During the busy days as holidays approach, or during any busy week, it is helpful to have certain essential ingredients in the pantry and certain fresh items in the refrigerator. Then, you can put together a simple, quick but delicious dinner in half hour or less. My pantry is always stocked with a variety of pastas, stocks, beans, lentils, rice, canned tomato products and anchovies. I keep a well-stocked spice and dried herb cabinet. In terms of fresh items, fresh lemons are always available in a bowl on my kitchen worktable, garlic and shallots are in a terra cotta cellar on the counter, onions are always in my root vegetable drawer, and you will always find mushrooms in my refrigerator. My cheese drawer always has a grating cheese in it, as well as a variety of cheeses suitable for an impromptu cheese board or for cooking. If you happen to be an herb gardener, then you may have a choice of fresh herbs to use as flavoring agents.
Recently, I had a long day away from home, do I began to look for inspiration for dinner upon return. In the refrigerator, I had some beautiful cremini mushrooms, a large leek, a bit of heavy cream, and I had some beautiful large organic lemons and a package of Garofalo pasta. Luscious Lemon and Leek pasta was born.
Luscious Lemon and Leek Pasta, recipe by Susan Rebillot
Serves 4 generous servings
1 pound pasta of your choice (I had Garofalo Mezze maniche Rigate on hand, a stubby, lined tubular pasta)
8 ounces mushrooms of your choice, cleaned and sliced
1 large leek, tough outer dark green leaves trimmed away
Zest of 3 large lemons
Juice of 2 large lemons
2 Tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces frozen peas
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup half and half
Salt and pepper to taste
Grating cheese, such as Pecorino Romano
1 bunch fresh parsley (sage would be a good herb for this flavor palate, too, or thyme. Use what appeals to you and is on hand)
While you boil the water for the pasta, clean the mushrooms with a brush or damp paper towel. Trim the leek, slice it lengthwise, and rinse it thoroughly. Dry the leek.
Slice the mushrooms and the leeks.
Chop your herbs finely.
Zest and juice the lemons.
Cook the leeks and mushrooms in the oil over medium-high heat in a deep 12 inch skillet for about 10 minutes, until; the leeks are softened and the mushrooms a bit browned.
Put the pasta in the boiling water to cook and set the timer according to package instructions.
Add the lemon juice to he skillet and stir.
Add the cream and half and half and stir to combine over low heat. Salt and pepper to taste.
Add the frozen peas and cook on low until the sauce is just bubbling, thick, and the peas are cooked.
Drain the pasta, and add it to the deep skillet.
Add the lemon zest and the chopped herbs and toss to coat the pasta.
Adjust the salt and pepper, and you can add additional lemon juice if you really like a powerful lemon flavor. We find that the juice of two lemons is perfect for our palates.
Serve in pasta bowls with grated cheese.
Serve with a green salad, and perhaps a good Pinot Grigio!
This pasta dish is creamy, has luscious lemon cream flavor, with mild onion flavor of the leek and the earthy flavor of the mushrooms. We used parsley, which adds that fresh, grassy, herbaceous flavor. The petite peas are sweet. The Pecorino Romano adds a saltiness. This dinner was reasy in 30 minutes and took little effort.
Saturday is our market day, and whether we are entertaining or having a quiet dinner alone, as we were yesterday following a day of markets and Christmas shopping, then we look to market finds inspire our meals. So, yesterday at Mazzaro’s as we shopped for our beef tenderloin for Christmas dinner, we noticed D’Artagnan Venison and Pork Sausages with Cherries at the meat counter. We decided to try these. Next, we visited the new Locale Market in downtown St. Petersburg, a newly opened farm-to-table, market-retail-restaurant concept, a very appealing rustic contemporary space. Here, you can purchase prepared foods, or you can source quality ingredients to prepare yourself.
We chatted with Chef Pedro, who makes handmade pasta. We selected a mixed mushroom-filled ravioli, and one filled with prosciutto. When we arrived home, we decided to cook the sausage in small chunks with sliced cremini mushrooms in a bit of olive oil. This added the earthy mushroom and meat flavor to the oil, and then we tossed in the cooked ravioli and added salt, pepper, and finely chopped parsley. The handmade pasta took less than 2 minutes to cook. We grated a bit of parmigiana over each serving.
The pasta were tender pillows with earthy flavored fillings, and they paired well with the rich flavor of the venison and pork sausage. There was a slight sweet cherry flavor, and the cheese added saltiness. Umami!
Readers, please share your pantry essentials with me, and how they inspire you when you have busy days, and share your local market experiences, as well! The Comment box follows each post!