A Recipe for March: Terrapin’s Artichoke Pasta Primavera

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It’s coming! We’re starting to see the first hints of spring! 

I love posting our Spring Hudson Valley Restaurant Week menus. It’s become one of the first real signs, for me, that spring’s arrival is nearing. 

March is a tough time in the Valley.   Winter’s long, dark and cold months have worn us all down.  The promise of spring is near, but the reality of more cold ice and snow is here.  As a chef in the valley, March is particularly hard.  The only fresh fruits and greens available come from warm climates far away. All the Hudson Valley “seasonal” produce (apples, pears, potatoes, and other root vegetables) are falling precipitously away from their freshest point. 

What’s a chef to do?  I try to maintain a regional menu, using the bounty the Valley has to offer…just not in the winter.  I mean, who would come in for yet another round of beef stew with rutabagas and apple pie? (Although, put that way, it does sound good.) 

No, no, it’s time to use the bounty that the warm parts of the world have to offer.  I want to give you a recipe you can make in March that will make you feel like spring has arrived. The heavy hand of winter cooking gives way to the light, getting ready for a bathing suit, cuisine of spring. Lots of the vegetables we associate with spring are now in season in California, such as artichokes, asparagus and sugar snap peas. 

    Pasta Primavera is a ubiquitous name for a dish that means spring pasta.  Recipes vary widely, however, it generally contains vegetables with a cream sauce.  My version does not use a cream sauce.  Instead I make a sauce from artichokes that is both lighter and fresher tasting.  The preparing and cooking of the artichoke hearts is the most time consuming part of this recipe, but it adds a tremendous amount of freshness to the dish.  However, if you desire, you can use canned artichoke hearts.  This sauce can be used over fish or chicken as well. You can find the recipe here. Let me know how it turns out! 

Enjoy the last few weeks of cozy comfort foods, start sneaking in hints of spring, and make your restaurant week reservations soon! 

Pasta Primavera a la Terrapin

For the artichoke hearts:

4 medium sized artichokes

3 cups water

1 lemon

1 tablespoon oil

½ teaspoon salt

Cut the stems off the artichokes.  With a very sharp knife, cut slightly on the bias all around, towards the tip of the artichoke, removing all the leaves and exposing the heart.  Be careful not to cut into the heart itself.  Cut through the artichoke directly above the heart to remove the center leaves.  Trim the remaining leaves with a paring knife or vegetable peeler.  Immediately rub the bottoms with a cut half of a lemon to prevent discoloration.   Place all the artichoke bottoms in a saucepan with the remaining ingredients and the juice from the lemon.  Bring to a boil, cover and cook gently for 20 to 25 minutes, until the artichoke hearts are tender when pierced with the point of a knife.  Allow to cool in the liquid.  Remove the choke of the artichoke with a spoon, and the hearts are ready to use in the sauce.   

For the artichoke sauce:

4 artichoke hearts

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon shallot, diced

½ cup water

1 tablespoon honey

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

To taste salt & pepper

Combine all ingredients, except the oil, in a blender.  Blend until smooth, then add the oil in a thin stream, until fully incorporated.  Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper and hold at room temperature.

For the pasta:

1 pound bowtie pasta

½ pound asparagus, trimmed

½ pound sugar snap peas, cleaned

1 bunch wild leeks (ramps) 

or substitute scallions

1 ear sweet corn

¼ cup sherry

1 Tomato, peeled, seeded and diced

1 tablespoon olive oil

To taste salt & pepper

Reserved artichoke sauce

Cook the asparagus in boiling salted water 3-5 minutes until tender, then cut into 2 inch sections, and reserve.  Cook the corn in same water for 7 minutes, then cut off cob with a sharp knife, and combine with asparagus.  Clean ramps and slice thinly.  Cook pasta in water as per instructions on package.  Heat a large skillet at high heat and add olive oil.  Cook ramps in the oil, until they start to brown.  Add asparagus, corn, sugar snaps, and tomatoes and continue to for 2 minutes.  Add sherry and cook until mixture becomes dry.  At this point keep the vegetables hot until the pasta is cooked al dente.  Drain the pasta and add to skillet, tossing with the vegetables.  Add the artichoke sauce and combine off the heat.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve immediately with some grated parmesan cheese.

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