Food can be wonderfully romantic; nothing says â€œromanceâ€ quite like a candlelit dinner for two!Â And thereâ€™s nothing sexier than a man in the kitchen.Â Food engages all five senses and makes us feel alive like nothing else . . . well, maybe thereâ€™s one other thing. *wink*Â Thatâ€™s why when I sat down to write a contemporary romance, the pairing of chefs and love stories was so natural and fun for meâ€”and, overwhelmingly, people tell me itâ€™s what makes my books fun to read! And so the Recipe for Love novels were born: Canâ€™t Stand the Heat, which debuted last September, and this month, On the Steamy Side.
Thereâ€™s more to dinner than a seduction scene, though.Â Part of the resonance of food is that it brings people together in all kinds of ways.Â On a recent trip to Florida to give a workshop to the lovely STAR chapter, I had the opportunity to eat and cook with two of my closest writing friends, Kristen Painter and Roxanne St. Claire.Â We drank Chardonnay, laughed like hyenas, danced around the kitchen like wild women, and made some of the most delicious pasta Iâ€™ve ever eaten in my life.
The best part?Â We made the recipe up together, pulling ideas from our different kitchen and dining experiences, and mixing them into a glorious blend of influences from French cuisine to rustic home cooking to health food.
The results were glorious!Â Iâ€™ll never forget that mealâ€”the nutty bite of al dente whole wheat spaghetti enhanced by beautiful brown butter, sweet roasted tomatoes and asparagus, and livened up with tart lemon juice and salty feta.Â Undeniably scrumptious . . . but it was the laughter and friendship we enjoyed as we cooked that added the perfect spice to this great dish.Â
Whole Wheat Pasta with Roasted Vegetables and Brown Butter
Â 1Â Â pound whole wheat thin Barrilla spaghetti
2Â Â pints grape tomatoes, halved crosswise
2Â Â bundles asparagus, blunt ends snapped off
6Â Â cloves garlic, sliced
1Â Â tablespoon olive oil
1Â Â lemon, juice and zest
2Â Â sticks butter
10Â fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
8Â Â Â ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Toss the vegetables and garlic with the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, and salt and pepper to taste.Â Spread the mixture on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until the tomatoes begin to caramelize and the asparagus is tender, stirring occasionally.
Cook the pasta to al dente (not to shill, but I recommend Barrilla as the best whole wheat pasta Iâ€™ve tried), following the instructions on the package.Â Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat.Â Brown the butter slowly; watching carefully to make sure it doesnâ€™t burn.Â It will stay yellow for a while then turn golden almost in the blink of an eye, so keep an eye on it!Â Shake the pan back and forth frequently to keep from scorching the butter on the bottom.
Chiffonade the basil leaves (stack the leaves, roll the stack into a cigarette shape, then slice thinly crosswise).Â Toss the pasta with the roasted vegetables, the brown butter, the basil leaves, and the feta.Â If youâ€™d like it saucier, thin with some of the reserved pasta water.
Enjoy with a simple green salad, plenty of white wine, and your best friends!
Share some of your favorite dishes to cook and eat with friends for a chance to win an autographed copy of On the Steamy Side, an environmentally friendly Farmerâ€™s tote and a Tastebook (recipes from Louisa and her chef friends).