The bounty of summertime is always amazing to me . . . and I most enjoy it at the beginning, before I'm tired of any single crop and the heat has sapped my enthusiasm. And, go ahead and call me cheesy, but I like to make a game out of finding ways to use as many fresh, local ingredients as I can in one meal.
For dinner the other night, we started with a super easy, but looks rather gourmet salad of Louisiana baby lettuces topped with Louisiana Strawberries, chopped Sucre candied pecans, blue cheese from somewhere up north and Hanley's strawberry vinaigrette (get this while you can . . . it's seasonal and only available March - May).
And I've found my menfolk tolerate veggies better when I add pasta . . . it's like it distracts them or something. Anyway, back in college, I got this cookbook with easy, from scratch pasta recipes. I've had mine for a long time and it looks pretty crappy, but I still love almost any recipe from it. It's not strictly vegetarian, but it has a lot of meatless options that are really good. The cookbook was out of print for a while, but I looked today and it's back with a much prettier cover on Amazon (just in case you were interested).
So we followed our Louisiana salad with a pasta featuring local mini portobello mushrooms with a side of local yellow squash. I've made the following pasta recipe with both the pepper and herb Boursin, a creamy French cheese, as well as used lots of different veggies. It's a recipe that works well with lots of variations.
Pasta Shells with Portobello Mushrooms, Asparagus & Boursin Cream Sauce
- 1T butter
- 1T olive oil
- 1lb portobello mushrooms, stems removed, caps cut crosswise in 1/4-inch slices
- 1/2t salt
- 1 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 51/2 oz package pepper Boursin cheese (or herb)
- 1lb asparagus
- 3/4lb medium pasta shells
- In a large frying pan, melt the butter with the oil over moderate heat. Add the mushrooms and salt and cook, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms are tender and well browned, about 8 minutes. Add broth and Boursin cheese and bring to a simmer while stirring.
- Snap the tough ends off the asparagus and discard them. Cut the spears into 1/2-inch pieces. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until almost done, about 6 minutes. Add the asparagus and cook until it and the pasta are just done, about 4 minutes longer. Drain. Toss with the mushrooms and sauce.
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My first recipe from my new Nourishing Kitchen cookbook was strawberries in minted honey syrup with fresh Louisana strawberries, spearmint and raw local honey.
And, I know the cookbook author says it's good with yogurt or whipped cream . . . which I'm sure it is . . . we couldn't help but eat it on vanilla ice cream from my favorite local ice cream company — New Orleans Ice Cream Co.
Strawberries in Minted Honey Syrup
// The Nourished Kitchen
1 cup water
1 cup honey
2 pints strawberries
1 small bunch fresh mint
Bring water to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Pour in the honey and whisk it into the water until it dissolves fully. Continue simmering over medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and let syrup cool to room temperature.
Hull the strawberries, cut them in half, and set them in a bowl. Pluck the leaves off the stems of mint, tear them with your hands, and drop them into the bowl with the strawberries. Pour the cooled honey syrup over the strawberries and mint, then cover the bowl and transfer it to the fridge. Allow the berries to marinate for a day, and then serve them with their syrup.
Serve with cultured yogurt or whipped cream . . . or ice cream . . .
The first signs of strawberry season in Louisiana are here! I got a package of strawberries in my CSA bundle and I'm seeing Louisiana strawberries from lots of different farms in all the stores.
Louisiana grows some amazing berries. Harvests roll in from mid-March through mid-May. And lucky for us, strawberry plants are tough and, according to the experts at LSU's AgCenter, weather freezing temperatures like this winter well. Matter of fact, they like cold much better than super wet seasons like last winter.
And strawberries not only taste good, but they are high in Vitamin C, folate and a good source of potassium. I was suprised to find that ounce for ounce, strawberries are higher in Vitamin C than citrus.
If you don't have strawberries in your backyard and you like to pick your own . . . several farms allow you to pick your fruit. Mrs. Heather's Strawberry Farm in Albany lets you pick your own every day. Liuzza Produce Farm in Tickfaw also lets you come pick strawberries and other produce. Blahut Strawberry Farm in Springfield has a u-pick family day scheduled for Saturday, April 19.
So whether you buy, pick or grow them yourself . . . toss them in a smoothie, feature them in a spinach and blue cheese salad or eat them fresh by themselves and enjoy this sweet season.