08 September 2010


"A" could be for a whole lot of things, but let's face it, cheese deserves top billing in most circumstances. So let's go with A for Asiago.

Asiago cheese is a versatile and adaptable cheese. Not the priciest of the "specialty" cheeses, it's a good choice for sprucing things up on a reasonable budget.

Asiago comes with a black wax shell that is easily peeled off. Salty and dry, it has the clumpy and stringy qualities of parmesan when it has melted. Finely grating it (ideally with a microplane or rasp) will reduce the likelihood of those unsightly clumps.

So how to use that Asiago? Well, how about a very simple pasta, similar to a recipe I posted very early on in this blog. Let's just simplify it a bit.

This works out for two people, but doubling it will easily feed a family or friends.

Enough dried Spaghetti or fettucine for 2
12 or so large shrimp (cleaned and deveined, cooked or raw)
1/2 cup green peas
1/2 red pepper
2 cloves garlic
generous 1/2 cup finely grated Asiago cheese (more to taste)
Olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
Freshly ground black pepper

Throw your pasta water on to boil early, as it's the slowest part of this meal. Use a big pot.

Meanwhile, dice up your pepper into small pieces (ie under 1/2 inch) and then very finely mince the garlic.

When the water is boiling, throw in the pasta. You've now got about 8 or 9 minutes to cook.

Heat a heavy skillet over medium flame. Throw in about 2 Tbsp of olive oil, the Tbsp of butter.  Once the butter is melted, toss in the red pepper. Toss it to coat, and let it cook for about 2 minutes. Then toss in your shrimp and your peas (if you use raw shrimp, add them to the peppers sooner, and wait until they're pink before you add the peas). Give them another toss, then let them cook for another 2 minutes. Add a bit of black pepper. Chuck in the garlic, and mix it in. Turn the heat to low.

Your shrimp might give off some water, but just leave it in the pan. It'll add flavour to your pasta!

Drain your pasta, returning it to the pot with a small glug of olive oil and a quick toss to keep it from sticking. Throw in the Asiago, giving it a very gentle stir with some tongs or a spaghetti spoon (the toothy spoon!). Toss in the shrimp and veggie mixture, and again, give a gentle mix.

Spoon into large bowls, and grind over each bowl with some black pepper. You could garnish with some chopped basil or parsley, but I'd just stick with a bit more Asiago grated over top.

There you have it. Dinner in about 15 minutes. Delicious with some oaky Chardonnay, or a fresh but not too dry Sauvignon Blanc.


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