Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Asparagus, Green Garlic, Lemon, Ricotta, Pasta. All Together Now.

Another something I've been cooking! I love Spring best out of all food seasons. Summer and fall are great, but spring is so fresh and green (weather and foods) and such a relief after winter. Once the growing season starts again I find it a bit like a competitive sport- Eat as much fresh delicious whatever is in season before it has run out and you have to wait another whole year.

Among other spring treats I've been eating asparagus and green garlic like crazy. I've also been making homemade ricotta (surprisingly easy) and homemade chili oil (super extra easy). They've made their way into dishes like ricotta scrambled eggs or paprika soft fried eggs on toast with sauteed asparagus and green garlic or ramps. Ricotta, asparagus, and green garlic homemade pizza, doused in chili oil. There was a ricotta, spinach, and green garlic quiche, it was super delicious. And this recipe too turned out so well the first time that I keep remaking it, trying out variations. Sauteed asparagus and green garlic tossed with ricotta and pasta and then topped with chives and chili oil.

Recipes after the jump!

Pasta in a Creamy Lemon Ricotta Sauce with Asparagus and Green Garlic

1/3 bag of dried pasta
1 medium stalk green garlic, 2 if they are little
8-10 stalks asparagus
3/4 cup ricotta
4-5 tbs chopped chives
olive oil, butter
salt, pepper
1/2 lemon optional
chili oil

Serves 2, maybe with some left over.

Get some water boiling for pasta. I like Strozzapreti but the day I went to the store they didn't have it, so I got Rotini instead. Anything short and able to capture sauce works. While your water is coming to a boil snap off woody ends of asparagus and cut into pieces as long as the pasta. Chop up green garlic, green parts and all. Heat about 2 tbs olive oil in a deep saute pan over medium and throw in a pat of butter. Saute the asparagus and green garlic together until they start to get nicely caramelized in some parts. Be salting and peppering as you go. Once the asparagus is tender and your pasta is about ready add maybe 1/3 cup pasta water and the ricotta to the saute pan and mix it all together. If you made homemade ricotta and it is pretty lemony, great, if not or you're using store bought this is where you would squeeze half a lemon into the sauce. If you prefer not to have the lemon flavor, skip it. Strain your pasta, throw into the pan with the sauce, remember to salt and pepper, and toss. Serve topped generously with chopped chives and chili oil.

> This is great with ramps instead of the green garlic! Use about half a bunch, or 10 good sized ramps.
> Add one or two green onions as well, white and green parts. Saute with the asparagus and green garlic, caramelize well.
> When tossing the pasta with the ricotta at the end, also add a few tablespoons chopped mint and parsley. Still go ahead and top with chives. All that fresh green herbiness is worth it.

How to make homemade ricotta:

1/2 gallon really good fresh local whole milk
2 lemons
That's it. Ok, maybe some salt.

Bring all of the milk to an almost boil, just to the point where it's steaming and really frothy and at a bare simmer, remove from the heat and add about 1/3 cup lemon juice. I don't usually measure, I have found that 1.5 lemons seems to do the trick if they are of average size and juiciness. Let sit for 10-15 minutes to curdle, strain whey from curds, and voila! Homemade ricotta. The length of time you let the curds strain will determine how thick or loose they will be. Mix in some salt and store in the fridge. Total this takes about 20-30 minutes to make and most of the time is inactive.

Side note: Sometimes when I make this the ricotta tastes lemony (because I don't measure and may add more lemon juice than necessary) but a lot of times it doesn't. If you do not want lemony tasting ricotta you should measure the 1/3 cup out. But honestly, I enjoy the lemon flavor, especially in dishes like the above.

How to make homemade Italian style chili oil:

1/2 cup good olive oil
1 tsp chili flakes, I use crushed chile de arbol

Heat oil in a small pot until warmed through but not even close to burning, remove from heat and stir in chili flakes. Let sit until cool. Transfer to a jar. Store at room temperature. Done. Put on everything. This seriously takes 5 minutes or less to make.

Side note: I say this is an Italian style chili oil because the taste of olive oil is really prominent. So good on pasta and pizza and eggs, but doesn't mesh well with Asian foods. You could do the same process with vegetable oil and make an Asian style chili oil. And then maybe put it on this Spicy Miso Ramen.

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