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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Cooking from the Marché Bio

Nothing is a bigger thrill for me, even when it’s freezing outside, than to go to Paris’ Marche Bio. (See my detailed description of this outdoor food market under “Out and About” on my website). Even my spouse, an avowed non-cook, finds this French food market fascinating. Sunday, our haul included winter vegetables, great mushrooms, and some delicious prosciutto known as jambon de Parme over here. I used it all for a menu that starred the savory pasta dish that follows. The recipe, which takes about 45 minutes  from start to finish, makes a perfect cold weather main course.

Pappardelle with Cauliflower, Leeks, and Mushrooms

12 ounces shiitake mushrooms  
A 2 1/2 to 3 pound cauliflower
4 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided  (See note.)
3 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts only
1 pound pappardelle (If these wide pasta strands are unavailable, use fettuccine.)
Kosher salt
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano

Remove the stems from the mushrooms and save for another use or discard. Wipe the mushrooms clean with a dampened paper towel and slice them into 1/2 inch-wide julienne strips.

Remove the base from the cauliflower and cut the head into florets. Cut the florets into 1/4 inch slices to yield 3 cups.

Heat the oil and 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large, heavy skillet set over medium heat. When hot, add the mushrooms and leeks, and cook, stirring often, until both are softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove skillet from heat. (Mushrooms and leeks can be prepared 4 hours ahead; leave at room temperature and reheat over medium heat, stirring.)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the cauliflower slices and cook until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove with a strainer or a slotted spoon to drain. Add the pasta to the pot and cook according to the package directions. Drain well in a colander and return the pasta to the pot. Stir in the remaining butter until it has melted. Then add the leeks and mushrooms and the cauliflower. Toss to mix. Season the mixture well with salt.

Mound the pasta in shallow bowls or on dinner plates, and garnish each serving with a good sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. Pass extra cheese separately in a bowl. Serves 4 to 5 generously as a main course.

Note: Don’t skimp on the butter as it provides great flavor and keeps the pasta from being dry.

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