Orecchiette with Asparagus and Smoked Salmon

20140712-111932-40772767.jpgWhen I was growing up in the 1970s, there were four kinds of pasta know to us in suburbia: spaghetti, macaroni, lasagna noodles and, if we were feeling very exotic, manicotti. That was pretty much our full repertoire of Italian pasta (I’m not counting Chef Boyardee ravioli because I don’t think it counts as any distinct food group at all). I was well into adulthood before I experimented with pasta dishes that didn’t involve meaty tomato sauce or tons of cheese. Now, however, I love to experiment with all kinds of pasta dishes as well as pasta shapes. On our trip to Italy, Tom and I had the opportunity to try many local pasta dishes that we continue to make at home–none of them drowning in sauce and all of them featuring fresh, seasonal vegetables and seafood. Yum. It was astounding the variety of shapes and sizes of pasta available in Italy. I wanted to fill my suitcase with them!

One of my favorite pasta shapes is orecchiette (or “little ears”) pasta. Shaped somewhat like a little hat, this pasta holds sauce well and is very satisfying. I think you can find this pretty much anywhere now, but if you can’t find it, you can easily substitute penne.

Now that we are seriously increasing our running mileage, I am trying to incorporate more pasta dishes into our meals. This dish is one we experimented with this week and it is really delicious! I’m a huge fan of smoked salmon, but you could easily substitute some grilled or pan seared salmon instead and it would be fabulous (or shrimp…or chicken…pasta is flexible that way). We have been lucky to score some local mushrooms this week and we added them to the dish for an earthier, meatier flavor. So good!

Give this a try for a nice summer supper!

Orecchiette with Asparagus and Smoked Salmon (serves 4-6)

  • 16 oz. orecchiette pasta
  • 2 tbsp. organic butter
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2-3 cups fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 lb. fresh asparagus, trimmed
  • 4 oz. smoked salmon
  • Zest of 1 organic lemon
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Freshly grated or shaved Parmesan cheese
  1. In a stock pot, bring heavily salted pasta water to a boil.
  2. Add orecchiette to the stock pot and cook according to directions (12-13 minutes)
  3. In a large saute pan, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat until butter is melted and begins to foam.
  4. Peel and mince the garlic. Add to the saute pan. Cook 1 minute.
  5. Add the sliced mushrooms and saute for 3-4 minutes.
  6. Chop the asparagus into bite sized pieces and add to the mushrooms. Cook an additional 3-4 minutes.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Pull or chop the smoked salmon into bite sized pieces and add the salmon and lemon zest to the saute pan.
  9. Heat for 2-3 minutes until salmon is warm and vegetables are cooked, but still a bit crisp.
  10. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta and add to the saute pan. Toss all together until well combined.
  11. Add small amounts of the pasta water as necessary to make a light sauce. Correct seasonings if needed.
  12. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

 

 

Polenta with Mushrooms, Kale and Egg

20140214-190446.jpg

This dish made a rather unconventional Valentine’s Day supper for us this year. Tired of the usual “let’s grill a steak,” we opted for a simple, but delicious dish of polenta (in our case we used local stone ground grits), winter greens, rich mushrooms and onion, topped with a farm egg and shaved Parmesan cheese. It was a delicious, almost-vegetarian meal that was both warming and nutritious.

Polenta with Mushrooms, Kale and Egg (serves 2)

2 cups water
1/2 cup stone ground grits or polenta
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cream or almond milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 cups mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 cups kale or Swiss chard, cleaned and chopped
Kosher or sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste

2 fresh farm eggs

Add the water and salt to a saucepan and bring to a boil.
While water is heating, add the olive oil to a skillet and heat to medium high. Add the onion and cook for about 3-4 minutes, or until the onion is soft.
Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium.
Add the mushrooms to the skillet, stir well, add some salt and pepper and sauté for about 5-6 minutes.
While mushrooms are cooking, add the grits to the boiling water, stir well and cook according to directions (about 6 minutes). Add the milk and butter. Stir well and keep grits warm.
Add the kale to the skillet, stir well and cook 5 minutes or until the kale is wilted. Correct seasonings, if needed.
Heat a small, non-stick skillet over medium heat and cook the eggs to your desired doneness (I like them to have runny yolks).
Assemble the dish by adding hot grits to two bowls. Top with the mushrooms mixture. Add an egg and some shaved Parmesan cheese to the top of each bowl.
Serve immediately.

Pasta with Shrimp, Asparagus and Mushrooms

20130510-161930.jpg

The azaleas and dogwoods are blooming, the spring pollen has coated everything with a fine dusting of yellow and asparagus are back at the farmers market. Spring is finally in full swing! It was hard to contain myself at the market this week–I see all that beautiful (and very temporary) asparagus, and I want to buy it all up. But that would be wrong. Still, I did manage to bring home some lovely, fresh-picked asparagus along with some NC shrimp from Locals Seafood for this pasta dish. I love this pasta. Satisfying, yet much lighter than our heavier winter pasta creations, this recipe was made on the fly with what we found at the market (except lemons–they do not grow here!).

For this dish, use very good quality olive oil, butter and cheese! I’ve started buying organic butter from grass-fed cows and it is expensive, but really wonderful in a dish where you will taste the butter (and no growth hormones!). I saved the trimmings from our asparagus (I wanted more of the pretty tops and less stem in this dish) and I will use the tender stems minced in our veggie risotto tomorrow night!

In theory, this feeds 4 people. But Tom and I were ravenous for some reason, and nearly finished the pot between the two of us, so if you have a hungry household, make a salad to go with this.

Pasta with Shrimp, Asparagus and Mushrooms (serves 4)

1 lb. orecchiette pasta (little ears)
1 shallot
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons fresh, grass-fed butter
1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and cleaned
1 lb. fresh asparagus, washed and trimmed
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 lemon zested and juiced
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and ground pepper

Peel and mince the shallot and garlic cloves. Set aside.
Fill a large stock pot with water for pasta. When pasta water boils, add a healthy scoop of salt to the water along with the pasta. Lower heat to medium high and cook pasta for 10 minutes.
While pasta is cooking, combine the olive oil and butter in a large sauté pan and melt over medium heat. When foam subsides, add shallot and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes.
Add the asparagus and mushrooms and salt/pepper to taste. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes.
Add the shrimp, lemon juice and zest. Cook until the shrimp are just pink. Do not overlook!
When pasta is done, drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.
Add pasta and all vegetables to a large serving bowl. Toss, adding some pasta water to make a light sauce.
Sprinkle with cheese and serve!

Swiss Chard with Mushrooms and Eggs

20130510-122516.jpg

Is there a culinary Easy Button? I mean, one that doesn’t involve pizza delivery? Because some nights, I just want things to be easy. If I have to defrost or measure, it’s too much work. Do you have those nights? I’m guessing it’s not just me. This recipe is becoming one of my “go to” meals for those nights. You only need one pan, a cutting board, a knife, a spoon and a spatula. And the whole dish cooks in about 20 minutes. What’s not to love?

Adding to the love, the Swiss chard in our garden is going berzerk. Swiss chard is super easy to grow, pretty to look at with its multicolored stems and it keeps growing even after you cut it. Did I mention it’s a super food? Yep, it sure is. It’s a miracle plant, I tell you. If you have a little patch of soil or a raised bed, I highly recommend growing these greens.

A note about fungi. This recipe uses mushrooms, which I know are a controversial vegetable (or fungus?). Regardless, people either love them or hate them. I personally love them, Ellie hates them. If you have haters in your family, just substitute something else for the mushrooms. Red bell peppers would be good, especially if they are roasted. Or even white beans. Go crazy!

Eggs cooked in a nest of chard and mushrooms--easy and healthy!

Eggs cooked in a nest of chard and mushrooms–easy and healthy!

One thing you should not skimp on with this recipe are the eggs. Eggs are a centerpiece in this dish, so use the best, freshest eggs possible. You can cook the eggs to your preference, but I like the yolks runny–they become magic with the greens. This is one good place to use those $4.00/dozen farm eggs because you will really taste the difference.

Swiss Chard with Mushrooms and Eggs (serves 2)

  • 1 bunch Swiss Chard, rinsed well to remove any sand
  • 1 organic yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
  • 4 fresh eggs
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • Kosher or sea salt and pepper to taste
  1. Trim the stems off the Swiss chard and dice into similar sizes to the onion. Add chopped stems to the onion.
  2. In a saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and chard stems. Cook for about 5 minutes, until onions are soft and stems have started to soften. Stir well. Season to taste.
  3. Add mushrooms to the pan and cook for about 2 minute, stirring well to keep vegetables from getting too brown.
  4. Chop the Swiss chard leaves and add to the pan. Keep turning the greens with the other vegetables until the greens are coated with olive oil and juices. Saute until the greens are wilted. Reduce heat to medium/low
  5. Take your spoon and flatten the greens and veggies. Make four depressions in the greens.
  6. Crack one egg into each depression. Season top with salt and pepper. Cover and cook 2 minutes, until eggs are opaque and set, but yolks are still runny.
  7. Remove from heat and use a spatula to divide the pan of greens in half. Lift greens carefully with eggs intact and plate.
  8. Serve immediately.
%d bloggers like this: