Linguine with Morels, Asparagus and Peas

Linguine with Morels, Asparagus and Peas

Morels, asparagus and peas team up in this quintessential springtime pasta dish. Earthy mushrooms marry well with astringent asparagus and sweet peas. Famously delicious in sauces, risottos and pasta, these ingredients require little else except a nap of cream and a sprinkling of cheese to bind them all together, resulting in an easy yet elegant seasonal meal.

Linguine with Asparagus, Morels and Fava Beans
Serves 4

1/2 ounce dried morel mushrooms or 1/4 pound fresh morels, cleaned, sliced
1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed, cut in 1″ pieces
Salt
1 pound linguine
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 cup heavy heavy cream
1/2 cup shelled sweet peas
Freshly ground black pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese

Prepare morels:
If using dried morels, place in a small bowl and cover with boiling water.  Let sit 20 minutes.  Drain and gently squeeze out any extra liquid.  Cut in half lengthwise and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add asparagus and blanch until crisp-tender and bright green without overcooking, 1 minute.  Remove with slotted spoon and refresh under cold water.  Set aside.
Add linguine to same pot and cook until al dente or firm to the bite according to package instructions; drain.
Heat olive oil and melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic, morels and 1 teaspoon salt.  Sauté until garlic is fragrant and morels are tender, about 2 minutes.  Add chicken stock and cream.  Simmer until thickened and reduced by about half, 5-7 minutes.  Stir in peas and simmer until brightened and crisp tender, 1 minute. Stir in  the asparagus.  Add pasta to the skillet and toss to combine.  Season with lots of freshly ground black pepper. Serve with a generous spoonful of grated cheese for garnish.

Orzo Salad with Peas, Radishes and Pecorino

Orzo Salad with Peas, Radishes and Pecorino
Orzo tf
Yes, I know I am posting back-to-back pasta dishes. The previous post was in celebration of autumn. The calendar and unusually cool weather got the best of me, and I confess I may have jumped the gun. Just as that post was published, summer returned with a vengeance, perhaps in a fiesty face-saving attempt to rectify it’s dismal display until now. The cool weather skyrocketed to triple digits and just looking at an oven made me sweat. Move aside fireside dinners, your time will come. When it’s this hot, it’s necessary to rely on cool, no-cook or nearly-no-cook recipes for light eating. And this recipe does the trick.This orzo dish is fresh and simple to prepare. Serve as a light main course or, better yet, a side dish to accompany your Labor Day barbecue.
Orzo Salad with Peas, Radishes and Pecorino
The radish leaves may be substituted with Italian flat-leaf parsley or a combination of parsley and mint leaves. Serves 4-6 as a side dish.1/2 pound (250 grams) orzo
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
12 ounces frozen peas, defrosted, rinsed and dried
6-8 radishes, halved and thinly sliced
3 green onions, tips and ends discarded, sliced
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup radish leaves, washed, coarsely chopped
Finely grated zest of one lemon
Juice of one half lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Grated pecorino cheese (mild, not too piquant) for garnishBring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add orzo and cook until al dente. Drain; toss with one tablespoon olive oil. Cool to room temperature.
Add the remaining ingredients except the pecorino cheese. Toss to combine and taste for seasoning. Serve sprinkled with cheese.

Orrechietti with Prosciutto, Asparagus, Peas and Mint

Pasta Peas Prosciutto

It was a good day at the farmer’s market today. Spring is in full force in Northern California.  Baskets of arugula, mesclun, mustard greens and kale flowers vied for attention between tables teetering with asparagus, artichokes, fava beans and sugar peas.  I discovered elephant garlic scapes, nibbled on Venezuelan artisan chocolate, sampled extra-virgin olive oil and a sublime balsamic vinegar.  The sun was strong in the sky after a week of rain.  It was only 8:30 in the morning.

In usual fashion, my money ran out before my eyes and tastebuds tired.  Each time I go to the market I promise myself I will walk through the stalls first – just to look, taste samples, take pictures, and restrain myself from heavy purchases.  Once through I will double back to stock up, saving the heaviest items for last: citrus, potatoes and tubers, bottles of oil, kilos of meat.

In a perfect world.

This time, I made it through two thirds of the market before I had to turn back, my shopping bags bulging, my arms aching from dangling plastic sacks, handbag and camera, everything dusted in a coat of flour from ficelles balancing in the crook of my elbow.  A woman passed me pulling a smart trolley layered with wicker baskets filled with her market harvest, gracefully maneuvering through the crowds, stopping and chatting, tasting, selecting.  I made a mental note to find one of those for myself.

This recipe is inspired by today’s acquisitions and the TasteFood recipe archives:

Orrechietti with Prosciutto, Asparagus, Peas and Mint
Serves 4

6 ounces (170 g.) prosciutto
1 pound (500 g.) asparagus, ends trimmed, cut on the diagonal in 1″ pieces

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup (125 ml.) chicken stock
1 1/2 cups (375 ml.) heavy cream
1 cup shelled English peas
1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Freshly ground black pepper

Additional grated Pecorino Romano for garnish

Preheat oven to 325 F./170 C.  Arrange prosciutto slices on baking sheet.  Bake in oven 15 minutes.  Turn off oven and leave prosciutto in for additional 15 minutes.  Remove.  Break prosciutto into 1/2″ pieces.  Set aside.

Steam asparagus pieces until tender but still firm.  Remove from heat and rinse under cold water; set aside.

In a large saucepan cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente.  Drain and return to pot.
While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in skillet.  Add garlic and cook until aromatic but not brown, about 1 minute.  Add stock and cream.  Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer and cook until reduced by a third.  Add peas and cook one minute.  Add asparagus, half the prosciutto, and freshly ground black pepper, stirring to combine.  Add cream sauce to the orrechietti. Stir in 1 cup Pecorino Romano and 1/4 cup mint. Serve immediately. Garnish with additional grated Pecorino Romano cheese, mint leaves and remaining prosciutto.

Sautéed Garlic Shrimp with Minted Pea Purée and Pecorino

Sautéed Garlic Shrimp with Minted Pea Purée and Pecorino

Shrimp and Pea Puree

English peas are nature’s superior answer to fast food.  Sweet and crisp, they taste best popped straight from the shell into the mouth; no need to bother with cooking.  At this time of year peas are abundant, and when I go to the farmers’ market I find myself using up all of my spare money on brown bags overflowing with peas.  Today was no different:  I came home from the market with several pounds of peas, cascading out of their overstuffed bags, mingling with bunches of fresh mint, chives, and edible kale flowers. Once home, I quickly confiscated a singular bag to stash away and later transform into a pea puree while the rest of the family and visiting friends grabbed handfuls of peas as they passed through the kitchen.

The pea puree is delicious as is, but my favorite way to serve it is with shellfish.  The briny sweetness of shrimp, scallops or lobster is a perfect compliment to the sweetness of the peas, while the pearly coral colors of the shellfish contrast beautifully with the vivid green pea color.  I like to present the following recipe  in small glasses or demi-tasse cups with the shellfish perched on top.

English Peas

Sautéed Garlic Shrimp with Minted Pea Purée and Pecorino
Serves 8 as an appetizer

2 cups shelled English peas
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon dried chili flakes
1 large garlic clove, minced
16 large shrimp, peeled with tails intact, deveined
2 tablespoons dry white wine

Pecorino Romano shavings
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil

Fresh chives for garnish
Kale flowers (optional)

Prepare Pea Purée:
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add 1 teaspoon salt and the peas. Reduce heat and simmer until peas are tender. Remove from heat; drain peas, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid.
Combine peas and 1/4 cup cooking liquid in food processor and purée until smooth. Add more water to desired consistency. Transfer to bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil, Pecorino and fresh mint. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Prepare Shrimp:
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan. Add garlic and chili flakes. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add shrimp in one layer and cook, turning once, until pink on the outside and opaque in the center, about 1 minute per side. Add wine and cook 30 seconds to allow alcohol to evaporate. Remove from heat. Divide warm pea purée among 8 demi-tasse cups or martini glasses. Arrange 2 shrimp over purée. Top with Pecorino shavings, freshly ground black pepper and drizzle olive oil over. Garnish with chives and edible flowers.

Kale Flowers