If I ever had to live in another city, Kansas City would be in my top three. Though famous for its barbeque, Kansas City offers a plethora of great restaurants, cafes and specialty food stores that would charm even the fussiest foodie. In a mere 48 hours, I ate authentic pizza funghi at La Cucina di Mamma, bought local, fresh vegetables from the bustling Farmers’ Market, sampled cheeses from around the globe at The Better Cheddar and dined on a Chicken Tikka Masala of divine origins at Korma Sutra. If Kansas City isn’t a Mecca for foodies, I don’t know what is.
Saturday’s visit to the Farmers’ Market was a definite highlight. Located at the City Market in the city’s River Market district, the Farmers’ Market has hosted farmers and growers from around the region since 1857. These dedicated vendors converge every Saturday and Sunday, year round, rain or shine, to offer up the bounties of their harvests. During our visit, it was evident that asparagus is in season and abundant – and it happens to be the Market’s produce focus for the month of May. For just $2.00 per generous bundle, we were sure to snag some spears for cooking later in the evening. Other Market buys included fresh snap peas, mushrooms, basil, carrots – and of course, some sweet cherries for dessert.
Saturday afternoon was spent sitting on the back patio, sipping wine and pitting cherries, and brainstorming over the menu for the evening. After flipping through some issues of Fine Cooking in search of inspiration, we finally agreed that a fresh, simple pasta primavera would best show off our spring vegetables – fettuccine pasta in a light, broth-based sauce with a few pats of butter, a few handfuls of grated Romano cheese, and some fresh herbs from the garden. For dessert, sweet simplicity: orange scented cherries with whipped cream. Once the menu was set in stone, it was back to that glass of wine…
While the guys played washers in the backyard Saturday night, the ladies got to work on dinner. Bev got to work on prepping the vegetables. To ensure even cooking, she chopped the snap peas and asparagus in similar sizes and julienned the carrots. All the vegetables (minus the mushrooms, which we roasted) were blanched in garlic broth before adding them to the dish. Several of our non-foodie friends heard “Blanche” and “Julienne” and figured we were inviting a Golden Girl and a French woman to dinner – a crash course in culinary techniques informed them otherwise. I got the pasta water going and started the cherries macerating with some freshly squeezed orange juice and a few shavings of orange zest. To macerate fruit simply means to combine sliced fruit with sugar (and often other liquids, like vanilla or liqueur) to draw out the juices, making a syrup, of sorts.
Once the pasta was done, we combined it with the reduced garlic broth, the veggies and liberal amounts of butter and Romano cheese. Simple, satisfying and comforting – or as another guest put it, “Not bad for veggies and pasta!” Oh, dear… Sometimes husbands are just so hard to please…
My long weekend in Kansas City was, as always, not long enough. A huge thank you to Bev and Aaron for being the ever-gracious and patient hosts – and thank you to Seth and Ashlee for allowing me to enlighten you on our unannounced dinner guests, Blanche and Julienne. Enjoy!
1 lb. fettuccine pasta
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 c. of mixed spring vegetables, trimmed and cut into 1” pieces
1/4 c. mixed fresh herbs (basil, oregano, mint, parsley), chopped
4 Tbs. butter
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 1/2 c. Romano cheese, grated, and more for serving
salt and pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta and salt it well. Cook the pasta to al dente according to the package directions. In a large sauté pan, bring 2 ½ cups of water, the garlic and salt and pepper to simmer over high heat. Add the mixed vegetables and simmer until crisp-tender, about 3 or 4 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a prepared ice bath and continue to simmer the broth until it’s reduced to about 1 cup, 3 or 4 minutes. Drain the pasta and add the pasta, vegetables, herbs, butter, Romano and lemon zest to the broth. Toss over medium heat until the butter is melted, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with more Romano.
Orange Scented Cherries with Whipped Cream
1 1/2 lb. red cherries, pitted
1/3 c. granulated sugar
2 Tbs. orange juice
1/4 tsp. orange zest
1/4 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
1 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Combine cherries, sugar, orange juice, zest, vanilla and salt in a large bowl and toss well. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least half an hour.
Whip the cream, powdered sugar and vanilla in a cold metal bowl with a hand mixer, or in the bowl of a standing mixer with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form. Serve immediately over macerated cherries.