It had been an intense few weeks. School was ending at Juilliard; I was rehearsing a duet for a recent show; there were performances I had to attend, and cookies to make for my students' graduation, so I was very much looking forward to a present I gave to my husband and myself: a two-day trip to Las Vegas to celebrate our 40th birthdays.
I wanted to make some food for ourselves for the long flight, and had no time to do it. The day before leaving was spent at an early morning acupuncture appointment, taking class, rehearsal, and at my students' final performance and after party. Returning home at nearly 2 am, and knowing I'd only have a couple of hours to sleep in order to catch our 7 am flight, I set the alarm for 4 am to get up and cook that gorgeous asparagus with those peas. Local farmers spent a lot of time nurturing those plants for our consumption, and I did not want to disrespect their efforts by letting them wilt and mold in my NYC fridge while I was lounging decadently by the pool, cocktail in hand.
By 4:40 am, delirious and dizzy, I had managed to make, and package into tupperware, one of the best flight meals ever. Creamy and garlicky, the colors of the bright green peas complementing the deep purple asparagus, this pasta was rich, fresh tasting, and beautiful to look at, too. A classic spring combination, I would have used pancetta here, but bacon was around, and a fine substitute.
The guy eating five pretzels for lunch in the seat next to me was a little envious when we pulled this pasta of our bag. I would have shared, but the flight attendant only offered us one fork for the two of us. After a little nap and some Jet Blue TV, we arrived, sated and rested, rested enough to enjoy a full day of Vegas insanity. If you make this meal for your next flight, you will 1) make your seatmates jealous, 2) feed your belly and your traveling companion's belly with springtime deliciousness, 3) support local farmers, and 4) save money by not buying crap airport food. All this, and even a sleepwalker can do it.
Creamy, Thyme Scented Fusilli with Purple Asparagus, Green Peas, and Bacon
Fusilli pasta, cooked. Keep some of the pasta's cooking water on the side, for addition to the sauce later. You may use penne, or another substantial pasta, if you like, instead of the fusilli.
6 bacon slices, cut into medium-sized bits
1 red onion, chopped
approximately 8 large asparagus, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
approximately 2 cups of green peas (I shelled mine from fresh pods, and didn't measure. Use an amount that looks complementary to the amount of asparagus you have)
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
fresh thyme (about 2 teaspoons)
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chicken stock or pasta water (or you may cut the amount of cream with more chicken stock or pasta water)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Saute the bacon in a large pot until beginning to brown. Remove the bacon and set aside. Pour off some of the fat, leaving enough in the pan to saute the onions, which you will add now. Cook the onions in the bacon fat until soft. Add the sliced asparagus and cook a minute or so. Add the peas and the garlic and thyme. Add the cooked bacon back to the pot. Stir until the asparagus and peas begin to cook. Don't let them turn mushy; they should be a little al dente. Add the cream, and the chicken stock or pasta water, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, and simmer for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Add salt and pepper to taste, and toss with the pasta. Adjust the thickness of the sauce with more pasta water, if needed.
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