there is something really lovely about rain soaked trees.
as you mostly know, i live in a wood. this has its pluses and minuses like everyplace. pluses like incredible overnight transformation from gray to leafy green every spring (what a show!). and minuses like more spiders and bugs as well as lots and lots of crazy (really crazy) squirrels. but living in a wood can sometimes be inspirational and lead me to create a new recipe for dinner. i was walking around after a recent rain and stumbled on some lovely ferns just emerging. remembering the fiddleheads i'd seen at whole foods market the day before, a recipe popped into my head. a rustic woodland-inspired pasta primavera. with shiitake mushrooms and sliced asparagus. pasta primavera is an italian-american dish (inspired by italian cuisine, yet cooked in america) which means spring pasta. usually it is a cream sauce with lots of vegetables tucked here and there, like carrots, peas and broccoli, in the 80s and 90s it was on nearly every menu at italian restaurants in new york. it was all the rage and written up by craig claiborne in the ny times as a brilliant innovation. i ordered it a lot back then and it included a slightly different mix of vegetables each time.
anyway, i rarely see it now, maybe because i no longer have a generous expense account as at my former employers in nyc, or maybe because it has fallen out of favor, pushed aside by fresh combinations.
but now it is back, at my house anyway, and with an earthy woodland twist. the whole wheat fettucini is rustic and a nice complement to this dish.
woodland pasta primavera
17 oz fresh whole wheat pasta (bought mine at whole foods)
1/4 cup organic heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 lb fresh fiddleheads
1/2 lb asparagus stalks, sliced into 2 inch lengths
4 large shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, slice
2 stalks parsley (optional)
1 TBSP salt
2 TBSP chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, for garnish
set a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. set another medium size pot of water to boil for the vegetables. i find it works best if you blanch the vegetables in salted water before tossing with the pasta. wash and trim the vegetables. if using, place the parsley in the medium pot to flavor the vegetables slightly. adds a nice fresh taste. add 1 TBSP salt to the medium pot.
start with the fiddleheads. once the water comes to a boil. blanch the fiddleheads for about 2 or 3 minutes until they are just tender. remove with a slotted spoon. set in a bowl. next add the sliced shiitake mushrooms. remove after 1 to 2 minutes. and add to the same bowl as the fiddleheads. next add the asparagus. blanch for 2 - 5 minutes based on stalk thickness, this time i used fairly chubby stalks, so i blanched them for 4 minutes. drain and remove.
okay. pasta water should be ready now. add a glug of olive oil to the pasta water. salt too. cook the fresh whole wheat fettuccine for 4 - 5 minutes. until just cooked through. drain pasta. set the pan back on the heat. add the cream and the cheese and then the vegetables. stir around to coat and let it bubble briefly. add in the pasta. reduce heat to medium and toss and cook so the flavors all mesh together for a minute or two. serve at once. sprinkle with chopped parsley and additional freshly grated parmesan cheese. serve at once.
p.s. my kids loved this. so much that i was a little disappointed. disappointed that i didn't get more of the fiddleheads for myself. they were so fresh and tender and bright. i was so sure they would eye them suspiciously and refuse them. instead they thought they were cool. next time i will buy more. one thing i can count on is not being able to predict their whims in advance. lesson learned.