It was a great birthday. I slept late, ate breakfast out on our screened porch, then had my coffee with the cat out in the kitchen garden. Some days, you just have to let yourself do nothing, and if your birthday isn’t one of those days, then you are missing something.
One son sent me the cutest flower arrangement I think I’ve ever seen: a flower cupcake. It’s right here on my desk, where it looks like it’ll last for a while.
And the other son sent Thomas Keller’s new cookbook, ad hoc at home. This book, of family-style recipes, is rapidly becoming one of my favorites, even though I haven’t made anything from it yet. I’m a big fan of Keller – his gazpacho is a staple of my hostessing menus, and his instructions on cooking vegetables changed my life – but some of his concoctions get just a little too precious for a kitchen with a staff of one. I’m thinking in particular of a white truffle custard – and you know, I always keep a bit of white truffle in my pantry – served in a hollowed out egg shell. Oh, please. The dishes in this new book, however, are designed for serving to a group of friends who don’t care if you’re using liquid nitrogen or tweezers or an immersion circulator. (More on this book in my next post.)
So for my birthday, my husband wanted to take me to dinner at a nice local place, but we’d been out the previous couple of nights, and had plans for the next couple of nights after that. And sometimes, I just get a hankering to cook something. It was one of those nights.
I’m such a fan of spring veggies, and my grocery store has been overflowing with great looking asparagus lately. I haven’t yet located peas at any farmers’ market around here, and of course it might be waaay past pea season in Texas, for all I know. But frozen peas, unless you’re a real farmer yourself, are actually every bit as good as fresh. So I sautéed some shallots in a bit of butter, threw in asparagus and frozen peas, plus salt and pepper, and let them cook for about 7 mins. Then I added some cream, simmered it down for a couple of minutes, and tossed in bowtie pasta (cooked) and some freshly grated parmesan cheese, topped it with slivered fresh basil, and we had dinner. It all took less than half an hour. Happy birthday to me.
Here’s the recipe in a more organized fashion:
Pasta with Asparagus and Peas
1 tablespoon butter
1½ tablespoons shallots, minced
1 pound asparagus (I prefer the thinner stalks for this recipe), trimmed and cut into one-inch pieces
8 ounces frozen peas, thawed
salt and pepper, to taste
¼ cup heavy cream
8 ounces dried pasta (I used ½ box of bowtie pasta)
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup fresh basil, slivered
Cook pasta in salted water as directed. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, cook shallots on medium-low heat about 4 minutes. Raise heat to medium, add asparagus and peas, salt and pepper. Cover and cook 7 minutes, or until asparagus is firm-tender. Remove cover and add cream. Simmer vegetables in cream until the cream thickens (~2 minutes). When pasta is ready, drain it and add it to the vegetables, along with the parmesan cheese, stirring well. When the cheese is melted and well incorporated, add basil and stir well again. Adjust seasoning. Serves 2 with leftovers.