If you have a yard surrounded by old lilacs, spring is a good time for a dinner party.
And, if it’s spring, it’s a good time for Pasta Primavera (Spring Pasta).
And, if it’s time for Pasta Primavera, it’s a good time for pink wine. French rosé. Or Oregon rosé.
You needn’t be picky about the wine, though it must be dry and young (2010). It shouldn’t cost much–not more than $15 and often much less. Just make sure you have enough. A variety of choices would be a kind gesture to both you and your guests.
And if you were really loving that day, you might make an appetizer platter of tapenade and local goat’s cheese blended with fresh basil and grated lemon rind. Some proscuitto and tiny tomatoes make the plate.
The rosé will be quite stunning with that goat’s cheese. Promise.
I’m sold lately on lemon ice cream. In fact, it’s a perfect solution to dessert.
|Picture taken later after the ice cream had been in the freezer.|
I used a recipe from epicurious. com (Gourmet, 1993), though I didn’t use as much sugar. I thought 2/3 c was plenty and it was. The brightness and/or sourness of the lemon can easily be overwhelmed by too much sugar. (Click on the purple recipe.) Note that the mixture must be made ahead, cooked briefly, chilled very well, and have more half and half added right before freezing.
About the Primavera... you could look up twenty recipes for Primavera and they’d all be different, except that they should all have spring vegetables of some sort (leeks, ramps, scallions, peas, asparagus, baby greens, fennel, etc.). If you go to the farmer’s markets now (when you think there’ll be nothing), you should find some spring vegetables. If not, pick up your favorites at the grocery and use those.
|A gorgeous fennel bulb..use the fronds for garnish. There’s a core here much like in cabbage. Cut it out and slice the fennel into half moons.|
|Fresh pea shoots–leaves, shoots, and tendrils from pea plants. Yummy greens.|
The basic directions (serves 4) that would include your choice of vegetables would look like this (and I don’t think the Primavera police are out tonight if you want to change the process):
|Ramps–quite like scallions|
1. Bring a big pot of salted, peppered, and herbed pasta water to a boil. (Fresh herbs only–parsley, if it’s all you have. Parsley’s a perfect herb and quite nutritious.) Lower the heat to low until you need the water in a few minutes. That is, unless you’ve timed it perfectly. Ha.
2. Meantime, in a large, deep skillet, saute in a tablespoon of olive oil a half cup of sliced something(s) from the onion family: scallions, leeks, ramps (kind of like green onions…sort of between them and lilies of the valley), a mixture…even a bit of garlic, though just a bit–say 1 clove, minced. I would include fennel here (another half cup if you have it) as it requires a similar cooking time. Do not brown these vegetables, just cook until softened. A shake of salt and pepper wouldn’t come wrong here. Remove them from the pan and reserve.
3. Add a bit more oil, heat it to medium-high, and cook a cup of freshly sliced mushrooms for three or four minutes until golden. They needn’t be –though they could be!–expensive; button mushrooms will do. Don’t salt them til later. Do, however, add a tablespoon or so of fresh chopped herbs to them and pepper it all lightly. (I like marjoram, but rosemary or thyme is so good, too.) Remove them from the pan and add to the onion mixture. Note: Like meat, you must leave mushrooms unmoved for best browning. Don’t stir until well-browned on one side. Watch closely!
4. A little more oil, medium heat, and cook 1/2 cup each new peas (or frozen if you can’t find new), chopped asparagus, chopped haricots verts (very slim green beans), even a bit of zucchini or yellow squash sliced thinly–despite the fact that they are summer vegetables. We’ll let you slide by with it. After they’ve cooked a couple of minutes, add 1T cup each of your favorite fresh herbs (basil, rosemary, etc.) and a generous pinch of crushed red pepper. Throw in the onion-mushroom mixture, taste and adjust seasoning, and set aside. These vegetables should be just barely done…not crunchy like a salad, but not granny-done, either.
5. Cook your pound of pasta as directed (10 minutes for dried thin noodles like spaghetti or linguine…just a few minutes for fresh), drain it and add it the vegetables. Mix well. I do not believe in the ubiquitious addition of pasta water here.
6. If desired, a 1/2 cup – 1 cup of very fresh ricotta can be included here, as well as 1/2c-1 c fresh baby greens (pea shoots, baby spinach, watercress…). Serve warm or at room temperature. (Good cold, too.)
7. Pass Parmesan (you’ll need 1-2 cups grated), chopped parsley, cherry tomatoes (heirlooms are tasty), and white pepper at the table.
Alternatively, and much more quickly, you might try this method for ease of preparation: Bring a 10-12 qt (2/3 full) pot of well-seasoned water to boil; add 1 lb pasta and cook 7-8 minutes. Throw in peas, chopped asparagus, chopped green beans, etc. and continue cooking 2 more minutes. Drain well and drizzle with olive oil. Add a handful of mixed fresh herbs (parsley, basil, etc.), 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes, and 1/4 c sliced green onions. If you like ricotta, and have some, stir in 1/2-1 cup. Season quite liberally with salt and pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Serve hot and pass a generous bowl of Parmesan and a grinder for black pepper around the table.
|Nothing like fresh ricotta.|
This is a fun meal to make if you like interactive dinners. Have each guest bring their favorite vegetable, cleaned and chopped. Someone who doesn’t cook can bring a couple of different rosés. Let a strong person grate the cheese, a detail-oriented friend supervise the pasta, and definitely get a wino to make sure everyone tastes all the wines. The ice cream can be put into the freezer (if it’s a small one) when you sit down to dinner.
If you’re a fan of Mark Bittman (NYT), as am I, here’s a link to his recent take (and ideas for variations) on Primavera, which he contends is American. Who am I to argue with Mark Bittman? Mr. Bittman also has ideas for pastas that, since they require fewer ingredients (and seldom meat), are pretty inexpensive. Which is always good.
Well–all that said:
It’s spring. The flowers are in bloom. Sit outdoors if it’s not too cold. Put spring flowers on the table and think loving thoughts.
Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood
The house is still in process, but crystal is in the china cabinet, boxes are out of the living room, and I am walking, gardening, and practicing again.
|I must be home. The cream soups are here.|
|House being prepared for paint.|
|St. Paul Farmer’s Market Scallions|
|Made rhubarb pie yesterday…may blog it! From…|
|Farmer’s market rhubarb.|
|Flowers at the market downtown–a fine way to spend Saturday morning.|
|Our side yard (south)|
|Front yard tree.|
|Our house from the north.|
|Our driveway garden becoming a jungle.
I’m planting herbs, columbines, tomatoes, impatiens, pansies, alyssum…and looking for more light in the yard!
Happy Spring as you sing a new song, my friends!