This Little Piggy Went into My Belly

Mado brunch Chicago
I have come to a realization. Not today, but I came to this realization many many moons ago. I once thought that being a vegetarian would be cool. Now let me also add that I thought this during a time when I also thought I’d look good with dreadlocks, and during a time when I thought that a good excuse for not shaving would be to insulate myself during those cold cold winters in North Carolina. You know, the ones when it just might get into the 20’s. I am NOT saying that any of the above ideas are non-cool (or even un-cool). But I have changed my ways a wee bit since “the 90’s”. And so today, today wanting to become a vegetarian ranks in priority pretty close to wanting to visit Los Angeles again or wanting to have my fingernails ripped out or, well… you see where I’m going.

What I’ve realized is that meat, in all its shapes and sizes, is an essential part of my food pyramid and something I’m afraid I just could not live without. If truth be told, I haven’t really met a meat I didn’t like. Red or white – I don’t discriminate. Favorites? Sure, I have favorites. I’d choose lamb chops over chicken 9 times out of 10 (the exception being a chicken that might be fried or perhaps stuffed with cheese and other tasty treasures). And I’d fight a polar bear in the snow for a bite of a juicy, vinegar-based North Carolina barbeque sandwich with coleslaw and hushpuppies on the side. Oh and sweet tea with lemon too please. Yep, I’d say I am a fan of swine for sure. I’d go as far as to say that most things do actually taste better with a side of bacon. In fact, I’d originally intended to post specifically about one dish I made for dinner last night that included a “small smattering of pork”, but while thinking about it, I realized that I have officially eaten something of the pork variety for the last 3 meals. So again, vegetarian I am not.

cute pig

Sunday began just like most Sundays should – we’d reunited with long lost band members and rocked it out pretty late the night before (and for those of you who think Rock Band is not “real” you are most definitely un-cool) – so we awoke no earlier than 10 to find ourselves thirsty and hungry. Fortunately for us hungry people, we live near a long list of eateries with the majority serving brunch. And so, we made our way about three blocks east to Mado. We’d eaten dinner at this fine establishment a number of months ago and remembered the cuisine to be pretty good. In addition, they’d recently been listed by Bon Appetit as one of the “top places in the U.S. for brunch”. So when faced with the seemingly impossible task of choosing a restaurant, this was a no-brainer.

For those of you who are into sustainable eating, Mado is for you. They list, on their wall-spanning chalkboard, all the local farms from whom they purchase their produce and meat. They don’t lie when they flaunt their use of all parts of an animal and they even house-cure their meat and made their own apple butter and jams. Their website lists their menu, which is to be expected, but they also list a few events and links which again include the farms they use. One link I found to be particularly intriguing was the one called “Sky Full of Bacon” – series of video podcasts about food, centering on Chicago. I plan to subscribe. One reviewer summed his site up in one word – priceless. That’s my kinda food writer😉

recipe ingredients

Anyway, brunch at Mado was just as tasty as what we’d remembered about the dinner. I had a dish called “eggs in purgatory” which was eggs baked in a spicy tomato sauce with fennel & olives. Served on a little piggy board. Chris had an omelet accompanied by an arugula salad, his favorite green. We split a side of toast with house-made apple butter (de-light-ful) and a side of house-cured ham (also de-light-ful). The ham side was plentiful and had that perfect saltiness. Needless to say, we were good to go until dinner.

proscuitto and peas pasta

Since our brunch was a little heftier than our usual cereal, I’d decided on a real spring-y dinner full of lots of fresh ingredients. I’d seen the recipe in Bon Appetit (yes, this is one of my favorite foodie mags) and it reeked of Spring – asparagus, butter lettuce, peas. The real kicker was the prosciutto topping. How can you resist a spring salad topped with prosciutto? And when you add parmesan cheese? Jeepers! In case you can’t tell, I was excited.

You’ll see below that the recipe makes a pretty ginormous dish. Which is great when you’re in school for three nights straight and unable to cook. I think, had I unbuttoned my jeans a bit and taken a couple of breaks between bowls, that I could have eaten it all in one sitting. It was that good. So, even though (at least in Chicago) it may not look or even feel like Spring, this salad will put you in some sort of a Spring trance – at least until it’s all gone. Oink! Oink!

butter lettuce and prosciutto side view

Pasta w/ Peas, Asparagus, Butter Lettuce, & Prosciutto
adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2009
6 servings (or less if you just can’t stop!)

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for drizzling
1/2 pound spring onions or green onions (dark green parts discarded); white parts cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices, pale green parts cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices (I used spring onions)
2 tablespoons minced shallot
Coarse kosher salt
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth
1 1/2 pounds asparagus, cut crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces
2 cups shelled fresh peas (from about 2 pounds peas in pods) or 2 cups frozen petite peas, thawed
1 pound campanelle (trumpet-shaped pasta) or medium (about 1-inch) shell-shaped pasta
1 head of butter lettuce or Boston lettuce (about 6 ounces), cored, leaves cut into 3/4-inch-wide slices
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for sprinkling
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
4 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide strips

Melt butter with 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and shallot. Sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper. Sauté until tender (do not brown), about 8 minutes. Add wine; increase heat to medium-high and simmer until liquid is reduced to glaze, about 3 minutes. Add broth and bring to simmer; set aside.


Cook asparagus in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, 2 to 4 minutes, depending on thickness of asparagus. Using skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer to large bowl of ice water. Return water to boil. Add peas and cook until just tender, about 2 minutes. Using skimmer, transfer to bowl with asparagus. Drain vegetables.

Return water in pot to boil. Cook pasta until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
Meanwhile, reheat onion mixture. Add drained asparagus and peas; stir until heated through. Remove from heat.

Add pasta, 1 cup Parmesan cheese, lettuce and parsley to skillet with vegetables; toss, adding reserved pasta cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls if dry. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer pasta to large shallow bowl. Sprinkle prosciutto over; drizzle with olive oil. Serve, passing more cheese alongside.

3 thoughts on “This Little Piggy Went into My Belly

  1. Heather Wetzel says:

    Sikantis: I agree! I like your site, by the way :)Jennifer: Let me know how you like it. I made it for 6 servings – just as good the next day but the lettuce was more wilted. Tasted the same!

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