Category: Pancetta


Spring has sprung!

Spring is late this year–there’s even still some snow on the ground in the shady areas. (That’s the last time I ever trust a groundhog to predict the weather!)  But a few glimmers of hope are finally starting to shine through.  Tulips are trying to come up, birds are building a nest out on our balcony, and asparagus that was not grown in Mexico has reappeared in the grocery store.

I bought some, not quite sure what I intended to do with it, but I knew that I wanted to leave it raw or nearly so.  Further inspiration struck in the form of a lovely brick of cheese at Trader Joe’s – it was a mix of cheddar and gruyere: a perfect combination of flavor and melt-ability!

I decided to make a pasta dish with a basic white sauce as its base that would really show off the freshness of the asparagus.  At the last minute, I also decided to throw in a handful of fresh green beans, but you could totally use frozen as long as you thawed them out first. Peas would be another excellent and springlike addition.  Just go with whatever looks good!

The key for the asparagus, though, is tossing it in to the sauce at the end, just before you add the pasta–you want it to heat through, but you don’t want it to lose any of its delightful, crisp freshness.  So don’t overcook it!

Ready to eat!

Springtime Asparagus Pasta
(Serves 2-3)

  • 1 bunch asparagus, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 handful green beans, chopped into 1 inch pieces.  Feel free to use frozen, but thaw them before adding to the dish.
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 c milk
  • 1/2 c grated cheese (I used a cheddar-gruyere blend)
  • 112g pasta (I used papardelle)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • pancetta (optional)

Put a pot of salted water on to boil.  Cook the pasta to al dente and drain.  While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Once it’s melted, whisk in the flour.  When the roux is smooth, pour in the milk, whisking steadily to combine.  Add the garlic, and keep whisking until the sauce begins to thicken.  If it starts to bubble, reduce the heat.  Add in the cheese, and once it’s melted, add in the asparagus and green beans.  Toss in the pasta, and mix to combine.  Season with salt and pepper, and, if you like, top it with some crispy pancetta bits.  Enjoy!

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And just like that a month goes by and it’s April.  Apologies again for the lack of posts–especially after I had promised you all new posts!  I do have one dish that I made during that week after my last post that I’ll write about later (it was a Thai-inspired curry dish), but it’s a new month and for now I’d rather write about something new!

I went to the grocery store this week at about quarter after 9 on Tuesday morning.  On the one hand, this is an utterly ideal time to go to the grocery store because (at least by this store’s standards), it is empty. No fighting people to get your cart through the aisles…heck, there are actually carts available! The downside, though, is that clearly their shipments of produce must arrive on Wednesday or Thursday because there was not a whole lot to choose from, and a lot of what was there was pretty sad.  I quickly had to scrap plans to get some kale, or my second choice of spinach.  I did find the last good bunch of big organic beets, so I do have beet greens to work with, and then I found some watercress.

I’ve never bought watercress before.  I’ve had it a few times, mostly in foreign countries.  But it was one of the few greens they had that weren’t completely wilted and pathetic looking.  So I decided on the spur of the moment that I was going to make a watercress salad.  Which is weird for me since normally I don’t consider salads to be meals.  But I’ve had this for dinner the past two nights and it’s actually turned out to be quite good and filling.

But what else to put with the watercress?  I had bought pancetta for another recipe (I’m on a bit of a Jamie Oliver kick lately–more on that later), so that was definitely going to go in there.  I also wanted something sweet, but there’s not much in season right now in the fruit department (and the stuff from Chile is all coated in a thick layer of wax that’s impossible to remove!), so I decided to grate up a carrot, which worked out nicely.  I also added a couple green onions, just to get another flavor in there, and to tie it all together I made a dressing with lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Finally, I topped the salad off with some grated Parmesan cheese.  All in all?  Definitely a recipe worth repeating!

watercress

pancetta

lemon dressing

watercress salad

 

Watercress and Pancetta Salad

Salad

  • 1 bunch watercress, washed and picked over
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • approx. 6 slices of pancetta or bacon (more or less to taste)
  • Parmesan cheese (to taste)

Dressing

  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • olive oil (equal to lemon juice)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Wash and pick over the watercress, throwing away any bad leaves, tear it into bite sized pieces, and put it in a big bowl.  Grate the carrot and add it to the bowl with the watercress.  Chop the onions and do the same.  Cook the pancetta in a nonstick pan until nicely golden and crispy.  Tear it up and add it to the bowl.

To make the dressing, zest the lemon using a grater or microplane*.  Only get the yellow part of the zest–not the white part.  Put the zest in a bowl or 2 cup measure.  Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice in with the zest, being careful not to lose any seeds.  Add the olive oil, salt, and pepper and whisk it all together.  When you’re ready to eat, drizzle the dressing over the salad and top with a good amount of Parmesan cheese.

 

*Be VERY careful to keep your thumb away from the microplane.  Seriously.