My mother loves the phrase, ‘You’ll be rewarded in heaven.’ As we just buried my Grandmother and celebrated her life this week, that phrase has been offered in some form to our family many times. It is comforting to think that living a good life will be recognized by something greater than us when we leave this life.

One of my yoga teachers fittingly gave a talk last week about karma (our actions and deeds) and our bodies being envelopes.  We take good care of ourselves as best we can, perform as many good actions in these envelopes as we can, and at some point we will slip out of these human form envelopes and our energy will live on elsewhere. Maybe we will be rewarded in heaven…

Now that is a lovely thought, but an even lovelier thought, for me, is living a life that is heaven on earth. I can only speculate as to what awaits me once I am gone, but there are real live daily rewards that I can focus on instead.

Springtime is one of the best times to bring our attention to these gifts of the universe. After what seemed the longest winter in history in all parts of the United States, our patience and stamina have been gifted with the rewards of the season: Crocus blooms poking up from the ground, red bud trees, dog wood blossoms, tulips, lilacs, cherry blossom trees, and forsythia. We are given a visual and aromatic feast!

Our gardens and farmers’ markets are rewarded this time of year with produce to create culinary feasts too. The superstars on my menus this season are fava beans, mushrooms, and asparagus. There is a bit of magic to each of these. 

Favas are so big and luscious they remind me of the fairytale Jack and the Beanstalk and the magic beans! Fava beans are so loved by the earth, they are given 2 envelopes in which to develop. They have a big velvety pod as well as an extra little casing that needs removed before eating them. Twice the work, but such a special ingredient.

Mushrooms of all kinds make me think of stories about fairies and gnomes living in the forest floors. These little guys in the picture are a French wild mushroom called Mousseron, also known as fairy ring mushrooms. (The name “fairy ring” offers the once held belief that fairies killed the grass by dancing wildly all night, creating the circle and leaving the ring of little mushrooms in their wake. Um, magic.)

And lastly, I found these purple asparagus spears that truly play a magic trick in the kitchen, when they are cooked they turn green. I try to preserve their color and slice them uncooked, into thin little coins and toss them into dishes.

I’ve made a spring time pasta with these vegetables but they can easily be transformed into a risotto, a grain dish, a simple sauté or the bones of a seasonal soup. Rewards, indeed! 

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Fairytale Pasta with Herb Oil

Not really a recipe, just a few steps and a gathering of ingredients. 

  • 1 lb of pasta
  • 1 cup fava beans, shelled (shelled edamame or frozen lima beans are great substitutions)
  • 1 cup mushrooms, cleaned
  • 1 cup asparagus, sliced into coins or on the bias in 1" pieces
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup herb oil*

While the pasta is boiling, sautee the vegetables in a large skillet in a little bit of oil, season with salt and pepper. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of pasta water. Add the pasta to the skillet. Pour in the herb oil and a little bit of the pasta water to the pan. Stir until everything is combined and a bit thickened. Add in the cheese and serve.

*Herb Oil

Most recipes only call for a few tablespoons of fresh herbs and I am left with a bundle of flavorful greens that end up wasted. Now I puree them (tender herbs like basil, chives, tarragon, parsley, cilantro) in the food processor or blender with olive oil and freeze them until I need them. These oils melt perfectly into hot dishes like pasta. There are many different techniques: blanching the herbs, boiling the oil, overnight infusions, mutiple strainings, etc. I love the shortcut version: Puree 1 part herbs to 3 parts oil until smooth. Pour into a freezer safe container. Take it out and use when you want to make simple things fancy! I drizzle these oils over grilled meats, onto salads, over roasted vegetables, dot onto soups, marble them into mashed potatoes, or to add color and flavor to just about anything.