Recipe: Wild Mushroom & Sweet Pea Pasta

Wild Mushroom & Sweet Pea Pasta

Wild Mushroom & Sweet Pea Pasta

Memorial Day means fresh ingredients. Finally. After a long winter and slow-moving spring, it’s such a joy to be able to walk to the farmer’s market and fill my canvas bag with locally grown ingredients. Somehow food just seems to taste better that way.

To clarify, I’m not arguing that produce from the grocery store isn’t fresh, I’m just saying there’s something special about buying your produce from a the person who picked it.

Morels and oyster mushrooms

Morel and oyster mushrooms

In this instance I’m referring to the wild mushrooms I bought at the Green City Market, two morels and a few bunches of oysters to be exact. And while I love buying local, it can sometimes come with a hefty price tag, as in $5 for two morels.

Such valuable loot deserves to be showcased and celebrated, not overpowered by strong ingredients. And what better way to showcase my prized morels than to pair them with fresh pasta, one of my all-time favorite foods and a true labor of love (here’s the video tutorial and recipe for fresh pasta).

Wild mushroom & sweet pea pasta: melt butter Wild mushroom & sweet pea pasta: sweat shallots

In this instance I made a very light sauce by sauteing shallots, garlic and sliced wild mushrooms (note: don’t mince the mushrooms; you’ll want to leave some texture intact) in butter. I then added frozen sweet peas (yes, I said frozen and I’m fine with that) for a bit of sweetness and relied on lemon zest, lemon juice and fresh parsley to balance out the flavors.

Wild mushroom & sweet pea pasta: stir in peas Wild mushroom & sweet pea pasta: toss with pasta and parsley

Wow, was it good! The smell alone was enough to have me salivating, but the taste was out of this world. The delicate pasta, subtle lemon-butter sauce, and the sweetness of the shallots and peas synchronistically combined to enhance the earthiness of the mushrooms, the star ingredient.

And best of all it took less than ten minutes to make the sauce and cook the pasta. Talk about a winner in all categories!

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Video: Fresh Pasta Will Rock Your Taste Buds


I love everything about fresh pasta! I love making it in the traditional method with nothing but my hands and a fork. I love using my new-fangled gadget, the KitchenAid pasta attachment, to roll and cut the dough. I love pairing the pasta with simple, fresh ingredients because truly that’s all it needs. And most of all, I love eating it.

Simply put, there’s just nothing quite like fresh, homemade pasta. Although I say that every time I make it, its something I don’t make very often. I’m not sure why. The dough comes together in less than 10 minutes and freezes very well.  Not to mention it’s fun to make, and it’s not even that messy.

Whatever the reason, I need to rectify the situation and make pasta more often. And I want you to do the same. The video here demonstrates the step-by-step method to making homemade pasta using a very basic recipe. And don’t fret if you don’t have an electric pasta roller; the counter top hand-crank models work great and are inexpensive, or you can go very old-school and use a rolling pin. Either way, it’s worth the effort.

Also, the video shows how to make fettuccine but you should know that the same recipe and method can be used to make other types of noodles and pasta dishes including ravioli and lasagna.

Here’s the pasta recipe:

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Strawberry-Rhubarb Scones Just in Time for Memorial Day

Strawberry-Rhubarb Scones

Strawberry-Rhubarb Scones

Sometimes I feel the need to bake, but the thought of walking across the street to the grocery store is just too much to handle. Yup, I can be very lazy, but that laziness can sometimes lead to something great.

Take these strawberry-rhubarb scones. They were born out of sheer laziness but quickly became a springy delight, perfect for Memorial day. I picked up a bunch of rhubarb at the farmer’s market on Wednesday without knowing what to do with it. By Thursday night I was in the mood for some baked goods, namely muffins. So I thought “how about using the rhubarb to make muffins?”

Scones: ingredients for strawberry-rhubarb compote Scones: add strawberries to compote Scones: chilled strawberry-rhubarb compote

Good thought, right? Well it would have been if I’d had eggs, an essential ingredient in muffins. That dilemma got me thinking about what else I could make with rhubarb using only ingredients I had on hand.

A search of lead me to a recipe for rhubarb and raspberry jam roly-poly. I had no idea what a roly-poly was but quickly learned it’s similar to a scone. Hmmm… scones… interesting…

Scones: chilled diced butter Scones: dry ingredients with butter Scones: butter mixed into dry ingredients

The recipe you see here is based on the roly-poly recipe but tweaked quite a bit. For instance, I used half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose to make the scones a bit more nutritious (I cut the amount of butter a little for the same reason). I also added 1/2 cup of diced strawberries instead of raspberry jam to the compote, part of which is mixed in with the dry ingredients; the rest is saved for topping the cooked scones.

Scones: dough Scones: cut shapes Scones: just baked

There are quite a few more tweaks, but by this point I think you get the picture. Here’s the recipe:

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Recipe: Balsamic Beef Bites with Caramelized Shallots & Sauteed Spinach

Balsamic Beef Bites with Caramelized Shallots and Sauteed Spinach

Balsamic Beef Bites with Caramelized Shallots and Sauteed Spinach

This has been a rather strange food week for me. It started off strong at the all-you-can-eat-NRA show but quickly dwindled when I came down with something resembling the flu (not actually the flu, but a cold/fever). So there went a day and a half worth of good eating.

Luckily, I’m starting to feel a bit better although my appetite and taste buds aren’t at their normal levels…. yet. Good thing as today was another exciting foodie shopping/tasting day in Chicago with visits to the Green City Market (my first time attending the outdoor market this year) and the grand opening of the giant new Whole Foods in my neighborhood. And that one was a serious feast with tons of local vendors sampling products, not to mention the cool new food court.

Between the two food shopping endeavors I came home with a nice amount of produce, then quickly collapsed on the couch as the effort of shopping wiped out all my energy. I had recharged a bit by dinner time, but not enough to make the morel risotto I’d originally considered. Instead I turned to my bag of farmer’s market spinach and the package of beef stew meat in the refrigerator (it was the cheapest meat available at WF).

As a side note, I don’t normally have beef just sitting around in the refrigerator. I bought it this afternoon at WF because I had a weird craving for beef and I believe if I’m craving a specific ingredient it’s because my body really needs it. Of course this can be a bit tricky because I’m always craving chocolate, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Anyways, I thought back to a few months ago when I had some beef scraps leftover from another dish I had made that I had seared quickly in a hot pan and deglazed with balsamic vinegar. I decided to do that again but add some caramelized shallots for a bit more flavor and sauteed spinach, sort of like a hot beef salad I’m calling balsamic beef bites with caramelized shallots and sauteed spinach.

Trim spinach Sliced shallots Diced beef

It was great, something that came together very quickly in just one pan and was relatively healthy. I think most tender cuts of beef would work (stay away from flank or strip steaks) and should be trimmed of excess fat and cut into small bite-sized pieces. I like cutting them small because they cook quickly and evenly, and you don’t need a knife to eat them.

The real key to this dish though is to use a high quality balsamic vinegar; mine was aged 18 years and is rich and a little sweet.

Sear beef bites Deglaze with balsamic vinegar Cook spinach

Also, I used regular spinach from the farmer’s market which needs to be trimmed of the rough stems and washed very well. Feel free to use baby spinach if you prefer.

Here’s the recipe:

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NRA Show ’09 Recap


Take a look at my first-ever attempt at vlogging from this year’s National Restaurant Association show.

And let me know what you think! Enjoy!


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