Monday, March 18, 2013

Asparagus and Tomato Penne with Lemon Herb Sauce

'Tis the season!

I've been wanting to cook with fresher produce, both for health reasons and to have a new project that would motivate me to blog more.

I don't want to limit myself entirely to in-season produce, but I hope to center the weekly recipe around an item I can get fresh--surrounded by other quality items.

It's not quite spring here, but I thought I'd kick things off with a springy pasta highlighting asparagus, which I complemented with juicy tomatoes, yellow peppers, goat cheese, and a creamy lemon sauce.

I found a recipe for creamy lemon sauce from Martha Holmberg's Modern Sauces, but I diverted a bit, using milk, a bit of vinegar and sugar, and butter instead of cream, and lemon juice instead of white wine.

For the vegetables, I simply roasted them in a large skillet, starting off with the asparagus, then adding the tomatoes and peppers, and finally the dandelion greens [side salad: I've never used or eaten these before! I was a bit nervous. The girl at Whole Foods seemed bewildered too. We briefly, somewhat jokingly pondered if there had been a miscommunication between Floral and Produce. But it ended up more than okay!].

And finally it all came together!

Asparagus and Tomato Penne with Lemon Herb Sauce
Serves 4 - 6.

1 bunch asparagus (washed, ends trimmed, cut into 1.5-inch pieces)
8 oz. grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup diced yellow peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil
16 oz. whole-wheat penne, cooked al dente 
1 cup pasta water, reserved
2 cups dandelion greens, roughly chopped
Lemon Herb Sauce (ingredients and recipe below)
8 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high. Add olive oil and wait till shimmering.
2. Add asparagus and saute for 2 - 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add tomatoes and peppers and cook, now stirring often, until the tomatoes and asparagus begin to brown.
4. Add chopped dandelion greens and cook until completely wilted.
5. Remove skillet from heat and combine with pasta in large bowl. Stir in lemon herb sauce.
6. Top each serving with goat cheese crumbles.

Lemon Herb Sauce (to be prepared in conjunction with pasta)
1 tsp butter and 1 tablespoon butter, divided
2 tablespoons finely diced shallots
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
2 fresh sprigs thyme, minced
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 pinch sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tablespoon Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated

1. Melt one teaspoon butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.
2. Add shallots and cook 1 minutes.
3. Add lemon juice and turn heat to high, bringing to a boil for 3 - 4 minutes.
4. Add broth and thyme, returning to a boil for 8 - 10 minutes.
5. Add milk, vinegar, and sugar and boil for another 7 - 8 minutes.
6. Stir in tablespoon of butter until melted.
7. Remove skillet from heat, stir in lemon zest, and grate in Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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