At The Table Garden veggies for an early summer evening

Garden veggies for an early summer evening

At The Table

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Ravioli primavera and asparagus & arugula salad

Early summer is a uniquely beautiful time in Maine. The light is bright, days are long and gardens are offering up their bounty.

When I first bought my house, I discovered a long-forgotten asparagus patch that was choked with weeds, but still producing a few brave stalks. A little TLC was all that plucky patch needed to turn it into an annual asparagus extravaganza.

It’s difficult to describe how tender and fragrant freshly picked asparagus can be—so tender it can render cooking unnecessary, especially when it’s shaved into paper-thin slices. Combined with the bolder tastes of spicy baby arugula and tart lemon, this salad is a welcome addition to almost any meal.

My favorite pairing, however, is with this tasty and easy ravioli primavera bake–think veggie lasagna Alfredo. It too has the fresh, earthy tastes of spring and early summer vegetables. For this iteration I used spinach, artichokes and mushrooms, but the truth is, it lends itself to many garden favorites like zucchini, summer squash, kale, leeks, chard, spring onions and more.

I love this creamy, vegetable-forward casserole because it works for so many occasions. It’s great for feeding a crowd or for cooking once and portioning out meals for later in the week. Once cooked, it will store in the refrigerator for up to three days, or cut it into squares after it has cooled and freeze individual portions for those “I just don’t feel like cooking” evenings.

And here’s a bonus that you’ll thank me for later: the shaved asparagus salad makes a perfect bed for a poached egg and bacon bits. It’s an elegant and unexpected way to make brunch special. I like to serve it with grilled garlic toast. Just rub slices of Italian bread with a half a clove of garlic and brush with olive oil. Toast it on a hot grill or on the stovetop in a hot grill pan.

⇓ RAVIOLI PRIMAVERA BAKE

Photo by Candace Karu

INGREDIENTS
1 30-ounce bag frozen ravioli (I used Hannaford Spinach & Cheese)
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
3/4 cup sour cream
16 ounces (2 8-ounce cans) artichoke hearts in water, drained and chopped
1 pound baby spinach, cooked and chopped
8 ounces sliced mushrooms, sautéed
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup milk
2–3 cloves garlic, minced

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix cream cheese, mozzarella, spinach, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, Parmesan cheese, sour cream, milk and garlic.

Pour a third of the spinach, mushroom and artichoke mixture into a 9×13 casserole dish and spread it evenly over the bottom.

Add a layer of frozen ravioli, then add another third of the mixture spread evenly over the ravioli layer. Add the second layer of ravioli and top with the remaining third of the cheese and veggie mixture.

Bake for 30–40 minutes until the top is golden brown and bubbling around the edges. Let stand for 10 minutes, then serve with shaved asparagus salad and crusty bread.

⇓ SHAVED ASPARAGUS SALAD

Photo by Candace Karu

INGREDIENTS

1/2 pound fresh asparagus, large variety
Juice of one large lemon (about 2–3 tablespoons)
3–4 tablespoons best quality extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard, (I like Maille)
6 ounces baby arugula, washed and dried
Shaved Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

Add lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, and salt and pepper in a small jar, cover tightly and shake to make a simple dressing.

Clean asparagus and snap off tough ends. Using a vegetable peeler, slice lengthwise to make thin ribbons.

Combine asparagus and arugula in a bowl and dress lightly with the lemon dressing. Salt and pepper to taste.

Shave thin curls of Parmesan with a vegetable peeler over the salad.

Candace Karu makes her living writing about food, fitness and travel. She lives near the ocean in an old farmhouse with two ill-behaved dogs and two hard-working barn cats. Follow her on Instagram: @candacekaru or at candacekaru.com.

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