Out on the porch on an unseasonably warm spring evening, eating casserole. It doesn't get more Midwestern than this.
We spent the weekend building new garden beds. A trip to Menards for lumber and peat moss, a trip to my parents' house to borrow the trailer, a trip to the landfill for a massive amount of black dirt for $5 - the definition of dirt cheap, it appears - and finally planting on Sunday. The peas, carrots, cabbage, beets, butternut squash, spinach, chard, kale, lettuce, turnips, and kohlrabi are all nestled in their garden beds. The cucumbers, tomatoes, basil, rosemary, sage, sugar pumpkins, jack-o-lantern pumpkins, corn, and sunflowers will be planted soon. I still need to transplant our raspberries and rhubarb.
Oh, and our CSA share will be starting soon too.
It's a lot of fruit and veg for our small family. But I can't help myself - spring is a time of optimism and hope. I want sunflowers towering in a sunny greeting to me and my neighbors every morning, and fresh lettuce in the salad bowl every evening. I want a freezer stocked with pesto and a cupboard full of pickles. I have visions of a pantry lined with jars of homemade salsa and sauerkraut, carrots and squash stored away for winter, pumpkin seeds toasting in the oven, rosemary scenting the sauce of autumn's first pheasant.
Entrusting that the miracles of the earth will provide once again this year, those tiny seeds harnessing the sun, water and soil to fulfill their vegetable destiny, the bounty of summer will be upon us soon. However, for the moment, with the brown dirt of our garden beds quiet and bare for the moment, I dig in the pantry and freezer and make casserole with what we have on hand, knowing that an abundance of garden freshness is just around the corner.
Tuna (or Walleye) Noodle Casserole
Adapted from January 2013 Food & Wine Magazine. I love casserole, the classic throw-everything-in-and-bake-it-until-bubbly dish, and this is a quality recipe, with a béchamel base and toasty buttery breadcrumbs on top. Instead of tuna, I subbed in our canned walleye, but as I've never met anyone outside my family tree with canned walleye, you can go ahead and use tuna. If you need to impress your friends with your tuna noodle casserole, just call it cassoulet - but then again, if you need to impress your friends, I kindly suggest you find new friends.
12 ounces rotini pasta
4 Tbls. butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 Tbls. all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk or half-and-half
1 and 1/2 cups frozen peas
3/4 cup piquillo peppers, sliced (look for them near the roasted red peppers in the pickle aisle)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
One 6-ounce can solid white tuna in oil, drained and flaked
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup breadcrumbs