My head is very full this week. I am brainstorming recipes for the juice/pulp gig, while also mentally composing some tamales that I have been putting off forever. Things at the dance school are busy, busy and my girls need to stop chit chatting at the barre and remember their combinations. I am also a little injured at the moment, which means that I have been trying some non-ballet dance classes in order to give my hips and knees and break from the somewhat torturous concept known as ‘turnout‘. Whenever I try new styles (this week was flamenco and hip hop) I always have the music and steps whirling through my head and body at every quiet moment — try sleeping with Lady Gaga and Eminem ringing in your ears while an aging Flamenco instructor pounds out a rhythm in your brain: rat tata rat tat tat, stop calling, rat tata rat tat tat.
Oh blarg, I’m over-stimulated.
So I made a simple, easy supper for Friday night’s meal with my family, and all was well and calm (until we began discussing the Lost premiere….).
Asparagus Walnut Pasta with Balsamic Butter and Apple-Celery Root Salad
This pasta dish is consistently what springs to mind when I come across some nice looking asparagus. Roasting the chopped stalks with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, brings out their best qualities (just make sure not to overdo it, or you will have shriveled, sad little specimens). The balsamic reduction will make your house smell like vinegar for 24 hours, however, so I suggest opening a window.
The Apple-Celery Root Salad is straight out of Molly Wizenberg’s Column for Bon Appetit this month, and is a perfect example of her usual understated and easy but nonetheless delicious approach to food-preparation. If you have never had celery root before, don’t be scared away by its gnarled, tuberous appearance. Under its knotty exterior is a very mild, earthy, crisp vegetable that is wonderful paired with tart apples and some tangy vinaigrette.
For the Pasta, serves four
1 lb. asparagus
1 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp salt
1/2 cup, plus 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 lb whole wheat penne or fusili
1/4 lb butter or vegan margarine, cut into pieces
1/2 cup lightly toasted, chopped walnuts
1/3 cup parmesean or manchego cheese (optional)
Heat the oven to 400 F. Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus and discard them. Cut the spears into ~ 1 inch pieces. Put the asparagus on a baking sheet and toss with the oil and 1/4 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Roast until tender, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, put the vinegar in a small saucepan. Simmer until 3 Tbs remain. Stir in the brown sugar and remaining 1/4 tsp pepper. Remove from heat and stir in the butter/margarine pieces until dissolved.
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until just done (see package for cooking time). Drain the pasta and toss with the balsamic butter and roasted asparagus. Sprinkle walnuts and/or cheese evenly over the top.
For the Salad
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 small garlic clove, pressed
1/4 cup hazelnut oil (it’s fine to use olive oil, if that’s what you have) plus additional for drizzling (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium celery root, peeled, cut into matchstick-size strips
1 medium fennel bulb, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced
1 unpeeled Gala apple, cut into strips
Parmesan/Manchego cheese shavings
Whisk first 5 ingredients in small bowl. Whisk in 1/4 cup hazelnut oil and olive oil.
Combine celery root, fennel, and apple in large bowl. Toss with vinaigrette. Top with Parmesan. Drizzle with additional hazelnut oil, if desired.