Squeeeee! I found the first asparagus of the season at Findlay Market last weekend (from Thistlehair Farm) and was beyond excited.
It’s amazing, isn’t it? We’ve muddled through winter eating potatoes and squash and hearty stews and plain salads … and now, magically (and with a big hand from our unseasonably warm spring) we have a bounty of local goodies coming on with gusto. Lettuce, kale, chard, arugula. Baby spring onions. And now, at long last, asparagus. Can strawberries … and then tomatoes … and then corn be far behind? Surely not.
[An aside, on a seasonal note: We hadn’t really eaten fresh tomatoes all winter, except for our mid-March trip to Florida where we bought farm-fresh local tomatoes. But a nice-looking pint container of organic cherry tomatoes suckered me—suckered!—into purchasing them at the grocery this week. What a disappointment. Ptooey.]
I waffled about what to do with that first bunch of asparagus [after all, there will be many more to come this season] and decided on a spring-y pasta dish, with peas and a light touch of goat cheese. It absolutely tasted like spring—or, more to the point, like the end of winter.
tortellini with spring vegetables
(makes 2 generous servings, with lunch-able leftovers)
1 package, about 8 ounces, fresh (refrigerated or frozen) cheese-filled tortellini
1 bunch asparagus
1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
2 ounces fresh goat cheese
2 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. slivered fresh basil
salt and pepper
Snap the tough ends off the asparagus and trim spears into 1-inch lengths. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season generously with a couple big pinches of salt (the water should taste salty like the ocean). Add pasta, asparagus and peas to water; cook 3 minutes, until pasta is done and asparagus is crisp-tender. (If using dried pasta, or if the package indicates a longer cooking time, then add the vegetables 3 minutes before pasta is done.) Drain pasta and vegetables, reserving about 1/4 cup of cooking liquid. Return pasta and vegetables to your pot, then add crumbled goat cheese, pine nuts, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Add enough cooking water if needed to make a creamy sauce. Serve topped with fresh slivered basil.