April 8, 2012
Spring is officially here. Time for fresh potatoes, crisp peas, and tender greens. This dish celebrates them all. With no resemblance to its more traditional mayo-based cousin, this potato salad is fresh and crisp with a delicate balance between marinated potatoes, plump peas, crunchy toasted walnuts, and peppery arugula. The whole lot is tossed in a simple mustard vinaigrette to make an uncomplicated, appetizing side dish for any spring meal.
Last summer I was adamant that our house needed a pasta maker. Scott and I made gnocchi years ago, but I had still never made rolled pasta. For one reason (or many), I did not make the purchase: the pasta makers were more expensive than I imagined, our kitchen cabinets are full to the brim with an assortment of other cooking gear, it was sunny and I wanted to spend time swimming at the river with the kiddos instead of cooking. Anyhow, thanks to Caroline at Grow it, Cook it, Can it for giving me the little push I needed to tackle the pasta project. She is hosting Cook It! 2012, a month-by-month inspiration of sorts to tackle new challenges and try new techniques in the kitchen. This month: fresh pasta.
Originally when I signed onto the challenge, I intended to buy a pasta roller, but again, not wanting to shell out the money and feeling a bit like sticking it to the man- “I don’t need your stinkin’ pasta roller to make fresh pasta at home” I rolled it by hand instead. It was not easy. The pasta dough comes together much like a pastry dough. Beaten egg is poured into a seasoned flour, the trick is to keep moisten the dough just enough to make it come together, but not so much that the dough is wet, which would make the pasta stick together. After a knead and an hour or more to rest, my dryish dough was looking pretty good. It had a mild sheen to it and though firm, gave gently as I firmly pushed it into disc. My rebel spirit suffered as I rolled and rolled. This was seriously hard work, I broke a sweat. Perhaps a pasta roller does have a true purpose. After rolling and flipping and rolling and flipping the dough, I reduced it to an 1/8 of an inch thickness and called it good. Since the dough was still a little on the thick side, I opted to cut the pasta rather thin using a cutting board as a straight edge and a circular pizza cutter.
The recipe for Fresh Rosemary Linguine with Caramelized Onions, Walnuts, and Blue Cheese is adapted from The Greens Cookbook. The caramelized onions are incredibly flavorful thanks to the addition of sage, rosemary, and bay. I made a little extra and they tasted tremendous on an asparagus pizza. The toasty walnuts add a nice crunchy texture and I love how the blue cheese partially melts lending a creamy funk to the whole dish. Yum! This dish is pretty rich tasting, so small servings were perfect with a crisp salad and crisp wine. I will definitely be making more pasta in the coming months (hopefully with a pasta maker), but I am glad to know that it is possible to make a delicious dish without the purchase. You could also make this easily with purchased pasta, but then you miss out on your kids saying, ” Mom, you MADE the pasta?!?!? YUM!”
April 29, 2011
Each winter we grow favas, more for their ability to fix nitrogen into our garden beds, than to eat. We usually have one meal involving the fava beans and then till the plants into the soil or add them to our compost. If you read Sunset magazine, you may have noticed that they have featured fava leaf recipes in the past few issues. I had no idea you could eat the leaves! Actually the leaves are quite delicious and since our plants are four feet tall, there are plenty of them to eat!
The other day, my kids and I set off to the garden, basket and scissors in hand, to pick some fava beans and leaves. Our mission was to make pesto. Pesto is one of my their favorite foods. They love to eat it, but even more so, they love to make it with me. They are old enough now that their “help” actually is help, but not so old that they do not want to help anymore. We collected a basket of fava leaves and as many beans as we could (ours are still a little on the small side). The kids then went to work happily shelling the beans, as I picked the leaves from the stem. Together we pureed the leaves with garlic, walnuts, and parmesan with the kids taking turns pressing the buttons on the food processor. The munchkins also had the job of quality control, testing out the pesto on a toasted slice of bread.
Fava Leaf Pesto has a bright spinachy flavor with hints of artichoke. The intense green color is superb! I tossed it with some hot linguine and topped the bowl with a scattering of blanched baby fava beans and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. My son announced, “I’m definitely having more. I could eat this forever!” Not a bad endorsement. If you do not not have a crop of favas in your backyard, check the farmers’ market. We will definitely make this pesto again!
April 13, 2011
Our garden harvest is in a bit of a lull these days. The profusion of kale and broccoli that feed us through the winter is done. While artichokes are beginning to grace our table, the peas and fresh greens of spring have not quite matured. The herbs however, jubilant in the rain-chasing sun, are thriving! We have piles of oregano, mint, parsley, and chives. I love adding combinations of them to just about any dish.
Lentil Bulgur Salad with Feta and Mint is similar to a tabouli, though heartier. The lentils and bulgur combine to form a complete protein. It is incredibly nourishing and satisfying. The mint, parsley, and lemon add bright flavors and beautiful color. The feta contributes a creamy, tangy element. In summertime, I would make this dish with fresh tomatoes. In springtime, why ruin a perfectly seasonal salad with mediocre tomatoes? I used up some dried tomatoes from last summer, but you could easily skip them altogether as well. Make this dish ahead for a nice light dinner or bring it along to a picnic or potluck. It travels well.