Monday, April 26, 2010

Fettuccine With Peas, Asparagus and Pancetta

The May 2010 cover of bon appetit magazine has a lovely picture of fettuccine with peas, asparagus and pancetta. I made this entree this past weekend for Mike and me. It is quick, 40 minutes, easy and uses two of springs most plentiful vegetables - peas and asparagus. The taste is light and lemony and the pancetta gives it just the right amount of salt and crunch. Once you get started the pace is quick so I would have all ingredients prepped and measured before cooking.


  • 12 ounces fettuccine or penne
  • 3 ounces pancetta or bacon, chopped
  • 1-1/4 pounds of asparagus, trimmed, cut on diagonal into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups shelled fresh green peas, blanched 1 minute in boiling water, drained, or frozen peas (do not thaw)
  • 1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced, white and pale green parts separated from dark green parts
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil, divided
Cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot.

Meanwhile, cook pancetta in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 teaspoon drippings from skillet. Add asparagus to drippings in skillet; saute 3 minutes. Add peas, white and pale green parts of green onions, and garlic; saute until vegetables are just tender, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. (Here I put my pasta bowls in the microwave to warm before plating.)

Add vegetable mixture, 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid, dark green parts of green onions, 1/2 cup Parmesan, cream, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon peel, half of parsley, and half of basil to pasta. Toss, adding more cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls if needed. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer to large bowl. Sprinkle pancetta, remaining parsley, and basil over. Serve adding additional Parmesan cheese.

Prep 40 minutes Total 40 minutes
4 servings
Calories 559 Fat 18g Fiber 8g

This recipe easily converts to two servings although I liked it so much I wish I had made the entire thing, so I could have eaten it again the next day. I reduced the pasta to two ounces per serving and used half and half instead of cream reducing calories and fat.

Life is good-enjoy!

Monday, April 19, 2010


Mike and I went to visit our daughter Sarah and her boyfriend Tony in early February. They live in Silver Lake, CA.  Wikipedia describes Silver Lake as "... a neighborhood in the city of Los Angeles, California east of Hollywood and northwest of Downtown Los Angeles.  Silver Lake is inhabited by a wide variety of ethnic and socioeconomic groups, but is best known as and eclectic gathering of hipsters, the creative class and a noticeable presence of LGBT people."  My oldest daughter Katie visited late last year and described it as a dressy upgraded Nicaragua! I loved it. We stayed in a Days Inn on Sunset Boulevard and walked everywhere and felt safe early in the morning and late at night. Since eating is my main passion in life Silver Lake was like my new best friend. There were so many restaurants to choose from -  from hole-in the-wall taco stands to fancy eateries. It's also a haven for vegans.  (I have learned, from a good source, that one of the fancy places puts rosemary on their Biscuits and Gravy-YUK. Sometimes those folks in California take things just a tad to far.) But I digress...

Sarah and Tony took us to brunch at a place called Dusty's. Dusty's is located on Sunset Boulevard a few blocks from their home. This spacious, airy restaurant is best described as a French Bistro. The day we went everyone enjoyed mimosas and the most wonderful food.  For breakfast they serve egg and bacon dishes, poached egg Molliere, Florentine omelets, French toast and Provencale Crapes.  At lunch and dinner times you can choose from quiches, pasta, burgers, roasted lamb sandwiches, croque monsieur and steamed mussels.  These are just a few of the things that you can get.  I selected a dish called Eggs A La Luna.  It's an english muffin, with melted fresh mozzarella, topped with steamed asparagus spears a poached egg, fresh parmesan and crispy prosciutto. It was irresistibly good.  When they say fresh it was like they had picked the asparagus that morning in their backyard.  This is such a simple thing to make that no specific recipe is necessary.  It is a quick and easy breakfast to assemble and with asparagus now at the farmer's market this is the time to make it.  I made this once with thick sliced bacon and another time with sliced ham.

                                                 Eggs A La Luna with thick sliced bacon

                                                          Eggs A La Luna with ham

Life is good, enjoy!

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Dreaded Dandelion

When I was a little kid I loved dandelions.  I remember trying to impress my mama by bringing home hand fulls of them. By the time I got them home they would have wilted but tended to perk up after she placed them in a coffee cup full of water. I loved it when the flower turned into that big puffy ball of seeds. I would blow on it until the stem was clean -  not really understanding that I was helping make more dandelions.  Most folks today despise the dandelion. Folks use huge amounts of chemicals to poison them. We hate the dandelion so much that we would rather our children and pets be exposed to chemicals instead of having to look at that yellow flower in our manicured lawns.

I moved into a new house in Columbus, IN last fall. The house looks out over a 48 acre park in a flood zone.  The city cares for the park - mows and does the mulching and edging, but they don't try to kill the dandelions. Most days I walk Boston Beans through this park. Yesterday the field was full of  blooming dandelions and wild violets.
                                      Noblett Park, Columbus, IN

When I got home I spent some time trying to learn about the dandelion. I found a website written by "Wildman" Steve Brill who is known as America's Greatest Forager. The Wildman's URL He takes people on tours of parks and other areas and teaches people what is OK to eat.  According to Steve, "[t]he leaves [of the dandelion] are more nutritious than anything you can buy. They're higher in beta-carotene than carrots. The iron and calcium content is phenomenal, greater than spinach. You also get vitamins B-1, B-2, B-5, B-6, B-12, C, E, P, and D, biotin, inositol, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc by using a tasty, free vegetable that grows on virtually every lawn. The root contains the sugar inulin, plus many medicinal substances." So I thought I would give eating the dandelion a try.  I knew the park didn't use any chemicals. so I figured that I wasn't going to die.  I read that I should try to find leaves that had just emerged without flowers. These leaves would be less bitter.  Eureka!  I found one. 
My Dandelion Green w/ no flowers!

When I got home with my basket of greens, I cut them off their tap roots and cleaned and spun them dry.

Steve mentioned that his preferred way to eat the greens is to saute them. He didn't give a lot of direction so here is his recipe with a little bit of my improvisation. 

Steve Brill's Sauteed Greens

  • 4 cups washed dandelion green
  • 1.5 T. olive oil
  • 1/4 white onion, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots
  • salt and pepper to taste
Heat olive oil over a medium flame.  Add all ingredients except salt and pepper. Lower heat and saute for 20 minutes.  Add salt and pepper.

OK - so now everyone knows I am an old hippie at heart.  This was not the best thing I have ever made nor was it the worst.  The greens had a wonderful chicory and endive taste but were very tough even after 20 minutes of cooking time. I thought about boiling them for a while, but my man Steve said all or most of the vitamins would be washed away.

After lunch I went back into the field, picked another batch of greens, washed and spun them dry.  They are laying on my sun porch to dry over the next few weeks. I'm going to smash them up for hot tea.  I'll let you know how that goes!

Life is good, enjoy!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Peas & Ham With Creamy Orzo

 I love it when my April issue of  Cuisine at Home  arrives. I know that I only have six more weeks until April gets here and lighter cooking can begin. This little recipe, from Cuisine,  takes a scant 20 minutes to make but packs great flavor and taste. Even my grown son Will eats this, and he hates peas!

If you live in the south your fresh peas are already arriving. Here in Indiana mine are still trying to stick their heads out of the soil.  So gather your fresh peas (frozen for those of us up north) your leftover Easter ham and give this a try.

Peas & Ham With Creamy Orzo
1 cup dry orzo pasta
1/2 cup diced onion
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup fresh peas
1 cup diced ham steak
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup Parmesan
salt and black pepper to taste.
Cook orzo according to package directions; drain and set aside
Saute onion in oil in a sauce pan over medium-high heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook 1 minute.
Stir in wine, cream, broth, peas, and ham simmer over medium-low heat until peas are tender; 4-5 minutes. Stir in cooked orzo.
Off heat stir in egg yolk and Parmesan until thoroughly combined. Season with salt and pepper.

I made this with half-n-half instead of cream and was pleased with the results.

Off to the side of the magazine Cuisine offered 5 quick pea recipes:

  • Pea Soup: Simmer 2 cups peas in 2 cups chicken broth and 2 cups water for 5 minutes. Puree soup in a blender with the juice of 1/2 a lemon, season with salt and pepper, and serve hot or cold with whipped sour cream.
  • Pea Crostini: Smash cooked peas with some goat cheese and spread a generous amount on toasted rounds of French bread. Top crostini with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and grated Parmesan.
  • Peas n' Rice: Stir cooked peas and chopped fresh mint into cooked basmati rice.
  • Peas n' Pasta: Stir cooked peas, arugula, and prosciutto into cooked pasta. Drizzle pasta with extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Minted Peas: Blanch peas and serve with butter and minced mint leaves.
None of us has an excuse to throw out our peas!  Live is good-enjoy!