Thursday, April 14, 2011

La Primavera?

  Is it possible that spring has finally sprung?  Do I dare pack away my knitted hat and gloves and bust out my fair-weather scarves and open-toed shoes?  Today I was like a sleepy-eyed black bear venturing out of the den for the first time after a long hibernation- wearing the flip-flops I dug out of the closet and clad in just a t-shirt, my eyes puffy and accustomed to darkness, my arms pale from months of being hidden away from the rays of the sun.  But outside I found life springing up all around me.  I stood out on the sidewalk and marveled at the difference ten degrees can make on the psyche of the average downtown New Yorker, myself included. 
   This is the best time of year, a time when we can finally shake off the hunched-shouldered gait we’ve adopted to combat whipping winter winds, pull our hoods down, and look up and smile at one another.  It's a time to remember that we are human after all.  Today my neighbors, after so many months of hurrying wherever they had to go, amble along in the late afternoon sun.  The trees in Tompkins Square Park are blossoming, irises and crocuses are peeking their bright heads from the barely-thawed earth, and in the market, pencil thin asparagus is making its first appearance of the year.
   In the face of these stirring signs of rebirth, it’s hard not to feel like a new woman.

   My friend Lisa came over with two bottles of wine, and I whipped up this pasta with a tangy lemon-cream sauce, accompanied by an escarole salad tossed with a creamy garlic dressing.  I wanted to really showcase the sweet young asparagus, so I waited until the last minute to toss it into the sauce- at this time of year it doesn’t need much cooking at all. 
  Escarole is my leafy green of choice this week- the sturdy leaves provide crunch and slightly bitter bite that stands up great to creamy dressings.  I topped this salad with crunchy toasted breadcrumbs, inspired by a similar dish at The John Dory Oyster Bar.

Escarole salad with creamy garlic chive dressing and breadcrumbs

Garlic Chive Dressing

1                 yolk
1                 lemon, juiced
1 T              Dijon mustard
1                 clove garlic, grated or pressed
½ c              olive oil      
                    Chopped chives
                   Salt, pepper

1. Start with the mustard, lemon juice, garlic and a pinch of salt in a bowl.  Add yolk and whisk to combine.

2. Slowly stream olive oil into the liquid while whisking constantly until the dressing thickens.  Taste for salt and pepper, and add chopped chives. 
3. Wash and dry escarole, then rip or cut into fork-friendly pieces.  Toss the greens in the creamy dressing and allow it to sit for half an hour before serving for the most pleasing effect.

4.  Toast some bread and crumble in up to serve on top of the salad, finish with grated pecorino.

Lemon Cream Sauce

Lemon Cream sauce with spring veg- la primavera!

4 cloves      garlic
1 c               heavy cream
½ c              stock or wine
2                 lemons, zested and juiced
2                 zucchini
1 bunch       asparagus
1 handful    basil, chiffonaded
Salt, pepper

1. Start ½ the garlic in a heavy-bottomed pan with some olive oil.  Sautee zucchini until it gets some color and just softens.  Remove from the pan.
2. Deglaze the pan with some stock or wine, scraping the bottom.  Toss in remaining garlic, add cream and lemon juice to the pan, reduce by half.

3.  Add the cooked zucchini, basil, and zest- finish with a pat of butter.  Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary.  Throw asparagus in at the very end- if it is tender and in season, there’s no need to blanch it beforehand. 

4. Cook your pasta of choice in boiling salted water until al dente- I used a whole-wheat fusilli in the vain attempt to counteract the decadent creamy sauce.  Drain and toss pasta into the saucepan, finish with a splash of balsamic vinegar.
Whole-Wheat fusilli with lemon cream sauce, asparagus and zucchini



  1. I felt so lucky to be a part of this dining experience! A cozy and tasty evening amongst friends. Fresh veggies perfectly cooked with just a hunt of cream and my absolute favorite part was the crisp bright bite of the sherry vinegar added into the pasta dish. Can't wait to replicate the meal again soon! Def don't f with chef!

  2. sounds delicious. Do you come to Jersey anymore? I will bring the wine , too!