April 22 – April 28, 2019
Monday: Leftovers with Lucali Salad
Tuesday: Drunken Chicken Soup (F&W)
Wednesday: Pasta Primavera / Salad (F&W)
Thursday: Dunnings Meeting
Friday: Butter Pached Grouper with asparagus, potatoes and herbs
Sunday: Cheeseburgers with Caramelized Onions, Baked Beans, Brocolli Slaw
Well, of course I realize that it’s April showers and May flowers. And we’ve certainly had some showers in Pittsburgh this April. But it’s been generally mild and sunny and has evoked the most lively blooms in a decade. From reliable daffodils and hyacinths through the butter-bright forsythia shoots to the glorious tulip trees and dogwoods and the pretty apple trees right on down to the vulgar but beautiful crab apples and cherries, it’s been a glorious Spring in Pittsburgh. Which might explain my skipping a week on he blog, except that it doesn’t. I’m just tardy – and have managed, for the first time in nearly five years to skip a week.
With all these wonderful blooms, it has been a tough Spring for allergy sufferers. I’ve been making my way sniffling, rubbing at my eyes and discreetly sneezing through the aisles of our local grocers picking up the perfect asparagus now on offer and early lettuces and cresses and, generally producing a vegetable-heavy cuisine which would be perfectly healthy except for the martinis and Rob Roys which invariably seem to accompany it.
You’ll notice a bunch of flower photos, in addition to the food, and a very special photo, right here, from a cocktail party at our place which featured my godson, Peter and his wife Abby, and Tim and Hilda, his parents, as well as Beez. I’m the smaller species of human, on the left. (Are we feeding them too well? And what were our parents feeding us?)
This party occurred before a memorable Easter weekend with Billy and Emily, Greg, Kellie and Mike and Uncle Rick. And that was a spectacular week but time marches on and we’re going to feature a dish from the following week (last week) that is light and captures some of the essence of this fine Spring in Pittsburgh – Pasta Primavera. I know, I know, too often this dish is a throwaway sop to people trying to stay slim. But trust us, this version will change your mind about the primavera ploy. It is supremely light (in spite of the butter) and captures one of the finer tastes of Spring (asparagus). And, as noted above, it goes well with Rob Roys, Martinis, White wine, any kind of beer and, for all we know, Mead and Kvass.
(adapted from Food and Wine, April, 2019)
Timing: 40 minutes, if you cook the sauce first, as we did. The F & W folks cooked it all at once.
Ingredients: Serves 3-4
1 lb. Asparagus (medium to thick stalks – your going to be peeling ribbons from them; but if you can only get thin stalks, just half or quarter the stalks and watch out for your fingers when you do.
Bunch of small, multi-colored carrots – about 6. [We just used small, orange carrots]
12 oz. durum wheat tagliatelle [This is important – the egg tagliatelle will make the dish too buttery]
4 oz. sugar snap peas, trimmed and thinly sliced lengthwise (about 1 cup)
1 cup of pea shoots – we used watercress, since we don’t like the smoky taste of pea shoots. You could also use baby arugula
2 Tablespoons chopped chives
2 Teaspoons chopped tarragon
The zest from 1 lemon and about 2 teaspoons of its juice
12 Tablespoons cold butter cut in ½ inch pieces and divided into 1, 5 and 6 tablespoon piles
Tablespoon of finely chopped garlic – we used a little less than a teaspoon.
¼ cup of water
¼ teaspoon of kosher salt
½ cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano grated (we used Romano)
Prep: About 10 minutes
Prepare the asparagus and carrots by shaving them into thin ribbons with a Y-shaped vegetable peeler. [We don’t have one, but did fine with a regular peeler and then finely slicing the remaining pieces of asparagus and carrot]. You need about 1 cup of carrots, separated into two ½ cup amounts.
Chop the herbs and zest and juice the lemon and chop the garlic.
Fill a large pot with enough water to cook the pasta, salt it aggressively and heat the water.
Warm 4 serving bowls.
Cook the Sauce:
Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant (less than a minute), then add the ¼ cup of water. Allow this to come to a simmer and then whisk in 5 tablespoons of butter, one at a time, waiting until each tablespoon is nearly melted before adding the next. Stir in the salt. Turn off the heat.
Cook the Pasta:
When the water comes to a rolling boil, add the pasta and stir to separate. When it comes back to a boil, cook for about 10 minutes. While cooking the pasta, add ½ cup of carrot ribbons to a strainer and lower into the pasta water and cook for 20 seconds. Set the carrots aside. When the pasta is a few minutes from being cooked to al dente, reheat the butter sauce.
Finish the Dish:
Using tongs or a strainer, life the cooked pasta into the skillet with the butter sauce (don’t discard the pasta water yet). Increase the heat under the skillet to medium-high. Add the snap peas, asparagus ribbons and the uncooked carrot ribbons (don’t add the ones you’ve already cooked yet) and the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter and cook, stirring and shaking the skillet constantly, adding ladles of the pasta water one at a time until a creamy sauce clings to the pasta (maybe 3 minutes).
Remove the skillet from the heat and add the watercress (or pea shoots or arugula), the cheese, the chives, tarragon, lemon zest and lemon juice while continuing to stir constantly until combined. Add more pasta water, if needed, to loosen to a creamy consistency.
Divide the pasta among 4 bowl. Top with the pre-cooked carrot ribbons and garnish with more watercress and cheese.