Spring is a good time to stop and smell the rosebuds. I’m not going to warble on about renewal and the joyous mystery of the seasons (yea Gods woman — ‘joyous mystery’? Spare us!), but man, you’ve got to admit that visiting farmers’ markets around this time of year is like letting a kid with low blood sugar loose in a candy store. Especially if you’ve committed to buying more local and seasonal produce.
I recently finished reading Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver (of The Poisonwood Bible fame), a memoire of her family eating only food sourced within a radius of 100 miles from her home for one year, and I am so inspired. I’d read about eating seasonally and locally before, but this book really put it into perspective for me. But more on that in my next post, I think.
Back to spring and the gorgeous glut of greens available now. I visited the Tokai farmer’s market last weekend, which is located in the most beautiful woodland setting (complete with grazing horses), and I picked up some gorgeous organic asparagus and baby squash (zucchini, patti-pans and gems). Perfect items for this spring greens spaghetti.
It might sound like there are a lot of anchovies in this recipe, but once they’ve melted and coated the spaghetti, their flavour just fades into the background to give a subtle savouriness. You can leave them out if you prefer to keep it vegetarian. My only warning with this dish is that it is a very real and present temptation to eat all the asparagus before combining everything. So if you must have a taste, make sure your resolve is iron-clad!
I'm sure you know that the quality of the pasta is rather important. No Fatti's & Moni's please! (That dreck is to proper Italian spaghetti what margarine is to fresh farm butter.) With a glass of chilled dry rosé, this, for me, is the perfect early summer lunch.
Spring pasta with asparagus and baby squash
Makes 2 generous portions
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6 or 7 anchovy fillets
1 bunch fresh sprue (thin) asparagus
2 cloves garlic, crushed with sea salt
About 300g baby zucchini, patti-pans, or any tender spring squash, finely sliced (julienne-style)
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pecorino, to taste
1 handful basil, leaves picked and chopped
1. Cook the spaghetti in plenty of salted water according to package instructions (al dente) and drain, but reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water.
2. In a separate large pan, heat the oil. Add the anchovies and fry gently for about 30 seconds, then add the asparagus. Continue to fry on a medium-low heat until the anchovies have melted and the asparagus is half-cooked, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.
3. Toss the spaghetti with the asparagus, anchovy and garlic, as well as the julienned squash. Season to taste. Add a little of the cooking water if the spaghetti seems a bit dry — you want to achieve a silky, slippery, glossy effect.
4. To serve, drizzle with a little good-quality olive oil, and top with shavings of Pecorino and the basil (I used the tender young leaves from my sweet and purple basil plants — no chopping required).
Post script: I have enjoyed my time off (oh, I have tales — breaking down in the Karoo on a lonely dirt road with no cellphone reception is a highlight — more on those another time), but I must confess I missed you terribly. It’s good to be back!