Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lemon Caper Alfredo with Asparagus and Leeks

July and August came quickly and whizzed by without leaving much of a trace. Starting a new job, albeit with the same company, that is much more demanding than roles of my past meant reallocating resources and benching hobbies for a short time. Hardly a memorable meal or truly ingenious recipe, barely enough time to muster over what to make, and small energy reserves for adventurous kitchen experiments. I’ve been a lame mock duck this summer. I can hardly crack out a batch of mac n’ cheez these days. So many hummus wraps and Whole Foods salad bar Wednesdays ($2 off!). Eating out, however health I try to be, has not encouraged or stimulated my creative cooking juices. By now it’s the end of August and prior to this delightful dish, I had yet to make something to write home about.

Now that I’m settled in my new department and have adjusted to my responsibilities, I’ve found it easier to bring back the aimless recipe wandering, thorough audience-preference analysis, and food analogue objective that inevitably lead to the crazy concoctions featured here. Another daily life feature lost in the buss was the intimate nightly dinner with my dearest recipe reviewer. It seems so long ago that we used to wine and dine chez nous a better part of the week, testing my edible innovations and having chatting about everything under the sun and moon. With both of our careers pressing us like a fine French roast, we lost that table time. Finally, as I’ve found a way to adjust my career time with home time, I’m rectifying all sorts of situations.

To reignite our dinner ritual and satisfy my gourmet thirst for challenge, I set out to make something my token Omni would thoroughly enjoy. He has a surprising love for capers –though he is a salt fiend, I am hard pressed to find something brined that he actually likes. No pickles, no Kalamata olives, negative on artichokes. Capers for some reason are the exception. And for someone who has had an even busier summer than I’ve had at work, he deserved something deliciously invented for him. I gathered all the ingredients of his kind of meal: bread and tomatoes (we started with bruschetta), pasta, a hearty sauce, and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Arguably, neither lemon cream sauce nor lemon caper sauce is original. But the mild lemon flavor in this thick, “creamy” sauce combine with a salty pinch and fresh asparagus gave this dish exquisite character.

The leeks could probably be optional, but they were from a 2 week old produce share from the farm and had to go. They were a nice touch with a texture that coincides with asparagus beautifully - but not necessary. The lemon level and caper capacity are of course totally up to you. For you non-veg heads that read the blog: please not that by using silken tofu instead of cream, you cut the fat (and subsequent guilt + next day laziness) by about 85%. Using cooking spray as I did of course reduces the fat content even further, though you could use traditional olive oil instead.

Lemon Caper Alfredo with Asparagus and Leeks
Makes: 2 servings
Cook time: 45 minutes


For the Sauce
1 tsp. Olive oil
½ Small onion, chopped
2 tsp. Garlic, chopped
1-2 T. Dried mushrooms
1 ¾ c. Vegetable broth, from bouillon, divided
½ pkg. Silken tofu (6-7 oz)
½ c. Almond milk
¼ c. Capers, drained
1 T. Lemon juice
1 tsp. Lemon zest, divided
White pepper & nutmeg

For the Pasta
4-5 oz Gluten free spaghetti
Cooking spray
½ c. Leeks, white & green parts chopped
12-15 Asparagus spears, chopped
Fresh parsley, chopped


Heat olive oil over medium heat in a sauce pan. Cook onions until golden brown, about 7-8 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 additional minute. Add mushrooms and 1 ½ c. vegetable. Bring to a boil and reduce liquid to ½ cup, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. In a food processor combine onion broth with tofu and almond milk. Blend until completely smooth (about 2-3 minutes), scraping down sides periodically. Return sauce to pan and cook over a steady low heat. Stir in lemon juice, ½ tsp lemon zest, and capers. When ready to serve, stir in a tiny pinch of white pepper and nutmeg.

While the sauce is heating on low, bring a pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to directions on package. Strain and set aside.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and coat with cooking spray. Add leeks and cook 3-4 minutes until starting to brown. Add asparagus, remaining lemon zest and use broth to deglaze pan when vegetables start to dry. Cook until asparagus is al dente, about 3-4 minutes.

To assemble: Combine pasta with asparagus/leek mixture. Pour sauce over top and mix. Garnish with parsley, lemon slices and freshly ground black pepper.

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