Spaghetti with Asparagus & Herbs

Spaghetti with Asparagus & Herbs

This dish is designed to highlight the flavors of its fresh ingredients rather than overpowering them with heavy tastes. Serve for lunch or a light dinner with bread, fresh fruit and a light cheese. (Makes about 3 servings.)

Approximate measurements:

12 oz. spaghetti

1 lb. fresh asparagus

2 oz. extra virgin olive oil

1 oz. white balsamic vinegar

4 fresh lemons

several twists of fresh ground green and red peppercorns

1/4 t. sea salt

1/4 c. fresh golden oregano

1 T. fresh flat leaf parsley

1 1/2 t. fresh thyme

1. Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of lightly salted, boiling water.

2. About half way through the cooking time for the spaghetti, put the asparagus on the stove to steam. Cook until crisp tender. Remove from pot then rinse asparagus with cold water and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, combine olive oil, vinegar, juice of 2 of the lemons, fresh ground pepper and salt. Set aside.

4. Submerge herbs in a bowl of cold water to remove any possible dirt or insects. Remove herbs and rinse well. Pat dry. Strip herb leaves from stems. Discard stems and any damaged leaves. If there are any thyme flowers, set them aside for garnish.

5. When the spaghetti is cooked to desired consistency, drain well. Add the olive oil mixture to the pot that the pasta was cooked in. Return spaghetti to the pan and toss with the olive oil mixture.

6. Divide spaghetti between serving bowls. Top with fresh herbs and then with asparagus. Squeeze a little more fresh lemon juice over asparagus and then grind a little more fresh pepper over dish. Garnish with thyme flowers if available. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

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2LC: Mushrooms

After a short hiatus, Two Little Chefettes have returned with their monthly cooking challenge. The ingredient for November is mushrooms. Thank you Ridha and Bebe!

I tend to have rather strong opinions about mushrooms. I think that most people cook them on too low a heat, for too long a time, with too much fat and without enough seasoning – the result being a rubbery, unappealing ingredient. I always cook mushrooms on a high heat, with just a little fat, with plenty of salt and pepper, and almost always with some sherry. That is how the Portobellos are prepared for this recipe. They are then stirred into the soup at the last minute. The result is a silky soup with slightly caramelized mushrooms.

Creamy Portobello Mushroom Soup

4 T. unsalted butter, divided

2 T. potato starch

2 c. flavorful vegetable broth (mine is a golden-orange because it has lots of carrots and some tomatoes)

2 c. whole milk*

1/2 c. chopped yellow onion

4 c. very thinly sliced fresh Portobello mushrooms

splash of dry pale sherry

salt and fresh ground pepper

1/4 t. ground paprika

1. Melt 2 T. of the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Whisk in the potato starch. Once the mixture is completely smooth, slowly whisk in the vegetable stock. Continue cooking, whisking occasionally, until perfectly smooth and slightly thickened. Whisk in the milk; and again, continue cooking, whisking occasionally, until perfectly smooth and slightly thickened.

2. Using about 1/2 T. of the remaining butter, saute onions in another pan until starting to turn translucent and lightly golden, but still slightly crisp. Stir into the soup base. The soup base will continue to thicken and will need to be whisked every few minutes.

3. Melt the remaining butter in the pan from the onions, stir in the mushrooms, and saute until almost cooked. Add the sherry and then salt and pepper the mushrooms. The sherry should be absorbed fairly quickly at which time the mushrooms should be done cooking. Stir mushrooms into soup base.

4. Stir in paprika and then adjust seasonings. Serve right away. Enjoy!

* Once time when I made this soup, I substituted soy milk. I thought that the soup turned out too sweet. So I would recommend sticking to regular milk.

Improvised Tomato Pumpkin Soup

After making Bumpkins  yesterday, I found myself with leftover pumpkin that I wanted to use for dinner in some way. Being a great believer in the art of culinary improvisation, I decided to make something using only ingredients that I already had in the house; and besides, it was 7 pm before I started cooking dinner, I was still waiting for one room to check in, and there was no way that I was going to the grocery store. So here is what I came up with along with some suggested variations. The point of this post isn’t “Oh, this is the best soup ever … you’ve got to try it.”  (It is really good, though; otherwise, I wouldn’t have posted the recipe!) Rather, the point of this post is an exhortation to be creative. Go ahead, have fun and improvise … you might come up with something you like!

Improvised Tomato Pumpkin Soup

4 oz. dry quinoa pasta shells

1/4 c. diced red bell pepper, sautéed in olive oil

3 c. chopped tomatoes (I used Pomi brand from Italy)

1 1/4 c. packed pumpkin

2 c. vegetable stock

1 c. frozen corn

1 T. Italian Seasonings

1/2 t. hot red pepper flakes

dry white wine

fresh grated Romano cheese.

1. Put the pasta on to cook.  Meanwhile, saute peppers.

2. While the pasta is cooking and the peppers are sauteing, add the following to a 4-qt. stockpan: tomatoes, pumpkin, vegetable stock, corn, Italian Seasonings and red pepper flakes.  Cook over medium heat. Add peppers when they are crisp-tender.

3. When pasta is done cooking, drain and then stir into soup. Add white wine to taste, about 2 T. Cook for 5 more minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

4. Serve topped with grated cheese. (Some crusty French bread would go really well with this soup.)

Suggested Variations

– substitute beans for corn (or use in addition to corn)

– substitute yellow onions for red peppers

– use another pasta, or use rice

– top with cheddar cheese

– use red wine instead of white

– add fresh herbs

– add croutons when serving

Have fun! Enjoy! I’d love to hear your ideas …