Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pasta with Asparagus and Snap Peas

I still might be waiting for things to happen in my garden, but all the great contributors to the local farmer’s market are more than making up for that by bringing in loads of lovely stuff. Ah, what lovely stuff! It’s the kind of stuff I want to eat all up, bare and raw right out of the bag on the 5 minute ride home.

This week, I found myself with some of the most deliciously sweet asparagus I’ve ever tasted and some wonderfully sweet and crisp sugar snap peas, the first local ones I’ve seen this season. I briefly blanched the asparagus and snap peas in some water I got boiling for pasta, then tossed them with that pasta along with sautéed scallions, lemon, white wine, and just a bit of half and half. The recipe on which I based this dish included a generous dose of bacon, but I –gasp- left it out. I wanted to feature the vegetables and enhance them with the wine and lemon, not hide them under the bacon.

I loved the lemon in this dish, and there was a good dose of it in the form of both juice and grated zest. I like the extra bit of flavor a crisp, light white wine gives, too. I used a Vinho Verde (from Portugal), which had a good balance of lemony tartness and gentle mineral flavor. I almost always use something very inexpensive to cook with. It just so happens that I like to drink most of these cheap bottles with dishes like this as well. If you already know what you like, use that, but if you’re not that into wine, I’d recommend something like the Vinho Verde (they can be less than seven bucks), or a Sauvignon Blanc or unoaked Chardonnay. Since there’s so little wine in this recipe, you could replace it with broth or pasta-cooking water if you’re not into wine at all.

I suppose this is kind of a “pasta primavera” recipe, and you could definitely replace the asparagus and snap peas with just about any other tender spring vegetables you like. I do recommend blanching the vegetables before mixing them with the pasta and other flavors, just so they’re not too hard and crunchy. Since you’ll be boiling the water for pasta anyway, it’s pretty simple to just use that water to blanch the vegetables, too. Really, it’s the method for this dish that’s valuable, since you could add, subtract, multiply and divide as desired, and have a great go-to quick dish for enjoying all the wonderful fresh vegetables out there.

At least that’s my plan. Of course, if you need to add bacon, or sausage, or chicken, or ham, you might not be onto such a bad plan either.

Pasta with Asparagus, Snap Peas and Lemon
Based on a recipe by Molly Stevens in Lunds and Byerly’s Real Food magazine

Water and salt for cooking pasta and vegetables
8 ounces asparagus cut into 2-3 inch pieces
4 ounces sugar snap peas, ends and strings removes, cut in half
½ pound dry pasta (I used fettuccine)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped scallions
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons half and half or heavy cream
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

1. Bring a large pot of water (large enough to cook pasta) to a boil. Salt generously. Add the asparagus and sugar snap peas. Cook 2 minutes. Remove the asparagus and snap peas and drain. Set aside. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until tender.

2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the scallions and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes or until the scallions are tender, but not yet browning.

3. Add the lemon zest and juice and the wine. Bring to a boil and add the asparagus and snap peas. If the pasta is not yet cooked, remove the pan with the onion mixture from the heat and wait until the pasta is done. Otherwise, proceed to the next step.

4. Drain the pasta, reserving a half cup of pasta cooking water, and add it to the onion mixture, or transfer the pasta directly to the pan from the boiling water. Add the half and half and Parmesan and stir to coat the pasta and vegetables. If the dish seems dry, add some of the reserved pasta cooking water. Serve with additional Parmesan.

Makes 3-4 servings

One year ago: Multigrain Baguette

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