As spring progresses, I find myself craving lighter, fresher dishes — gone are the soups and stews of winter — as we spend more time outdoors and embrace simpler, low-effort seasonal fare.
This lemon pasta is divine as a light main dish or a side with fish. It can be made pareve and accompany meat or chicken (omit the cheese and butter or use non-dairy versions). It comes together in minutes, really, as long as the pasta takes to cook, and the result is far greater than the sum of its parts.
I served this with a Greek-ish salad that featured crispy fried chickpeas. These tasty orbs take the place of croutons with more nutrition and pizzazz. I used half for the salad, intending to save the rest for a future snack, but we nibbled on the surplus while I prepped the pasta, and they were gone before we sat down to dinner.
For dessert, I would choose something light that doesn’t compete with or repeat the textures and ingredients. Avoid dense, flour-heavy dishes like cakes and cookies; you’ve got enough of that in the pasta. I also would avoid creamy, dairy-rich things like pudding and ice cream for the same reason; even if you omit the butter and cheese, the pasta takes on a kind of creamy texture.
Instead, I would go for either a square or two of dark chocolate, a non-citrus sorbet (melon? coffee? raspberry?), a bowl of fresh strawberries with a drizzle of aged balsamic or some lace cookies — those brittle, toffee-like cookies that tend to be flourless. And yes, all of these dessert items are generally bought, not baked, thus keeping with the simple, breezy theme of this meal!
Serves 2-4 depending on portion size and whether served as a main or side dish
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼- ½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
¼-½ cup pasta cooking water
½ pound dried linguine or any other long pasta
Chopped parsley or basil, if desired, to garnish
Heat a large pot of well-salted water to boil and cook the pasta to al dente, 1 minute less than the package directions. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water.
While the pasta cooks, heat the butter and oil in a medium skillet. Add the garlic, zest of the lemon, salt and pepper and sauté until fragrant. Keep it warm on low heat.
When the pasta is done, scoop ½ cup of water from the pot (you probably won’t use it all) and drain the pasta. Pour the drained pasta into the skillet and toss it with the lemon/oil mixture. Squeeze the juice of the whole lemon over the pasta and continue tossing. Add the cheese and ¼ cup of pasta water to distribute. Add more water if the dish needs loosening up.
Sprinkle the pasta with fresh chopped parsley or basil if desired. Serve immediately with additional cheese at the table.
Greek-ish Salad with Crispy Chickpeas
For the chickpeas:
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
Sprinkle of cayenne pepper, to taste, if desired
Heat the oil in a skillet large enough to hold the chickpeas. When the oil is hot, add the chickpeas; be sure they are in just one layer. Add the seasonings. Keep the heat over medium-high; you want the pan to sizzle so the peas crisp up. This takes about 10 minutes.
Watch the peas carefully and stir frequently, scraping the bottom of the skillet with a spatula; they may stick otherwise. When the peas are golden brown and crispy, remove them from the heat and drain them on paper towels.
I used arugula for this, but you can use any lettuce you like. Just be sure it is well rinsed, dried and, if you’re using large leaf, torn into small pieces.
4 cups lettuce
½ a cucumber, peeled and sliced
¾ cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 ripe avocado, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Sprinkle of salt/pepper/garlic powder
¾ cup crispy chickpeas
In a medium-sized bowl, mix the lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes and avocado. Sprinkle it with the seasonings, drizzle the oil and vinegar over the salad and toss it well. Top it with crispy chickpeas and serve.