Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Week 1 - pasta with spicy kale, raw asparagus salad

Week 1 CSA box contents: apples, kale, spring onions, and asparagus

These two recipes I'm going to share are both really easy, and together they make a very tasty, spring-y meal. 

Spicy kale pasta isn't revolutionary or anything, but I thought I'd share anyway because that's what I cooked this week. I love pasta with greens, and this is my go-to recipe for nights when I need to make something quickly that doesn't dirty too many dishes. The asparagus salad is a recipe I took and barely modified from Smitten Kitchen, where I first discovered that you can eat asparagus raw. Asparagus is something I only eat when it's in season locally, and I love the taste but not always the texture of cooked asparagus. So! Eaten raw it takes on a really great, crunchy texture and a simple lemon dressing highlights the asparagus flavor. 

Spicy, garlicky kale pasta
-1/2 lb pasta, any shape
-1/2 lb kale, any type
-3 cloves of garlic
-1/4 c olive oil
-red pepper flakes, to taste

Grab your largest pasta pot, fill with water (about 2/3 of the way) and set to boil on high heat. While you're waiting for the water, peel and slice garlic cloves into thin slices, or dice finely.  Take a small frying pan and add the oil, sliced garlic and as many red pepper flakes as you want (1/4 tsp is a good starter guide for spicy but not too spicy and you could always add more later). Leave the frying pan on the stove but don't turn the heat on yet. 

Meanwhile, slice the kale into thin ribbons. I like to leave the kale bunched and scrunch it up in my left hand while I cut perpendicular with the knife in my right hand. If your kale has thick stems and ribs, cut or pull the leaves off first. (Mine was small, so I just sliced very thin ribbons and ate the stems attached to the greens.) Rinse all the kale and leave to drain in a colander set in the sink (just use the same one you'll drain the cooked pasta and kale with)

Hopefully by now the water is boiling, so add a generous pinch of salt and then add the pasta. Set a timer for one minute less than the suggested time for "al dente" or the shortest suggested cooking time. If you'd prefer the kale to be well cooked or "mushier" in the final dish then do two minutes less than al dente on the timer. 

Turn the heat on low or medium low on your oil, garlic and chili flakes. You want the garlic sizzling but not browning, cooking very slowly while the pasta boils. If the garlic starts to brown, turn the heat down.

When the timer goes off, add all the kale from the colander to the pasta pot and stir. After one minute, taste a piece of pasta to make sure it's done to your liking. If it's still crunchy, leave for another 30 seconds and taste again. Turn the heat off under the pasta and also the oil in the frying pan. Put the colander back in the sink and drain the pasta and kale. Quickly run some cold water over the pasta and kale to stop the cooking, drain again briefly, then return it all to the same pasta pot on the stove. Keep the heat off but pour the contents of the frying pan over the pasta and kale. Stir to coat the pasta and kale in the oil, add salt to taste. Serve with grated cheese. 

Raw asparagus salad with lemon and spring onion
-1/2 lb asparagus
-1/2 lemon
-1 spring onion (could replace with shallot or red onion)
-olive oil
-block of pecorino romano or parmesan cheese
-salt and pepper

Rinse asparagus under cold running water, especially the heads. Hold a stalk flat on the cutting board and take a vegetable peeler and run it from tip to tip, producing a thin asparagus ribbon. Your peeler will probably get caught in the head of the stalk, that's OK. The slices don't have to be perfect or uniform consistency. Add the ribbons to a large bowl that you'll use to serve the salad. Repeat with all the stalks until you have a bowl full of asparagus curls (bear with me...). Take a small glass or bowl for mixing the dressing and squeeze half of a lemon into it, taking care to scoop out or strain seeds. Cut the bulb of the spring onion into slices, as thin as you can get them (around 1 TBSP of sliced onion in total). Add the onion to the lemon juice. Add olive oil to the dressing and stir vigorously with a fork to emulsify. It's really up to you how much to add, I like the dressing really lemony so I didn't add much. If you're not sure, start with 1 TBSP and go from there. Take the vegetable peeler and run it over the cheese to make flakes or ribbons and add to the bowl of asparagus curls, about a small handful. Add the dressing to the bowl with asparagus and cheese, toss and mix in salt and pepper to taste.

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