Every now and then, I venture over to the University District neighborhood of Seattle–my old college stomping grounds. Only these days my objective is not to buy cheap pitchers of PBR at Dante’s or the hit up the Gyro-cery for a greasy midnight snack. Nope, I go to the U-District to check out the gorgeous produce at the year-round farmers market. God, I feel old.
We’ve had an unusually cold winter and spring (even for Seattle), and I was getting a little bored of the beet, kale, chard, and carrot routine. So when I saw the bright pink rhubarb, oddly shaped heirloom tomatoes, and little Japanese cucumbers at the farmers market, I nearly squealed with excitement. I also ended up buying some beautiful shelling peas and going a little crazy at the mushroom stand. To me, a good selection at the farmers market almost trumps a Nordies Anniversary Sale. Almost.
I decided to make some fresh pasta with my (yep, you guessed it) Kitchen Aid pasta attachment, topped with a creamy morel and pea sauce. You can use any type of fresh or dried pasta your heart desires. I love how the touch of heavy cream and zest of fresh nutmeg brings out the flavors of the morels without overpowering. It’s the perfect springtime pasta dish, in my opinion!
Morel and Spring Pea Pasta
Yield: 2 Servings
- 2 servings of fresh or dried pasta
- 1 oz (3-4 medium sized) morel mushrooms, sliced into round strips and cleaned
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
- 2/3 cup freshly shelled or frozen peas
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 small shallot, finely diced
- Freshly grated Parmesan to finish (optional)
- Freshly grated nutmeg to taste (optional)
- Splash of olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil and add pasta. Drain and set aside when cooked.
- While pasta is cooking, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a heavy pan over med heat. Add 1 diced shallot and 1oz morel mushrooms. Saute until shallots are translucent, about 2-3 minutes.
- Turn heat up heat to med-high. Add 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth and reduce until only about a quarter of the liquid remains in the pan.
- Add 1/2 cup heavy cream to pan and grate in some fresh nutmeg to taste. Reduce sauce by about half, stirring constantly until thick. When the sauce has almost reached your desired consistency, stir in the peas and cook just until tender, about 1-2 minutes. There is nothing worse than overcooked peas–so be very careful!
- Take the pan off the heat. Salt and pepper to taste. Toss freshly cooked pasta with a splash of olive oil and top with sauce. Finish off with a little freshly grated Parmesan cheese if you wish.
The combination of morels and peas is simply delicious. To wash the morels, submerge the sliced mushrooms in a bowl of water and try to get all of the debris off of them. Then, send them through a salad spinner to ensure that they are completely dry. I don’t think this is a very conventional method, but the mushroom guy told me to do it, and it worked like a charm.
I am one of those strange people who finds shelling peas immensely therapeutic. Every pea will have a seam down the middle–find the end of the seam, pull it down, and open the pod. It may be a little frustrating at first but you’ll get the hang of it.
I can’t emphasize the use of freshly grated nutmeg enough. If you’ve never worked with whole nutmeg before, it’s not intimidating at all! Just scrape the nutmeg against the finest holes of a box grater a few times or use a microplane grater.
And I leave you with a sneak peak at my Japanese cucumbers getting ready to be pickled in some rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. Pretty exciting stuff!