If you're cruising your local farmers market or the supermarket produce stand, or checking the progress in your garden, you know how tempting vegetables look this time of the year.
You're seeing vibrant asparagus, green beans, lettuce and herbs. And when you have spring produce at its peak, you can savor the freshness and flavor by serving a vegetarian entree for two.
For best quality, don't purchase more vegetables than you'll need for one recipe.
If you're buying asparagus, pick up 12 to 16 ounces; you lose about a third of the weight when you snap off the tough ends of the spears. A half-pound of green beans or sugar snap peas should be satisfying.
The possibilities are endless, but a mixture of vegetables, pasta and cheese sauce, is especially delightful, being both luscious and easy to prepare.
For the pasta, try bite-size penne (quills), cavatappi (corkscrew), cavatelli (ruffled shells) or farfalle (bowties). Cut vegetables, such as asparagus or green beans into pieces the size of the pasta. Leave sugar snap peas whole.
Although cheddar is a popular accompaniment to vegetables, this is a good opportunity to experiment with other cheeses, such as Emmental, fontina or asiago. Gorgonzola is a surprisingly delicious addition. The tangy flavor of this Italian cheese is a great match for herbal-tasting asparagus and other seasonal vegetables.
PENNE AND ASPARAGUS WITH GORGONZOLA SAUCE
MAKES: 2 servings
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
- 4 ounces penne (1 rounded cup)
- 1 pound asparagus, tough ends snapped off, spears cut into 11/2-inch lengths
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 cup reduced-fat milk, heated
- 2 ounces Gorgonzola cheese or good-quality blue cheese, crumbled
- 1 tablespoon minced chives
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons coarse breadcrumbs
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Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add penne and asparagus. Cook over high heat for 10 to 12 minutes or until pasta is tender; asparagus will be tender. Drain.
While pasta is cooking melt butter in large pot. Stir in flour to form a paste. Gradually add milk. Stir constantly over low-medium heat until milk thickens slightly. Stir in cheese, chives, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Stir constantly until cheese melts. Stir in penne and asparagus.
Spoon asparagus mixture into buttered 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top.
Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 15 minutes. Place dish under the broiler for 20 to 30 seconds to brown breadcrumbs.
Each serving has: 465 calories; 18 grams total fat; 20 grams protein; 56.5 grams carbohydrates; 46 milligrams cholesterol; 860 milligrams sodium and 2 grams dietary fiber.