The box this week contains the following items, give or take any subs that may happen as the week goes on.
- 1.5lb. red little gems
- 1/2lb. broccoli di cicco
- 1/2lb. green chard
- 2lb. English peas
- 1 medium leek
- handful mint leaves
- 1 bunch baby orange carrots
- 1 bunch baby white & red turnips
- 2lb. mixed citrus, & some combination of stone fruit
Your salad greens are a few heads of red little gems, mainly because we have a lot in the field. I like to tear the leaves away from the center, and wash them. You probably have your own favorite ways of making a salad. Mine is to make a blue cheese vinaigrette with lemon zest in the bowl with the olive oil, add some lemon juice and red wine vinegar, crumble the blue cheese, then whisk it all together. Add salt and pepper to taste.
We continue with broccoli di cicco and green chard leaves as the cooking greens of the week. We put a bonus item of baby white and red turnips in the box, as they were in the field and needed to get harvested before next week’s heat wave. They would be great with the bunch of baby orange carrots.
The signature items of the week are english peas and a leek, with a handful of mint leaves, giving you the opportunity to make one of my all time favorite pasta dishes, spaghetti with peas and ricotta. I ate this dish at Romans in Brooklyn a few years ago, and I had to know how to make it at home, cooking various versions for myself over a few pea seasons. I asked Dave Gould, the former chef of Romans, to write out the recipe for our benefit.
I guess this is a Romans classic creation, though we rarely did the same exact thing twice, so now it’s a Martin’s country kitchen creation.
Start by shelling all of your peas. The pods can get smashed, almost bruising as you go, into a stockpot. If you’re vegetarian, fill the pot with water until it comes 3/4 of the way up the peas, so they are not fully submerged. Pea pod broth can be really delicious, but it must be concentrated, i.e. not watered down. Put in a clove or 2 (the spice), a tiny shard of cinnamon stick, leek tops trimmed of any discoloration, and a small handful of either dry porcini or dry morel mushrooms. And if you’re not vegetarian, substitute the water with good chicken broth.
Bring to a rigorous boil over a high flame, skimming any foam that rises as you go. You should find at this point that the pea pods have wilted and are now barely submerged. Simmer over a very low flame for 5 minutes, drop in a few sprigs of mint, then leave to cool for 10 minutes, at which point it is ready to strain. You will need 1 cup of broth per person and the rest can be held for various future purposes.
To build the sauce, slice the white leek bottoms (about 1T per person) thinly and sweat gently in a mixture of butter and olive oil, with a few cracks of black pepper and a few leaves of sage or basil. When very soft, but not colored, add the necessary amount of broth per person. Bring to a boil and season fully with salt. Boil spaghetti in unseasoned water until it is about 6 minutes away from being finished, and add it to the sauce along with all of the peas that you desire. Everything should simmer gently in the liquid, practically submerged until the last minute or two, so you will need to periodically add pasta water and taste consistently for seasoning.
Ideally you can eyeball that when the noodles are cooked there will be about 1/2 cup of broth left in the pot per person. Turn the flame off and add a heaping tablespoon of ricotta per person, the light green leek middles, sliced thinly, a few torn mint leaves and a small squeeze of lemon juice. Stir aggressively, but quickly, so as to not agitate the ricotta too much. The idea is that it remains clumpy and turns your broth milky and rich.
Divide evenly amongst soup bowls and shower with freshly grated pecorino cheese, black pepper and good green olive oil.