What’s in a name: Peas with Pasta and Mint

Peas and Pasta The year I was born, Jennifer was the most common name for girls. Suffice it to say, I grew up with no less than 3 or 4 Jennifers in my class at any given time. With that in mind, we all had to adopt our own variation of the root name, and soon I was known as “Jenny.” But never had I regretted that decision more than the Summer of 1994, when the American classic, “Forrest Gump,” was released in theaters. I thought I’d never hear the end of the phrase, “Jenny and me were like peas and carrots.” My SoCal friends would do their darndest to take on a Southern drawl, but their Golden State roots always betrayed their accents. I never fully understood the phrase to be one of endearment, either, because the only peas and carrots I knew where the mushy variety served from a can in the school lunch line. I don’t think I know anybody who ever liked those.

If I could go back in time and rewrite the script for the movie, I’d change the line to peas and pasta. Peas and pasta and mint, for that matter. To me, few things go better with peas than pasta and mint, and my latest recipe features this exact mix. To recreate my recipe, you could easily use any old pasta shape of your liking, but I specifically chose campanelle pasta for its signature bell shape, which acts as a sort of basket for the little peas. Each pasta bell is coated in luxuriously creamy and slightly sweet mascarpone cheese, which melts into a light sauce, perfumed by caramelized onions and woodsy crimini mushrooms.  With just a sprinkle of fresh mint, this dish is elevated from ordinary to irresistible. Since Shavuot is quickly approaching, keep this recipe in your arsenal when you’re looking for something cheese-y.

Peas and Pasta close-upIf ever a sequel to Forrest Gump is in the works, we’ll have to make sure the producers know about the newest best pairing in town.  “Jenny and me was like peas, pasta and mint.” If you ask me, I’d say it has a nice ring to it.

 

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Peas with Pasta and Mint
 
Author:
Recipe type: main
Serves: 4-6
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
Bell-shaped pasta acts as the perfect basket for these peas, coated in a warm mascarpone sauce.
Ingredients
  • 16 oz Campanelle pasta
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 pint crimini mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 cups frozen peas, thawed
  • 8oz mascarpone cheese
  • 3 TBS fresh mint, chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • fresh ground pepper
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta according to packaging, until al dente.
  2. Meanwhile, add olive oil in a separate saute pan, and heat over medium heat. Add the onions, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and garlic, and stir gently. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until mushrooms have cooked through. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  3. Drain the cooked pasta, reserving 1 cup of the starchy pasta water.
  4. Gently fold in the thawed peas to the onion mix. Stir in the hot pasta, and mix in the mascarpone cheese. Lower heat, and let cheese melt. If needed, stir in 1 TBS of the reserved pasta water, to thicken the sauce.
  5. Top with fresh mint.
  6. Can be served hot or at room temperature.
Notes
*If you are using fresh peas, be sure to steam them before adding to this recipe.

 

Mojito Popsicles: A refreshing taste of Havana

Mojito Popsicles

Several years ago, on one of my family trips to Cuba, my dad and I returned to our hotel, exhausted from a day spent handing out clothes, medicine and food to our family members in need. Just as I was ready to hit the sack and recharge before another similarly trying day, my dad signaled to me to get dressed and follow his lead. I’ll be the first to admit that as tired as I was and as hot as it had been that day, all I really wanted to do was rinse the heaviness of the day off in the shower and tuck into bed. But then again, I was up for an adventure.

Havana street art

Havana street art

As my dad lead the way through the old Havana blocks, we noticed the colorful lines of drying laundry decorating the neighborhood homes, and the young children kicking makeshift soccer balls barefoot in the street. Music played from every open window, and couples danced in the doorways, reminding me of my family back home. Finally, we arrived at our destination, La Bodeguita Del Medio, a small bar/cafe in the middle of Havana, made famous by Ernest Hemingway, and their signature drink, the mojito.

LaBodeguitaDelMediosign

We grabbed a table in the center of the joint, and ordered two mojitos. As we sipped our drinks, we reflected on our experience, and discussed our plan to head towards Santiago to see the rest of our family in the coming days. We talked about Ernest Hemingway, and what Cuba must have looked like when he frequented the island. And we may or may not have indulged in a real Cuban cigar. Our mojitos were the perfect night cap to the day, and every time I recreate them at home, I think about that little adventure.

At my recent Cuban-themed dinner party, I served mojitos to my guests, and even used fresh mint from my friend’s garden. At the end of the night, I noticed that we still had a bit left over, and I knew exactly what I’d do with it. I poured it into a popsicle mold, and popped it in the freezer. The next day, I created the exact thing I wish I had on that hot, Havana night: a Mojito Popsicle!

As a word of caution, please note that alcohol doesn’t freeze particularly well. Therefore, if your intention is to turn your mojitos into popsicles, I recommend using a little less rum than usual, and a little more soda and lime juice. That way, you get a solid popsicle that won’t slush at your first bite.

Mojito Popsicles
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert, Drinks
Cuisine: Cuban
Serves: 10
Prep time:
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Turn your favorite cocktail into a refreshing summer treat.
Ingredients
  • ½ cup superfine sugar
  • ¾ cup fresh mint leaves, torn
  • 3 fresh limes
  • ½ cup white rum (Like Bacardi or Havana Club)
  • 2 cups club soda
Instructions
  1. In a large pitcher, add the sugar and the mint. With a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon, muddle the mint into the sugar.
  2. Juice the limes into the pitcher.
  3. Add the rum and the club soda. Stir well.
  4. Pour into popsicle molds, and freeze overnight.
  5. Unmold each popsicle, and wrap in wax paper. Refreeze for 2 hours before serving.
Notes
This recipe makes extra mojito. Go ahead, and pour it over ice. Enjoy!

 

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