Thursday, March 13, 2008

In season: parsley

Yay! Today felt so much like spring! I know, I know, it's still 40 degrees out and I'm still donning my Michelin Man down coat with overkill scarf and all, but the light...the quality of light! When I got out of the office at 5:30 today, it still felt like I had an entire day ahead of me. The sun was just exceptionally shiny today and I couldn't help but feel giddy.

But now, what to eat? It's March. It's the bitter end of the cold season, and as much as I hate to admit it, I'm sick and tired of hearty vegetables and anything that resembles a root. Butternut squash, go away. Cauliflower and kale, see you next fall.
I am so ready to bite into a big fat wedge of juicy watermelon, but all I see are boxes and boxes of clementines which normally give me much comfort with their promise of plenty, but now only serve as a reminder that: It's. Still. Winter.

Luckily, I receive plenty of spam from various food-related publications to inspire me to keep eating. Last week, the BBC newsletter informed me that parsley is in season, being one of the only herbs that are hearty enough to withstand the chill of this time of year. It inspired me to think up a dish using it as the star ingredient. Some time on the treadmill that night made me crave pasta, and with so many lemons left over from the candied peels and olive oil cake, I put together a simple, almost summery dish of the simplest of ingredients: parsley, lemon, garlic, and Parmesan. So quick, easy, and refreshingly non-winter-like.

Notes on the recipe: I added some fried garlic slivers (a la RestoX style), but this is purely optional. It's deep-fried goodness that adds a nice texture and flavor contrast. I also used a pasta made of kamut, a high-protein grain similar to wheat, but with better nutritional value. The texture is satisfyingly al dente and may be a good choice for people who've tried whole wheat pasta and have vowed never to go there again (me).

Recipe: Pasta with parsley, lemon and garlic
For optional fried garlic slivers:
1 clove garlic, sliced uniformly (a mandoline makes this easier)

Prepare boiling, salted water for the pasta. In the meantime, heat a shallow pool of olive oil in a small pan over medium-low heat. Carefully drop in garlic slivers in 1 layer and fry until lightly golden (don't overcook or it will become bitter). Drain onto paper towels, toss with a little salt, and set aside.

For the pasta:
1/2 lb pasta
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 to 1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons butter (optional)
1/4 cups rough chopped parsley (or parsley chiffonade if you feel like torturing yourself)
2 teaspoons lemon zest (or more to taste)
teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper or to taste

1. Cook pasta in boiling, well-salted water until done.Toss with some olive oil to keep from sticking.
2. Heat a small pan over medium heat. Add oil and butter (if using) and allow to heat for a minute.
3. Add minced garlic and cook for 1 minute.
4. In a large bowl (or the pot used for boiling pasta), toss the garlic with pasta and the remaining ingredients.
5. Enjoy immediately with grated Parmesan and garlic slivers.

For your information, other produce in season this precarious month:
Courtesy of BBC
purple broccoli

And next month? Strawberries!!!