Mediterranean Pasta with Greens

I am really loving the warm weather, spring vegetables, and my Clean Food (vegan) cookbook! I was carb craving so decided to try out the recipe “Mediterranean Pasta with Greens” from the Spring section. My bad luck continues with my car being towed and ticketed today (I forgot it was Tuesday…street cleaning day on my block 😦 ) and my computer stopped working for 12 hours…so a nice comforting pasta dish was in store.  This absolutely hit the spot! It was quick, light, and tasty! Next time I would double the vegetables (a heavy on the pasta veggie ratio) and maybe try out , but overall the recipe was a success. I still don’t have my phone back yet (or a camera) so the pictures are not the same quality as usual, but I tried to capture the deliciousness! Enjoy!

Ingredients

1 pound penne or fusilli
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon dried basil *may have to add more spices if going to double the veggies…just keep the basil to oregano ratio
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas *I used 1 can of chickpeas
2 cups canned diced tomatoes with their liquid *I used 1 28 oz can of organic diced tomatoes. I would double this next time
2 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup mirin
1 small bunch kale, chopped (I used purple kind fun 😉 )*I would double this
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Instructions

Cook pasta according to directions on package. Rinse, drain and return to pot. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and set aside.

In large Dutch oven over medium heat, sauté garlic and onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until soft (about 3 mins). Add basil, oregano, chickpeas, tomatoes, tomato paste and mirin. Sauté 5 minutes longer. Add kale, then cover and cook 3 minutes or until soft. Uncover and stir to combine all ingredients. Season with salt and lots of pepper and toss with pasta. (I had to add a little vegetable stock here because a little dry with all the pasta). Cook to heat through and serve.

Sweet Potato, Corn and Kale Chowder

I made this dish (from Clean Food) during a “Girl’s Night In” dinner last week (with slight modifications from the original recipe). It was a huge hit and fantastic for left overs to keep the deliciousness going 🙂 A very colorful and comforting dish. Definitely a new favorite of mine (doesn’t hurt that it has kale *smiles*). Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 stalks celery, diced
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 cups corn, fresh or frozen
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cups rice milk, plus more if needed
  • 2 tablespoons cashew butter, dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1 bunch kale, chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)

Instructions

In a large pot or Dutch oven, saute onion in oil over medium heat until soft (~3 mins). Add celery, carrots, sweet potatoes and corn. Cook for a couple of minutes. Add thyme and stock, simmer for 5 minutes. Add enough rice milk to cover the vegetables. Bring pot to boil, reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are soft (15-20 minutes). Remove from heat and add dissolved cashew butter. Partially puree using a handheld blender. (I do not have a handheld blender, so I took about 1/3 of the soup, pureed it in my food processor and added it back to the pot). Add kale, return to heat, thin to desired consistency with water, stock, or rice milk(I thinned mine with vegetable stock).Cook until kale is tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste!

I bought a vegan cookbook…and didn’t even know it *smiles*

Sometimes the best way to get over the middle of the week is to do something outside your everyday routine. My friends and I try to do a weekly dinner night round-robin style (different host and cook each week) usually around mid-week. The company and the food is always great and breaks up the monotony eat.sleep.work. This past Wednesday night, it was my turn to host! I thought I would try my hand out at the my roommate’s German style Gruenkol and Sausage recipe and something from my new cookbook: Terry Walter’s “Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source”. This cookbook is not in your face anything, but is great in its approach and simplicity. I didn’t even realize it was vegan until my friend Emily teased me about meat recipes…

Emily: Have you seen any meat recipes in this book?

Me: What do you mean?

Emily: I think the cookbook is vegan…

Me: No, it couldn’t be! *grabs books and flips to index* Let me check for chicken. *searches…searches…searches again* Dang. There is no chicken, beef, lamb, pork, or any other meat in here. How did I buy this and not even realize it was vegan?!? You know I like balance of both meat and green!

Emily: *laughter* and the carnivore falls *continues laughter*

Me: *sigh* It’s an awesome cookbook…

I own over 50 cookbooks, but it hasn’t been until the last 6 months that I have consistently used one. I bought them for the pretty pictures that made my mouth water instead of looking at what kind of recipes the cookbook offered…more importantly I didn’t look at the philosophy behind the collection of recipes. The result: shelves full of pretty cookbooks that collect a lot of dust. This changed for me with Mark Bittman’s “The Food Matters Cookbook”. A recommendation by a friend that really started my journey towards reevaluating how I look at food, what I cook, and subsequently what I put in my body. Bittman’s book had a great philosophy behind it and fantastic recipes (I have cooked more than a dozen already…and some more than once!) One thing it doesn’t have is food pictures. Same idea with Walter’s “Clean Food”. Great introduction and philosophy to how we approach food and recipes reflect that. “Clean Foods” organizes itself by seasons, which is something that I have really started to enjoy. Seasonal cooking plays directly into sustainable eating. Our society is a global one that continues to grow wider every day. This makes it easy to get imported ham from Spain, olive oil from Italy, figs from Turkey, etc etc. But, these options aren’t always the most sustainable. By purchasing in season and local foods, you can  decrease the environmental effects of shipping foods thousands of miles and into your kitchen. This also allows you to support the local economy (farmer’s markets are great!) Seasonal food is the freshest you can buy and thus tends to be more nutritious…and tastier! Buying seasonal produce also provides an exciting opportunity to try new foods and to experiment with seasonal recipes…and cookbooks :-).

New cookbooks always come with their staple pantry ingredients that keep popping up throughout. This cookbook was no different and had a few items I had never bought before or cooked with before. So I did some research and wanted to share my spoils of three ingredients heavily featured in “Clean Food”: mirin, grape seed oil, and cashew butter.

  • Mirin is a sweet Japanese condiment with up to 14% alcohol. This sweet cooking wine is made from glutinous wine. Mirin can soften the strong smells of fish and seafood. It is one of the main ingredients of teriyaki sauce.
  • Cashew butter is more often than not unprocessed food in contrast to the ever popular peanut butter (often mixed with salt, hydrogenated vegetable oils, sweeteners, and dextrose).  Furthermore unlike sweetened peanut butter, cashew butter rarely contains any added sugar. Cashew butter has a rich creamy flavor, that is perfect as a spread or an addition to soups, dips, and sauces. Cashew butter is also easy to make yourself (here is an example recipe).
  • Grape seed oil (technically a fruit oil not a vegetable oil) has a moderately high smoke point at about 216 °C (421 °F). This makes this oil ideal for high temperature cooking and also be used for stir-frying, sauteing or deep frying. Because of their insolubility in lipids, the cold-pressed grape seed oil contains negligible amounts of the antioxidants and other biologically active compounds associated with the increased health benefits of grape seeds. However, grape seed oil has a clean, neutral taste that allows the food to stand out not the oil.

Here is a preview of the dish I made from “Clean Food” on Wednesday. I will post the recipe in the next few days. Sweet Potato, Corn, and Kale Chowder: