Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Eating spring: Asparagus, Meyer Lemon, and Pancetta Pasta

Every time I wander out in the backyard behind the wine shack, I always look longingly at my beloved dwarf Meyer lemon tree. I get excited by it not only because I love the bright, happy yellow fruit that hangs from it, but also I love the fact that I can grow any kind of citrus here in soggy Portland (this spring especially... this weather has been fucking brutal!). It's been producing a bounty of lemons lately, and I'm always trying to come up with new ways to use them. I've had following rolling around my food-obsessed dome for a couple of weeks now, and last night was the time to put it to the test. I had this feeling that the sweetly tart Meyers would get along perfectly with fresh spring asparagus, plus I have several chunks of portioned out pancetta just waiting in my freezer at home and any opportunity to use the glory that is a cured pork product is one not to pass up!

So after remarkably little effort and a kitchen filled with this mixture of head swirling and appetite inducing scents...garlic infused olive olive oil, fried pancetta, tart-sweet citrus....I have to say that this was absolutely freaking delicious and racked up a huge score on my pleasure meter. Served alongside a crisp bottle of Sancerre, this was food and wine heaven!
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Asparagus, Meyer Lemon, and Pancetta Pasta
serves 4


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Four or five smashed, peeled garlic cloves
1 Meyer lemon, cut into thin slices and chopped up, saving the juices
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut on the bias into 1" pieces
4 to 5 ounces pancetta, chopped into 1/4" dice
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 pound dried pasta
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

1-Put large pasta pot with water on to boil. When it comes to a boil, add three tablespoons salt and pasta and cook to desired doneness (I admit, I'm not a big al dente guy).

2-Put olive oil into large non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat, add garlic cloves and let them infuse oil, turning occasionally. Remove cloves when they turn golden brown (do not let them burn!). Add chopped pancetta and fry until crisp, approximately 8 minutes. When pancetta is crisp, carefully drain off about half of rendered fat.

3-While pancetta is cooking bring small saucepan of salted water to boil. When it comes to a boil, add asparagus and cook for three minutes. Quickly remove from heat and dump into ice bath to stop cooking. Set aside.

4-When pancetta is done, turn heat down to medium-low and add lemon (with the juices) and asparagus and heat through for a couple of minutes. When pasta is done, drain and return to pasta pot and add pancetta mixture. Add 1/2 cup grated cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir to combine. Serve immediately, passing remaining cheese for sprinkling on top.


dp said...

I just bought a dwarf Meyer Lemon tree this year! I may need some advice about how to keep the damned thing alive. I had a dwarf kaffir lime tree, and kept it in a wall-o-water for the winter and it's dead. WAH! This winter and spring has been downright dismal!

Fearless Kitchen said...

This looks delicious. I'm jealous of your homegrown citrus! I haven't even been able to find a dwarf lemon tree here.

bb said...

dp...Mine has been remarkably happy. I'm lucky to have the perfect setup. I keep it here at VINO, and in summer I put it in my little backyard where it basks in the sun, then in winter I have this BIG southern facing window inside it sits in. When it's in blossoming inside in winter and I walk in to the shop in the morning, the whole place is filled with this amazing scent!! If I can be of any assistance in keeping you citrusy, let me know! And if you're ever in the 'hood, feel free to stop by.

fk-I know how hard they are to find. I always have people ask where I got it. I tell them it was sitting dying in my friends sideyard, so that's kind of a one shot deal. I know you can find them online. just google it and you'll find a lot of hits.

Anonymous said...

This recipe is almost the same as mine except that I add 1 cup of frozen peas when cooking thre asparagus and about 1/4 cup of cooking cream before serving. I also fry a handful of sage leaves in the pan after I have fried off the pancetta. I then add the crispy sage leves for an extra flavour.
I too have a wonderful Dwarf Meyer Lemon tree and it also fruits almost to excess! It is 5 years old now and although I did have some trouble with it at one point, I simply re-potted it after first washing the roots bare. Seemed to work and it has been happy ever since.