Nigella’s Lemon Linguine

by Caroline

daffodils, since I forgot to take a picture of the dinner

I don’t know when I began needing so much lemon in Easter dinner, but this year it worked its way into almost every dish I made for my family, parents, and brothers on Easter day: lemon fettucine, lemon roasted asparagus, and a lemon cheesecake for dessert; only the peas (grown by my dad) and bread were lemon free. And yes, I acknowledge that following cream sauce with cheesecake might feel over the top, but it’s better, perhaps, or lighter, than the Easter my sister and I unthinkingly served the all-cream-and-carb meal of strata and trifle. But it’s Easter, the joyous end of a long fast, so a family should feast.

Here, in her own inimitable voice, is Nigella Lawson’s fabulous lemon linguine:

* 2 pounds linguine
* 2 egg yolks
* 2/3 cup heavy cream
* 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
* 1 lemon, zested, and juice of 1/2, plus more juice, as needed
* Salt
* freshly milled black pepper
* 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
* 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves


Fill just about the biggest pot you have with water and bring to a boil. When friends are coming for lunch, get the water heated to boiling point before they arrive, otherwise you end up nervously hanging around waiting for a watched pot to boil while your supposedly quick lunch gets later and later. Bring the water to the boil, cover and turn off burner.

I tend to leave the addition of salt until the water comes to a boil a second time. But whichever way you do it, add quite a bit of salt. When the bubbling’s encouragingly fierce, put in the pasta. I often put the lid on for a moment or so just to let the pasta get back to the boil, but don’t turn your back on it, and give it a good stir with a pasta fork or whatever to avoid even the suspicion of stickiness, once you’ve removed the lid.

Then get on with the sauce, making sure you’ve set your timer for about a minute or so less than the time specified on the package of pasta.

In a bowl, add the yolks, cream, Parmesan, zest of the whole lemon and juice of half of it, the salt and good grind of pepper, and beat with a fork. You don’t want it fluffy, just combined. Taste. If you want it more lemony, then of course add more juice.

When the timer goes off, taste to judge how near the pasta is to being ready. I recommend that you hover by the stove so you don’t miss that point. Don’t be too hasty, though. Everyone is so keen to cook their pasta properly al dente that sometimes the pasta is actually not cooked enough. You want absolutely no chalkiness here. And linguine (or at least I find it so) tend not to run over into soggy overcookedness quite as quickly as other long pasta. This makes sense, of course, as the strands of “little tongues” are dense than the flat ribbon shapes.

Anyway, as soon as the pasta looks ready, remove a cup of the cooking liquid, drain the pasta, and then, off the heat, toss it back in the pot or put it in an efficiently preheated bowl, throw in the butter, and stir and swirl about to make sure the butter’s melted and the pasta covered by it all over. Each strand will be only mutely gleaming, as there’s not much butter and quite a bit of pasta. If you want to add more, then do; good butter is the best flavoring, best texture, best mood enhancer there is.

When you’re satisfied the pasta’s covered with its soft slip of butter, then stir in the egg mixture and turn the pasta well in it, adding some of the cooking liquid if it looks a bit dry (only 2 tablespoons or so – you don’t want a wet mess – and only after you think the sauce is incorporated). Sprinkle over the parsley and serve now, now, now.

Maple Easter Candy

by Caroline

Every year, I hope that maybe our Easter trip to my parents’ home in Connecticut will line up with sugar season, that window every New England spring when the temperatures sink below freezing at night but rise into the 40s during the day, with enough sun to warm the trees and encourage the maple sap to flow. Even though I don’t really like that kind of weather, I want my boys to experience what I did as a kid, tramping along in the mud and snow in my grandfather’s booted footsteps as he gathered maple sap and boiled it down into syrup. It takes 40 gallons to make a single gallon of syrup, so a couple energetic helpers would be useful, I know, but so far we’ve missed all the work, instead always getting to enjoy the sweet results of my dad’s labors.

At Christmas time, we make sugar on snow; now that the snow is gone, we made maple candy inside, with nothing but syrup, some simple kitchen equipment, and — because after a visit to Old Sturbridge Village we were feeling old-fashioned — a great deal of arm strength. You can make this, too, with any maple syrup and even an electric mixer.

Pour 2 cups maple syrup into a large pot and bring to a boil. Let it boil gently until it comes to 240 degrees on a candy thermometer (soft ball stage: test it by letting some of the boiled syrup drop off the end of a spoon into a glass of water; if it forms a ball, it’s done). Pour it out into a large mixing bowl (or two) and start stirring:

Here’s a close-up action shot of the stirring:

Stir the syrup until it lightens and thickens to the consistency of peanut butter, about five minutes. You can use a hand mixer if your arm gets tired (or your children refuse to stir anymore). If you want to add some toasted walnuts or pecans (a fine idea) stir them in now.

If you have candy molds, by all means use them. We just spread some waxed paper on the counter and experimented with different dollops. Let the candy set at room temperature for about ten minutes. For long-term storage, you’d want to keep it in the refrigerator, but it likely won’t last that long.

Transition Salad

by Caroline

Continuing this week’s foraging theme, lunch the other day required a bit of refrigerator rummaging, since there were no good leftovers with which to construct a garbage salad. I wound up with a meal that tasted a bit like winter, a bit like spring, just right for this transitional season.

I found some garlicky cannellini beans from a recent pasta dish, a bunch of kale, a sweet potato, and a big carrot from last week’s wintry CSA box, plus some green garlic from this week’s more springlike assortment. So I turned the oven on to 400 and got to work with the vegetables. Usually, I save roasted vegetables for dinner, when I can slow roast them and give them time to caramelize. But the sweet potato and carrot, diced into smaller-than-bite-sized pieces, drizzled with olive oil and blasted at high heat for 10 or 12 minutes, turned crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. I left the stalks of green garlic whole while they roasted; they were ready after about 5 minutes, and I diced them up, too. While the vegetables were cooking, I washed and shredded the kale leaves, and then put them in a big bowl with the roasted garlic, which started to wilt the kale nicely. Once the carrot and sweet potato were done, I tossed on top of the shredded kale with the beans, a splash of vinaigrette and some toasted almonds, for a perfect and relatively quick clear-out-the-refrigerator lunch.

Foraged Salad

by Caroline

For a while when I was a kid, my dad kept a couple burlap bags in the trunk of the car. He never knew when he might drive past a nice-looking patch of dandelions, or day lilies, or elderberries, and he wanted to be ready to gather them. It was the 70s, he had read Euell Gibbons, and although he cultivated an enormous garden in our front yard, he also liked to make food out of what he found growing locally. Initially, this foraging delighted me, but of course as I got older I would shrink down in the front seat when Dad pulled over, wishing I were invisible, praying that none of my friends would see me as they went by. Now, I’m back to admiring his foraging impulses, grateful that he still gathers hickory nuts for our cookies and pies every winter.

Apparently, the foraging instinct skips a generation. Last week, Ben spent his school’s Day of Service with his teachers and classmates in Golden Gate Park, the latest in a series of terrific 3rd grade field trips. They learned about the resident birds from local ornithologist Josiah Clark, they learned about the park’s plants from a couple Park & Rec employees, and then they did some weeding to help restore a bird habitat. At dinner that night, Ben told us all about the weeds they’d pulled and the plants they’d tried to protect — one of which, miner’s lettuce, I’ve seen (and purchased) from the farmer’s market for over $5 a pound. The following day at Eli’s baseball game, he spotted a patch of miner’s lettuce, and picked a few leaves to nibble. A couple days later, at Eli’s baseball practice, he found a great big patch of miner’s lettuce:

I didn’t have anything to collect our harvest in but my purse, but we filled it up:

And then made a delicious foraged salad to accompany our dinner that night:

Foraged Salad:
miner’s lettuce or other salad greens
a handful of dried cherries
a handful of toasted, slivered almonds
a sprinkling of ricotta salata
balsamic vinaigrette

Toss all the ingredients in a salad bowl and serve.

Roasted Tomato and Pumpkin Seed Salsa

by Caroline

Really, this is Tony’s post, as he is the only one in our family who will enjoy something in a restaurant and then try to recreate it at home. He’s done it with Eos’ shitake mushroom dumplings, Jackson Filmore’s gnocchi with chard in lemon broth, and now taqueria Papalote’s delicious salsa. His is a simplified version of this recipe, and it was such a hit at our recent dinner party that I don’t have a picture!

Tony writes, “I use canned, fire-roasted tomatoes, because it’s so much faster and the difference is hard to notice. It also means I can make the salsa year-round. I also forgo the dried chiles, and just use two different kinds of chile powder. Simpler and faster. You could certainly substitute different kinds of chile powder to good effect. I also added the onion and garlic to give it a little more sweetness and overall richness. I’m definitely not trying to copy Papalote at this point… I’d just call it an homage!”

1 15 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes (Muir Glen and Trader Joes both make them)
[Or you can simply halve some roma tomatoes and put them
under the broiler for 7-8 minutes until slightly blackened.] 1 small onion
4-5 cloves garlic
1 tsp dried ancho chile powder
1 tsp dried pasilla chile powder
4 tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup cilantro
2 tbsp white vinegar
1/4 cup water

Coarsely chop the onion into big chunks. Leave the garlic cloves unpeeled. Pan roast the onions and garlic with no oil for 7-8 minutes until they are slightly blackened. (You could also do this under a broiler or on the grill) … you’re just trying to get a little color and roasted/charred flavor.

Peel the garlic and transfer onions and garlic to a saucepan with the tomatoes, dried chile powders, sugar, salt, and water. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. If it feels too thick feel free to add a little more water.

Add the vinegar and cook for one minute more.

Let cool a bit. (Or not, if you’re impatient like me!)

Transfer tomato mixture to a blender. Add the pumpkin seeds and cilantro. Blend until smooth.