Friday, June 19, 2009

Yay for Spring Veg: Tortellini with Asparagus & Olives

If any of you thought we were lying about eating asparagus until we couldn't handle another the thought of another spear, I just want to reassure you. Here at Burp! we don't play around.

The past couple of weeks have been utterly JAM PACKED with asparagus. We've eaten it raw. Steamed. Grilled. Plain. And buttered. We've dipped fresh spears in green garlic and basil cream cheese. And tucked them into grilled cheese sammiches. We've adorned grilled asparagus with rosemary salt (oooh! so fantastic) and roasted a pound or two with olive oil and "Sea Kelp Delight". We've thrown it on pizza. We even made lasagne with asparagus and morel/leek jack cheese sauce (which, regrettably, I didn't photograph...but it would have made a fantastic blog post).

Everything we've created has been delicious. But, there was one evening in particular when we roasted up some particularly succulent with lemon and sweet Vidalia onions -- and then tossed it with oil-cured olives and tortellini. And I can't get it out of my head. It was so very much worth the (minimal) effort.

First, you take your asparagus, and chop it into 2 inch lengths. Slice an onion in the same manner, and toss the two together.
Zest one of those lemons that's been sitting in your fridge just waiting to be used, and then juice the lemon. Toss the zest and juice with some olive oil and a bit of melted butter. Yes -- you really want the butter here. It adds SO much flavor, and it also ensures good caramelization on your roasted veg. Really fresh asparagus and sweet onions both contain a considerable amount of moisture, so you want to make sure you give them a bit of encouragement in the browning department.
Pour the lemony vinaigrette over your asparagus, and then add salt & pepper to taste.
Layer everything in a baking pan and throw it in the oven at 450ยบ for about 15 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, cook up a bit of tortellini. I'm not normally a fan of dried tortellini, but recently I found a brand I really like. The trick, it seems, is to avoid overcooking the pasta at all costs -- while still getting the dried cheese filling to soften. My tips:
  1. Use a larger pot to boil the tortellini than you think you need. Plenty of water circulating around the pasta is key.
  2. Do NOT believe the package instructions. The pasta NEVER needs as long to cook as they recommend.
  3. Test, test, test. Begin testing those tortellini as soon as they begin to float. Continue testing them until the noodles are toothy-but-tender, and the cheese within the pasta is pleasantly cooked (but not mushy).
In between testing your tortellini, you'll want to slice up a few oil-cured olives. A handful will do. Their flavor can be pretty overpowering, so you don't want to over-do it. I like to cut mine into smaller pieces so that you get the salty perfume of the olives distributed throughout the pasta dish without completely obliterating all of the other flavors.
When your pasta is cooked, and your asparagus is pleasantly roasted (see what I mean about that caramelization?) you'll want to toss everything together.
And then let your eyes linger on the beauty in the bowl.
Bright and briny. Cheesy and filling. Oh, and did I mention how incredibly EASY it is to throw together on a busy weeknight?

On a cloudy late spring day, this recipe is enough to transport me directly to a sunny Mediterranean beach. And who can argue with that?

Lemony Roasted Asparagus and Sweet Onions

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  1. Ooh, where did you find the rosemary salt?

    I believe you about the asparagus -- mostly because we're just coming out the other side of it. It's beginning to dwindle at our market, and even though I've eaten my year's worth of vitamin K and folate via the stuff, I'm so sad to see it go. I'll live vicariously through you if your season continues awhile longer.

  2. Asparagus and OLIVES? That's a new one...I know what I'm making for dinner tonight!!!!

  3. Becky -- Rosemary salt... oh, it's SO good. And easy to make yourself. Just whizz up a bit of course sea salt with a sprig or two of rosemary.

    I'm thinking there's a post on it coming up :)

  4. I'm still eating asparagus at my house. I'm really hoping some other veggies come in season soon.

    Love all that cooking with butter. I should do that instead of olive oil all of the time.

    Tortellini are one of my favorite pastas. A winning combo all around.

  5. Tortellini sound delicious with asparagus and olives! Very nice for spring!

  6. We've been loading up on asparagus too! Love how easy this meal is, it looks delicious!

  7. How can you go wrong eating so much greenery? You can't! This looks really great. The olives are a nice, salty touch. Mmmmm.

  8. I love the addition of the olives - this looks so fresh and tasty!

  9. that looks great, thanks for the recipe!

  10. Looks great. I'm sorry to say I didn't buy any local asparagus this year. Is it still available?

  11. Local asparagus is definitely still available. We just bought about 3 lbs of it at the West Allis Farmer's Market. JenEhr Farm has been carrying it there. Outpost Natural Foods also has Wisconsin-grown organic asparagus (a bit pricier -- but also fabulous)!

  12. I could eat asparagus until I turned green. Love the stuff!

  13. This sounds inspired! I love how the dish comes together. And you explain it so beautifully. Great post!

  14. Great blog, thanks for visiting mine! Love all the pictures and recipes, I'll have to check back often.

  15. An unsual combo but I think olives and asparagus work. The caramelized onions help out too!

  16. I thought of this dish when I was shopping this weekend. But it was Wal-Mart and the asparagus was fat. Not this week....


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