I know it's pedantic to talk about the weather, but I'm having an Ina moment, and I've got to express my astonishment and delight that we actually seem to be having a bit of a Spring here in Baltimore.
I'll admit it's even been a little chilly in the past week, but we have yet to succumb to to 95F+ days of 100% humidity that turn everyone in Baltimore to a sweaty, grumpy mess and for me, that's reason to party. In typical fashion, and as any Barefoot Contessa devotee would insist, we decided to celebrate the apparent return of Spring to Baltimore's seasonal rotation with a dinner al fresco.
We always try to plan our meals with the season in mind, and make an effort to get as much produce locally from the Farmer's market. Unfortunately, the demands of making a living and the horrifying suburban crowds have recently made the market visits more difficult.
That said, we decided on a dish that is versatile enough to be adapted to fit whatever one can find at the market, super market, or in the depths of the pantry.
This style of preparing the starch can be applied to pasta, risotto or even other grains like farrow. Using carrots, chicken stock, onion, and parmigiano as a base (always available) one can change the protein and additional veggies with abandon and not risk going off base. This dish is a particular household favorite as you should know by now, Harry is addicted to carrots, and we've always got to keep him happy.
We decided to take advantage of one recent warm (and slightly muggy) May evening and enjoy this disk in our increasingly verdant garden. P has a new found and rapidly progressing affinity for rosé, and this dinner offered the perfect opportunity to indulge him. As we marveled at the abundance of Jasmine on the brink of bloom, and lamented the inevitable explosion of our fountain's mosquito population that would soon put dinners like these to bed, we took a moment to enjoy the pleasures of Spring as it should be.
By the time you read this, you'll probably be changing your undershirts twice daily and cursing the utility company even more often, but at least we had this moment! Happy Spring (for now)!
The Wine: Arnot-Roberts, 2012 Rosé
The Food: Gemelli - Risotto style with fresh sausage, carrots, spring peas, parmigiano & garden chive
- 8 cups organic chicken stock
- 5 tbsp. butter (I happened to make my own the other night with some excess cream I had hanging around, but go ahead and buy yours)
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 small shallot, sliced thinly
- 1 lb. gemelli pasta (do not use fresh pasta, it will be soggy in no time and can't stand up to this cooking process)
- 8 medium carrots, peeled, trimmed, and diced
- 1 1/2 cups fresh spring peas
- 1⁄2 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano (let's be real, it was a whole cup)
- 1 pound Italian bulk sausage
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 4 fresh chive stems, chopped for garnish
- Bring stock to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to low to keep stock hot.
- Melt 4 tbsp. of the butter in a medium heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring until they begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add carrots and sausage and cook until sausage begins to brown, then add uncooked pasta, cook stirring often, until pasta is lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. If you are using larger pieces of carrots, you may want to start them with the onion.
- Add 1 cup of the hot stock at a time to the
pasta, stirring constantly; wait until almost all the stock has been
absorbed before adding more. Continue cooking and adding stock (you may
have some stock left over) until pasta is tender but firm to the bite,
10–15 minutes. Add the peas, or whatever other fresh veggies you like about 5 mins before pasta is finished, that way they warm and bring out their flavor but they don't break down too far in the heat. Add slices of shallot toward the end so the retain a but of their bite and crunch.
- Remove pot from heat and stir in the remaining 1 tbsp. butter and the parmigiano. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a warm serving dish and garnish with chive and more cheese.
Saveur adapted this recipe from The Minimalist Cooks Dinner by Mark Bittman (Broadway Books, 2001)