It all started with Oprah. Last week I saw an episode of her show that profiled two extraordinarily wasteful families. They recycled nothing, ran no fewer than four electronic devices at any one time and threw away enough food in a week to feed a small village for a month. Oprah of course set them straight, and had them reading books and drinking out of reusable water bottles in no time.
I was initially horrified by the total disregard for money and resources generally, and was sliding into smug territory until I remembered my own overcrowded refrigerator. After a zealous weekend at the farmer's market and a small dinner party during the week (I served the clam, fennel and pasta dish from Suzanne Goin's Sunday Supper at Lucques, which was outstanding), I had an abundance of fresh, easily perishable food just waiting to be either used or wasted.
So I threw everything together with some pasta, cream and walnuts and had myself a luxurious little dinner. And returned to feeling smug.
Clean Your Fridge Out Pasta
Note: All measurements are approximate, adjust to suit the contents of your pantry
scant 1/4 cup walnut halves
3 ounces penne
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small red onion, diced
1/2 fennel bulb, diced
1 clove garlic, sliced
8 spears young asparagus, trimmed and sliced into 2-inch lengths
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream
1-2 tablespoons chopped parseley
Put on pot of salted water to boil for pasta. In a dry skillet, toast walnuts over medium heat until fragrant. Transfer walnuts to plate or bowl and set aside.
In same skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat and add onion and fennel. Salt lightly, and cook, being careful not to brown the vegetables. Drop the pasta into the boiling water.
Once onions and fennel are tender, 3-4 minutes, add garlic and cook for a minute. Add asparagus and saute for two minutes. Pour cream into skillet. The cream should cover the bottom of the pan, but the depth should only be about a quarter of an inch. Bring to a simmer, and allow to reduce a bit, approximately two minutes. Taste, and add salt if necessary.
Once pasta is al dente, drain, reserving some cooking water, and add to skillet. Toss through, and if sauce is too thick, add a bit of water to loosen things up. Toss through fresh parsley and serve.