Dearest readers I must apologize…I have been seriously distracted lately. Like “posting once a week…maybe” kind of distracted. And for that, I am super sorry. Life has decided to dish up a big batch of crazy/awesome/not so awesome but necessary events recently and as a result I have become a bad, bad little blogger.

And what has me so out of the blogging loop you ask?

Well, I can’t tell you about all of it…yet, but to start there’s the whole “to get an apartment or to not get an apartment” debate.

By the way, you know you’ve found a winner when a tenant approaches you and, upon learning that you’re checking out the building’s vacancy, says “but you look like normal people!”

Yeah…not exactly what I wanted to hear.

I’ve also been spending a lot of time in Seattle recently, which has resulted in a ton of splendid adventures. Those that rank within a PG-13 rating may appear here in the near future so stay tuned!

But all that aside, I am here today to share a little somethin’ somethin’ with you about our dear friend the asparagus.

Because nothing says “I’m sorry” like a tender bunch of farm fresh produce! 

I am seriously in love with those green stalks and have been for years. Little Brittni was one of those kooky kids who liked to eat her veggies – even those pesky brussels sprouts – and asparagus has always been a favorite.

By the way, did you know…

  • Asparagus is a member of the Lily family.
  • The name originates from the Greek word “asparagos,” which made its first appearance in print around 1000 A.D.
  • The veggie itself dates as far back as 200 B.C.
  • There is a recipe for asparagus in the oldest surviving cookbook, Apicius’ De re coquinaria, Book III, dating from the 3rd century A.D.
  • Ancient Egyptians and Romans were particularly smitten and considered those luscious stalks a sign of elegance and wealth. 
  • Roman emperors would keep a group of men around whose sole purpose was to fetch asparagus. They were known as “the asparagus fleet.”
  • The ancient Romans used to say things like “as quick as cooking asparagus” when referring to something accomplished…well…quickly!

Pretty neat huh?

My family usually steams asparagus, topping it with about half a tub of shredded parmesan cheese before setting it out all hot and melty. But today I’d like to introduce you to another radical way to cook your spears.

We’re talkin’ the sloooooow baked in parchment method.

And once again, our friends over at The NYT are to thank.

Last week’s dining section featured an article about cooking asparagus in parchment paper packets on a low heat setting for ~90 minutes. Crazy I know! The parchment acts as an insulator, which keeps the temperature steady. This allows the asparagus to cook evenly, maintain a firm crunch and soak up a ton of flavor from the spices you are cooking with.

And it just so happens that I’ve had a recipe on-hand for roasted asparagus and goat cheese pasta I’ve been dying to try. Coincidence? I think not!

Now I was all set to bake my asparagus nice and slow just like the article said, but those I live with were in a “we want our food NOW” sort of mood, which resulted in a bit of tweaking.

So, I set the oven to 350 rather than 200 degrees and baked the asparagus for 25 minutes rather than 90.

The result?

Some pretty darn good asparagus.

I baked them in olive oil with fresh ground salt and pepper and the result was aromatic and heavenly.

You can get pretty crafty with this one – adding whatever concoction of spice your little asparagus lovin’ heart desires. And if you’re feeling adventurous you can add other veggies to the mix too.

 p.s. Do you forgive me yet?

~Brittni

Pasta with Baked Asparagus and Goat Cheese
Adapted from Everyday Food and The New York Times

This recipe features a baking technique for asparagus found in The New York Times, which results in an evenly cooked spear with that sought after tender crunch.  The pasta itself is quick to whip up and features a smooth and creamy goat cheese sauce. Chopped, roasted red peppers complement the baked asparagus while adding a hint of sweet flavor and a splash of color. This one makes a lot of pasta so come hungry or invite your friends!

You will need:

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 2 bunches asparagus (2 pounds total), tough ends removed (Tip: Not sure how much of the bottoms to cut off? Give each spear a quick bend instead-they will snap right where they’re supposed to.)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • Fresh ground salt and pepper
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • 12 ounces cavatappi or other short pasta
  • 1 small log soft goat cheese (5 ounces), crumbled
  • 1 cup chopped roasted red peppers
  • Shredded parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil for pasta.

2. Grill your chicken and set aside.

3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pile your asparagus on the paper and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, tossing to coat. Lay a second piece of parchment paper on top of your asparagus, fold the ends in and staple or tie tight with string.

4. Bake for 25 minutes or until asparagus is done. They should be tender with a slight crunch. FYI: Your baking time may need adjusting if your asparagus are extra thick. Start with 25 minutes and increase if your spears are still too firm.

5. While the asparagus is baking, generously salt boiling water. Add pasta, and cook until al dente, according to package instructions. Set aside 1 1/2 cups pasta water; drain pasta and return to pot.

6. In a medium bowl, combine goat cheese, remaining 3 tablespoons butter and 1/2 cup pasta water. Season with salt and pepper, and whisk until smooth.

7. Retrieve your grilled chicken breasts and slice to your liking.

8. Add goat-cheese mixture, asparagus and chicken to pasta. Toss to combine, adding more pasta water if necessary for sauce to coat pasta. Top with roasted red peppers and serve with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

Yield ~ 4 servings

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