Thursday, April 5, 2012

Not easy eating greens

Spring pasta

A regular feature of my weekday is the “what’s on for dinner for you tonight?” e-mail exchange with the Swedish Chef. Here’s an excerpt from this week as I head into a meatless mealtime.
Me: I'm not even caring about dinner tonight. Eating vegetarian is the worst.

SC: You're going veg tonight? I'll be thinking of you as I chow down on pork tenderloin. It's funny how quickly our healthy choices become regrettable decisions.

Me: Yeah, we've got vegetarian pasta on tap. Just can't get excited for it.

S.C: I don't know in what situation one would be "excited" for vegetarian pasta.

Me: If you just got out of a Japanese P.O.W. camp?

S.C: "If I have to look at ONE MORE bowl of rotten rice, I ... Ooh! Lasagna!"

Here’s the twist. The pasta in question was actually really good; fresh tasting and all springy. Will this mean I’ll be less skeptical of meatless days? Probably not. But this is a nice segue into the season of fresh vegetables (even if the only vegetables currently available are still coming from far-off California). The only advice from me is to not overcook the asparagus in the initial step: you’re gonna want to keep some of that snap.

Asparagus, pea and avocado pasta (adapted from Everyday Food)

Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 small bunch asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
¾ cup fresh or frozen peas
1 farfalle pasta
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint, parsley, or basil
grated lemon zest
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan or pecorino cheese, plus more for serving, if desired

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook asparagus about 2 minutes, then scoop out with a slotted spoon and shock in a bowl of ice water. Drain and set aside.

Return water to a boil; add pasta and cook until al dente, according to package instructions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water; set pasta aside in colander.

Melt 1 tablespoons butter over medium heat in the pot. Add asparagus, peas, and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing, until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Add remaining tablespoon butter, cooked pasta, avocado, herbs, cheese, lemon zest and some of the reserved pasta water. Season with salt and pepper and serve topped with additional cheese because why not?

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