Ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom – this pasta is zesty

Published 12:00am Saturday, January 14, 2012

Winter can have a bright spot by using citrus in your cooking. My husband always has some lemons that are just big and juicy in the winter and are so much nicer than any you can find in the grocery store – a good reason to have a couple of dwarf lemon trees in pots at home. (Fertilize in February. Maybe water in dry spells in the summer. Have near a garage or the like so they can be moved inside if the weather gets into the 20s as lemons are not as hardy as satsumas and kumquats.)

He also has a couple bushes of blood oranges and kumquats. I went looking for recipes to use these wonderful fruits and recently did pasta with lemon and mint and a salad with beets and blood oranges. Citrus can provide great shortcuts to flavor and can wake up any winter dish. And our winter is the season for citrus which for us is local or almost.

This pasta dish needed some more hotness and some more zest. So next time I will know what to do and you can be warned. Thai chilies are hard to find so I just substituted jalapeños. Since I plan to do more ethnic cooking I am buying some Thai pepper seed for the summer garden.

These two recipes are taken from the January 2012 issue of ‘bon appétit.’

 

Linguine with Crab, Lemon, Chile and Mint

2 servings

8 oz. linguine

Kosher salt

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided

2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided

¼ cup minced shallots

1 tsp. minced garlic

1-2 Fresno chilies, red jalapeños, or red Thai chilies, seeded, sliced into rounds

1 ½ Tbsp. (or more) fresh lemon juice, divided, plus 2 tsp. (packed) finely grated lemon zest, divided

Freshly ground black pepper

8 oz. cooked lump crabmeat, picked over for shells

1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, gently torn, divided (I hope you have some growing in your yard.)

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, melt 1 Tbsp. butter with 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and stir until just soft, 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and 1 chili and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about a minute.

Add ½ Tbsp. lemon juice and 3 Tbsp. cooking liquid to shallot mixture; add a pinch of pepper. Stir until liquid is almost evaporated, about 1 minute.

Transfer pasta to a skillet and add ½ cup reserved pasta liquid. Increase heat to medium-high. Cook, tossing pasta or stirring with tongs, until liquid is almost evaporated and pasta becomes glossy, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining 3 Tbsp. butter, 1 Tbsp. oil, 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, 1 tsp. lemon zest, crab, half of mint and more chili rounds, if desired.

Stir pasta until butter melts and pasta is well coated, adding more pasta cooking liquid if dry. Divide between bowls; top with remaining 1 tsp. lemon zest and mint. Sprinkle with more lemon juice is desired.

This is a beautiful salad. My husband produced the fennel along with the blood oranges. Fennel is another vegetable in the winter garden and another one that could well fit into a flower garden or herb garden. It tolerates our summers too. Unfortunately our beet crops haven’t been good lately.

 

Blood Orange, Beet and Fennel Salad

4-6 servings

2 medium red beets, tops trimmed

2 medium golden beets, tops trimmed (I used red beets for all.)

3 blood oranges

1 medium navel orange

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

½ small fennel bulb, very thinly sliced crosswise

¼ red onion, very thinly sliced

Good quality olive oil or walnut oil

Coarse sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup loosely packed fresh cilantro (another crop in the winter garden)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash beets, leaving some water on skins. Wrap individually in foil; place on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour. Let cool.

Meanwhile, using a sharp knife, cut all the peel and white pith from all oranges; discard. Working over a medium bowl, cut between membranes of 2 blood oranges to release segments into bowl; squeeze juice from membrane into bowl and discard membranes. Slice remaining blood orange and navel orange crosswise into thin rounds. Place sliced oranges in bowl with the segments. Add lemon juice and lime juice.

Peel cooled beets. Slice two beets crosswise into thin rounds. Cut remaining two beets into wedges. Strain citrus juices; reserve. Layer beets and oranges on plates, dividing evenly. Arrange fennel and onion over beets. Spoon reserved citrus juices over, then drizzle salad generously with oil. Season to taste with coarse sea salt and pepper. Let salad stand for five minutes to allow flavors to meld. Garnish salad with cilantro leaves.

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