I’ve been in the cooking mood lately and, for a change, I’ve been trying some new dishes featuring vegetables. I tend to fall into a rut this time of year, when fresh vegetables grown locally are non-existent. I love broccoli and Brussels sprouts, but I’ve had a craving for something new. I had some really nice asparagus this past week. They were from Mexico, but there is hope on the horizon!
I found a couple of new pasta recipes that I haven’t tried yet, but I’ll tell you that one of them has oven roasted parsnips, bacon and leeks, which I think sounds delicious.
There was also half a head of red cabbage in the crisper, so I shredded it and stir cooked it with onion and a bit of balsamic. I’m not big on lettuce salads, to tell the truth. I do like to have prepared veggies on hand for lunch or dinner, so I can add a piece of fish or chicken, an egg or maybe a baked potato or some rice, and have a meal ready pretty quickly.
Saturday I made ratatouille. I’ve made it before, but this time I followed instructions that suggested cooking the eggplant separately, then the zucchini separately in olive oil until lightly browned, then salting to taste.
I cooked and seasoned the onions, bell peppers and garlic together in a dutch oven, then added red pepper flakes (a new addition for me), some tomatoes and a little bit of tomato paste, the cooked eggplant and zucchini, a bay leaf and some dried herbs de Provence. You could substitute fresh basil and thyme, if you have them. If you had some really nice fresh tomatoes, you could peel and seed those and cut them into 1″ pieces, but it’s March, so I used some canned tomatoes, drained really well, instead. Another thing you can add is fresh diced fennel bulb (cook with the peppers and onion), but I couldn’t get any this week.
I followed instructions to make and add a cartouche, a parchment paper lid with a hole in the middle that lets the steam escape, brushed with olive oil so that the paper doesn’t singe, then popped the pot in the oven for about an hour at 300 degrees F.
The results were perfect, I think. The vegetables were tender but not mushy, and there wasn’t too much liquid; I think that’s because of the cartouche, which lets steam escape. I had some for dinner Saturday night with leftover pot roast, and for Sunday brunch with eggs (add a bit of snipped chives on the eggs, if you have them.)
Rigatoni with Broccoli Sauce
1 Pound broccoli, stems and florets separated
* kosher salt and pepper
1-1/2 Cups packed baby spinach
2 medium garlic cloves, roughly chopped
4 Tablespoons salted butter, cut into 1 TB pieces
1 Tablespoon drained capers
1/2 Teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 Tablespoons finely grated lemon zest, divided
12 Ounces Rigatoni pasta
1 Ounce Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup) plus more to serve
- Boil and salt a large pot of water
- Peel the broccoli stems and cut into 1/2″ rounds, and add those and any broccoli leaves to the boiling water and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted, 20-30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the stems and leaves to a blender; keep 1/2 cup of the cooking water for the sauce.
- Cut the broccoli florets into 1″ pieces and add to the boiling water and cook until crisp tender, about 3 minutes. Using the slotted spoon, transfer to a colander and rinse under cold water until cooled.
- To the blender, add the garlic, butter, capers, pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon of the lemon zest and the 1/2 cup of broccoli cooking water. Puree until smooth and bright green, about 30 seconds. Taste and season as needed.
- Cook the rigatoni in the boiling water, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, and drain the pasta. Return the pasta to the pot and add the broccoli florets, the broccoli/spinach puree, 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking water, the remaining tablespoon of lemon zest and the cheese. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens slightly and the pasta is well coated, 1 or 2 minutes.
- Season as needed, and serve with additional cheese.