I have a bone to pick with Mark Bittman.
I read his Minimalist column in the NY Times every week and usually love it. His recipes are smart and easy. Everyone here at the office loves him: his No Knead Bread will live on forever, and have you tried his Braised Turkey? Faith did and loved it.
But...Yesterday I was perplexed to find Bittman had done a piece about making prosciutto-wrapped asparagus for a holiday appetizer.
Asparagus? In December?
In the last few years the Times, as well as most respected and popular cookbooks and cooking blogs, have really turned their attention toward seasonality, to the point where it's no longer the topic, but rather an underlying assumption. I'm not at their editorial meetings, but the impression I've had reading the Times is that you just don't write about a food that is totally out of season without at least mentioning that fact.
Take peas, for example. I'm happy to talk about using peas year-round, but I will specify that outside of early spring when peas are at their best, frozen peas are better. I may even specify that frozen peas, from a quality packer, are often more sweet than fresh peas because they are frozen straight from the field before the sugars turn to starch.
Other foods are great out of season when pickled (cucumbers, obviously, and also string beans, beets, tomatoes) or canned. But asparagus is one of the few foods that really is best in those few beautiful weeks of spring when it's pushing up out of the cold earth and reaching for the sun. Last June we ran a recipe for Asparagus Spread and Prosciutto on Buttered Toast. It's great, try it next time your farmer is carrying asparagus.
As for a prosciutto-wrapped roll for the December holidays, what about some julienned roasted beets (easy to pop in the oven and roast while you do something else) and the same baby arugula Bittman pairs with the asparagus, which is available from greenhouse-growers year-round. I'd even try pumpkin and other squash prepared the same way. Maybe not quite as quick as blanching the asparagus but these preparations are a bit easier on the conscience.
Here are a few of our favorite easy appetizers for holiday entertaining:
• Sweet Butternut Squash and Coconut Jam would be great with some fresh bread and a schmear of goat cheese.
• Easy Appetizer Template: Jam + Pork + Cheese
• Baked Goat Milk Brie with Cranberry Sauce
Yesterday, Joanna rounded up a big helping Vegan Appetizers, many of which are super-easy to prepare and most of which will keep you in season.
Do you have ideas for easy holiday appetizers? Leave them below in the comments.
Related: So Guests Don’t Have to Juggle plus the video of Mark Bittman making his Asparagus & Prosciutto Roll-Up Appetizer plus a recipes for a less-seasonally offensive appetizer: Smoked Salmon Rolls with Ricotta and Chives