It never fails. Come early spring I do my best to overdose on all the tempting produce that arrives at the market. Mind you, I live in California, so the winter is hardly dire and food is certainly not relegated to root cellars. Nonetheless, when the spring season's first asparagus, English peas, and favas make an appearance, I cannot resist buying them - every day.
Asparagus is one of my all time favorites and they never cease to catch my attention. Today is a perfect example. Beautiful, plump, purple-tinged asparagus were nestled in my market's produce section, their tips standing at attention and towering over the artichokes to their left and English peas to the right. It was impossible to pass them by without picking up a bunch, breathing in their clean, grassy aroma, appreciating their weight and firmness. Into my basket they went.
Fortunately, my family shares my love for asparagus. Yet, in order to keep them interested as long as my seasonal obsession with asparagus continues, I know I must come up with new and interesting ways to serve them. After all, I know that when I return to the market tomorrow or go the farmers market this weekend I will be buying more asparagus.
This recipe combines asparagus with morels and fava beans. It is a perfect bridge from winter to summer, because the morels are dried, rather than fresh, and the favas are from my freezer, when I blanched and shelled an entire crate last fall and then divided the brilliant green beans into small freezer bags, so we could feast on them through the winter.
1/2 ounce (15 g.) dried morel mushrooms
1 pound (500 g.) asparagus, ends trimmed, cut in 1" pieces
1 lb. (500 g.) linguine
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup (125 ml.) chicken stock
1 cup heavy (250 ml.) heavy cream
1 cup fava beans, blanched, shelled
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Pecorino cheese shavings for garnish - use a mild cheese such as Pecorino Sardo or Brigante
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
If using dried morels, place in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit 20 minutes. Drain and gently squeeze out any extra liquid. Cut in half lengthwise and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add asparagus and blanch until crisp-tender and bright green, 1-2 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and refresh under cold water. Set aside.
Add linguine to same pot and cook until al dente or firm to the bite according to package instructions. Drain and return to pot.
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and morels. Saute until garlic is fragrant but not brown, 2 minutes. Add chicken stock and cream. Simmer until thickened and somewhat reduced, about 5 minutes. Stir in asparagus pieces and fava beans. Add to pasta in pot and toss to combine. Stir in Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Season with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.
Serve on individual plates or large serving bowl. Garnish with shavings of Pecorino cheese.