Pasta, Kale and Squash

Serves 4

 

Once upon a time, I would get home from work and begin the process of making homemade pasta.  It’s a simple process involving only eggs, flour and maybe a touch of water or even olive oil.  Homemade pasta is always worth it…if you have the time to invest in the wonderful tradition.  Ah, time!  Time is a luxury that comes in spurts these days.  Claire Berlin is on the verge of walking which means a whole lot is going on in our home and time in the kitchen is more limited than usual.  Instead of seeing it as an obstacle, I see it as an opportunity to think quick and cook quicker!  Delicious meals, nutritious meals need not take hours of preparation and deliberation.  Some do and that’s fine, (I look forward to those, too), but when you don’t have it, you can still eat well and feel good.

This dish was inspired by my love of homemade ravioli and around this time of year, that ravioli is usually filled with some sort of squash.  This is something like a deconstructed version.  There’s something special about the flavor of squash, the right amount of parmigiano and the sweet but bold flavor of good pasta.  I’d been reluctant to post a pasta dish because of the now ubiquitous demand for gluten-free products.  The rise of celiac disease and gluten intolerance has brought to light the many delicious alternatives to wheat based products.  And I make an effort to balance my gluten consumption with all those delicious alternatives.  Still, it’s pretty tough to beat a yummy bowl of semolina pasta!  And it doesn’t have to be all bad, either!

Durum semolina wheat is prized for its high protein and high gluten.  This helps keep the dough elastic yet maintaining its shape.  Semolina wheat is also high in beta-carotene which is an important anti-oxidant.  Whole durum will give you many of the benefits of whole grains such as fiber, iron, magnesium and B vitamins.  However, because it is ground into a flour, you lose the “intactness” of the whole grain, i.e. the germ, bran and endosperm, though they are still present because the flour isn’t further refined (as is the case with white flour).

So, having some pasta isn’t a bad thing, especially if it’s organic and as whole as possible…or as unrefined as possible.  It’s also ideal to have it once in a while as opposed to everyday.  (I know many people who get stuck on this pasta-cycle.)

Incidentally, my new favorite store-bought pasta is Montebello, an artisan and organic pasta.

Buon Appetito!

You’ll need:

4T extra-virgin olive oil,

4-5 fresh large sage leaves, whole

1 1/2 C butternut squash, diced (roughly)

1 large clove of garlic, minced

1/2 red chili pepper, thinly sliced* (Use of seeds is entirely up to you…I chose to forgo the little buggers for this recipe.)

1 bunch Lacinato Kale, stemmed and sliced

1/2 lb organic, semolina durum wheat pasta

Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

To make:

1.  Place 2 T of olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat.  Add sage leaves and squash and cook until just tender, about 12-15 minutes.  Set aside.

2. In the same pan, add remaining olive oil, garlic, and chili and saute for 2-3 minutes before adding kale.  Saute until kale is just wilted and a beautiful, vibrant green color.

3.  In the meantime, get the pasta cooking according to the instructions on the box.  You’re aiming for al dente pasta, cooked but firm.  (Overcooked pasta is not pleasant at all!)  Drain and drizzle with another T of olive oil.

4.  When everything is done, toss together in a bowl and serve immediately, topped with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

5.  Enjoy!

*The chili is divine in this dish.  The heat plays so well with the sweetness of the butternut squash.  I know a few former classmates who will love my new found love for chili peppers!

Butternut Squash Muffins (from February 13, 2012)

(adapted from Jamie Oliver’s, Jamie at Home)  makes 12 regular muffins or about 40 mini-muffins 

You’ll need:

1 lb butternut squash, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 C coconut palm sugar
4 large eggs-free range and organic preferable
1 C spelt flour
1/2 C oat flour
1 C whole wheat pastry flour
2 t baking powder
1 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t freshly grated nutmeg 
Pinch of sea salt 
1 C walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
2/3 C extra virgin olive oil*

To Make: 

1. Place squash in a food processor and process until finely chopped.  Add sugar and eggs and pulse to combine.
2. In a separate bowl, add flours, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and a pinch of salt.  Whisk to combine well.  Then add to food processor and pulse to process 5 times.  Scrape down sides if necessary.
3. Add olive oil in a steady stream as food processor is mixing batter.  Process just until all is evenly combined.  Try not to overprocess!  Just looking to combine everything together.
4. Fill paper cases in muffin tin with batter.  Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  (If using mini-muffin tins it’ll be more like 15-20 minutes.)  Check to see if muffins are done by piercing with a toothpick in the center of center muffin for 5 seconds.  If it comes out clean, you’re in business.  Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack.
5. Enjoy!
*Coconut oil works great,too! 

Holy Butternut Squash! (from January 24, 2012)

As the chef, I’m normally in charge of our kitchen at home.  But since our little one is still quite little, my husband has taken over for a while.  (He’s an incredible cook!)  To save time we’ve been supplementing our CSA orders and trips to the market with deliveries from Fresh Direct.  (They deliver beer and wine,too which is not too shabby for the new dad!)  The only problem is that you can’t choose your produce.  So, we ordered a butternut squash and they sent us a 7 pound hunker!!!  Needless to say, I’ve had to come up with many ways to use it up.  I came up with a Winter Minestrone, Butternut Squash Risotto and Butternut Squash muffins.  While I had the time to cook and bake, I didn’t have much time to take any pics!  Next time, as I still have quite a bit of squash left!  It’s a great opportunity to tweak these recipes!   

Winter Minestrone – serves 6 
 (or great for leftovers)
You’ll need:
3T extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 medium carrots, finely diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1 lb butternut squash, diced in 1/4″-1/2″ cubes
1t fennel seeds, crushed
1t oregano
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup cooked kidney beans
1 handful long grain brown rice
1 28 oz whole canned tomatoes, diced
6 cups water or veg stock
Sea salt
1T fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup parsley, finely cut (optional)
Fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano (optional)
To make:
1. Over medium-high, heat oil in a large soup pot and add onion and a pinch of sea salt and saute for 5 minutes.  Add carrots and celery and saute for 5 more minutes or until tender.
2. Add butternut squash and herbs and let cook together.  Add another pinch of salt and cook for about 5-7 minutes.
3. Add kidney beans and handful of rice and let cook together for another 3-5 minutes.  Add juices from tomatoes and diced tomatoes and let everything simmer for a few minutes until flavors marry each other.
4. Finally add the water (or stock, if using) and bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer.  Cook partially covered for 40minutes or until rice is tender.
5. When soup is done, add lemon juice for a quick refreshing blast.
6. Serve with parmesan and parsley as garnish.
7. Enjoy!  (Possibly with some hearty country bread!)