Tuesday, May 17, 2011
A Quick and Easy Weeknight Dinner
Deciding what to serve for a weeknight supper is often more challenging than planning a dinner party menu. That’s certainly the case at our house. After working all day, often testing recipes for classes and articles, I am weary by supper time. My husband, not a cook, but an enthusiastic eater, arrives home hungry for a good meal after a day of teaching, while I waver between resorting to “take out” or whipping up something simple.
Linguine with Asparagus, Crab, and Chives definitely falls within my comfort zone of quick, yet delectable choices for such days. Start to finish, this all-in-one main course takes less than 30 minutes and is accented by the fresh flavors of spring. You simply put a pot of water on to boil, cook the pasta until almost done, and then during the last few minutes, add some sliced asparagus. Once drained, the linguine and asparagus are returned to the pot in which they were cooked, and tossed with crème fraîche, Parmesan, lemon zest, and crabmeat. For serving, mounds of this pasta are topped with snipped chives and shaved Parmesan.
I love the taste of the sweet crab (especially when fresh) in this dish, but you can omit it, turning this entree into a vegetarian option. Either way, offer a salad of mixed greens dressed in vinaigrette and some warm crusty bread like ciabatta to complete the menu. Weeknight dinner on the fly! Who would have guessed it could be so good.
Linguine with Asparagus, Crab, and Chives
1 pound medium asparagus
1 pound linguine
1/2 cup crème fraîche
1/2 grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano
4 teaspoons grated lemon zest
8 ounces crabmeat, preferably fresh (See note.)
Freshly ground black pepper
Shaved Parmesan for garnish, optional
2 tablespoons chopped chives or flat leaf parsley for garnish
Snap off and discard the tough bases from the asparagus. Then cut spears on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add linguine and 2 teaspoons salt. Cook pasta according to package directions until tender, but still firm to the bite, 4 to 5 minutes for fresh pasta, and usually 9 to 10 for dried. Add the asparagus to the pot during the last 3 to 4 minutes of the cooking time. When the asparagus are tender when pierced with a sharp knife, drain them and the pasta in a colander.
Return the pasta and asparagus to the pan in which they were cooked and stir in the crème fraiche, grated Parmesan, and lemon zest. Then gently stir in the crab. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Divide the pasta evenly among 4 to 5 shallow bowls. Garnish each serving with some chives and, if desired, with some shavings of Parmesan cheese. Serves. 4 to 5.
Note: I buy fresh Maine crabmeat, sold in 6-ounce containers, from my local Whole Foods for this dish, and love its taste. You can use this smaller amount, or splurge and buy a couple of packages for a more intense seafood flavor.