Monday, April 06, 2009

Orecchiette with pancetta, asparagus, peas and lemon balm


It's so good to be back in my kitchen, I can't even tell you. After the nettle dinner (those 24 things are so much work!) I was in the dry, dusty field for a week (botanical surveys in the western Central Valley, California), and spent the weekend alternately recovering on the couch with my feet up and the remote control ruthlessly cutting commercials from Tivo'ed programs, or playing Rune Factory Frontier, or turning and seeding my warming vegetable beds. Even though it was inspirationally gorgeous out, I didn't really feel like cooking. Not one whit.

The funny thing about being pregnant is that every two hours you are starving. Your blood sugar drops so fast that you simultaneously want to puke and faint. But as famished as I feel, when I finally get around to getting some food in front of me, I can only muster a few bites before I am completely stuffed. Baffled then, am I, that I am gaining weight so quickly. I've been putting on almost a pound a week since I found out. It's going straight to my belly, upper arms and tits, which are rapidly transforming into jugs (I can't stop staring at them, which is probably why I can see them growing before my very eyes).

But holy shit, this is so not about me. This is about the simple flavors of springtime, about the vernal Holy Trinity (peas, asparagus and ham), about meals that are free of fetter and hamper. In the time it takes to boil water and cook pasta you can have, in your very mouth, a perfect balance of crunchy, sweet, virid, salty, fatty, bright and creamy. Yes, all in one bite.

While you're waiting for water to boil, string about a half pound of peas and peel the stems of a small bunch of asparagus. Slice these coarsely on the bias into bite-sized chunks. Mince a shallot and three cloves of garlic finely. Chop about a quarter pound of pancetta. Your water is nigh at a boil, so add a fat pinch of kosher salt and dump in nearly an entire pound of orecchiette (leave about a cup in the bag for another time, this'll still be enough for leftovers).

While the pasta is cooking, render the pancetta in a drizzle of olive oil, and add the shallot and garlic. When the pancetta starts to go crisp and the shallots begin to turn golden, add the peas and asparagus and cook over medium or so, lazily stirring things about with a wooden spoon because it feels so good to hold that spoon (the one with burn marks up the handle from setting it against a hot pan too long, too many times). Salt and pepper things a bit for good measure, and while you're at it, go ahead and scrape in some lemon zest. Have a bright idea to go pick some lemon balm, since the sunny weather has started it aflush near the little pond out back. Chiffonade that lemon balm and pick some thyme off the tender stems.

Drain the pasta and dump the vegetables and pancetta in, swabbing out the bacon grease with a spoonful of pasta. Since it still could use a little something, why not stir in a knob of good cultured butter and maybe a scant tablespoon of crème fraîche. Stir in the sliced lemon balm and picked thyme, and grate in some grainy Parmesan.

Be so happy that you can eat more than a few bites because this is exactly, exactly what you wanted.

46 comments:

Michael said...

Congratulations on being fertile and all that. Those hormone shifts should prove for some interesting combinations :) This one turned out looking good I must say!

Maggie said...

Um, delicious. Can I eat bowlful after bowlful even if I'm NOT pregnant? Congratulations, Heather!!!!!!

Elra said...

Wow, Congratulation Heather, hope everything is well. I am so happy for you. This pasta is surely delicious, I can eat lots of this too.
Cheers,
elra

Brittany said...

Holy shit. I love how you just casually mention that you are preggs- like it's old and boring news.

Congratulations. I had a feeling this announcement would be coming soon...

Hugs!!!!

Oh yeah- LOVELY pasta.

dp said...

I didn't know if you were serious when I saw your tweet. But hey, congratulations! Babies are pretty fun.

Foodycat said...

Well congratulations! What lovely news. And a very delicious-looking dish.

Peter G said...

Let's forget the orecchiette for a second! Congratulations for the pregnancy! I think you will be a fantastic mum! This is great news Heather and I am very thrilled for you! All the best from down under!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

This is so funny - almost exactly what we had for dinner last night, but I was feeling REALLY lazy, so it was simply asparagus and proscuitto stirred in a little olive oil with frozen peas dropped in at the last minute and served with tons of lemon pepper, a little kosher salt, dollop of pasta water and plenty of parmigiana reggiano (or at least the trader joe's version).

Oh, and I said it on my site, too, but CONGRATS!!!!

And yeah, isn't pregnancy weird how it takes over your body like that? During my first trimester at first all I could get down was mung beans and mangoes (I kid you not) and then only grilled cheese and ice cream sandwiches.

Um... okay, tmi.

abadeeba said...

preggers? wow, congrats! be sure to include constant breast updates in the future. nice meal btw..

Peter M said...

Congratulations again, Mammy'Voodoo!

I think you will come up with the craziest, most creative food whilst preggers. I heart orecchiette, nicely done.

MrOrph said...

wow heather! that's excellent news. congratulations. that's the kind of pasta that is just perfect isn't it?

so...how big are they?

Jeff said...

Looks beautiful and good luck with the veggie seedlings and the other seedling.

Ken Albala said...

FIRST, CONGRATULATIONS!! I must have missed a few posts if you mentioned it earlier. What fun! And to be ABLE to eat for two with a good excuse!

Second, You come to the Central Valley and don't stop by to say hi? Next time. Let me know.

Ken

Heather said...

Michael - This one is pretty unhormonal. :P

Mags! - Of course you can, and have a glass of wine for me while you're at it.

Elra - Thank you! I'm pretty happy too.

Brittany - I couldn't think of a more exciting way to announce it, to be honest. :P

Darlene - Babies are fun! So are cravings.

Alicia - The dish was kind of a winner. So glad I have leftovers.

Petah - Aw, thanks, Shnook! As long as I don't end up with a picky eater, everything will be dandy.

Jen - It's strange how very pregnant I feel, even this early. Hormones for the win.

Yabba Dabba Doo - I'll be sure to do that. Best part of the ride so far.

El Greco - It should be interesting, to say the least. :)

Don - They finally match my frame.

Jeff - At least I know which seed is viable! ;)

Ken - I'll be back down in a couple weeks. I'll shoot you an email this time.

LC said...

Congrats! I went back over some of your earlier posts to see if I'd missed something, but nope: You just dropped that bombshell like a pot-stirring pro. Now go eat, eat, eat. (Nice touch with the lemon balm, btw.)

Judy@nofearentertaining said...

That pasta dish looks great!!! Oh yah, congrats on Cletus the Fetus!!!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

That's springtime in a bowl! You are really being creative with the herbs. First it's nettle and now it's lemon balm.

Stop by my blog sometime as I have something for you Mama.

peter said...

It's Kevin's, right? Be honest.

"That ultrasound looks great!"

Brooke said...

Congratulations, once again, on gettin' yerself knocked up!

This dish is so effing spring. It makes me so happy to finally see that sunshine out there, and the asparagus and peas on your plate. YUM. Too bad the little parasite is ruining your appetite.

Christine said...

For a second I thought I was losing it and couldn't remember if you had mentioned that pretty important detail before...In any case, Congratulations!

toni said...

Pregnant? Congratulations, Heather! Now, please pass me some of that pasta before you eat it all!

T.A.O said...

So jealous of your baby because he will grow up in a house filled with delicious food!

(I called him a "he" because I have a boy and I am biased like that!)

Felicidades!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Wow Heather, I go away for a few weeks, and you go and get preggers!
Awwwwww, congrats you two!!! :) I am very happy for you, and I imagine your baby is pretty happy to be eating all this awesome food!

glamah16 said...

Heathers got a little bun in her oven. I cant wait to see the other cravings the little one has on you. I say we have a blogging baby shower for you.

Ninette said...

First time to your blog. I enjoyed reading your entry and the dish is beautiful. Congrats on your pregnancy!

khemasanine said...

Baby! Exciting. Congrats. I quickly scrolled thru some of your other posts just in case I'd missed something, but no- what a yummy springtime recipe to pair with the news of a wee one. I'm excited to see what all you will be cooking up in the months to come.

anno said...

Wonderful news, and some great looking food to go with it, too. Wishing you & your family every happiness -- congratulations!

Bellini Valli said...

A baby in the Lily househild...how exciting for you. Congratulations:D

Heather said...

i didn't know you were pregnant! congratulations! how exciting :) i love peas and ham together. this sounds amazing! i've never cooked with lemon balm before...

jesse said...

Congratulations on the pregnancy!! I love reading about how your body is changing to better nourish the babe that's growing inside... what a beautiful process! And that pasta dish... oh my. Incredible!

we are never full said...

OMG... how the f did i not know you were preggers!? i remember it being a joke, but guess it wasn't. congrats. you're going to have one well-fed kid.

Heather said...

Lang - The lemon balm was the "hook" for this dish. Such a nice thing to have in the garden.

Judy - It's so funny that you named yours that too. Great minds think alike, I guess. :)

Rachel - Next season I'll try to use pineapple sage in something. :P

Jube - You caught me. I can't get anything past you, can I.

Brookie - Tell me about it! But it's so fleeting. Today is crappy again already.

Christine - Thanks! I hadn't really mentioned before (except on Twitter and Facebook).

Toni - There is no risk of me eating it all! This recipe made a metric tonne of pasta.

Lori - As long as it's healthy, I don't care what it is. Er, I guess human would be nice.

Jenn - I've read that the baby will be born having a palate based on what you eat when you're pregnant, so I'm trying to mix things up.

Courtney - It happened because of you! You kept insisting I was pregnant, and eventually your Naija voodoo charms worked. :D

Ninette - What a funny post for you to find me on! It's usually a little less exciting around here, I promise. ;) (Thanks for stopping by!)

Khemasanine - I thought it would be funnier if I just snuck in the little bomb instead of going all big with it.

Anno - Thank you! I may be eating for two, but I'm cooking for three. :)

Valli - To be fair, it's still only a lima bean. But it's gonna be hilarious, I can already tell.

Heather - Lemon balm is so easy to grow, I'd give it a shot if I were you! It makes a lovely tea, too.

Jesse - It's more fun to read about that to experience sometimes, but yeah, it's kind of magical. :)

Amy - It was totally a joke before, one perpetrated by our very own Peter. It caught on, I guess. /shakes fist at Peter

Lo said...

Congrats!! It's happy news. And I'm celebrating with you.

LOVE this. 'specially the lemon balm part.

Eat pretty, Girlfriend. And enjoy this Fragile Time.

verygoodyear said...

Congratulations on your pregnancy :] I just had my first 7 weeks ago, a daughter, and it has been the most amazing and fulfilling experience of my life. I know the foodie blogosphere is a great place, and thankfully so is the "mommy" blogosphere :]

duodishes.com said...

Wow, congrats on being pregnant. We're new to your blog, but your writing is normally hilarious, so it should be really interesting to read about the pregnancy along with the food. Like this dish. LOVE pancetta and asparagus in/on anything.

Darius T. Williams said...

Yup - so I'm thinking you really can't go wrong w/this!

Caviar and Codfish said...

Congrats Heather. And yes I agree, holy shit that you just casually say that! Like, yeah, I'm pregnant, so what? Here's pasta.

Love it.

Laura P. said...

congrats and hope you have a H&H 9 months! Maybe you know this by now, but if your last period was on 2/18, that would make you 7 weeks pg and due Nov. 25th. Congrats again! : )

Traci said...

Congrats! Wow! I so remember those first 2 months. I was constantly starved too, yet couldn't eat much either. Then the hunger mellowed out, so don't panic just yet. You always eat healthy. You'll be fine :) Are you going to post belly pics??

Manggy said...

Congratulations Heathuh!!! I've been trying to think if you've mentioned this before, but I guess you haven't based on the comments. That will be one snarky, well-fed baby :)

Melissa said...

"Your blood sugar drops so fast that you simultaneously want to puke and faint. But as famished as I feel, when I finally get around to getting some food in front of me, I can only muster a few bites before I am completely stuffed. "

You couldn't have described it more accurately. I'm so happy though because my favorite foodie blog now has lovely pregnacy experiences sprinkled into it. What could be better for my reading enjoyment?

cook eat FRET said...

that pasta sounds wonderful x eleventy billion. i love everything about it. i want some. really really.

peter's comment was great except i'll bet anything that kevin is very gay.

he just resurfaced on my blog. maybe it was a joke - i dunno. but it was just the comment you'd expect.

funny stuff.

babies. you go girl. my guess is that you'll raise a really fine person.

Marc @ NoRecipes said...

MMmm looks nice and springy. I Orecchiette is one of my favourite pasta shapes.

I disappear for a few weeks and you go and get preggers. I guess I should come by more often. Congratulations!

Cheap Cell Phone said...

hmm that looks amazing!!I am not pregnant but would love to eat loads of that!

kyouell said...

Congrats on the baby! Now I can no longer say, "It's not a mommy blog!" when my husband looks over my shoulder and raises an eyebrow at me tho. Ah, well! I'm going to miss the alcohol compliments to your food that I was vicariously enjoying. (One of these days my daughter will wean, right? Right?)

With my 1st pregnancy I hoped for a happy baby boy with 10 fingers and 10 toes -- and that's what I got. With my 2nd pregnancy I hoped for a girl who was happy and health and had 10 fingers and 10 toes and only 2 copies of her 21st chromosome -- and that's what I got. Remember to wish for all the things you want, careful not to leave something important out like I did that first time. Just sayin'. ;-)

Just Cook It said...

Wonderful - on all fronts. I was going to send this post to my GF (she's a big orecchiette fan) but on second thoughts, perhaps not...