Seasoncentric—The Italian Way

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IMG_6988You have all heard the term egocentric which means regarding the self as the center of all things.  Well, I have coined a new word, seasoncentric, meaning obsessed with all things seasonal.  This describes me as I saunter through the farmers market excited and overwhelmed by the vision of the available bounty.  I couldn’t resist taking my camera along so I could capture the fleeting moment to be remembered as spring wanes.  Vendor after vendor offering asparagus, spring onions, parsnips, spinach, rhubarb and yes, the treasured morels.  That’s right, they have arrived!  I admit at $80.00/ pound they exceeded my budget but I will keep looking hoping to forage a few in our woods or perhaps finding them at a more reasonable price point.  Prized by many, nothing excites my palate more than these wild mushrooms.  Like ramps, they are available for a very short window, are in short supply and a precious reminder of nature’s gifts.IMG_7038

Being at the market yesterday reminded me of Italy.  The homeland of my ancestors, I am always struck by the focus on the seasons.  Just like I mentioned in my post last week, the philosophy of beautiful food simply prepared is so prevalent there.  I remember visiting in June a few years back and seeing a vendor in Rome selling bags of chestnuts he was roasting on a little street cart.  The smell was intoxicating and the scene so quaint I couldn’t resist the temptation.  One of the Italians we were traveling with looked at me in shock and said, “why eat December food in the summer?”  I felt like such a tourist.  IMG_6964IMG_6981

Similar to the Italian people at their markets I traveled through the sea of seasonal offerings yesterday in search of the best looking at the best price so I could take the prizes home and create something mouth-watering.  My breakfast this morning was an asparagus, spring onion and spinach frittata topped with some Parmigiano Reggiano,  Yum!

Available in abundance at the market and also growing in my garden, asparagus is at the height of its season so I tend to eat it everyday.  That said, I must share one of my favorite spring preparations.  Simple ingredients, colossal flavor, it goes down like this.

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LEMON ASPARAGUS PASTA                                           Serves 6

Recipe adapted from Red, White, and Greens: The Italian Way with Vegetables           by Faith Heller Willinger

1lb fresh asparagus

2T sea salt

1T fresh lemon zest, finely grated (preferably organic)

¼ c extra-virgin olive oil

1 lb penne rigate pasta (preferably Italian)

¾ c Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

2T Italian flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

  1. Grab end of asparagus stem and snap off tough ends.       Discard. Cut into 1 inch pieces, separate tips and set aside. Cook asparagus stems in 5-6 quarts boiling water with 2 T sea salt, until very tender, 6-8 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon or spider to a colander, reserving cooking water in pot, and rinse under cold water. Drain well and transfer to a food processor.
  2. Cook asparagus tips in same boiling water until just tender 3-5 minutes. Transfer with slotted spoon or spider to a bowl of ice water, again reserving cooking water in pot. Set aside.
  3.  Puree asparagus stems with lemon zest, oil, and ½ c asparagus cooking water. Set aside.
  4.  Cook pasta in boiling asparagus cooking water until it is al dente, around ¾ of the recommended cooking time. Reserve 2 cups cooking water and drain pasta.
  5.  Put pasta back in pan, add ½ c reserved water to asparagus sauce and stir into pasta. Cook over medium high heat stirring 3-5 minutes. Add asparagus tips and cooking water ¼ c at a time until sauce coats pasta. Sauce should be thickened but not too thick, as the cheese will thicken it slightly.
  6.  Stir in Parmigano-Reggiano and salt and pepper to taste cook, stirring, until cheese is melted. Transfer to platter arranging the bright green tips so they are highly visible.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley and additional cheese.

I have made this many times as well as featured it in class. I can say without hesitation it is a recipe you will want to include in your seasonal rotation.  The fresh pop of the lemon paired with the grassiness of the asparagus and the nutty Parmesan makes a palate pleasing combination everybody loves.  I guarantee.

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I have told you about the produce but our market would not be complete without the “Raging Grannnies” singing their anti-war songs and the music offerings of the National Guard Jazz band.  Just goes to show there is room for all of us no matter what your philosophy.IMG_7008

 

So go forward, choose your favorite seasonal ingredients and spread the love, one dish at a time.  Sending it out to you on this beautiful spring day.  With love,  Jeanne

Coming To My Garden This Week!!!

Coming To My Garden This Week!!!

 

 

 

 

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14 responses to “Seasoncentric—The Italian Way

  1. Debora Morton

    Jeanne—those are really great photos and loved the article!! Happy Spring!—Debi

  2. Thanks, Debi. I hope we are finally over the cold weather. Maybe it is time to plant the tomatoes. Hope I can get over your way soon. Take care.

  3. Elizabeth Palmer

    I perused those parsnips this past Saturday, as well! We hunted for morels yesterday on a friend’s property; only found two! But I think the scarcity makes them all the more worth eating; as you say, a theme of much of eating seasonally. I think I’ll try your Lemon Asparagus Pasta tonight, Jeanne. Enjoy those lilacs this week!

  4. Thanks, Elizabeth. I know you are going to love this recipe. It is by far my favorite spring preparation. Are you a fan of parsnips? I make them sometimes (mostly roasted) but not a huge fan. Do you have any good recipes you want to share? Mmmmmm, morels. hoping to find some. I think I will check those lilacs. Have a great day. Jeanne

  5. Elizabeth Palmer

    Funny that you should ask about parsnips… I was thinking of asking you if you had a good recipe for them! I too roast them, (and I do rather enjoy them that way) but that seems too autumnal for my spring palate… Perhaps in a cream soup?? I’ll let you know if I find a new riff on parsnips!

  6. Thanks, Elizabeth. I think of them as a fall veg but my friend told me they always over winter them and harvest in the spring, thus making them a spring veg I guess. She says they are sweeter. I am going to have to try them. I will research a recipe and let you know. Cream soup sounds good.

  7. Once again you have my taste buds pulsating!!! Off to the market for the ingredients…”It’s what for dinner tonight”!!!

  8. Jeanne, it was a fantastic dish. I was sharing your love tonight! Dinner for eight…kudos galore 🙂

  9. So glad it was such a hit! I have never met anyone who didn’t like it. Thanks for the feedback, Kathy.

  10. I have never changed a planned menu on a dime. Plus I usually don’t serve anything I haven’t at least tried once. You must be inspiring me 🙂

  11. Happy to hear it, Kathy. Thank you.

  12. Jeanne, you have a way with seasonal vegetables and writing so descriptively, I could almost hear the “snap” of the asparagus. I believe your guarantee on this recipe! (Okay, all of them…) Thank you!

    • You are so kind, Kim. I can’t help but be excited when those spring veggies start to come in, especially this year. Let me know if you try the recipe. Had coffee by the pool this morning. Finally! It’s the little things I guess. Take care and thank you for your comments. Love hearing from you. Jeanne

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