I’m usually a less is more kinda of gal. I rarely wear more than once piece of jewelry, I own one winter coat (although that’s starting to change with Portland’s crazy weather), and I don’t like putting too many ingredients in the pot. I like to keep the marriage of tastes to a minimum so picking out subtle flavors happens pleasantly and naturally.
But this morning was a little different. I have a couple of sacks of dried cherries that were a gift from one of my most favorite commercial clients, The Cherry Country. When she handed them too me the first thing that popped into my head was: asparagus. I’ve never cooked with dried cherries before, but these plump, juicy but not too sweet dried Royal Ann cherries (love the name) just swooned for asparagus. The problem was, that I had about another month before asparagus started to nod their little green heads at the markets.
Boy was it worth the wait. These little guys are delicate crisp and lemony and perfectly complimented the Royal Annies.
I had intended only to toss in some caramelized shallots, shredded prosciutto and crumbled ricotta salata to complete the dish, then, I remembered that I had a tiny tub of untouched fennel pollen sitting patiently in my spice drawer. I froze. Would adding fennel pollen be over the top? The cherries were already a departure from my usual methods. They were on the verge of being one ingredient too many. My gut clenched up and I hesitated.
It felt wrong, but I did it anyway.
Pan Fried Asparagus with Dried Cherries, Prosciutto, Ricotta Salata and Fennel Pollen
Fennel Pollen can be difficult to find. If you live in Portland, Foster and Dobbs offers it. Otherwise, there are a few online resources. It’s worth the search, though. Fennel Pollen adds a hint of delicate anise to the finish of a dish. You may not notice it at first, but it will linger on your palate as the other flavors start to fade.
What you’ll need~
One bunch of young asparagus, trim off the ends so you’re cooking with the tender green parts
Handful of torn or chopped prosciutto
Handful of dried cherries
Coarse sea salt
Fennel Pollen (optional)
Warm your olive oil in a large skillet until it starts to shimmer.
Toss in sliced shallots and a couple of shakes of fine sea salt.
Sauté for about a minute, until they just start to caramelize.
Place asparagus in pan in an even layer and let cook for 3-4 minutes stirring occasionally.
Sprinkle prosciutto and cherries in during the last minute or two of cooking.
Remove from heat and place asparagus on your favorite serving platter.
Using your fingers, crumble ricotta salata over the dish.
Sprinkle a pinch or two of coarse sea salt.
Dust gently with a pinch or two of fennel pollen.