Spring is almost here - I can see the trees just starting to bud and the daffodils just about to burst into their yellow loveliness, and I'm ready to uncover the grill and start entertaining outside again. A new cookbook has provided me with plenty of inspiration. Spring Gatherings: Casual Food to Enjoy with Family and Friends by Rick Rodgers has plenty of seasonal recipes to inspire a party.
Easy and more time-intensive dishes are all in here: Fava Bean and Mint "Hummus," Vidalia Onion Soup with Cheddar Toasts, Fresh Peas with Pancetta and Mint, and Potato and Green Garlic Gratin take advantage of seasonal ingredients. Heavier dishes get you ready to fire up the grill: Barbequed Beef Ribs with Cherry-Chipotle Sauce and Marinated Grilled Pork Chops with Apricots. And save room for dessert: Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie, Key Lime Meringue Bars, and Strawberry Mousse are the perfect ending to a meal. Rodgers strikes a familiar, relaxed tone that makes you want to cook your way right through the book (and the gorgeous photos don't hurt).
FARFALLE WITH ASPARAGUS, FRESH RICOTTA, AND CHIVES
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, cut lengthwise in halves
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound asparagus
- 1 pound farfalle (bow-tie pasta)
- 1 cup fresh or commercial ricotta
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
- 4 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are tender, about 3 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are heated through, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Snap off and discard the woody stems from the asparagus. Cut off and reserve the asparagus tips. Cut the remaining spears into 1/2-inch lengths and set aside. Add the spears (not the tips) to the boiling water and cook until bright green, about 2 minutes. Add the tips and cook until the asparagus is crisp-tender, about 2 minutes more. Using a skimmer or a sieve, transfer the asparagus to a bowl. Do not place the asparagus in ice water or rinse under cold water. Keep the water in the pot boiling.
- Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions until al dente. During the last minute, return the asparagus to the pot. Scoop out and reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta.
- Return the pasta and asparagus to the pot. Add the tomato mixture, ricotta, Parmesan, and 3 tablespoons of the chives. Toss gently, adding enough of the pasta cooking water to make a creamy sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve at once, with a sprinkling of the remaining chives and extra Parmesan passed on the side.
Recipe courtesy Rick Rodgers/HarperCollins