Saturday, June 02, 2007

My Favorite Pasta-time

Now that my refrigerator is full of good produce from the farmers' market (at last!), what on earth shall I do with it all?

The answer, of course, is to invite a friend for dinner.

Enter Persephone. It's not her real name, of course, and she only disappears in the summer months (except for this year, when she'll wait until fall), but it will do as well as any. Having made her acquaintance back in the fall, I've found that not only is she an intelligent beauty with a breezy enjoyment of life, but she's also an excellent and inspiring friend (in the same vein as the fair Titania) who enjoys excellent food and living simply.

Having invited her earlier in the week for dinner this evening, it seemed only fitting to feed her only the best fresh food from my favorite farmers. And given all the good things I found this morning, I ended up being inspired beyond my wildest dreams.

First, my surplus of strawberries brought to mind a recipe for a strawberry-balsamic soup I found a couple of years ago in An Exaltation of Soups. I had tucked it away since I found it after strawberry season, forgot it last year, and decided it was time to give it a whirl. As usual, though, I improvised. Not having orange juice in the house, I decided to temper the puree with lime juice and a hint of ginger, bringing out the strawberry flavor and softening the bite of the balsamic vinegar. And why not start the meal with this surprising combination?

I saved out a few strawberry halves and macerated them in balsamic vinegar and sugar, then used them as the garnish, with a drizzle of the liquid over it all. The flavor of strawberry upon strawberry, full and vivid, made a satisfying start to the meal.

The main course showcased a simple saute of spring onion, garlic, asparagus, dill, and local white wine over homemade spelt pasta ribbons with fresh dill rolled into the dough. Having enjoyed my first experience with making pasta, I decided to try it again this weekend as a way to provide a fresh, tender contrast to all the green vegetables.

The asparagus remained tender-crisp, and the fresh dill inside and out made it all taste like late spring, green and bright and full of promise of wonderful things to come. I topped it with a light sprinkling of parmesan cheese, though it would have been just fine without it.

Needless to say, Persephone was very pleased with her meal and cleaned her plate thoroughly. But as I had not made dessert, she offered an admirable suggestion for rounding out the evening: visiting the local Bistro for a glass of wine and a spot of dessert to share in the last evening that a mutual friend was working there. We sampled a local ice wine along with a brilliantly composed Meyer lemon tart with honeyed whipped cream, and we enjoyed the amusing banter with our friend as he waited on us.

I expect we'll enjoy similarly fresh and adventurous meals throughout the summer as we shop the farmers' market and cook together, seeing as how it is one of my favorite ways to spend time, especially when I have friends who feel the same.

And expect more fresh pasta to show up in the near future!


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