Lemon Asparagus Pasta Salad

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I loooove pasta salads…that is, as long as they are mayo-free. I’ve made many versions over the years (one of my favorites is Cold Pasta Salad with Roasted Chicken, Plums, Blue Cheese and Basil) and what I love about them is their versatility. You can throw in basically any ingredient, and they’re always ready to serve, no heating needed. It’s the perfect summer food.

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I took this Neelys recipe camping for my BFF’s birthday a few weekends ago. We went to our favorite spot up in the mountains — the last stretch to get there is a 30-minute off-road adventure, which keeps away the crowds — and we basically had the place to ourselves. The first night we had some leftover remnants of smoke from the fires in Southern California, but the next day it blew off and we enjoyed the views of the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains. Gorg! And real pine trees in California! Now that’s camping.

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Back to the food — this pasta salad gets dressed up with asparagus, peas, cherry tomatoes, feta, dill and a lemony dressing. It’s the perfect side dish for a cookout. Throw some in a Tupperware and put it in the cooler for a camping trip. Whip some up this weekend!

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TW’s Tips

  • Next time I might change up the dill and add flat leaf parsley instead, for a fresher, brighter twist.
  • You could also switch up the feta with mozzarella or crumbled goat cheese.
  • Make sure you salt the pasta water — and taste for salt before you serve. I underseasoned mine.

Lemon Asparagus Pasta Salad

Ingredients

  • Salt
  • 1 pound corkscrew pasta
  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup freshly chopped dill leaves
  • 1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
  • 7 ounces crumbled feta cheese

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and rinse. Set aside.

In another large pot of boiling salted water, add the asparagus and blanch until bright green and slightly tender, about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon or a spider and shock in icy cold water. Remove from the water and dry well.

Trim the ends of the asparagus and cut into bite-size pieces on the bias.

Whisk together the mustard, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Combine the reserved asparagus and pasta in a large serving bowl. Add the tomatoes, dill, peas, feta, and the mustard dressing. Toss with tongs to coat the salad well. Taste and add additional salt and pepper, if needed.

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Sole Meuniere and Roasted Asparagus, Fingerling Potatoes, Fennel and Green Beans

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Let me start by saying I’m pretty excited about this post. This meal was absolutely delicious. And fairly easy, too! I have been craving fish lately, and this simple, classic French preparation — sole meuniere — sounded perfect. I’ve also been wanting to try some classic French dishes, so this was perfect. Meuniere refers to both the method of dredging the fish in seasoned flour before cooking, and to the sauce — a mixture of brown butter, lemon and parsley. I was a fan of both.

This is an Ina Garten recipe, and I love her simple, fresh dishes. The fish — I made the extra effort to get sole, which involved going to Whole Foods and spending more than I usually do on fish — was absolutely delicious, and worth the money. It was mild and so tender it melted in my mouth. To cook the sauce, you first brown the butter in the skillet, then add the fish and cook for just 2 minutes a side, and add lemon juice and zest. It was so full of lemony acid goodness, and a real hit of flavor. Loved it!

I accompanied the fish with roasted vegetables, also an Ina Garten — asparagus, green beans, fennel and fingerling potatoes. It was the perfect side dish. The veggies get caramelized and delicious when you roast them, and they’re full of great flavor that you just don’t get when you saute. And the Parmesan cheese at the end gets nice and crunchy on top — yum!

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TW’s Tips

  • If you must reheat the fish for leftovers, please, pretty please, do not defile it with the microwave. Heat a skillet over low heat and slowly heat it through. You’ll be glad you did. It’s oh-so-better than rubbery, overcooked fish.
  • Using unsalted butter REALLY makes a big difference here. I am the proof — I don’t normally buy unsalted, but when I used salted butter to make the first two pieces of fish last night, it was a little bit too salty. Tonight I made the remaining two pieces and stopped at the store to get unsalted butter. Big difference. Much better. (And I’m a salt fiend, so listen to me!)
  • For the veggies, I couldn’t find haricots verts, so I used regular green beans and it was just fine.

Sole Meuniere

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 fresh sole fillets, 3 to 4 ounces each
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

Directions

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Have 2 heat-proof dinner plates ready.

Combine the flour, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in a large shallow plate. Pat the sole fillets dry with paper towels and sprinkle one side with salt.

Heat 3 tablespoons of butter in a large (12-inch) saute pan over medium heat until it starts to brown. Dredge 2 sole fillets in the seasoned flour on both sides and place them in the hot butter. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 2 minutes. Turn carefully with a metal spatula and cook for 2 minutes on the other side. While the second side cooks, add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice to the pan. Carefully put the fish filets on the ovenproof plates and pour the sauce over them. Keep the cooked fillets warm in the oven while you repeat the process with the remaining 2 fillets. When they’re done, add the cooked fillets to the plates in the oven. Sprinkle with the parsley, salt, and pepper and serve immediately.

Roasted Vegetables: Fennel, Fingerling Potatoes, Asparagus and Green Beans

Ingredients

  • 2 small fennel bulbs, tops removed
  • 1 lb small potatoes
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 lb thin string beans (French/haricots verts)
  • 1 bunch thin asparagus, ends removed, cut diagonally into 3-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup fresh parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Cut the fennel bulbs into 6 wedges each, cutting through the core to keep the wedges intact. Place on a sheet pan. Cut the potatoes in half length-wise and place them on the pan with the fennel. Drizzle the olive oil on the vegetables, then sprinkle with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Toss with your hands.

Roast the vegetables for 25 – 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender, tossing once while cooking. Toss the string beans and asparagus with the roasted vegetables and roast for another 10 – 15 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese and roast for another minute or two until the cheese melts.