The sun is streaming through the windows as a light breeze wafts the aromatic combination of ocean spray and cherry blossoms through my house. I enjoy this time of the year as new growth begins and baby animals are had. The one downside is the pollen which will be forever my downfall lest I remember to take medication before I leave the house, but at least I can enjoy the view from indoors for the most part. I am particularly excited for this spring as I am endeavouring to build a vegetable garden to grow many delicious ingredients to be eaten during the next six months or so. The problem I am facing right now is the deer.
I like deer, I just don’t like that they eat anything I try to plant. Last year I had a lovely tomato plant growing on my porch with some beautiful plump red and juicy tomatoes firming up on the vines when along came a deer like a ninja at night and ate my long anticipated crop. Luckily, the plant itself was intact so tomatoes grew again amongst the green foliage and I made sure to have it well covered and protected from any nighttime visitors.
Sadly though, the tomatoes did not ripen in time before it got too cold again so I harvested them early and decided to use the green tomatoes in a Quebec Style Ketchup which worked rather well and was happily gobbled down with many a meal. This year, as I have four large garden beds as well as several planters holding seeds I have opted to build a temporary fence around the entire yard, one that will not obstruct my view of the ocean, will still stream sunlight down on the plants and will keep the deer out of my yard!
My Aunt and cousin were supposed to come by the other day to help with the fence (well mainly my cousin as he is good at that stuff) and in return I was going to make a nice luncheon for them, my mother and myself. Unfortunately as my Aunt was getting ready to make her way here she was taken with a severe migraine and had to call and cancel the plans which was for the best as I too know what migraines can be like. I stopped all preparations for lunch and decided that I would still make the meal but cut it down for only two people (my cousin was suppose to come with my Aunt) and serve it for dinner instead. This worked out as it gave my mother and I the afternoon to prepare the fence to be put up another day.
I have had a small unopened bottle of lemon vodka sitting on my counter for more then a year now, it was something I was given and had not found any use for it so it just sat there collecting dust. Finally I came up with a recipe that calls for vodka, the lemon flavouring was an added bonus. As I was out and about I headed over to the public market and picked up some delicious basil infused oil, as I felt regular olive oil just didn’t cut it. The nice fresh but sharp cut of the basil helps to balance the sourness of the lemons that are in the dish. Fennel and smoky black forest bacon add an extra layer of pepper and salt.
All the ingredients combined make for a lovely yet subtle flavoured Italian dish. I opted to use gluten free spaghetti but fettuccine, linguini or penne would also make an excellent base for the sauce. I served the pasta with a side salad of kale, strawberries, avocado and microgreens tossed in espresso balsamic thyme vinaigrette. The Espresso balsamic is fast becoming a favourite of mine and is easily adaptable for any meal, be it a main course, a salad or for dessert. To finish the night off I had some freshly sliced chilled strawberries topped with shaved Walnut, Fig and Fennel Seeds dark chocolate and a dark and rich espresso with a bit of raw sugar. It certainly was a perfect end to a long day out in the garden, and I will likely make it again hopefully this time with more people at the table.
PS- As there was plenty left over we combined the pasta with some eggs and sliced mushrooms to make a frittata for breakfast the next day that was equally as yummy.
Lemon Vodka Pasta
Serves: 4-6 Servings
Lemon Vodka Pasta Makes: 4-6 Servings Cook time: 1 Hour Total time: 1½ Hours
- ½ cup lemon vodka or plain vodka
- 2 Large lemons
- 1 Cup cashew cream or other non-dairy alternative
- 2 Cloves garlic, chopped
- ¼ Cup basil oil or
- olive oil plus 1 tbsp
- Salt and Pepper
- 4-5 Leaves fresh basil
- 10 Asparagus spears, cut into threes
- 1 Bulb Fennel
- ½ pound smoked black forest bacon or thick cut bacon (omit to make vegan), cut into thin slices
- Your choice of pasta
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Add 1 tbsp olive oil and garlic to a pot and cook on low-medium heat until garlic becomes aromatic.
- Add in the vodka and turn heat dow to simmer. Let simmer for 5 minutes.
- In separate pan (cast iron is the best) add in bacon and cook until it become more translucent, the bacon should be soft still. Remove from pan and let excess fat drain on a paper towel.
- Remove majority of the fat from the pan then lay the asparagus spear out in a single row. Roast in oven for 10 minutes, turning to make sure all sides are browned. Once ready, remove and set to side.
- Add in the zest from one lemon and the juice of half a lemon (use whole lemon if you are using non-flavoured vodka).
- Combine raw cashews and enough water to cover completely in a blender and blitz until smooth. Add in one cup to the vodka and mix to combine. Place a lid on top and let simmer for half an hour.
- Have a large pot filled with salted water on boil ready to go.
- Thinly slice or shave the fennel bulb and drop into the pot of boiling water. Blanch the fennel for several minutes then remove and plunge into cold water. Set aside.
- Add in pasta to boiling water and cook to al dente.
- Season sauce with pinch of salt and a good dash of pepper. Drizzle in some basil oil.
- Once pasta is ready, remove ½ cup of pasta water and add to sauce. Remove the pasta and transfer to serving bowl.
- Combine all ingredients with pasta, tossing to coat the sauce over everything. If the dish has cooled, either heat up in microwave or oven for a few minutes. Drizzle some basil oil over the dish and drape some fresh basil leave on top before serving.