I often find myself standing in the kitchen at dinner preparation time, totally unmotivated and underwhelmed. I make food, write about food, photograph food and eat food for a good part of the day, so by the time it gets to dinner, I often can't be bothered to make anything. It is for this reason that I like to have a solid repertoire of recipes up my sleeve that come together quickly, don't require a special trip to the supermarket, and give us a nice little variety. We often have things such as home-made pizza, slow-cooked chilli, or a quick pasta thrown together with ingredients from the fridge. I usually have a fairly diverse range of vegetables on hand, so can usually throw something together. Sometimes the end result is questionable, but we get there in the end.
Everyone seems to be clinging on to spring at the moment here in the city. The greenmarket is the most amazing place to go - I often find myself on a manhattan bound train after my spin class in the mornings, taking me to the market instead of home. The early morning is the best time to go, as you get the first pickings of the produce, get time to chat with the farmers, and it's also the time when the chefs come in to pick up produce for their restaurants. I love watching them select vegetables, and always sneakily take note of the things that they go for first.
One of my favourite things to do is to pick up a bunch of things that are in season, come home with them, and cook dinner on the fly. During the winter it was mainly root vegetables and pumpkin, meaning that we had loads of soup, gnocchi, pizzas, and rich meat-based pasta sauces. Spring vegetables have been slowly sneaking their way into the market - ramps, asparagus, spring garlic, oyster mushrooms. These all came home with me and made their way into a pasta dish with some white wine, quality parmesan, pasta water (fave ever), and finished off with some preserved lemon to add a little brightness. This dish took me about 20 minutes from start to finish - while the water is boiling you chop everything up, and fry it all off while the pasta is cooking. The skillet is deglazed quickly with some white wine, then the pasta is added along with some pasta water and parmesan. A quick toss and season and you are good to go. Wham, bam, thank you mam. Dinner on the table. Or in our case, collapsed on the couch with a terrible TV show in front of us.
A few wee notes:
- You can fill this pasta dish with anything you have on hand - the majority of the base ingredients here are interchangeable. Sub ramps for shallots, spring garlic for a few cloves of regular garlic, oyster mushrooms for any other variety, and preserved lemon for a finely grated lemon zest. I make this very often and just sub in whatever I have on hand.
- Make sure that you reserve the water from the pasta - you can transfer the pasta to the skillet using tongs, as you don't have to worry too much about draining it as the water ends up in there anyway.
- Ensure you taste along the way - if you aren't using preserved lemon you will need to up the salt content a little. Make sure that you salt in levels rather than all at once at the end, as it helps give the dish a bigger depth of flavour. I love to finish dishes with a flaky sea salt such as maldon.
- I used wholegrain linguine, but this will work with most types of pasta. Just make sure that you give the sauce a little time to emulsify at the end and coat everything nicely.
- Adjust the amount of pasta depending on your serving size - for two people I usually use a small handful of linguine - the circumference is about the size of the circle that is made when I touch my thumb and pointer finger together.
Ramp, mushroom, asparagus, and preserved lemon linguine
- Serves 2 -
100-150g (depending on serving size) wholegrain linguine or other pasta
3 ramps, stems and leaves, finely chopped (alternatively use 2 shallots)
2 stems of spring garlic, white and light green sections only, finely chopped
150g oyster mushrooms
250g fresh asparagus, trimmed and cleaned, chopped into 2" pieces
Rind of half a preserved lemon, finely chopped, plus a few slices to garnish
1/3 cup (80ml) white wine
1/2 cup finely grated good quality parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to season
- PROCESS -
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to boil. While the water is coming to the boil, chop the vegetables. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the packet until al dente.
Heat a skillet or frying pan over high heat. Fry the ramps and garlic, along with a big pinch of salt, in a little olive oil. Fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the chopped mushrooms and fry for another 2 minutes, adding a little more oil if necessary. Add the preserved lemon, cook for 30 seconds or so, then add the asparagus and cook for a further 30 seconds, until the asparagus is bright green. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, and cook for 1-2 minutes until the wine has begun to evaporate.
Transfer the cooked pasta to the skillet using tongs. Add the cheese and 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Toss well using the tongs, until the 'sauce' emulsifies and coats the pasta. Continue adding pasta water as needed to help loosen.
Pile the pasta onto serving dishes, season with flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and place a few slices of the preserved lemon on top.