Monday, April 10, 2006

Pasta with Asparagus, Blue Cheese and Roasted Shallots

I have been trying a LOT of new recipes lately. For a long time, I tried to stick with only two new recipes a week, but tax time stresses me out and cooking is the outlet for my irritation. Thusly, we have been enjoying a new recipe nearly every day for the past couple of weeks. I have been cooking mostly from Cooking Light magazine, but I got bored with that when I made last week's menu (yes, I make a weekly menu - I just can't help it), and I climbed up on the stepladder and started pulling cookbooks down from the shelves in the kitchen.

I perused a few cookbooks and finally started thumbing through the 2001 Bon Appetit annual recipe compendium. Most of the recipes were entirely too complex to bother with for a weeknight meal, and the vast majority of them were so rich as to possibly send us to a cardiologist. With my lip curled, I went to slam the book shut and move on to something a little more, shall we say, lowbrow, when my eye caught on a recipe title that had all the makings of a food love fest: Farfalle with Asparagus, Roasted Shallots and Blue Cheese.

Now we still had a disconnect between this particular cookbook and my own cooking style. As a general rule, I like to stay on the moral high ground side of healthy (although I have been known to sin as long as the unhealthy ingredients are as unprocessed as possible). And then there's The Money Issue. I am an accountant. I just CAN'T HELP doing job costing comparisons when cooking. I know, I know, this kind of behavior can seriously take the fun out of things (just ask my husband), but we are on a particularly stingily tight budget right now, and we can't exactly afford to be extravagant with our food costs.

But this recipe REALLY sounded fantastic. So I threw caution to the wind. Just call me Wild Woman.

Well, I say I threw caution to the wind, but in fact I mentally added up the ingredients in my head as I tossed them into the shopping cart, wincing with each purchase. Let's see, 24 shallots at roughly 55 cents apiece, plus 1 pound blue cheese.... Oy. This hurt. I consoled myself by thinking about all those poor saps who eat most meals out at restaurants and end up dropping loads of cash on single-serving meals. After all, total cost for this recipe was around $25. Cost per serving came to around $5.00. Clearly time to stop the whining. (This accounting degree really comes in handy sometimes).

For real though, this dish was so amazingly wonderful that had I died right after dinner, I would have left this world happy (fat, but happy). The blue cheese added the perfect pungency, without being overpowering, and the creaminess was to die for. Next time though, I will cut the recipe in half. This made about six servings, and ended up lasting all weekend (even mom had it for three meals). It is without a doubt best the first night though, while the cheese is still sticky and runny.

And a note to people with blue cheese aversions: real blue cheese is NOTHING like those crappy store-bought blue cheese salad dressings. Salad dressing should be made with oil and vinegar, and should always be homemade (The Carnivore is not yet convinced of this fact - notice the vast quantity of pre-packaged salad dressings in the refrigerator). Blue cheese is a rich, crumbly, pungent but not bitter, cheese that can be purchased in the deli section of most supermarkets. There are different varieties of blue cheese, but gorgonzola is my hands-down favorite.


FARFALLE with ASPARAGUS, ROASTED SHALLOTS and BLUE CHEESE (serves 4 to 6, from The Flavors of Bon Appetit, 2001)

  • 1 1/2 lbs medium shallots (about 24), peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 4 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs, made from French bread (I used whole wheat bread - sue me. To make breadcrumbs: put a few slices of bread in the oven at about 200 degrees for an hour or so, until very dry. Pulse in food processor until coarsely ground.)
  • 1 1/2 lbs farfalle (bow-tie) pasta
  • 2 lbs thin asparagus, trimmed and cut diagonally into 1 1/2-inch pieces)
  • 1 pound creamy blue cheese (I used gorgonzola), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  1. Toss shallots with 2 Tbs olive oil on baking sheet; spread in single layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 375 degrees until tender and golden brown, about 35 minutes. These came out so good I could have just eaten them out of hand. Instead, I exercised some self-control and saved most of them for the pasta dish.
  2. Stir breadcrumbs and 2 Tbs olive oil in skillet over medium heat until crumbs brown, about 4 minutes. Dang, these were good too. Had to hide them from myself.
  3. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Add asparagus; cook until asparagus is crisp-tender and pasta is tender but firm to the bite, about 4 minutes. (Alright, I couldn't abide by this instruction because I just can't stand overcooked pasta or vegetables. I cooked the asparagus and the pasta separately to make sure I got the desired firmness with each. Honestly, will one extra pot to wash kill you?)
  4. Drain pasta and asparagus, either separately or together, depending on your particular quirks.
  5. Transfer pasta and asparagus to large bowl and immediately add blue cheese and shallots. Toss until cheese melts. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with breadcrumbs.


Cindy said...

I'd have eaten it for another three meals if it'd been available. Now May I use an exclamation mark?!

Linda said...

I have had an aversion to Blue Cheese but you have convinced me... I will take the plunge and try this recipe :)
I really enjoy your blog,
Linda from the far north

Anonymous said...

This sounds good. I may it add it to the recipes to try list.

Have any good but simple recipes for eggplant that are easy and kid friendly?