It's Spring here in Can-adia. Spring (to me) means that it's time to get the gardening on (hot peppers, tomatoes, herbs and the such), get a pedicure (to take care of the gnarled-winter-toe situation) and pull out the floaty spring dresses from last year. It also means that for the next 4-5 months, the vegetables will taste a million times better than they do in the winter.
I found this recipe in a Foodland Ontario calendar that I have hanging in my cubicle at work....The calendar features a new recipe every month using one of the many Ontario fruits and vegetables that happens to be in season. This month (May) it's Asparagus....This recipe is simple, really tasty and only takes about 30 minutes to prepare, so it's perfect for a weeknight dinner.
I find that asparagus has the beneficial side effects of reducing that ever-annoying water weight gain that happens once-in-a-while (which is a WIN in my opinion)- I don't know if this is actually a real thing or just my imagination...either way, it is great when trying to fit into last year's spring/summer dresses!... And I am sure you don't need me to tell you that Asparagus is just plain good for you (even if it does make certain 'things' a little smelly).....
Springtime Asparagus & Ham Pasta
(modified from Foodland Ontario 2012 calendar)
3 cups brown rice penne pasta (you could also use regular pasta, just modify the cooking time)
1 bunch of Asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- to trim asparagus - take the ends of the asparagus between your thumb and forefinger and bend until it breaks (should be bottom 1-2 inches of each spear) – this removes piece of the asparagus spear which is too hard to eat.
2 tbsp butter
1 onion, diced
3 tbsp flour
1 cup low sodium chicken stock (I cheated (gasp!) and used chicken stock from a cube)
1 cup skim milk
1 cup smoked ham, diced (I used a Maple Leaf’s low fat smoked ham steak)
1 tbsp grated lemon rind
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp fresh thyme, removed from stems and finely diced (I had just planted fresh lemon thyme in the garden, so I used that to give it an extra lemony kick...)
Freshly cracked black Pepper (to taste)
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup Parmesan (any sharp cheese would work...I just happened to have loads of parm in the fridge)
Chilli flakes for serving (optional)
(1) In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta, stirring occasionally, until almost tender (about 8 minutes)
-I find that brown rice pasta is super starchy. When the boiling pasta water is super starchy, the pasta will stick together - so make sure you are using a big enough pot with plenty of salted water. This will help the starch to keep moving instead of resting on the pasta surface.
-Salt your water people! Adding salt now will reduce the amount of salt/cheese/butter you will have to add later to the sauce.
(2) Add the chopped up Asparagus to the boiling pot. Cook for another 4-5 minutes until both pasta and asparagus are tender.
-Don't overcook. Overcooked asparagus is never good.
(3) Drain the noodles and asparagus; set aside in a large bowl.
(4) Combine the chicken stock and milk in a container; set aside.
(5) In a medium-sized sauce pan on medium-high heat, melt butter.
(6) Add the diced onion to the pan and cook until softened - about 3 minutes.
(7) Stir in flour and let toast for a couple of minutes.
(8) Slowly whisk in milk and broth mixture; bring this mixture to a simmer (this will thicken it up). Simmer for about 1-2 minutes, stirring often.
(9) Add the diced ham, lemon rind, mustard, thyme and pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
-if the sauce gets too thick - add a bit more milk and put the cover on the pot.
(10) Add nutmeg and the Parmesan cheese to the sauce. Combine until the cheese is melted. Remove from heat.
(11) Pour sauce over pasta and asparagus; Toss well.
-Serve with chilli flakes for an extra layer of flavour.
Weight watchers points per serving: (I am a big fan of WW. I've never been on it, but I've seen it work wonders on friends and colleagues...) 9