Pasta Primavera
Pasta Primavera

OK, enough snow! I want spring now!

With a portable computer and Internet in a motel room I can even write columns away from home. I cooked before I left, creating a second batch of pasta primavera so I could take a photo, but had been disappointed not to find the same really nice asparagus I had in my first batch. I had clipped most of the spare basil off my plants that are growing under lights, so the second batch wasn't quite as tasty either.

I substituted broccoli for the asparagus. I like the recipe because it creates a simple sauce for whole wheat pasta and combines a nice group of veggies. It's a vegetarian recipe, but cooked meat can be added.

I am away from home this week for the annual Minnesota Shade Tree Short Course. This is an amazing annual conference dedicated to trees, tree care and tree culture. I still haven't decided which classes I am choosing; it's such a hard choice when all sound so interesting. But I need certain courses for re-certifications and others will be helpful for my job.

It snowed back home today, snowed until mid-afternoon, so I was concerned the drive up to Roseville might be challenging. It turned out they had NO snow up here, according to my son, Doron, whom I chatted with on Facebook. I am stopping over to see his daughters tomorrow evening after classes and a supper at the Como Park golf course.

My husband and I are headed back up north this coming weekend and I finally ordered a pair of snowshoes that I am hoping will have been delivered to my house by the time I get back home. We might as well enjoy the snow while it is still here.

Otherwise, I am thinking spring. My lower level is swimming in artificial light with a variety of garden crops growing there - herbs and vegetables. Logan is getting ready for his upcoming season of vegetable gardening and I am enjoying the prospects of things to come. There's still lots of home-canned goods not yet consumed that will keep us eating until the new things start growing.

I admit I sort of went crazy with trying out various yellow tomato and green tomato chutneys, along with yellow tomato jams at the end of the season last year. I also canned a couple of cranberry sauces and cranberry jam, in addition to applesauce and apple butter.

The only problem has been finding ways of incorporating these things into my regular cooking. Logan suggests using some of the sauces on meats like pork chops. Cranberries and pork, that sounds good.

The next day

After one day of tree classes, I am filled with knowledge about global warming and how this can affect our tree populations in the years ahead. Although this winter has had plenty of snow, it is true as was pointed out by a speaker today, that we don't have the same sub-zero temps we had when I was young. Statistics of average temperatures over time also point this out.

I drove over to visit my granddaughters, Sylvie and Cora, after the dinner. It was a short visit, but it is always good to see them, and usually they are visitors at my house or up at the lake, instead of me visiting them at home.

They had been outside playing in the snow when I got there. We read "Madeline" and the Syd Hoff book, "Sammy the Seal." Imagine a talking seal who gets by with attending school, while on sabbatical from the zoo. In the end, he misses his food and water for swimming and heads back home. Madeline gets extra attention when she has an operation for removal of her appendix. Old stories, but they still have an appeal to them (well, at least to Grandma).

Now, for the recipe

Keep this one on hand for the new spring vegetables. I got an original version from an Olmsted County Health Services newsletter two years ago (their original recipe came from the Food Network). This is the same recipe I shared at the Eyota Farmers Market the last two years.

We are looking forward to another market season starting near the end of May. Something new this year, we will be honoring EBT/SNAP cards, thanks to a new grant through Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Minnesota Department of Health.

As mentioned above, I especially like pasta primavera made with asparagus and I have made it using dehydrated tomatoes instead of the fresh cherry tomatoes in the recipe.

During the height of tomato season, I cut cherry tomatoes in half, sprinkled them with a seasoning mix of dried basil, garlic powder and sea salt, after slipping out the seeds. I lined them up in dehydrator trays overnight and then bagged them into small zip-lock bags the next day after drying them all night. My husband enjoys eating these with a veggie dip.

Pasta Primavera

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves minced garlic (or chopped green onions)

1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips

1/2 pound thin asparagus, cut into 2 inch pieces (chopped broccoli can be substituted)

1 cup mushrooms (white or small portabellas), sliced

1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup chicken stock

1/2 cup low fat milk

1 tablespoon flour, dissolved in 3 tablespoons water

1/2 teaspoon each, salt & pepper

1-2 carrots, peeled and coarsely grated

5-6 ounces whole-wheat penne pasta or linguine

1/2 cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 to 4 tablespoons shredded fresh basil leaves

Assemble the ingredients and cut up the vegetables while heating the water for the pasta. Start cooking the pasta in boiling water, according to the package directions while starting to cook the vegetables as described below. When cooked, reserve 1/2 cup liquid, then pour the pasta into a colander.

Heat oil in a saute pan over medium high heat. Cook garlic until soft, about one minute. Add peppers and cook 3 minutes, until they start softening. Add mushrooms, asparagus and tomatoes and cook about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour mixture and cook for a minute. Add chicken stock, milk, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the liquid has thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. Stir in the coarsely shredded carrots. Toss the pasta with the vegetables and sauce. If needed, add the reserved pasta water.

To serve, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, parsley and basil.

Note: Other seasonal vegetables can be substituted including pea pods, sliced chard stems, chopped chard leaves or chopped spinach, to name a few.