Mélanie used to babysit for us … or rather for our children … even when our children were old enough to theoretically be perfectly capable of looking after themselves. However, my husband and I just didn’t like the idea of leaving two kids at home and expecting them to be so self regulatory and disciplined and put themselves to bed at a godly hour, when he and I were going out to have a nice evening somewhere or otherwise engage in lots of fun. Good job that friends of friends suggested we contact Mélanie and it was love at first sight … we knew the kids would have a great time with her. Nothing Mary Poppins about her except her sense of fun. The kids would get very excited every time I told them that their father and I were going out of an evening. “Mélanie is coming, right?” they would ask in confirmation, their eyes all agog. And then the children grow up and babysitters are no longer required.
The good thing is that the relationship lingers on in friendly fashion, although obviously evolving into something completely different … and though we see little of each other these days, it is always a great pleasure to meet and catch up. Mélanie and her boyfriend Federico came to supper recently and brought us some lovely wild asparagus that Federico had picked himself. Don’t you just love friends who forage?
When cooking in a hurry or when time is otherwise pressing for whatever reason, it is a great idea to use egg pasta — for the simple reason that it takes less time to cook compared with plain dried pasta. Making pasta, if you do so on a regular basis, becomes a no-brainer in terms of basic steps. Step 1 (always) put on the water on to boil adding the salt when it reaches a roiling boil, step two make the sauce, step three grate the cheese.
Today, however, I inverted the last two steps and grated the cheese, in this case parmesan, before starting the sauce. I knew it was going to be an “assembly line” process and needed everything professionally to hand, hah! It’s not always languor in the kitchen, you know, some days it’s quick-quick-quick.
While the garlic was being gently cooked in some olive oil ….
I chopped the asparagus into three ‘cuts’, the toughest being the woodier part of the vegetable (bottom left of the photo). I tasted and nibbled on various parts of the asparagus and decided that even the tougher parts were fairly tender and thus edible. So I put all of it, save for the tips, into the boiling water. I removed the garlic once it was cooked.I turned the heat right down and added a few of the asparagus tips as well as some fresh mint leaves. Splatter splatter everywhere but there you are … such things happen in the kitchen. Alchemy …
And the real ‘alchemy’ of course is the fact that egg pasta takes no time at all to cook – about 3-4 minutes depending on the brand. I added a ladle of the cooking water to the saucepan … and the splatter diminished. And then I added the rest of the asparagus tips … I added some of the grated parmesan cheese and a little more cooking water, in order to create a kind of ‘sauce’. The tagliolini were ready in no time and in they went too, together with the asparagus that had been cooking in the water. A good mix over high heat, a drizzle of olive oil …Some of the cheese got stuck on the bottom of the pan and I used the wooden spoon to detach it and added yet more cooking water.
On the plate for lunch, with a sprig of mint and another spray of grated parmesan. Total cooking time from start to finish — less than 15 minutes.