The photography of my artist friend, the talented and hugely awesome Johnny Tang, was selected for this year’s Mass Art Live Auction, and this past week I accompanied him to the opening reception celebration. Johnny’s work — particularly his “World of One” series — has a real verve to it. It’s beautiful and strange and thoughtful — three things great art should be. I am always impressed to see a new piece, and, since I started editing his blog a couple of months ago, I’ve been lucky enough to get special sneak peeks. Even so, even though I generally find him to be impressive, I was honestly blown away by the scope of this auction. I realized within a few minutes of stepping into the gallery that to be selected for this auction is sort of a big deal. Which was perfect, because so is my friend.
Full disclosure: I am an awkward introvert and do not do particularly well in uncertain social situations. Making small talk with complete strangers — I really just don’t have it in me. So I was truly delighted to see two huge cheese spreads on either end of the gallery to keep me looking busy while Johnny did a bit of schmoozing with fellow artists and potential bidders.
That evening, I spent quite a bit of time discovering whipped feta, licking goat cheese off of my fingertips, and stacking squares of cheddar on top of stacks of Swiss. And, significantly, even more time was spent rekindling my dormant and not-lately-explored love for smoked gouda — I just about ate my weight in the stuff. And, oh my gouda, was it good. A well-spent Wednesday night.
Come Thursday morning, I still couldn’t get that gouda out of my head, and, by the afternoon, as if under some mystical cheese spell, I found myself hungrily (and somewhat catatonically) canvassing the Trader Joe’s cheese shelf. The block of gouda that I then bought no longer exists.
I put this recipe together because I decided that I could use more pasta in my life. Giving up traditional pasta to accommodate a gluten-free diet was an adjustment at first, but once I discovered corn pasta, the very last thing I felt was deprived. Have you had it? You have to be careful not to overcook it (it gets mushy) and it’s not great as leftovers, but freshly cooked and hot off the stove, it’s truly delicious.
Can we talk about frozen peas for a minute? For the past couple of weeks, I have been happily overdosing on them. I can’t get enough. In salads, tossed with butter and herbs, mashed up with cheese, and now — in this pasta. When I was growing up, my mother served steamed peas all the time at dinner, and I think their seat in my vegetable consciousness as one of abundance has lead me to overlook their indubitable brilliance. But no more; I have finally found myself losing track of their nostalgic “Eat your vegetables!” underpinning. They are so green, and so sweet, and so good. As usual, my mother was right.
Pasta primavera with smoked gouda + cauliflower cream.
- 8 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium cauliflower, cut into florets
- 6-7 cups vegetable broth or water
- ½ cup milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt (more to taste)
- ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper (more to taste)
- 3/4 cup grated smoked gouda
- Saute the garlic with the butter in a large nonstick skillet over low heat. Cook until the garlic is tender but not crispy. Leave about 1/4 of the garlic in the skillet and set the rest aside.
- Bring the water or vegetable broth to a boil in a large pot. Add the cauliflower and cook, covered, for 7-10 minutes or until cauliflower is fork tender. Reserve a few cups of the cooking liquid and drain the cauliflower with a collander.
- Return the cauliflower to the pot, and add the milk, reserved garlic (the larger portion you have removed from the skillet), salt, pepper, and about a cup of the cooking liquid. Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth. You will need to add more cooking liquid (or milk), depending on how you like your sauce. Alternatively, you could puree the sauce using a food processor or blender.
- Add the grated gouda and put the pot over low heat, stirring frequently. Warm the sauce until the cheese begins to melt.
- 12 ounces dry pasta of your choice (or however much you need for who you’re feeding)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 10 ounces baby bella mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon dry thyme
- 8 ounces (half of a one-pound bunch) fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut in bite-size pieces
- 1 16 ounce bag of frozen peas, defrosted (I simply rinse mine in a colander under lukewarm water)
- Sea salt + cracked black pepper (to taste)
- Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box.
- Using the same skillet you used to saute the garlic for the sauce, add the butter to the previously-cooked garlic. Then add the mushrooms and the dry thyme. Cook for a few minutes, until the mushrooms are soft.
- Add the asparagus and stir well. Saute for about 5 minutes, until the asparagus are cooked but still have a bit of crunch. Then, add the peas. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Cook until warm. Serve with the cooked pasta and the smoked gouda + cauliflower cream.