Revitalize your Palate with Fresh Spring Produce

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Spring-time brings the promise of warm weather, green landscapes and fresh garden produce. The season yields tender and sweet leafy greens, carrots and peas. Baby asparagus and rhubarb begin peeping out of the ground, and culinary herbs will soon be ready to cut. Fresh spring flavors coupled with more sunshine renew our energy and vitality.

Begin your spring celebration with this easy-to-prepare creamy veggie pasta dish. Top it off with fish or chicken for a hearty meal.

Creamy Pasta with Salmon or Chicken and Spring Vegetables

12 ounces uncooked pasta of choice (Penne or Rotini work well. Try whole wheat for health benefits)

1 (5.2-oz.) pkg. soft Gournay cheese product with garlic and fine herbs (such as Boursin)

Olive oil as needed

1 pound salmon fillets (or chicken breast or thighs)

¼ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon salt, divided

1 tablespoon butter

2 cups thinly sliced leek

1 pound fresh thin asparagus, trimmed and sliced into 2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 cup green peas, fresh or thawed (if frozen)

2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped, plus more for garnish (or 2 teaspoons dried)

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Whisk together cheese and ½ cup of the liquid until smooth and set aside.

Place large skillet (use an iron skillet if you have one) over medium-high heat. Pat salmon or chicken dry, brush liberally with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add chosen protein to skillet. Cook until a golden brown crust forms. Turn and reduce heat; cooking fish to desired degree of doneness, 1 to 2 minutes for medium. Cook chicken until the center reaches 165 degrees. Transfer to a plate and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Wipe skillet clean.

Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Add leek and asparagus. Cook, stirring often until asparagus is tender-crisp. Stir in cheese mixture, lemon zest, peas, dill and cooked pasta. Stir constantly until heated through, stirring in reserved liquid from pasta as needed for creaminess. Remove from heat and cover.

Remove skin from salmon and flake into large pieces. If using chicken, cut into pieces or shred. Top pasta servings with your chosen protein and garnish with additional dill and crumbles of Gournay cheese product.

Serves 6

Margie Mansure is an extension agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension. As a registered dietitian/nutritionist chef, she offers nutrition and cooking classes to community members.