Adventures in Pappardelle (and White Wine Reductions)

Two things: I am mildly obsessed with pappardelle pasta right now, AND I really, really love white wine reduction sauces.

I was in New York City on business and met with a consultant I work with, who’s also a really fabulous person and a friend. Well. A New Yorker through and through, he took me to an Italian restaurant that made the most delicate and light pappardelle I’ve ever had in my life.

Pasta is almost always heavy, and thick and…substantial in your mouth. But this! This was a delight with every bite. And there were sautéed mushrooms. To be honest, I can’t remember if there was a sauce. In fact, when  I think about that meal all I can see in my head are the thinnest pappardelle ribbons curling around themselves on the plate.

Fast forward. I was in New York again, a couple of weeks later (I know, it’s a hard life I live) but this time for fun. I was out to dinner with my best friends in the whole world, this time at another Italian restaurant. Highly recommended, it was a delicious meal but they served the sort of pasta I mentioned earlier – heavy. I ordered a dish of thick pasta tubes mixed with asparagus and artichoke hearts doused in a knock-your-socks-off lemon white wine reduction sauce.

So combine these two trips and I was off on a hunt. Searching for pappardelle (which is unusually hard to find) and a recipe for a white wine reduction.

I’ll save you the trouble – go to Trader Joe’s. They have dry pappardelle in regular and lemon pepper (which was really nice, not an overpowering flavor at all) in substantial portions. I’d say a bag could serve four, or two really hungry people.

I experimented with both flavors – making the regular pasta with an assortment of mushrooms I got from the market. I sautéed them in equal parts butter and olive oil until they were browned then mixed them in with the pasta and the white wine reduction. For the lemon pepper pasta I sautéed fresh asparagus, leeks and artichoke hearts, and added them to the pasta and the white wine reduction. Very simple preparation, taking almost no time at all with big, flavorful and satisfying results. Need a quick week night dinner? I’d highly recommend either of these dishes.

I’m not going to give a recipe for these because you can do this! And, there’s no wrong amount of mushrooms or vegetables to put in these dishes. But! You can find the recipe for the white wine reduction after the jump.

Enjoy :)

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Spring Risotto with Asparagus and Leeks

Ina Garten…this just confirms my lady crush on you. Spring risotto…a really divine rose wine…my best friend since kindergarten…dinner on the roof. Perfection.

My friend came to DC via Phoenix for a long weekend of good old-fashioned hanging out and some wedding dress shopping. For her first night in town, I wanted to treat her to something semi-local and really delicious. I’d bought some leeks and ‘gus (that’s asparagus in case you didn’t know) at the Dupont Farmers Market which, to me, just screamed, “PUT ME IN ARBORIO RICE THATS BEEN DRINKING CHICKEN STOCK!!!!”

And that’s just what I did.

I sautéed the leeks in butter and olive oil and just as they had sweat out their tasty juices I poured in the arborio rice. From there it was stir, pour chicken stock, stir, pour chicken stock…repeat about six times.

Give or take forty minutes later, we had some extremely tasty and *bright* risotto. The lemon zest in the recipe really makes it. I’ve used lemon to brighten flavors before but never have I ever experienced such a change to a dish like this! Don’t. Skip. The. Lemon. Zest. Don’t.

I didn’t follow Ina’s recipe to the “T” though. Hers called for mascarpone cheese and parmesan. Listen. I like love both of these cheeses…clearly. But I was in a time crunch, and frankly, I didn’t feel like splurging on more mascarpone. The stuff can get expensive! I’ll tell you – I’m sure the risotto would have been that much more decadent by adding the cheeses. But! Keeping it simple really allowed for the flavor of the leeks and the ‘gus and the lemon to be showcased. And risotto is never need in more creamy-ness. It’s always plenty creamy.

I hope you guys enjoy making this as much as I did. I love risotto…primarily because you just stand and stir with one hand and sip from your glass of vino with the other…and voila!! Dinner! I remember the first time I made risotto I was so nervous about it, too. Why, I’m not sure. Especially since it’s virtually impossible to mess up. So, take the dive…buy the big box of chicken stock…and get this risotto started!

Enjoy :)

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Tip: Keeping Asparagus Fresh

It’s asparagus season! Some of us are going a little more nuts over this than others. (Yes, I’m talking about myself. I’m going nuts over it.)  I want to grill them, roast them, slice them and dice them. I’d rather snack  on the ‘gus than one of those scary baby carrots!!

But. How to keep them fresh? How many times have you bought a bunch over the weekend only to watch them wither and shrivel up as the week goes by? No more!

Put them stalks in water like they’re flowers! It looks silly in the fridge, but consider this: at the farmers market, most of the time, they’re hanging out in a tub of shallow water. Well, if it’s good enough for the farmers…it’s good enough for me.

While we’re at it, here’s a few yummy asparagus recipes for us to try:

Zuchini and asparagus strata from The Kitchn

Spring Pad Thai from Adventures in Shaw

Asparagus tart from Crumpets and Cakes

and if you’re feeling fancy, a Weaved Asparagus Salad from Food Mayhem

Enjoy!

Vegetable Frittata and Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

After all that market talk, I headed down to the Dupont Circle Farmers’ Market Sunday morning in search of great spring veggies for a frittata. Sadly, there’s not a huge selection of veggies yet, but what was there was great.

Some fresh salad greens, artisan bread and green, white and red onions…it was a successful trip. Oh! And…I got some quark cheese. A first for me, but it was so delicious when I tried it I had to get some. UPDATE: the cheese is from Keswick Creamery!

A quick pit stop at the Harris Teeter (or, The Teet, as I like to call it) to pick up bell peppers and asparagus (I HAD to have asparagus for some reason) and I was ready to frittata my evening up.

I’m pretty sure that making a frittata is the easiest meal you can make for either breakfast or dinner. And if you’re only feeding one or two mouths, making one can easily fill your belly for lunch and dinner the next day.

There’s no messing this one up folks. Pick a cheese, a meat (optional) and some veggies. Generally speaking, I’d say you need about 2 cups chopped veggies, 1 cup diced/chopped meat and 1/2-1 cup cheese (depending on what kind you’re using). That’s all estimated because you should feel free to put as much or as little in your frittata as you like. I’ve listed some ideas to get you rollin’ below the jump!

I served my frittata with a delicate green salad drizzled with a lemon vinaigrette and a charred piece of artisan bread spread with fresh quark cheese. How can you not love a dinner like this!?

Enjoy!

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