I actually made this pasta for lunch on Wednesday morning. It was sunny around noontime that day, but it was hot and humid. The air was filled with a humidity rare for New England this early in the season. It felt like wet wool wrapped around you. At lunch, I knew thunderstorms were on the way. It would break the hot and humid spell, bring us back to the cool, ocean breezes I'm lucky enough to enjoy in this seaside town in which we live.
I didn't know those thunderstorms would do the damage they did.
Three massive tornadoes ripped through the western part of Massachusetts. Four people lost their lives, hundreds ended up in the hospital after several hours late that afternoon and evening where people kept screaming to each other, "Another one is coming, get inside." If they were lucky enough to make it out of their homes again, they saw their own houses, their neighbors' homes, leveled.
Many of you know that my day job is in television news. I'm extremely lucky to work with a team of amazingly talented people with huge hearts. They headed for the heart of this devastation and I'm proud to say they found the most inspiring stories out of the disaster that occurred this week. They shared with our viewers stories of the people who now have to pick up the pieces of their lives. They told the tales of neighbors helping neighbors, and complete strangers who just wanted to help. Here's a look at some of the devastation from the newscast I work on, if you haven't seen it.
Since Wednesday, I've spent a lot of time at work, and that's OK. Stories like these need to be told, these people need to be helped to rebuild. If you'd like to help, the American Red Cross is accepting donations, click here for more information. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Western Massachusetts as they try to rebuild.
The Lighter Side of Local, Week 6
My day job took precedent this week with all that was going on. It's at these points, when we're the most busy, that versatility is so important in the meals you're creating at home. If you're trying to eat more locally, this is especially important. I've mentioned before that if you're looking to plan around your trips to the farmers' market or a local farm or shop, you are more likely meal planning *after* the fact, not before. It's early June, and in New England, you're not going to find tomatoes or strawberries bursting out of every bin at market. If fact, you're probably not going to find any quite yet.
What I picked up:
Truth is, I haven't yet. My weekend has been so crazy, I missed my market this morning, so I'm heading to the farm tomorrow. I'll try to update this post with my finds.
The rough plan for it all:
I have a good amount of roasted chicken leftover from a dish we made last night. I'm feeling some kind of chicken spring quesadilla, a version of chicken salad, and then definitely a frittata this week again. I just can't get enough of farm-fresh eggs with seasonal ingredients right now.
Where last week's haul went:
1 bag baby chard (for salads) - $4 - in the Market Pasta, and plenty of salads and a frittata
1 bunch rhubarb - $5 - Brown Sugar Rhubarb Tart, Lemon-Rhubarb Martinis, muffins I'll share with you this week.
1 bunch radishes - $3 - they went into salads and scrambled eggs
1 bunch hakurei turnips - $3 - the Market Pasta.
This pasta is perfect example of how being versatile and a little creative with your market finds can really pay off. It's dubbed "Market Pasta" in our house because it basically can be adapted with almost anything on hand in any season. There are always greens, onions, and garlic of some variety available for use. Sub in and out whatever kind of vegetables you think would go well in this dish. Have fun with it and report back to me if something you did really works, I'll want to try it.
Market Pasta with Parmesan-Cream Sauce
Why is this not Market Pasta Alfredo? The sauce is very similar but doesn't use the copious amounts of butter an alfredo sauce would, it's a tad lighter and not as creamy.
1 pound penne pasta (any kind would really do)
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 sweet onion (like a vidalia), chopped
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 cup sliced turnips (I used small white hakurei ones, you could sub out radishes as well, or omit)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups roughly chopped baby chard (or spinach, or mustard greens, any kind of hearty greens will do)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup reserved cooking liquid (from the pasta)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese (plus extra for serving)
1 1/2 cups cooked shredded chicken
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (plus several full leaves for garnish if you'd like)
Cook pasta to according to directions, drain, reserving the cooking liquid. Set aside, covered with a towel to keep somewhat warm.
Now, in a large saute pan over medium heat, melt the two tablespoons butter, add onions, pinch of salt and 1/4 teaspoon sugar. You're not going to necessarily caramelize the onions, but the sugar will help them to get a little more golden quickly. Cook until the onions are golden, about 7-8 minutes.
Next, add your turnips and cook until tender, about 8-9 minutes. At this point, you can add in your garlic, cooking until fragrant, and finally your baby chard (or greens). Sprinkle a little kosher salt and freshly ground pepper over it all. Cook the greens until they wilt slightly, 3-4 minutes.
Next, turn the heat down to medium-low and add the half cup of heavy cream, the 1/4 cup of reserved cooking liquid, and the half cup of freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano. Stir so everything combines well, and then add in your cup and a half of shredded, cooked chicken. Again, stir until everything is well coated in the sauce.
Add the already cooked pasta and basil to your saute pan and toss until everything is coated again and cook for about 4-5 minutes until everything is warmed through. Pour into large bowl, and top with a few basil leaves for appearance if you'd like. Serve with extra Parmesan if desired.