Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fresh asparagus makes me happy

Fresh, tender asparagus is one of my favorite signs of spring.

I’ve already seen it in the produce section of my local supermarkets, but the stalks have been pretty thick and somewhat reedy.

Imagine my delight when Carol Arnold, general manager of the Foothill Farmers Market Association, dropped by my office today — we run her “Locally Yours” food column in the Auburn Journal — and gave me two fresh, delicate bunches of asparagus.

“It was just picked Friday,” she told me.

I wanted to do something fast and simple for dinner in order to allow the asparagus to shine. This quick pasta dish did the trick. Next time I’ll throw in a couple dashes of red pepper flakes, because they make pretty much everything taste better.

Asparagus and Shrimp Spaghetti
1 pound spaghetti
1 bunch asparagus, washed and cut diagonally into one-inch pieces
½ pound medium cooked shrimp
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper, to taste

Bring water to boil in large pot. Add pasta and continue boiling until spaghetti is al dente (cooked, but still firm).
While pasta is boiling, heat olive oil in large frying pan over medium heat. Add garlic, stirring constantly, for about a minute, until fragrant. Add asparagus to pan and cook for 2-3 minutes before adding shrimp, stirring occasionally, until everything is thoroughly heated. Remove from heat.
Once pasta is done, remove from heat and strain in colander, reserving about 1 cup of cooking liquid.
Add pasta to frying pan and mix with shrimp and asparagus. Stir in Parmesan. Add cooking liquid until dish achieves desired moisture. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Note: I like to keep chicken bouillon cubes in my spice cabinet, and mixed a cube in with the cooking liquid for a little extra flavor.

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