Pasta with Bacon, Peas and Garlic Scapes

6 07 2011

Garlic scapes at the Bala Farmers' Market

It’s finally July – the month when the summer markets really start to hit their stride. I’ve been lucky enough to spend a bit of time traveling over the past few weeks, including spending a wonderful few days in the beautiful Muskoka region of Ontario. One of my favourite things about driving through rural areas in the summertime is stopping at roadside markets and fruit stands. As luck would have it, the community of Bala was having a farmers’ market the day we were there so of course, I had to check it out.

In addition to strawberries, asparagus, peas, blueberries and rhubarb, I was excited to see garlic scapes at the market. Garlic scapes are the tops of the garlic plant and can sometimes be found at farmers’ markets in last spring and early summer (unfortunately, you probably won’t see them at supermarkets). They are long and curly and have a sweet, garlicky flavour. Scapes are very versatile and can be used like garlic in dishes such as stir fries, egg dishes, pastas and salads. They can be cooked or eaten raw and you can use the flowering ends as garnish.

Fresh peas are another early summer favourite of mine. They add a sweet burst of flavour to dishes or can be eaten simply cooked with a dash of salt and a bit of butter. The key to fresh peas is to cook them quickly and simply (they are also delicious raw) so don’t overcook them! When shelling peas, discard any peas that have grown large and have split – I find they can have a slightly off, ‘metallic’ flavour. Unfortunately, peas aren’t terribly efficient: I shelled 45 pods to yield just under a cup and I found a few pods with only one pea in them! However, their delicate flavour it worth the effort if you’re looking for a taste of summer. You can always use frozen baby peas to save time. Avoid canned peas – they don’t have the right sweetness or texture!

Cosmo's Smoked Meats - they make a fantastic dry smoked back bacon

A Few Helpful Tips:

  • This recipe is all about the quality of ingredients so use the best you can find. The sauce lightly coats the noodles – it’s not drowning in sauce. You can reserve a bit of the pasta cooking water before draining to add to the pasta if it looks a little dry. The entire dish comes together very quickly once you have your ingredients prepped.
  • I used a dry smoked back bacon from Cosmo’s Smoked Meats and it had a nice dry texture and smoky flavour. You can use any kind of double smoked slab bacon or smoked ham. Of course, regular strip bacon will work in a pinch but won’t have quite the same flavour or texture.
  • I also used fresh fettucine from the refrigerated case at the supermarket. For 500 grams/1.1 lbs. of fresh pasta you can substitute about 8 to 10 oz./226 to 284 grams dried pasta of any shape you prefer.

Pasta with Bacon, Peas and Garlic Scapes

Makes about 4 to 5 servings

  • 1 lb. (500 grams) fresh long pasta such as fettucine or linguine (or use 8 to 10 oz./226 to 284 grams dried pasta)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 oz. (142 grams) smoked slab bacon or smoked ham, cut into a 1/2″ dice
  • 3 garlic scapes, each about 23″ long, chopped – reserve the flowering ends as garnish
  • 3/4 cup fresh shelled peas (from about 40 to 45 pods)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 oz. (28 grams) parmesan, grated (will equal about 1/4 cup packed when grated)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Heat a large pot of water to cook the pasta. While the water is heating, prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the bacon or smoked ham and brown until slightly crisp around the edges, about two to three minutes (if you’re cooking raw bacon, it will take a bit longer). Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. Put the pasta into the boiling water to cook according to package directions. Drain once cooked.
  4. Add the chopped garlic scapes and peas to the skillet and sauté for one minute. Pour in the chicken broth and cook for another minute. Add the butter and stir until melted and return the bacon to the pan.
  5. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and toss until the pasta is thoroughly coated. Stir in the grated parmesan and season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with a garlic scape if desired. Suggested accompaniment: Bread with Garlic Scape Butter.

Pasta with Bacon, Peas and Garlic Scapes

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.





Farmer’s Market Report – July 6th, 2009

6 07 2009

 

Sweet local peas are at their peak in July

Sweet local peas are at their peak in July

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve been to the farmer’s market due to a very inconvenient city worker’s strike here in Toronto that temporarily shut down some of the markets.  However, it appears that the affected markets are going to re-open this week and luckily there are others that weren’t shuttered at all.  Good thing, because our summers are extremely short and there is a limited amount of time to get the great fresh produce that our local farmers have to offer.

Despite the unseasonably cool and damp weather this spring/summer in Southern Ontario, I was excited to see that the summer harvest has begun.  Strawberries were the main attraction and there is still a lot of asparagus available.  The very first cherries and zucchini are showing up and peas are in full swing.  Green beans and tiny baby potatoes were also abundant.  Fresh lettuces, beets, green onions, various peppers and a variety of carrots were available as well.  There is easily enough available now that you could design a menu around strictly local produce that would offer great variety and abundance.  Such a nice change from a few months ago!

Here are some simple suggestions for using what’s in season now:

Strawberries

Undoubtedly the star of the markets right now, strawberries are at their peak and don’t require too much dressing up to taste good.  Slice a few, sprinkle with a small amount of sugar and enjoy with vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream. You can also mix them into some vanilla yogurt.  I enjoy a few strawberries sliced on top of my cereal in the mornings and it only takes a short time to whip up some biscuits and jam for a weekend breakfast.  Stay tuned in the days to come for some new strawberry recipes I’ve been working on. 

Asparagus

Asparagus will be nearing the end of it’s season soon so it’s time to take advantage of this seasonal delight before they’re gone. I’ve posted quite a few recipes this year including a crustless quiche that’s perfect for breakfast or lunch, asparagus orzo, grilled asparagus spears with goat cheese and prosciutto and a divine roasted asparagus lasagna that is fantastic (if a bit rich!).  Check out the archives at epicurious.com for many more great asparagus ideas.

New Potatoes

Although stored potatoes are a winter staple, the first new ones of the summer have a flavour and texture that is more sweet and delicate than older potatoes.  They require little embellishment: just boil or steam and serve with a bit of butter, salt and pepper. Or make a classic vinaigrette and toss with small boiled potatoes and fresh green beans for a refreshing and simple side dish. Keep it simple and save elaborate potato recipes for fall and winter!

Peas

Fresh new peas are so sweet that they bear no resemblance to the the canned kind (or even the frozen ones that I use through the winter).  Simply boil until just cooked through (NOT to mush!) and finish with a bit of butter, salt and pepper – yum!  If you are able to find ones that are very small, they don’t even need to be cooked before adding to dishes such as pasta.  A couple of months ago, Food and Wine magazine featured a pasta with asparagus, sage and peas that was delicious.  I added a bit of chopped ham to add some protein.  It also takes advantage of the fresh asparagus and herbs that are available now. Click here for the recipe: Penne with Asparagus, Sage and Peas.

Asparagus and strawberries at the farmer's market

Asparagus and strawberries at the farmer's market

Enjoy!

Trish








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