24 June 2008

midweek recipe

Tonight I made what Greg and I agreed to be the worst meal I've ever made. It was a "simple dal" -- lentils cooked with Indian-style spices, and it was simply disgusting. I don't know what went wrong -- the cardamom? the cloves? (both of which seemed suspicious to me when I added them to the pot) -- and I will never know, because I will never make this dish again. I've been obsessed with Mark Bittman lately (author of "How to Cook Everything" and "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian", among other things) because his recipes are generally quite good, but this? Unspeakably bad.

I'm not giving you that recipe. I'm willing to blame myself, and not Mark Bittman, for my culinary failure, but I'm not going to think about that dish ever again.

But last night, I made one of my best meals ever. It's one of the first things Greg and I ever cooked together, and remains one of our favorites. My sister and Greg and I invented it -- not that it's incredibly unique, not that no one's ever combined these particular things before, but it's one of the few things I can reliably make well without a recipe, and it's delicious. Incredibly delicious.

Lemon-Asparagus Pasta

This is not a real recipe, so I don't have precise amounts of things to tell you, but you will need:

olive oil
garlic, minced
Parmesan cheese
asparagus, chopped into chunks

Cook your pasta. Whatever style you like, though we usually use angel hair or something similar.

Heat some oil in a skillet. Since there's no real sauce for the pasta in this dish, I tend to go heavy on the oil, and sometimes add butter too, so I can drizzle it over the pasta at the end. If you don't like the flavor of your meals to come from delicious fat, use only a tablespoon or two.

Add the garlic (I do two cloves or so). Sometimes I also add some chopped onion, but not always. Let it cook for a minute or two.

Add the asparagus. Stir things around a little, and then cover your pan for a couple of minutes. You want your asparagus to be bright green, and easy to stick with a fork. This only takes a few minutes, so pay attention or you'll overcook it. I usually add the Parmesan at the same time as the asparagus -- just give it a good sprinkling of cheese and stir it around a bit.

Season it with some salt and pepper, however much you like. Dish out your pasta onto your plates, and top the pasta with the asparagus, and some oily fatty scrumptious drizzle, if you're so inclined. Give it a squeeze of fresh lemon. I discovered last night that it's also good to top it off with a little feta cheese.

And that's it. Serve it with a salad or some bread, or just enjoy it by itself. It's fast, easy, flexible, and now that asparagus is in season, it's the perfect time for it. Even the kids liked it -- James, who's been eating asparagus since he could chew it, inhaled his and asked for seconds; Evan, well, it's a good meal when Evan doesn't leave the table in tears. He actually ate all the pasta, even if he wouldn't touch the asparagus.

I only had one bunch of asparagus from the farmer's market, and three of us were so disappointed when it was gone that I'm planning to go back to the market on Thursday (the next time the market is held, or I'd go sooner) and buy more asparagus so we can have it again this weekend.



kim said...

I am a big fan of Mark Bittmann as well but haven't tried his dal recipe. I will email you my recipe for dal (which is excellent).

Ren said...

Mmm... I haven't had this in a while. I think it's time to search my farmer's market for asparagus and whip up some summery pasta!

Samay said...

Cardamom and Cloves are in pretty much every indian dish, especially dal. My problems with dal usually come with the need to either slow cook it forever (tricky), or put it in a pressure cooker (much easier)