Lasagna with Pistachio Pesto and Prosciutto

Pesto-Prosciutto Lasagna-2091

I eat a tomato lasagna about twice a year.  When it appears in caveman portions, as it usually does, the sight of it fills me with a kind of anticipatory fatigue.  Oh, no…  Am I really up for this?  It doesn’t have to be this way.  A Ligurian lasagna redolent of basil and pine nuts is seductively lighter, a Wilma Flintstone to Fred’s red version.  No need to clean the Augean stables or capture the Cretan bull to work up an appetite before you can eat it.  Ordinary hunger will do just fine for Lasagna with Pistachio Pesto and Prosciutto.

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Lemon-Rhubarb Custard Soufflé

Lemon-Rhubarb Custard Soufflé-3197

Never schedule a photo shoot with your wife for the day after she disassembles and packs her Seven road bike for a trip.  Not unless you want dessert sharing the frame with epidermal roadkill.  A Photoshop alchemist might be able to redeem the damage, but my skills are more 4th-grade pick-a-card-any-card than digital wizard.  If you catch a gouged finger–and there are ten of them in this post–or a bashed nail, you know why.  But no matter–spring is here.  Somewhere people are riding bicycles.  Tufted titmice are peter-peter-peter-ing. And if this morning you woke up to a dusting of snow, as we did in Boston, you can still make yourself a sweet-tart dessert with a concentrated essence of Spring in it, Lemon-Rhubarb Custard Soufflé.  And a great dessert it is, with two kinds of tartness, and 3 different textures, even if the hands that made it look a bit worse for the wear.

Spaghetti with Bottarga, Preserved Lemon and Chilies

Spaghetti with Bottarga and Preserved Lemon-2667

For the last two years we’ve posted spring recipes for shad roe, a seasonal reward for surviving winter. We’re still rolling with roe this year, but of a dramatically different kind: Spaghetti with Bottarga, Preserved Lemon and Chilies. Bottarga is the salted dried roe of gray mullet or bluefin tuna. Grated over pasta or served in very thin slices, it may be even more of an umami bomb than garum. Until recently only Americans fortunate enough to travel to Sicily, Sardinia or parts of Calabria were likely to encounter bottarga. But about ten years ago lumps of bottarga began showing up in a few American chefs’ hands. Its rich, funky flavor provokes either love or hate, but at twelve to fifteen dollars an ounce, it’s pricey enough to keep all but the curious or committed from seeking it out and trying it. Two ounces is more than enough for pasta for 4. Be forwarned: the curious have a way of morphing into bottarga zealots after their initial taste experience. Think guanciale of the sea. Armed with a small amount of bottarga and prep so rudimentary it makes bolognese look like a kidney transplant, you can make a pasta dish fit for the gods.

Asparagus with Horseradish Cream, Chervil and Honey

Asparagus with Horseradish Cream-1869-2   When did asparagus start to look like it grew up down creek from the leaky nuke plant?  Once upon a time all bundles of asparagus resembled packs of Ticonderoga #2’s, except they were green instead of school bus yellow, and tipped with terminal buds instead of pink erasers.  And thin.  Thinner than pencils.  Not these Asparagus with Horseradish Cream, Chervil and Honey.  These guys are hefty, but by today’s standards they’re mid-size.  Larger examples abound, at least at our local WFM.  Blame France–they started it.   A handful of Februaries ago, in a more innocent age of asparagus, I was strolling through the open air market near Bastille with a Parisian friend when she paused before a box of giant asparagus, not yet widespread in the US.  Gargantuan and lavender.   She pincered a particularly fat one with two fingers, cocked an eyebrow upward as she examined it and then said, “C’est genial, ceci.”  Nice, this one.  Nice embraces a variety of meanings, but for purposes of this post I’m going to take it to mean delicious.  After eating some I had to agree and since then, I’ve grown to prefer big asparagus.  Once you get past the, uh, big factor there’s more there there, more asparagus flavor.  Thin asparagus are the vegetable analog to spare ribs.  Crazy delicious, but you need to eat a wheelbarrow of them before you cry, “Enough!”  With the new Schwarzenegger stalks the crazy delicious remains, but embodied in fewer stalks to snap and peel (if you’re the snapping-peeling type) and, since asparagus are finger food, sigh, less opportunity to dribble sauce down your front.