get to the clinic on time.  I nursed him in the waiting room or in the classroom.  I put him in the Bjorn and did that crazy dance moms of infants do to try and lull him to sleep.  I suffered through those days and dreaded the evenings when colic turned Spencer into a demon who would not stop crying until he wore himself out around midnight.

Meeting Erika and learning that she needed some hours offered me hope.  I was able to let Spencer take his morning nap undisturbed.  I was able to focus on Graham who was now doing preschool at Boyer along with his speech therapy.  I was able to get some distance from my challenging infant which, if you have ever had an infant, you know is crucial to your sanity.  And because Erika is as amazing as she is, I was able to walk out of the house and not worry about that infant, trusting that he was in capable hands.  There is no price you can put on that security.

Time passed.  The boys grew.  Erika stayed.  She was getting a Master’s degree so her schedule was flexible and we moved her two mornings a week to one full day.  I love my children but I looked forward to Thursdays for two full years.  I could go to yoga and get my hair cut and go to the doctor and meet a friend for lunch if I wanted.  Erika sits for us at night as well and has taken the boys over weekends when we have gone away.  In all that time, all those years, all those days, all those nights, she has never called me with a problem.  Not once.  My boys are easy and she knows them well, but she is also extremely capable.  When we have been out of town and I call to check in, I feel like I am actually calling to make sure she is all right.  I know the boys are fine and having a blast.

So Erika turned 30 and she (sob!) got a job.  She is no longer here on Thursdays and just typing that makes me want to cry.  The main reason that I feel weird calling her a babysitter or a nanny is that she is truly family to us now.  She has been with us since Spencer was six months old and Graham was two.  She know my children better than anyone besides me and Randy.  She loves them and they love her.  We are lucky in that she will always be a part of our lives.  She will sit for us on weekend nights and when we leave town.  I like to tell her she will never be free of us!

To celebrate her 30th birthday, I thought it was only right to throw her a party.  Erika is a vegetarian and an enthusiastic eater of my food.  A night with 20 of her friends and lots of food and wine would be right up her alley.  In true Erika fashion, she thanked me 426 times before the party even started.  We all had a fun night.  Graham thought he had died and gone to pretty girl heaven with all the dresses and jewels and long hair and makeup.  It was wonderful to be able to celebrate her in a personal and relevant way.

Among many other things, I made these asparagus.  I do a lot of party food, but often the party is not at my house.  I have been eying this dish for a long time, but have not been able to make it because I knew it would not travel well.  In my book, asparagus is best simply steamed or roasted, but I was intrigued by the crunchy coating.  Truthfully, these were not as crunchy as I wanted them to be and they wilted more than I wanted them to, but they were pretty and still tasted good, especially that drizzle of sauce.  If I made them again, I would be sure to use very thick asparagus so that they are just cooked by the time the breading browns.

One Year Ago: Tagine with Carrots, Potatoes, and Olives
Two Years Ago: Sushi Rice Salad

Roasted Sesame and Panko Coated Asparagus with Soy-Ginger Drizzle
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Serves 4-6

Because I used thinner asparagus, I didn’t bother to peel them.  But as I said above, I would use thicker ones next time and peel them as the recipe suggests.  The measurements here are very fussy (1/4 tsp. sesame oil?) so I just did it all by taste.  I’m keeping their notes as a guideline.

¼ cup mayonnaise
4 teaspoons unseasoned rice vinegar, divided
3 teaspoons soy sauce, divided
1¼ teaspoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger, divided
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
¼ cup sesame seeds
1 pound thick asparagus spears, trimmed, bottom 2/3 of each spear peeled
1 teaspoon golden brown sugar
½ teaspoon chili-garlic sauce

Preheat oven to 450°F. Oil large rimmed baking sheet. Whisk mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon grated ginger in pie dish. Mix panko and sesame seeds in another pie dish. Toss asparagus in mayonnaise mixture to coat, then roll in panko mixture. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons sesame oil. Roast until browned, turning once, about 16 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk 1 teaspoon water, brown sugar, chili-garlic sauce, remaining 3 teaspoons vinegar, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil in small bowl for sauce.

Transfer asparagus to platter; sprinkle with salt. Drizzle with sauce.

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