Friday, June 24, 2011

Spring Vegetable Pasta

The Quebec growing season is a bit off from areas south of the border, so I often find myself seeing recipes and then having to restrain myself and wait until our vegetables and fruit are ready. Happily, Quebec asparagus is finally plentiful and it was the perfect time to make this dish. I was a bit loose with the proportions and substituted snow peas for regular peas (I have a pea aversion) and vermouth for white wine, but the dish still turned out beautifully. I think if I were to make this again, I would add some chickpeas so that it felt like more of a full meal, but I am of the opinion that chickpeas make most vegetarian meals better!

One year ago: Broccoli, Tomato, and Goat Cheese Pasta

Spring Vegetable Pasta (adapted from Cook's Illustrated May/June 2011)

3 medium leeks
450g asparagus
2 cups frozen baby peas, thawed (or snow peas)
4 medium garlic cloves, minced and divided
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup water
2 tbsp minced mint leaves
2 tbsp minced chives
1/2 tsp lemon zest
2 tbsp lemon juice
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
450g penne
1 cup vermouth or dry white wine
30g grated Parmesan (~1/2 cup)
salt and pepper

1. Slice leeks in half lengthwise and cut white and light green parts into 1/2" thick slices. Roughly chop dark green portions and set aside separately.
2. Break off tough ends of asparagus and set aside. Cut remaining spears on bias into 1/2" pieces.
3. Place dark green leek portions, tough asparagus ends, 1 cup peas, 2 tsp garlic, vegetable broth, and water in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over high heat, then lower heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, combine mint, chives, and lemon zest in a small bowl and set aside.
5. Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven or deep frying pan, heat 2 tbsp of oil over medium heat. Add sliced leeks and a pinch of salt. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally until leeks begin to brown, about 5 minutes.
6. Add asparagus pieces to the leeks and cook until crisp-tender, 4 - 6 minutes.
7. Add remaining 2 tsp garlic and pepper flakes to leeks and asparagus and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
8. Add remaining cup peas to vegetables and cook 1 minute more. Transfer to plate, set aside, and wipe pot.
9. Strain broth, pressing on solids to extract liquid. You should have about 5 cups, if not add more water. Discard solids, return broth to saucepan, cover, and keep warm over low heat.
10. In Dutch oven or deep frying pan, heat remaining 4 tbsp oil. Add pasta and cook until it begins to brown, about 5 minutes.
11. Add vermouth/wine to pasta and cook, stirring constantly until absorbed, about 2 minutes.
12. Add broth to pasta, increase heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid is absorbed and pasta is al dente, about 8 - 10 minutes.
13. Remove pot from heat, stir in lemon juice, parmesan, half of the herb mixture, and vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
14. Garnish with remaining herbs.

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