Spring is finally here. I, for one, couldn’t be happier that winter is over. I know, I live in Los Angeles. What winter? It’s true; the cold season here isn’t exactly cold. And if anyone knows about this it’s me. I grew up in northern Vermont where the ground was frozen solid with a blanket of snow from November until April. The morning commute to school involved scraping an inch of ice off the windshield, crossing your fingers that the car’s frozen engine would start, waiting desperately for the heat to start working which usually happened as you pulled in to school, and noticing that the hairs in your nose had turned to icicles during the walk from your car in to the school building. One winter when I was in grade school my mom looked out the window at my brother and sister and I huddled together at the end of the driveway waiting in the snow for the school bus and yelled “Get in the car!” From that day on she insisted on driving us to school.
The truth is that I thought this was normal. It wasn’t until my freshman year at NYU when my new friends from California and other parts of the country were shivering and gasping in disbelief as New York City began to get cold. I realized my childhood winters were extraordinary and I didn’t know whether to resent my parents for it or to thank them for making me so hearty as a result. “This is nothing.” I would mutter to my seemingly wimpy new friends.
We don’t have a real winter here in Los Angeles. In fact, I have a moment now and then when I completely forget what time of year it is. It’s a very disorienting feeling. Thankfully, I work at restaurant who’s menu is driven by local seasonal produce. So now I know what time of year it is based on what delicious produce is in season. Hearty winter fare is out and bright green delicious spring vegetables are in! I celebrated the first day of spring with a light spring vegetable pasta dish.
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 16 ounces dried Tagliatelle
- 8 slices apple wood smoked bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch strips
- 3 medium shallots, finely chopped
- 2 medium leeks, white parts only, finely chopped
- 12 oz asparagus, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Fill a large pot with water and 1 tablespoon kosher salt and bring to a boil. Cook tagliatelle until done but still firm to the bite. Drain and reserve 1/3 cup cooking liquid.
In a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon strips for 10 minutes or until crispy. Remove bacon from skillet and set aside. Reserve 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings in pan. Add shallots and cook for five minutes. Add garlic and leeks and cook until soft, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes. Add wine, thyme and asparagus. Bring to a boil and cook until most of the liquid had absorbed. Season with kosher salt and black pepper. Toss the cooked tagliatelle with the leeks and asparagus, and reserved cooking liquid. Sprinkle with bacon strips and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese before serving.
SERVING SUGGESTION: Serve leftovers in the morning topped with a friend egg drizzled with truffle oil and a sprinkle of fleur de sel.