If “April is the cruelest month,” as T. S. Eliot once wrote, then May is the kindest: temperature in the 70s, gentle rain, cool Puget Sound breezes, and glorious color everywhere. Screaming yellow Scotch broom runs rampant along the highways, foxgloves are set to explode, those pesky little purple weeds disguised as flowers still look innocent, species rhodies bloom along side roads, and front yards are vibrant with newly planted annuals.
As for our wildflower slope, the Sweetie has put in the hard work, labored with hoe and rake, lugged countless sacks of soil and compost, sowed and watered seeds, and we’re beginning to see early results: dark blue lupines, white alyssum, gold poppies, and pink who-knows-whats. I have contributed in my own own lazy way to our backyard beauty with a few reluctant snapdragons, a sun-shy begonia, and some brash Martha Washington geraniums. Now we can sit back and wait for the show.
Of course everyone is outside gardening: Ginny has a plot full of early tomatoes, lettuce starts, snap peas, chard, and gorgeous red peonies; the Fro’s beautiful garden is bursting with colorful perennials, there’s a glorious dark lavender rhodie to our right, the neighborhood front-yard azaleas are taking their final bow, and the lilacs look like they may last forever this year.
The wild creatures remind us daily that we share our outdoor spaces with them: the rabbits (I refuse to call them bunnies) and deer have their way with our tender young plants, Green Frog and Dark Green Frog claimed the Miracle Gro flower feeder jug in our patio storage box, and a mother junco emphatically staked out a dead shrub (just about to be sent to the refuse bin) as the perfect spot to raise her chicks, so the garden tidy is on pause.
Shrimp Pasta with Artichoke Pesto and Asparagus (makes 4-6 servings)
- One pound peeled 16-20 shrimp
- 1 lb. bag of dry pasta
- Artichoke Pesto: 1 small jar marinated artichokes, with juice, 1/2 small can hearts of palm, without juice, 1 Tbs. olive oil, 1/2 Tbs. grated lemon zest, 1 Tbs. minced garlic, 3 finely chopped green onions, 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, 1/2-1 cup grated Parmesan, Pecorino, Romano, or Kasseri cheese
- 2 cups chopped greens: spinach, arugula, chard, kale, or combination
- 1/2 lb. fresh asparagus, cut into 1″ pieces
- Salt to taste
Pesto: Pulse artichokes with juice, hearts of palm without juice, olive oil, lemon zest, garlic, green onion, and pepper flakes in food processor until smoothly chunky or chunkily smooth. Pulse in grated cheese. Taste for seasoning. Pour pesto into large bowl.
Bring lots of salted water to boil. Blanch greens for 30-60 seconds. Remove from water with tongs or a slotted spoon. Let cool. Chop coarsely. Add greens to pesto in large bowl. Home-made or store-bought basil pesto works like a charm too.
Add pasta to the same water and cook 10-12 minutes or until almost done.
Add peeled shrimp and asparagus pieces to cooking pasta. Cook until shrimp turns pink and asparagus turns brighter green—cook only a few minutes, don’t overcook.
Drain pasta, shrimp, and asparagus into colander, save 1/2 cup pasta water. Pour pasta/shrimp/asparagus on top of pesto and greens in the large bowl. Add reserved pasta water. Add more cheese. Toss to combine.