How's that for two oxymorons, eh?
I still don't care for Michael Chiarello as a TV personality, but he really has some nice, innovative recipes. Last night I made his Asparagus Pesto with Tiny Potatoes and Pasta. This is the sort of food I could subsist on. It is also the sort of food that Andy would be very happy to hear he never has to eat again. So I had it as a main course and Andy had a few forkfuls as an accompaniment to his grilled bone-in rib eye. Ah well. (Note: I apologize for the messy bowl in the photo. A food stylist I am not! Update 3/18/07: But check out this photo!)
Chiarello says, "You will have twice as much of the pesto as you need. You can cut the pesto amount in half, but I encourage you to make the full recipe. It will disappear quickly on bread, toast, or baked potatoes." This is true, except that I had some of the dish itself left over too, so I'm unlikely to use the leftover pesto before it spoils. I think next time I will halve the pesto recipe, unless I'm making it for company.
For the pesto:
1 bunch asparagus, about 1 pound, trimmed and cooked for 5 minutes in boiling, salted water (Reserve water for pasta.)
1/2 cup packed coarsely chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1 tablespoon minced garlic (This made it very garlicky—even for me!—so I think I will use just a scant tablespoon next time.)
About 1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 pound marble-size potatoes (This is clearly a spring dish, because that's when asparagus is at its yummiest and also when you can find such tiny potatoes. Instead, I bought the smallest creamers I could find and just halved or quartered them.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 pound dried orecchiette or other pasta the same size as the potatoes
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Cut the cooked asparagus spears into thirds. Put in a food processor with the basil, pine nuts, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Keep in mind you will add Parmesan as well, so be careful not to oversalt. With the machine running, slowly add the cup of olive oil. When the sauce is about the consistency of mayonnaise, it has enough oil. Pulse in the 1/2 cup Parm. Thin with water if necessary to achieve a slick, saucy pesto. (I used pretty much all of the oil and didn't need to add any water.) Scrape into a bowl or jar, cover, and refrigerate until needed. You should have about 3 cups. (Keeps about 2–3 days, refrigerated.)
Put the potatoes in a pan of salted cold water to cover and bring to a boil. Cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and let cool for a few minutes. Heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the potatoes and cook until browned and crispy all over, about 5 minutes. (I cooked them for longer than that, maybe closer to 8–10 minutes.) Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm.
While the potatoes are browning, return the water used for cooking the asparagus to a boil. Add more salt and the pasta and cook until al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain through a colander, reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Pour the pasta into a warm serving bowl, add the potatoes, about 1 cup of the asparagus pesto, several twists of pepper, and the 1/4 cup Parm. Toss well, thinning with the pasta cooking water as necessary. (I didn't need to thin it at all.)
Pass additional Parm and remaining pesto at the table.
We watched the first half of "The Music Man" revival with Matthew Broderick. He's no Robert Preston, but he is quite good. It's long, though, so we'll watch the rest tonight.