6.17.2010

The Local Food Report: week one

Three weeks—around here, that's how long pea season is.

It makes me a little frantic, to tell you the truth. How am I going to get my fill? Should I call out of work on the last night if I haven't yet fit in, say, that creamy mint and fresh peas pasta dish? Should I be eating peas for breakfast, stuck to a knife with honey, or maybe sautéed with roasted mushrooms, so as not to waste a meal? What if I need to make these crushed peas with smokey sesame dressing twice? Peas are serious business, and I mean to get them done.

This week was week one. David Light (of the Kitchen Garden in Orleans) had Coral peas at the market Saturday, and a line to match. The first sweet, fresh shucking peas of the season were flying off the table at a rate of nearly three pounds a minute, and by the time I got up front, they were almost gone. As a matter of fact—phew!—I got the last pound.

Next week, he says, he'll have more—Lincoln peas, his main crop will be coming in—and this time around, I plan to stock up. I still want to make peas and prosciutto—although given that I haven't seen any local cured meats around here, it might have to be peas and bacon—and I want to make petits pois again at least once this year, and I'm very much hoping to try this spring tabouli recipe before my three weeks are up.


The fact that we only ate a single pound of peas in this whole first week, well, it's a bit disappointing. Luckily, the dish was not. It was fresh and incredibly green, snappy and zingy and with just enough bacon to make it almost rich, too. Plus, it's the kind of recipe you look at and think: all these ingredients are just right this time of year. The markets still have asparagus, the peas are just coming in, butter lettuce is multiplying like mad, and spring onions abound.

So quick—before the window passes—dig in.

PASTA WITH PEAS, ASPARAGUS, BACON, AND WILTED BUTTER LETTUCE

I adapted this recipe from one in the spring pasta slideshow online at Bon Appetit.com. When I saw the title, and then the ingredient list, there was really nothing to stand in my way; it looked delicious, and everything I needed was either in our fridge from the market, or growing in the yard. (Ok, except the pig.) It was easy, fast, and fresh, and bright in a very early summer kind of way.

4 slices bacon
1/2 pound spring onions, chopped
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 and 1/2 pounds asparagus, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1 cup shelled fresh peas (from about 1 pound peas in pods)
1 pound small shell pasta
olive oil, for drizzling
1 head butter lettuce
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook the bacon over medium high heat in a large skillet. When the meat is crisp, remove it and set it aside on a dishtowel to drain. Meanwhile, add the onions to the pan. Sauté them in the bacon fat for 5 to 8 minutes, or until they get soft and translucent. Season with a bit of salt. Deglaze with the white wine by drizzling it around the pan; it should hiss and steam. Simmer until it is reduced by half, then pour in the chicken stock, turn the heat down to a simmer, and set aside.

Cook the asparagus and the peas in a large pot of boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes, or until just tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer immediately to a bowl of ice water (this helps the vegetables keep their color and also stops them from over-cooking). Bring the water in the pot back to a boil and add the pasta. Cook for 8-10 minutes, or until al dente; then drain, return to the pot, and toss with olive oil.

Crumble the bacon and sprinkle it into the onion mixture. Add the asparagus and peas to this pan, too, and the butter lettuce. Cook until the vegetables are just hot and the lettuce wilts down. Transfer the pasta to a serving dish, pour this vegetable mixture over top, add Parmesan, and toss well. Serve at once.

4 comments :

Laura T. said...

I'm also loving that it's pea season since I have a similar go-to pasta recipe. Though that one includes thinly cut carrots and quartered mushrooms to mix up the colors and textures. I'll have to try adding a little prosciutto next time.

Elspeth said...

Laura, I like the idea of mushrooms! I picked up a half pound of shiitakes at the farmers' market today so maybe a pea—mushroom combo is next.

Thanks for the inspiration!

Anonymous said...

Delicious recipe perfect for fresh peas! I used prosciutto instead of bacon and added grape tomatoes in after the onions were about halfway done. Enjoyed it with another local maine product- borealis bread! Thanks for always giving me local inspiration in the kitchen. -Nicki in Brunswick :)

Elspeth said...

Nicki, I'm so glad you tried this. I like the sounds of prosciutto and cherry tomatoes—and of course, Borealis bread! My parents always keep a loaf of that on hand.

Hope you are enjoying the summer and it's so nice to hear a voice from home—

All the best,
Elspeth

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