Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Snow, Snap and Spring

Came home the other night from the restaurant, it must've been after 10, tired, hungry for home cooking and felt the 'beer cramp' coming on. Ya know when your dominant hand gets that shape after a long, hot day at the rock pile; the pleasing involuntary response to caress a large, chilly bottle of fermented malt beverage? The hand was aching and I was more than ready for some hop therapy.

As I walked up the driveway, picking up a Razor scooter and parking a Red Flyer wagon, the sound of frogs in our neighbors neglected pool caught my attention.

"This is what I LOVE about spring," I thought, "the all-or-nothing serenade of Helen's frogs." Often time, Lisa and I would laugh in bed as one begins to chirp and within two seconds, thirty of his closest friends chime in. Then, even more suddenly, they come to an abrupt halt. Cessation may last a few minutes or a half hour, but, the frogs remind us of the joys of spring, the promise of new life.

Fumbling for the key to the back door, I take a deep breath and WHOOSH!...a rush of warm, lilac infused night air wafting down the breezeway envelopes me like a gentle ocean current.
"Now, THIS is what I love about spring!" I says to meself, key in the doorlock.
I stand there, breath in and breath out, breath in and breath out. Yes, these are still my favorite flower. Their delicate flavor never varies in intensity, their fragrance is as soft and soothing as a mother's hush.

Lilacs are only a two week window for us and mark the arrival of the 'fragrant' time of year. It's a nice change from the smell of mud and moss, fir nettle clogged gutters and damp wool. I could get used to this, the floral scented world. But, would I appreciate it if it was available all the time? Would I take this soothing aroma so sweet and heavy you can taste it on the back of your palate, for granted?

Probably. So thank God for seasonality!

And speaking of seasonality, I gotta tell you about a classic pasta combination of spring: Fresh Peas and Pancetta.
Lisa asked me about how my day went tonight and told her of a pasta special that sold very well. It had sugar snap peas in it with pancetta, garlic and a black pepper cream with penne pasta.
"That's like the one I used to do at Laura Silvestri's in Half Moon Bay," she said, "only we used prosciutto, snow peas and Parm-Reggiano. Same diff, though..."
I put me diet Coke down and asked her what they had for dinner earlier. I was starvin'!
"Here, I just wrapped it up for you. You're not gonna believe this," she said.
There to my amazement was a dish with a grilled chicken breast, arancini pasta tossed with butter and garlic, and a PILE of glistening, crunchy, sugar snap peas! No joke!

"This is what I LOVE about spring," I sighed.

My lover chuckled, "You're so easy..."

Penne Pasta with Sugar Snap Peas, Pancetta and Cream (Serves 4).

8 oz. Penne pasta, dry
8 oz. Pancetta, cut into cubes the width of a pencil
2 Tbs. Garlic, minced
2 oz. White wine
16 oz. Cream
1 Tbs. Black pepper, fresh cracked
1/2 juice of lemon
2 C. Sugar snap peas
1/2 C. Romano-Pecorino cheese, grated.
4 Air-kisses

Cook pasta in a rolling boil till done. Done is defined as how YOU like. My done is different than your done.
Drain when cooked and toss lightly with a smidge of oil to keep things from sticking
As the pasta is cooking, saute' the pancetta on med-high heat in enough cooking oil to just cover the bottom of the pan. Use a larger saute' pan for this job, maybe a 10-12 inch rig.
When cooked but, not crispy, add the garlic and warm till the smallest bits of garlic start to brown. Immediately, splash with white wine to bring down the temp of the pan and let the wine reduce. After about 2 minutes, add the cream and reduce by half. Add the lemon juice, black pepper and adjust for salt. Toss in the sugar snaps and swirl in the sauce for no more than a minute. Honest, you want to keep them crunchy and vivid green.
Add cooked pasta and shake that pan!

Serve in cool bowls that you found at Kitchen Kaboodle or Pier One Imports. Garnish with the Romano and have at it!

Find something to LOVE about springtime in your kitchen and remember:

"Food, Faith, Family and Friends...
the Best Things in Life aren't Things."

God bless,
Chef BQ.

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