On Saturday, Ed (my favorite farmer at the farmers’ market) had asparagus. He apparently had even had it the week before. That’s a pretty solid three weeks early. I only buy asparagus from Ed and when he doesn’t have it any more, well then, we don’t eat it anymore until the next year. I was thrilled to see this first vegetable of spring! Even though it wasn’t on the menu plan, here’s what we’re eating tomorrow night.
Pasta with Asparagus, Toasted Almonds, and Browned Butter
from Cooks Illustrated, March/April 2003
2 T oil
1 pound asparagus, in 1-inch lengths
3 large garlic cloves, sliced thin
2 medium shallots, sliced into rings
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Heat the oil until really hot. Add the asparagus and cook, without stirring, for 1 minute until it begins to brown. Add the garlic, shallots, salt, and pepper and cook until asparagus is tender crisp, another 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
6 T butter, cut into pieces
1 C chopped almonds (The recipe calls for sliced almonds. I prefer to use whole almonds and chop them myself. I like the texture provided by the different sizes of almond pieces and the “almond dust” that is created by the chopping adheres really nicely to the pasta and distributes the almond flavor better.)
1/4 C sherry vinegar (I never have sherry vinegar around so I use apple cider instead)
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme (which I don’t always have – it’s OK to omit it but delicious if you do have it)
Add the butter to the hot skillet, on high heat. After the butter melts, add the almonds and cook, stirring constantly until the almonds and butter are browned and irresistible, 1-2 minutes. Off the heat, add the vinegar and thyme. Stir the asparagus mixture back in.
1 pound of pasta (having been cooked in water with 1 T of salt) (CI recommends farfalle, I usually use rotini)
1 C grated Parmesan cheese (we usually use kefalotiri, a Greek cheese)
Stir the butter/almond/asparagus mixture into the pasta, along with 1/2 C of the cheese. Serve immediately with the remaining 1/2 C cheese for sprinkling on top. Delicious!
(The cooking of this recipe goes very quickly so I would recommend having everything chopped and ready to go before starting the cooking process. Usually, I can cook the butter/asparagus mixture in the time that it takes the pasta to cook. It is also worth the trouble to slice the garlic thinly rather than using a garlic press. The garlic slices are delicious.)
Our other favorite way to eat asparagus is shaved asparagus pizza. We’ll probably eat that this week too!
Hooray for spring!