Pasta with asparagus
As I reported in Monday's 30 Second Wine Advisor, one of the top food-and-wine treats of our recent trip to France's Rhone Valley was a dinner at Restaurant Christian Etienne in Avignon, where the eponymous chef put together a full dinner of small plates that all featured variations on two seasonal spring vegetables: asparagus and artichokes.
The procedure may look a little complicated because I divided the asparagus into three parts and treated each slightly differently, but it's really as simple as can be, requiring little more than a half-hour from start to finish, much of that time spent waiting for the vegetables to simmer.
To sum it up, it involves cutting asparagus into bite-size lengths, simmering most of them and the spear tips until tender, while whizzing the cooked stem ends with a little heavy cream or creme fraiche to make a sauce, serving the result over short pasta.
INGREDIENTS: (serves 2)
8- to 12-ounce bunch fresh green asparagus (250 to 350g)
1. Rinse the asparagus, cut off and discard any woody ends, then cut the spears into bite-size (1/2-inch or 1-cm) lengths, keeping the spear tips separate.
2. Bring about 1 cup lightly salted water to a boil in a small saucepan and simmer about one-third of the cut-up asparagus until it's tender. Lift it out with a slotted spoon, reserving the cooking water, and blend the cooked asparagus and the creme fraiche into a smooth puree with a standing or stick blender. Reserve.
3. Put the pasta on to boil in a large pot of salted water as per package instructions.
4. While the pasta is cooking, simmer the rest of the asparagus in the reserved cooking water for about 10 minutes or until it's just tender. Put the spear points in a little later so they won't overcook. Drain the asparagus well and return it to the saucepan with the reserved asparagus-cream sauce. Stir to blend, and add black pepper, cumin and additional salt to taste. Keep it warm over very low heat.
5. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and stir it into the asparagus sauce. Serve in warm bowls. (OPTIONS: I could also see serving the asparagus and asparagus cream as a standalone vegetable dish with a separate starch course - bread or potatoes - or serving it over rice.)
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Thursday, June 16, 2005
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