Friday, April 28, 2017

Lemon Asparagus Pasta

Fresh asparagus and pasta are such a lovely choice for a spring supper! This is one of those recipes that's way more than the sum of its simple parts, just fresh asparagus tossed with pasta in a light and lemony cream sauce, brightened with fresh dill.

~first published way back in 2008~
~updated for a little weekend and Meatless Monday inspiration~
~more recently updated recipes~

Lemon Asparagus Pasta, another Quick Supper ♥

Lemon Asparagus Pasta is made ever-so-much easier with three favorite kitchen tools so indispensable that in spring, I haul them along when visiting family or friends and kitchen time is likely.

For the asparagus, I rigged up a vertical asparagus steamer a couple of years ago but ready-made ones can be purchased at kitchen stores. If you love fresh asparagus, you’ll relish how a vertical steamer cooks the spears perfectly every time. Standing upright, the thick stems are closer to the fire so cook more, the tender tips further away so cook less. Perfection. UPDATE These days, I've banished my ad hoc asparagus steamer to the basement and instead, only cook asparagus in the microwave in five minutes. Here's how to microwave asparagus, so easy! And good too!

For the lemons, a microplane is essential for creating piles of airy zest without nicking the bitter white pith. A lemon press, a clunky-looking, yellow-painted squeezing device, extracts the most juice possible from both lemons and limes.

For the Parmesan cheese, it’s double-duty for the microplane.

Lemon Asparagus Pasta, another Quick Supper ♥

"So simple - and so delishious!" ~ Sally
"My family gobbled this right up last night." ~ Anonymous
"... it was delicious." ~ Koren


Hands-on time: 25 minutes
Time to table: 35 minutes
Serves 4

  • 8 ounces (230g) bow-tie or other showy pasta
  • 1-1/2 pounds fresh asparagus, woody ends trimmed

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, chopped fine
  • 3/4 cup half ’n’ half or heavy cream
  • Zest from 3 lemons (about 2 tablespoons)
  • Juice from 2 lemons (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 0 – 2 teaspoons sugar (to taste, see ALANNA’s TIPS)

  • Hot Pasta
  • About 1/3 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • Freshly grated black pepper (important, don't skip!)
  • Grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • Lemon wedges, optional

PASTA Cook the pasta in well-salted water and drain.

ASPARAGUS While the pasta cooks, steam the asparagus until just slightly underdone (it will finish cooking in the sauce). Cut into two-inch lengths or leave whole. (To microwave the asparagus, I follow this technique, how to microwave asparagus and cook two batches for about 2 minutes each.)

LEMON CREAM SAUCE Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt butter on medium heat, add shallot and slowly soften. Add half 'n' half, zest, lemon juice, salt and sugar and bring almost to a boil. Stir in asparagus and gently warm until the spears become tender.

COMBINE Gently stir hot pasta into the Lemon Cream Sauce, letting it soak up the sauce. Gently stir in dill and black pepper.

TO SERVE Transfer pasta to a large platter or individual pasta bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan, with lemon wedges on the side. Serve and enjoy!

WHAT IS HALF 'N' HALF? A looong while ago, I asked what in retrospect was a really silly question on Twitter. What, I asked, is half 'n' half? I felt soooo embarrassed when someone gently answered, "half cream" and "half milk". DUH. Of course! In the U.S., cartons of half 'n' half is found in nearly every grocery, it's a real treat with the morning's coffee.

When I first published this recipe in 2008, to save calories, the ingredient list for Lemon Asparagus Pasta called for something called "fat-free half 'n' half". How do you make whole milk (4% butterfat) and heavy cream (36% butterfat) fat-free? Good question. In addition, on occasion, the fat-free half 'n' half separated. The taste was fine but the appearance was not as nice.

Over time, I became uncomfortable with the highly processed fat-free half 'n' half product and happily returned to the real thing, calories be damned.

ALANNA's TIPS For visual richness, I like to use a pasta with a big, interesting shape. Bow-tie pasta is perfect! Pasta is so rich that I have learned to allow just two ounces (about 57g) dried pasta per serving. I know, I know, this is <<< half >>> what most recipes specify. Still, I think you’ll find this pasta dish filling and satisfying because it’s packed with asparagus fiber and lemon flavor. But the first time you try the smaller portion, serve a big salad on the side, just in case. It takes a lot of asparagus to yield a pound (450g) of edible spears, which is what I'm shooting for in this recipe. The rhythm for removing the woody ends from asparagus is easy, think "bend, bend, snap, bend, bend, snap". I've even made a quick video for you, it's here in Asparagus & Woody Ends (Step-by-Step Photos & Video). Lemons vary in acidity. Some times I add no sugar at all, other times up to two teaspoons. No dill? No problem. Try fresh tarragon or basil, even inexpensive Italian flat-leaf parsley.

VARIATIONS Rather than cooking the asparagus separately, next time I'll try dropping the asparagus into the boiling pasta water to briefly cook, then putting into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and retain the beautiful green color.

CHICKEN? The last time I made this, I was so tempted to serve the pasta as a side with grilled chicken. Or better yet? Toss in some cooked chicken, in my kitchen that likely means a rotisserie chicken.

SALMON? Or maybe some smoked salmon, either hot-smoked salmon or bits of Scandinavian-style gravlax or deli-style lox?

In 2008, this recipe was my contribution to "Taste of Yellow", a LiveSTRONG cancer-awareness event hosted by an Australian food blog, Winos & Foodies. Not long after, our close-knit food blogging community was much saddened when Barbara passed away from cancer.

NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Serving: 356 Calories; 11g Tot Fat; 6g Sat Fat; 30mg Cholesterol; 294mg Sodium; 54g Carb; 4g Fiber; 5g Sugar; 13g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 7 & PointsPlus 9 & SmartPoints 12 CALORIE COUNTERS 100-calorie serving = 1/4 serving (4g protein).

More Asparagus Recipes

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Asparagus Custard Tart Roasted Salmon & Asparagus

Fresh asparagus is symbolic of spring and the return of an abundance of fresh produce. On my food blog A Veggie Venture, I've collected more than two dozen – imagine! – asparagus recipes. Here are a handful of my very favorite ways to cook and enjoy asparagus!

~ Six Years of Favorite Asparagus Recipes ~

~ Roasted Asparagus with Feta
perfect for fat spears of asparagus ~

~ Gorgeous Raw Asparagus Salad ~
"This is good", says a favorite seven-year old

~ Farro with Asparagus & Green Onion Sauce ~
a vegetarian supper

~ Asparagus Tapenade ~
a delicious spread

~ still more asparagus recipes ~

© Copyright 2008, 2009, 2011 & 2017 (repub) Kitchen Parade

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Fresh Strawberry Pie

The Recipe: Fresh strawberries glazed with soft, cool gelatin in a chocolate-cookie crust made from homemade chocolate cookies. This is a wonderful pie for spring and summer, no fancy strawberries required, supermarket berries work beautifully. The pie tastes light and surprisingly cool and refreshing. Better still? Make the pie today, serve it tomorrow, it keeps beautifully and is a real crowd pleaser!

Fresh Strawberry Pie (homemade chocolate crumb crust) ♥

Do you do Jello? You don't? Me either. Oh wait, you do too? Yes, I do do Jello.

I just did the math. Only .002% of my recipes call for Jello. Without shame, I love every single retro one of them.

And I love this new one, too, this "Strawberry Jello Pie". It came as a surprise, how sweet and crisp and refreshing it is, how very-very-berry. Did I mention? For only 200 calories!

Fresh Strawberry Pie ♥

Let's start with the berries themselves. Honestly, I'm not sure I'd waste home-grown strawberries with this pie. They're just not necessary and they might even be too soft and juicy. And what supermarket berries lack in "specialness" they compensate with price and availability. Has anyone else noticed that there's two strawberry crops that come from Mexico? There's one now, in early spring and then another mid-summer. That means several months to make Fresh Strawberry Pie! Hello #PieDayFriday!

The strawberries are coated with a thin layer of a sweet gelatin, I happen to be partial to the black cherry flavor. The color is so dramatic! The flavor is somehow more "real" tasting than strawberry jello, say.

Fresh Strawberry Pie ♥

You can even gild the lily strawberries, just tuck a few blackberries in between. Wouldn't this be festive for the Fourth of July?!

Chocolate Crumb Cookies for Fresh Strawberry Pie's Chocolate-Graham Cracker Crust ♥

It's crazy, I suppose, to go to the effort of making the cookies for the crust of an otherwise no-effort pie. The cookies are a lot like the cookie part of Oreo cookies, except better, not as dry, way more chocolate flavor.

And I love this crust! The combination of half chocolate and half graham cracker crumbs is quite dramatic in appearance that's totally in line with the glistening berries.

And besides, I'm happy to have extra cookies in the freezer for future crusts.

And besides, chocolate cookies, people. Need I say more?


Hands-on time:
30 minutes over 60 minutes (cookies)
15 minutes over 45 minutes (crust)
15 minutes (pie)
4 hours (to cool)
Time to table: 6 hours
Makes 1 shallow or deep-dish 9-inch pie

  • 1-1/2 cups (300g) sugar
  • 1-1/4 cups (156g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (40g) Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 10 tablespoons salted butter, cold & cut in small chunks
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg white, if necessary

  • 2/3 cup (100g) chocolate crumbs made from Chocolate Crumb Cookies
  • 2/3 cup (70g) graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 5 tablespoons (71g) salted butter, melted

  • 2 pounds strawberries

  • 3/4 cup (150g) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (18g) cornstarch
  • 1 cup (221g) water
  • 1 3-ounce package Jello, preferably black cherry (sugar-free works great)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

CHOCOLATE CRUMB COOKIES Heat oven to 375F/180C. In a food processor, collect the sugar, flour, cocoa, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt and pulse several times until combined. Remove lid and place the butter chunks in a ring around the blade. Process until mixture becomes powdery. Add egg and process until the dough begins to clump, about two or three minutes; it will start off like wet sand, then slowly turn into a thick cookie dough. (Note: if needed for the dough to clump properly, add another egg white. I haven't found this consistently but often enough to mention it.) Line baking sheets with parchment and use a small scoop to measure out cookies, 20 fit fine on a standard-size baking sheet. Bake for 9 - 10 minutes (10 was perfect in my oven), they will appear slightly underbaked but will firm up as they cool. Cool for 2 minutes before removing from the baking sheet. Let cool completely before processing in food processor to make fine crumbs. Makes about 60 cookies, enough for 6 all-chocolate crusts or 12 half-chocolate/half-graham-cracker crusts, my not-too-sweet favorite. The whole cookies freeze well to have at the ready for future crusts. They're also addictively good on their own, just sayin'.

NO-BAKE CHOCOLATE COOKIE CRUMB PIE CRUST Combine crust ingredients in a bowl, stirring well to evenly wet both the chocolate and graham cracker crumbs. Press crumbs into a shallow pie shell, working the sides first, then the bottom. Once crumbs are in place, compact tightly with the back of a soup spoon. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

STRAWBERRIES Rinse berries and dry on paper towels. Slice off the strawberry "shoulders" (usually less ripe, especially with supermarket strawberries) and stems. Arrange the berries tip sides up; start at the center and work out, selecting larger berries toward the center, smaller berries toward the outside.

JELLO GLAZE Once the berries are in place, make the Jello Glaze. In a medium saucepan, stir together sugar and cornstarch, then stir in water. Bring to a boil. Remove saucepan from the heat. Stir in Jello powder until it dissolves, then vanilla and almond extract. Refrigerate just until thick enough to pour and coat berries, about 5 minutes. With a spoon, ladle the wet, thick gelatin mixture over the strawberries, coating them on all sides, you may not need it all.

REFRIGERATE Refrigerate the pie for four hours, it's at its most fresh and refreshing when it's really cold and firm.

MAKE-AHEAD TIPS This pie really keeps, even the crust doesn't suffer. That means you could easily make this pie a day ahead.

VARIATIONS It's a great look to tuck a few blackberries (blueberries would work too) between the strawberries, very Fourth of July-ish! I can also imagine chunks of fresh mango too.

ALANNA's TIPS You may need to search around some to find "Special Dark" cocoa from Hershey's. But it's worth seeking out, it's ever-so-chocolate-y and for several years now, has been the only unsweetened cocoa to be found in my cupboard. It's crazy, I know, but to my taste, strawberry jello has a very artificial taste, that's why I've come to prefer the black cherry flavor. And dramatic looks! It takes two pounds of strawberries to make sure you have enough berries to fill the entire pan. In the past year, I've learned to use Pyrex (glass) pie pans whenever I "bake" a pie. But for a no-bake pie like this one? Bring on the pretty ceramic pie plates! I've got several now, every single one came from the Goodwill!

Chocolate Cookie Crumb Cookies Only Per Cookie: 48 Calories; 2g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 8mg Cholesterol; 50mg Sodium; 7g Carb; 0g Fiber; 5g Sugar; 1g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 1 & PointsPlus 1 & SmartPoints 2

Per Pie Slice: 207 Calories; 8g Tot Fat; 5g Sat Fat; 29mg Cholesterol; 132mg Sodium; 32g Carb; 1g Fiber; 24g Sugar; 2g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 4 & PointsPlus 5 & SmartPoints 10 CALORIE COUNTERS 100-calorie serving = 1/2 slice (1g protein).
Chocolate Crumb Cookies adapted from Smitten Kitchen's Hot Fudge Sundae Cake. Fresh Strawberry Pie adapted from a decades-old church cookbook.

Celebrating Strawberry Season!

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Mojito Strawberries Chocolate Cream Puffs Stuffed with Strawberries & Cream Master Recipe: Rustic Fruit Ice Cream
Strawberry Fool Finnish Strawberry Whipped Cream Cake Strawberry Shortcake Iowa-Style

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

© Copyright 2017 Kitchen Parade