I'm calling this stuff "Green Pasta" because most of the ingredients were green and because I purchased most of them at the Farmer's Market. Ever since finishing Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I've been feeling like a food slouch. The book got me thinking a lot about how I've been eating and how changing what I eat can help to change the world. And no, I really don't believe that's an exaggeration.
Before reading the book, I was already trying to make ethical food choices. I'm a vegetarian; I try to buy local food when it's available; I shop at the Farmer's Market with some regularity. However, Kingsolver made me see that I can be doing more, and one area in particular that I felt I could improve in was seasonal eating. I would go to the grocery store and buy what suited me with little thought about where it came from and how far and how it was made to grow. I picked organic when it wasn't cost-prohibitive, and beyond that, I didn't give it much thought. Well, now I am.
I want to make a serious effort to eat local, and by extension, that means eating seasonal. What better way to know what's in season if you aren't a gardener than to cruise around the Farmers' Market and see what they have? That's what I did. I knew already that it was pea season, and fresh peas and I go way back. Even as a kid, I was always eating peas raw right off the plant so much so that my mom complained she could never get enough for even one bowl of them. Some people worry about rabbits munching their gardens; my mom had to worry about me.
Anyway, as a long time pea-lover, I figured I'd make that the centerpiece of a pasta dish. I was thinking of using sunchokes, which I'd seen at the market the week before, just because I was curious. I also figured on some lavender honey goat cheese, which I'd also seen the week before. Well, there were no sunchokes because the stand that sells them wasn't there, so I needed a plan B. It came in the form of a pea dish I'd tried--yep--the week before at the market. It had mint, so I bought some of that. I decided to get some spring garlic as well, and since there was a scape attached at the top, that went in to the recipe, too. In lieu of the sunchokes, I decided I'd get zucchini. While buying the zucchini, though, a woman fervently recommended the lita squash, so I grabbed some of that, too.
In the true Shana style, a style I clearly inherited from my mom, I made up the "recipe" on a whim and eyeballed the whole thing and wrote down nothing as I did it. Still, it was super tasty, so I figured I'd recount the whole process here. I bought a lot of the ingredients from organic farm stands at the market, and obviously, that's best, but if you get whatever you can at the farmers' market, I think you can call it good enough. I will say that it is fresher and tastier from the market, and you can feel good about supporting local farmers. Plus, you may find some things you are addicted to and happy to spend your money on week after week. I'm pretty sure I'll be plunking down $6 for the lavender honey goat cheese I bought whenever the opportunity presents itself. It might be my new "drug" of choice.
- Whole wheat pasta or whatever sort makes you happy (I used whole wheat organic fusilli.)
- Salted butter & olive oil enough to saute the veggies in and make you happy
- Spring garlic, at least a whole head because spring garlic heads are small and the taste is delicate
- 1 garlic scape (Use more if you've got them. They were quite nice. I bit into a raw piece, and it was really peppery and pungent. It mellowed a lot when cooked.)
- Sweet peas, preferably fresh and obviously shelled
- Squash, sliced not too thin and cut into half moons or some other easily edible size (Mine was zucchini and lita.)
- Salt & pepper if it suits you
- Goat cheese (I was worried that the lavender honey stuff I got might be weird with the mint. It so was not. The slight sweetness of it was perfect.)
1. Prepare your ingredients. Shell the peas, chop the garlic and scapes, and slice the squash. Go with whatever quantities you think will match the amount of pasta you intend to make. I made it for two and used the whole head of spring garlic, so if you are making more pasta, add more of everything. Also, unless you chop like a three-toed sloth, you can put the water for the pasta on to boil after you shell the peas.
2. Once the water comes to a boil, add the pasta, and melt the butter in a skillet with some olive oil over medium-low heat. First, add the garlic and give it a couple of minutes. Next, throw in the scapes and the peas. Give those a few minutes and add the squash. Cook until you are happy with the doneness of the squash. I like mine barely cooked, which is why I slice it thicker than some people would. It still needs to be something I have to bite into. After the squash is done enough, add the salt & pepper and then the mint. To be honest, I forgot salt & pepper. It occurred to me afterward that I could've added a little, but I thought it was tasty as it was. I'm a big fan of letting the veggie flavors shine.
3. At this point, the pasta should be done. For God's sake, don't over do it. Al dente, people! Also, since you'll be adding it to the skillet to cook a minute or two, it's okay if it is on the less done side of al dente. Drain the pasta, and catch some of the water in case you need to add it to the skillet to prevent sticking and give it all a nice taste. Add the pasta to the skillet, and toss it around or stir it up or whatever it is you do to mix the flavors. Add pasta water as needed. Cook a couple of minutes till everything has cozied up to one another and the flavors seem like they are mixing.
4. Move the pasta to an appropriately-sized serving bowl, add a few big spoonfuls of goat cheese and stir. The heat should get it melty, but you can always leave the quantity you plan to use on the counter to get it to room-ish temperature before you mix it in.
5. Eat and enjoy. You can feel like you've done something healthy for you and your planet and bask in the knowledge that healthy can totally equal tasty as hell.