It never fails. Come 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. Plump, purple-tinged asparagus were nestled in my market's produce section, their tips standing at attention, towering over the artichokes to the 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 continues, I know I must come up with new and interesting ways to serve asparagus. After all, I know that when I return to the market tomorrow or go the farmers market this weekend I will buy more.
This recipe combines asparagus with morels and fava beans. If you are not lucky enough to find fresh morel mushrooms, dried ones will do. I used fava beans from my freezer from a crate I blanched, shelled and froze in small freezer bags to enjoy through the winter.
Linguine with Asparagus, Morels and Fava Beans
1/2 ounce (15 g.) dried morel mushrooms or 1/4 pound fresh morels, cleaned, sliced
1 pound (500 g.) asparagus, ends trimmed, cut in 1" pieces
1 lb. (500 g.) linguine
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
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; do not overcook. 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 and melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and morels. Saute until garlic is fragrant and morels are tender, 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.
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