Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Pasta with Asparagus and Lemon

I finally got over my fear of commitment this year and did something I've been reluctant to do. I planted asparagus. Since it is a perennial vegetable, you have to decide where you want it to be for the next couple of decades or so. It also tests one's ability to be patient, since you aren't supposed to harvest stems for the first couple of years after planting. Here's someone else who's eagerly awaiting the arrival of those tender stems:

Foo Foo (as in Little Bunny Foo Foo), who adopted us last year. Sweet bunny, but if he gets any of my asparagus before I do... Fortunately, even though my asparagus looks like this now:

it was on sale for $0.97/lb this week. I usually roast it in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper, but I found this recipe in my Moosewood cookbook and it intrigued me since it basically sounded like an asparagus pesto.

1 1/2 lb asparagus
1 lb penne
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Meanwhile, prepare asparagus by washing, removing and discarding tough ends, and trimming 1 1/2 inches of tips (reserve). Chop remaining stems into 1 inch pieces and reserve separately.

When water is boiling, blanch asparagus tips for 3-4 minutes. Remove and set aside. Blanch chopped stems 6-7 minutes, until tender. Remove and place in food processor or blender along with lemon juice and olive oil. Puree until smooth and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add pasta to boiling water and cook to al dente. Drain, reserving some of the pasta water to thin the sauce if needed. Toss pasta with puree, asparagus tips and cheese.

I topped ours with sliced sauteed portabellos seasoned with salt, pepper and fresh thyme.

This dish has a lot of potential. I did have a few issues, though. I guess I prefer the cleaner taste of lemon zest to lemon juice, which comes across as bitter to me, so I would probably swap a Tbsp or so of zest for the juice next time. I also felt like the puree needed something to balance out the acidity. I added a few splashes of cream to add some richness and the portabellos seemed to be a step in the right direction, but it wasn't quite where I wanted it to be. If I make it again, I might go for really woodsy Porcini mushrooms and a bolder, richer cheese (I used parm in this one). Any other suggestions?

1 comment:

wirrek said...

Ha! You should get a cat to take care of that foo foo! And maybe a goat cheese sub. The flavor would not cover the mushrooms, but would give it a creamy and richness.