When I agreed to take on managing create a cook on a full time basis I knew something was going to have to give and I decided that that culling the recipes for the kids classes was that task. I know that there is a spate of anti-cookbook rhetoric slamming around the wires lately and I agree that there are shelves and shelves of useless tomes out there, but I also know that if you hunt well, know your authors and have the skill to really read a recipe, not just look at the glossy photos, there is a treasury of recipes to be found.
You may decide to riff off a recipe and put your own spin on it, or you might just decide it is perfectly fine as it is and cook it so many times that it becomes a part of your repertoire. Since weekly we have to come up with 10 new recipes for the kids classes, vacation camps are an additional 14 recipes per week and summer camp is about 35 recipes per week that clocks in at around 812 recipes per year, no repeats. Parents have come to expect new dishes from us and the kids, some of whom hav ebeen with us for 3 years or more, remember everything! I don't think anyone has that kind of repertoire in their back pocket. When I knew we would need some help we decided to ask Christine when she decided to go back to the west coast if she would take on the challenge and she has done a great job. Sometimes we cold east coasters have to remind her that despite her San Francisco moderate weather, fruit and veg filled farmer's market lifestyle we out here on the 'other' coast still only have squash and some cabbage fresh, but she really does a great job.
A few weeks ago for the 3-5 year old Hungry Traveler class an Alice Waters recipe from Chez Panisse Pizza Pasta and Calzone piqued my interest. Mustard with pasta? Never in my days had I thought of dijon and pasta in the same sentence, but trust me on this one. This dish is the very essence of spring, and if I had a few fresh fava (broad) beans I would toss them in as well. You might have to tweak this one a little, I ended up adding a bit more mustard and because I just can't have pasta with out a wee bit of cheese I grated on some pecorino with truffle. Make this soon and wish the cold weather away.
Asparagus & Artichoke Heart Pasta
Adapted from Chez Panisse Pizza Pasta and Calzone
1 bunch asparagus
2 large artichokes (yes, you can substitute canned, frozne or jarred, but really the whole point of this dish is to taste the fresh spring vegetables)
Juice of ½ lemon if using fresh artichokes
2 shallots, sliced
4 basil leaves, sliced
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
¾ cup chicken stock
½ cup heavy cream
½ Tablespoon Dijon mustard (or more to taste)
Kosher salt and pepper
½ pound tagliatelle, papardelle or fetuccine (I used Capone brand from Somerville MA)
Cut the tips from the asparagus stalks and wash them well to remove any sand or grit. If they are large, cut into halves or quarters lengthwise. Save the stalks to make soup or puree, or for some other use.
Remove all the outer leaves of the artichokes and pare down to the heart.
Trim away the green leaf ends, the choke, and the stem.
Cut the heart into 8 wedges, and leave them in water with the lemon juice until ready to cook. Steam the artichokes for 5 - 8 minutes or until tender.
Start a pot for the pasta and when it is ready drop in the asparagus tips.
Blanch the asparagus for 2 -5 minutes depending on how large the tips are.
Remove with a slotted strainer and drop in cold water to stop the cooking.
Meamwhile in a separate skillet, cook the shallots in butter until soft.
Add chicken stock, gently reduce to about a cup, then add the cream.
Add the artichokes, asparagus tips, mustard and basil and taste for salt and pepper.
If the sauce is too thin, reduce it a little more.
Cook the pasta in the blanching pot until just done with a little bite left and pull it out with a stainerand toss it right in the pan with the sauce and toss carefully. Grate on a little fresh black pepper and if desired, add cheese.