I’ve got Champagne problems. Now I’m not fancy enough to even begin to relate to such problems but I do come across issues that technically really aren’t problems. Take recently when I had to figure out what to do with the large amount of saffron I came across in my cabinet. It was an abundance of saffron that seems to have hidden itself from my view for the past while (and when I say while I mean years). It wasn’t just a few threads but a few tins worth — as in 3 or 4 grams, which is a lot when it comes to something as pricey as saffron.
Ok, before I start sounding even more like a drug dealer, let me explain myself. During my travels to India a few years back (easily one of my all-time favorite food adventures), I came across this awesome spice shop and went to town. Fast forward to me the other day discovering a good amount of that saffron still around and a farmers market bounty of snap peas, asparagus, mushrooms, and leeks in the fridge. You can guess the outcome, which was served as one of the fanciest Sunday meals I’ve had in a good while.
dark green and root trimmed
woody ends trimmed
Heat cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. When it comes to a simmer then remove from heat, add saffron, and set aside until ready to use, at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat and prep the vegetables. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise then thinly slice them across into half moon shapes about 1/4-inch thick. Cut the asparagus and snap peas on the bias into 1/2-inch wide pieces; set aside. When water is boiling, stir in the pasta and cook according to the package directions.
Meanwhile, heat half of the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add leeks, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Add remaining oil, stir in the mushrooms, and cook until golden brown.
Add asparagus and snap peas, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until bright green and slightly tender, about 2 minutes. Add cream and cook until asparagus is just knife tender, about 1 minute more.
When pasta is ready, reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, and drain. Add pasta to cream sauce in pan and toss with tongs to incorporate the vegetables and coat the noodles in the sauce. Add enough of the pasta water so that each noodles is well coated in the sauce, taste it and add more salt or pepper as desired. When pasta is well coated, add about two-thirds of the tarragon, give it a few more tosses then plate it and sprinkle with remaining tarragon before serving.
Food styling and photography by Aida Mollenkamp