Linguini with Lemon Asparagus Cream Sauce

Here is a slightly lighter take on a cream sauce than the ones I usually make (and by light I mean no eggs or bacon). Be sure to use good cheese, not the powdery pizza stuff.

  • 12oz Linguini
  • 1 lb Asparagus, trimmed and cut in to 1-2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream or Half and Half
  • 1/2 tbsp butter or olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Boil the pasta per the package directions. Reserve 1 cup cooking water and drain.

Heat the butter in a small saucepan. Saute the garlic until fragrant but not brown. Add the lemon zest and stir until fragrant. Add the cream, pasta cooking water, lemon juice, and Parmesan. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring enough water to cover the asparagus to a boil in a skillet. Add the thickest pieces and simmer, covered, for 1 minute. Add the remaining asparagus and simmer until just tender, 2-3 minutes more. Drain and immediately drop the asparagus into a bowl of ice water. Drain.

Combine the asparagus, pasta, and sauce in a large saucepan and cook over low heat until the sauce coats the pasta. Serve with additional Parmesan.

Mushroom Bean Soup

Last night while out for a jog I decided that I wanted to make Mushroom and Bean Soup for dinner. I don’t think I’ve ever had a soup like this, or heard of it, but for some reason, as I imagined what was in my pantry, I thought it would be a good idea. When I got home, after consulting a couple of recipes on Epicurious, I came up with something. I am posting it here mainly because I thought it was good, and I want to remember it. My recipe is strongly based on this recipe: Creamy Bean Soup. But, I think the addition of the mushrooms changes the character significantly, and is definitely a welcome improvement.

Mushroom Bean Soup

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 cans cannelini beans or 1 can cannelini and 1 can garbanzo, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 3 oz baby spinach or other dark green
  • Truffle oil, walnut oil, or other fragrant oil for drizzling
  • Grated Parmesan

Soak the mushrooms in 1 cup hot water for 30 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and chop, reserving the water.

Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a soup pot. Saute the onions until soft, then add the garlic and rosemary and saute for 1 minute. Add the chopped mushrooms and continue to cook 3 minutes longer.

Add the beans, chicken broth, and mushroom water to the pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Puree in the pot using an immersion blender.

Stir in the greens and stir until wilted. Serve with grated Parmesan and a drizzle of truffle oil.

Cheese Enchiladas

Last week I had a craving for cheese enchiladas. I had a package of corn tortillas in the fridge, and I wondered if I could make something from scratch that would be a little more satisfying then the normal flour tortillas baked with red sauce from a jar. Here’s what I came up with.

Enchildada Sauce

3 dried Guajillo chiles
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup cilantro
1 tsp Mexican Oregano
1 can diced tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a heavy dry skillet over medium heat. Add the peppers and toast on all sides until slightly darkened. Place peppers in a small saucepan with garlic and water to cover. Boil peppers for 5 minutes until soft.

Put all ingredients in a blender and puree. Add a small amount of the chile boiling liquid to smooth out the sauce if needed.

I found the enchilada sauce to be an improvement over most store bought enchilada sauce. Now to improve on the basic bag of Krafty “Mexican” shredded cheese. I found a bag of “Queso Quesadilla” at my local grocery store. The name cracks me up, and I hoped it would add some authenticity. It reminds me of Monterrey Jack, but with a little more bite.

Enchilada Filling
2 cups shredded Queso Quesadilla
1/2 cup sour cream or Crema Fresca
1 tsp Mexican oregano
1 egg, beaten

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir to blend

Most enchilada recipes call for flour tortillas, but I wanted to use corn tortillas, and I happened to have a bunch of taco size tortillas from La Perla in my fridge. Unfortunately, when I started wrapping them up, they crumbled and fell apart. In order to get them to stay together, I had to fry them briefly in a skillet, just like making tacos.

Enchilada Assembly
10 +/- corn tortillas
Small amount of vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350.

Pour about 1/3 of the sauce into a square glass baking dish.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Fry the tortillas one at a time until pliable. Roll up a small amount of filling in the tortilla and place in the baking dish. Repeat until all filling is used up and the baking dish is covered. Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas, and top with a couple handfuls of shredded cheese.

Bake the enchiladas until heated cheese is bubbly and starting to brown, 20-25 minutes.

Bitter Lemon

When I was younger, I was fortunate enough to be able to take several family vacations to the British Isles. While there, I discovered a beverage unlike any stateside soda: Schweppes Bitter Lemon. The drink is not nearly as sweet as Sprite–it’s barely sweet at all. It has a slightly bitter taste and is flavored with quinine, like Tonic Water.

Today, as I was sitting at my dining table sweltering in the unseasonable 90 degree weather (before Memorial Day!), I was dying for a non-alcoholic, ice-cold beverage, something that is not often found in our home. Looking at the bottle of Angostura Bitters sitting on my table–a vestige of last night’s Manhattan–I had an epiphany. What follows is my recipe for Bitter Lemon Soda at home. Cool and refreshing and much cheaper than a ticket to London.

Bitter Lemon Soda

Fill a highball glass with ice. Add tonic water until 3/4 full.

Add 1 tbsp sugar, juice of 1/2 a lemon, and 2 dashes Angostura Bitters. Stir and serve

Panak Paneer con Queso

Problem 1: Every time I make Chorizo Tacos or pretty much any other Mexican dish, I buy a round of Queso Fresco. But since I don’t cook Mexican often enough, the Queso usually goes bad before I finish it.

Problem 2:
Since getting a copy of 660 Curries as a wedding gift, I have wanted to make Panak Paneer, the Indian restaurant staple of fried cheese with a spinach sauce. But I don’t really want to take the time to make the cheese, at least not the first time I try to prepare the dish.

Panak Paneer con Queso

Rather than type up the recipe here, I will direct to the reader to the 660 Curries cookbook. I highly recommend purchasing this book, and in the age of the online recipe, I probably wouldn’t say that about many cookbooks. Since I got my copy, I have made at least a dozen different curries. Not a single recipe calls for “Curry Powder”. He rarely even calls for a pre-ground spice. In each recipe, Raghavan Iyer walks you through the complex blend of whole spices needed to bring a full flavor to Indian cooking.

When I finally found the time to actually prepare the dish, I realized I was missing a few of the ingredients, including yogurt and tomato. I made do without, and found that the dish was still pretty tasty, although definitely not restaurant quality yet. I fried the cheese in a frying pan, just as Raghavan recommends for real Indian cheese, and the process reminded me a lot of frying tofu.

I did feel that the Mexican cheese was a bit too salty, and I could probably compensate for this by reducing the salt in the recipe. In the spirit of the Longcut, I will probably try my hand at making cheese from scratch. Today the local food emag The Heavy Table posted a link to Images Petites, where there is a nice photojouranal of the cheesemaking process. In the interim, it’s good to know I can enjoy this dish with little more than a bag of spinach and a brick of Queso Fresco.