Cooking with Martha – A Spring Green Garden Lunch!

photo (19)I recently had the good fortune of spending a Saturday morning cooking lunch with my good friend and fabulous chef, Martha.  I’d asked her if she would cook up something with me once a month that I could share with my readers.  So this is my first “Cooking with Martha” blog and I hope there will be many more to come—both for you and for me.  I get to eat great food and hopefully you will be inspired to cook something different and tasty in the near future.

Martha, of course, doesn’t cook from one recipe but combines a number of different ones and adds her own little twist on them depending on her mood and what the local farmer’s market has in store for her each week.  The dishes we prepared were: Asparagus Braised with Peas, Mushrooms, and Spring Onion; Carrots cooked in butter; and Polenta with grated Parmesan Cheese.  What a feast!

You don’t have to make them all together, although it was quite a nice meal.  Think about how you can use polenta more, how you can throw in some sautéed carrots for an extra vegetable at any meal, or cook together a bunch of vegetables for a beautiful presentation and tasty meal of what’s fresh and in season.

Here are the recipes.

photo (21)Asparagus Braised with Peas, Mushrooms, and Spring Onion
1 pound asparagus (snap off the hard part at the bottom and and slice into lengths about 1”)
2 pounds frozen peas or shelled fresh peas (can you also use edamame or any kind of cannellini or fava beans)
3 Tb. Unsalted butter
5 spring onions, or other small fresh onions, thinly sliced
1 head green garlic, thinly sliced (this is the new garlic that you can only get in the spring, so you can use regular garlic during other times of the year)
½ c. white wine or vegetable broth
Mushrooms (as many varieties as you’d like—we used shitake, oyster, and cremini)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
A few basil leaves or chives, chopped

Prepare the asparagus and peas for cooking.  Melt 2 TB. of butter  in a skillet.  Add onions and garlic and cook over medium heat until they are starting to soften.  Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and sauté a few minutes longer. You don’t want them to get very brown or crispy. Add the wine or vegetable broth and let it cook down a little. Add the asparagus and about ¾ cup water, and season with salt and pepper.  Simmer until the asparagus is almost tender (about 5-7 minutes, depending on thickness).  Add peas and cook until done (about 2 minutes).  Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Add the last TB. of butter and remove from heat.  Add the basil or chives and serve over polenta or pasta.

photo (16)Carrots cooked in Butter
Cut up your carrots, sprinkle with salt to taste, and cook slowly in butter in a skillet until tender. They might get a little golden but should not brown. If they are starting to brown before they get tender, add a couple of tablespoons of water to help them steam a little. Add chives on top. VERY EASY!

photo (13)Polenta with Parmesan Cheese
If you buy a package of corn grits (polenta), here are the instructions: Use 4 cups of water to 1 cup polenta. Bring water to a boil in a deep saucepan, then pour polenta in slowly. Stir vigorously for a couple of minutes with a whisk to make sure there are no lumps. Then cook over very low heat for about 30-40 minutes, stirring every few minutes with a spoon. However, I was informed by Martha that you should only stir the polenta in one direction (this is what she learned from great Italian cooks a couple of summers ago). Do not let the polenta splatter as it is very hot and can burn you. You will know the polenta is done when it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan when you stir it. After you cook the polenta you can stir in as much grated parmesan cheese as you’d like.  Yum!!! And also VERY EASY! Note: An even easier way is to buy instant polenta and follow package directions. This will only take a few minutes to prepare.

Let me know if you try any of these recipes by commenting below!

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