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Spring Asparagus with Linguini
by Charlie Burke
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We began harvesting our three asparagus beds ten days ago, and they are now
providing a steady yield. We keep the preparation simple, serving them with
only butter or our best olive oil for the first few meals

(see
archived asparagus recipes).

Later, as our refrigerator fills we add spears to salads, make soup or enjoy a
light asparagus pasta. The “sauce” is simply the asparagus and the pan juices,
along with freshly grated Parmesan which has an affinity for fresh asparagus.

The pasta is lightly coated so that, in the Italian manner, its flavor and texture
are as important as the sauce. Use high quality imported dry pasta; look for a
rough surface which is important in incorporating the sauce. Because there are
so few ingredients in this recipe, using only the finest makes all the difference.
This is especially true for the cheese; now that imported Parmigiano – Reggiano
is widely available there is no excuse for substituting domestic pretenders.
Please do not try this preparation with the dry stuff in the round green shakers!

We serve this as a main course, but smaller servings would make a fine start to
a spring dinner. Pretty blue chive blossoms add a subtle flavor and a nice
contrast to the green asparagus.

For four servings:

1 pound fresh local asparagus, woody ends removed and stalks peeled
1 pound linguini
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons chopped shallot
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano – Reggiano, plus extra for passing
1/3 cup dry white wine
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 – 2 teaspoons lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil
Chopped chive blossoms (optional)

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot and add 2 tablespoons of salt.
Slice asparagus stalks diagonally into 1 ½ - 2 inch pieces. Heat 2 tablespoons
butter in a large sauté or fry pan over medium heat until it foams. Add shallots
and cook, stirring until softened but do not brown. Add white wine and lemon
juice and boil until nearly evaporated. Add asparagus and salt and pepper to
taste, cover and cook for 2 – 3 minutes or until it is bright green and slightly
softened – the asparagus should retain some firmness. Uncover and remove
from the heat. Add more salt or pepper to taste.

Drop the pasta into the water and cook for 6 – 7 minutes; most pastas cook in
less time than the package recommends, so I start checking at this time. Reserve
½ cup of pasta water and strain pasta when it’s barely done; it will continue to
cook as you finish the dish.

Place the sauté pan over medium – high heat, add pasta and remaining
tablespoon of butter and toss until sauce and pasta are mixed. Remove from the
heat and add cheese, mixing, again. If the pasta appears dry, mix in some or all
of the pasta water. Serve in warmed plates or bowls, drizzle lightly with extra
virgin olive oil and sprinkle with the chive blossoms, if using. With a salad of
young greens and a glass of white wine, this is a true taste of spring.

About the author An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the vice
president of the New Hampshire Farmer’s Market Association
(
www.nhfma.org) and helps run the Sanbornton Farmers' Market. Along with his wife,
Joanne, he grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at Weather Hill Farm in
Sanbornton, NH.
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