It rained yesterday. It will rain today. And the forecast is for rain almost every day for weeks to come. We've had this pattern for months. The ground is like chocolate pudding and I'm weeks behind in my planting schedule. I have no idea when I'll be able to plant my tomato and herb seedlings. And we had flood warnings yesterday. This happens every so often in Northern California. Meanwhile, my relatives in Mississippi are contending with a drought. I don't know where all the wet weather is headed after it leaves us, but it would be nice if some of it went to areas that need it. On Monday I was sulking because I can't plant my garden and it will be months before I can harvest tomatoes. So, I made a dish heavily laden with vegetables. Each serving was bursting with asparagus, leeks, green chard and morel mushrooms. It reminded me that there is good produce out there to buy and that will have to tide me over until I can finally harvest my own vegetables.
I enjoyed this recipe a great deal. I literally fell upon it, shoveling the food into my mouth. Not a pretty picture. But, I've been eating small portions, with no snacks at all. So, if I seem to gush about how DELICIOUS or WONDERFUL my meals are lately, chalk it up to extreme hunger. Food always tastes great when you're starving. Well, it feels like starvation.
Penne with Morels and Spring Vegetables (Williams-Sonoma)
The recipe calls for fresh morels, but I used dried morels instead. I didn't use the prosciutto, which would taste wonderful. But, it was delicious without it.
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 oz. fresh morel or other flavorful wild or
cultivated mushrooms (about 6 large), rinsed
quickly or wiped clean and halved, if large. Or substitute dried mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, Reserve the strained liquid from the mushrooms
1 leek, white and light green portions, rinsed
well and finely julienned
2 oz. prosciutto, diced (optional)
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 bunch Swiss chard, about 3/4 lb., leaves finely
shredded and stems cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt, to taste
1 lb. asparagus, tough ends trimmed, spears
cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
1 cup fresh or frozen baby lima beans
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1 lb. penne
Grated zest of 1 lemon (about 2 tsp.)
1/2 cup grated or shaved pecorino romano
In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the mushrooms, leek, prosciutto (if you are using it) and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leek is soft, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chard leaves, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chard wilts, 3 to 4 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan three-fourths full of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Add salt and the chard stems and boil until tender, about 3 minutes. Using a wire skimmer, scoop out the stems and add to the fry pan.
Add the asparagus to the boiling water and cook until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. The timing will depend upon the thickness of the spears. Scoop out the asparagus and add to the fry pan. Add the lima beans to the boiling water and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Scoop out the beans and add to the fry pan. Season the vegetables with the coarse salt; keep warm.
Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until ail dente (tender but firm to the bite), about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water or use the reserved mushroom soaking liquid. Transfer the pasta and the reserved water/mushroom liquid to a warmed large serving bowl.
Pour the contents of the fry pan over the pasta, add the lemon zest and cheese, and toss well. Serve immediately. Serves 6.