Thursday, May 3, 2012

Help Your Neighbor, Help Yourself

It’s that time of year. Local Farmer’s Markets all over Northwest Arkansas are in full spring (ha ha). Yummy! I love shopping at the Farmer’s Markets. You can get so much more for your money, plus you’re supporting your neighbors and your community as a whole.

Did I mention you get MORE for your money? Well, you do.

Farmer’s Markets became a second home to me once I was in college, and could no longer simply run over to my Godparents’ garden for dinner. You see, in addition to taking me to the Cattleman’s Associations’ pie auctions, they also tried to teach me early on how to nurture and grow a fruitful garden. Well, in my case, how to work in their big oh vegetable garden. Every year my Godfather worked the land just to the side of his house into the most beautiful garden I had ever seen. I honestly don’t know a vegetable he didn’t plant and successfully harvest. One thing I wish he could’ve given to me was his green thumb. I’m somewhat lacking in that area. Lucky for me though, some people aren’t and those people bring fresh produce to the Farmer’s Market every week. I take full advantage of them. Oops I mean "that." You should as well. I promise they won’t mind.

A favorite vegetable around here is asparagus. We love it; can’t get enough of it. This year the asparagus is early and in demand. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. (Thanks Mother Nature.) Knowing there will be large amounts of asparagus now, I decided I’d share a recipe with you that might take it from being on the side, to being the main dish.

Ever thought about an asparagus pasta salad?


Kitchen things you need:

A stove top

A pot large enough for cooking the pasta

A large saucepan

Some water

A strainer as I call it but, I guess most call them a colander

A stove top and a kitchen sink

A cutting board

A sharp knife

A large bowl

A serving spoon

Ingredients wise you’ll need:

1 pound fresh asparagus from your favorite Farmer’s Market. You want to cut it into 1-1/2-inch pieces.

1 package (16 ounces) Rigatoni. I like to use the "garden style", cooked and drained.

1 cup of cooked chicken diced up.

1 cup of cooked ham diced up.

2 medium tomatoes; you can get these at the Farmer’s Market to. You want these seeded and chopped.

1/2 cup sliced ripe olives (This is optional. I’m not an olive lover, but the rest of family members are, and they say you can’t have a pasta salad without olives. Plus they out number me.)

1-1/2 cups zesty Italian dressing

1-1/2 teaspoons dill weed

Once your pasta is cooked and drained and your veggies are washed and cut up the fun starts.

You want to put your fresh asparagus in a large saucepan with just enough water to cover it.

You’re just going to cook it until it’s a crisp-tender. Drain and then let it cool.

Once the asparagus has cooled, grab that large bowl and serving spoon.

You want to combine the asparagus with all the remaining ingredients; then toss to coat. (If you happen to have one of those lovely salad bowl/lid combos I recommend you snap the lid on and shake it about to really mix it up.)

This isn’t a salad you can serve immediately. You need to cover it and refrigerate it for at least 3-4 hours; overnight is even better.

Remember, if you kill everything you try to grow, it’s ok. Some people out there are lucky enough to have green thumbs. Others, like us, are lucky those green thumbed neighbors bring their produce to the Farmer’s Market weekly.

(This story and recipe was written for my column "Madison County Cooking" published by The Madison County Record, May 2012)

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