Monday, May 21, 2012

That Yummy Vegetable Pasta Thing



I have to be honest.  There is no recipe for this dish.  There's not even a name for it.  It's that simple and that versatile, and hard to pin down.  It's really a matter of opinion, and available ingredients and feel. 

There seem to be people who really prefer written recipes.  They want a detailed recipe with measurements and exact baking times.  I get this.  I really like a recipe.  One time I asked my mom for a broccoli cheddar soup recipe and she handed me a page that had a collage of 3 different broccoli soup recipes taped to one sheet of paper! It overwhelmed me.  I needed ONE.  The perfect one, preferably.  To which she replied, "Well, really the one I make is more of a combination of  #1 and #2, and then when I don't have all of those ingredients, I use the #3 (and tweak it a little)!" Clearly, written recipes are sometimes the way to go.

And then there are some people who don't really use written recipes.  They just add a little of this and a pinch of that.  They might even feel like recipes are restricting!  They want freedom.  Because of this, they can't easily share recipes.  It's not that they are being selfish or mysterious, it's that they don't have a recipe written down.  They just "feel" their way through the recipe and it may change with each time they prepare the dish.  

In An Everlasting Meal, (which I mentioned a couple of weeks ago), the author Tamar Adler writes about using our senses to assist in cooking. She talks about using your sight, taste, touch, smell and hearing in the kitchen.  She writes,

"You must taste and taste.  Taste everything and often.  Taste even if you're scared...  

Listen as though you could cook something just by hearing it...

When you touch the food you cook, you develop intelligence in your fingertips.  I cook mostly with my hands:  they're calibrated, by now, to turn things at the right moments, to choose correct amounts of salt."

I love this idea.  I do think my hands are calibrated to cooking certain dishes.  

On the spectrum of recipe-following, I probably land somewhere in the middle.  I'm best with a good, clear recipe to start with and then after I become acquainted with the recipe, I like to substitute, or add-in, or alter here and there.  
This recipe is one that I created a few months ago and keep changing it a little each time I make it.  I look in the kitchen and see what short pasta i have, and what veggies and cheese I have, and then I create something.  

Dave has been urging me to post this "recipe", because he thinks it is such a winner, and wants YOU to make it too.  I have hesitated because it feels too loose of a recipe to write out.  And it doesn't even have a name – as I have changed the name of the dish each time I've made it, depending on what ingredients I've used.  It can be served hot or cold or room temperature.  That makes it confusing as to whether it is a side dish, or pasta salad.

So, live in freedom, make it like you want and call it what you like.

Use your senses to make this recipe your own.  Roast the vegetables to where they look, smell, and feel right.  Cook the pasta until, when touched or tasted, it feels done.  Add dressing and seasonings to your taste buds' liking, add more veggies when your eyes tell you it looks balanced.



Pasta (tortellini, bowtie and orzo are the 3 I have tried) Dave votes for orzo.
Boil as directed on the package.

4 cups roasted vegetables – cut small (squash, zucchini, green beans, asparagus, onions, bell peppers, )
 (See HERE for further roasting instructions)

1 cup Sun dried Tomatoes and/or 1 cup sliced grape tomatoes

A few hands full of spinach leaves (cut into small pieces with scissors or sharp knife) – don't be afraid of this.  It shrinks into little pieces but adds nice color and "hidden" nutrients!

Cheese (feta or goat) – as much as you like 

Dressing – ½ cup olive oil, 3 garlic cloves minced, minced basil (fresh or dried), Kosher salt and ground pepper to taste. (You can add in other spices – I love the flavor of the Trader Joe's Everyday Seasoning Mill.  It has some red pepper which adds a nice kick). Place all of these ingredients in a jar or measuring cup and stir vigorously until well combined.

Toss all prepared ingredients together (except the dressing) 

Then pour dressing on a little at a time stirring and tasting, until you have the amount of dressing desired.  (You may have some leftover depending on the type and amount of pasta used).
Add seasoning to taste, if needed.  

Serve it as a side dish with a green salad or sandwich, 
make a meal out of it, 
top it with a piece of meat or fish and call it a pilaf, 
serve it chilled and call it a pasta salad,
or eat it with a fork out of the bowl before bedtime and call it Dave's Late-Night Crave.  

tortellini & bow tie version
orzo version


roasting veggies 

roasting other veggies

chopped spinach (which when incorporated shrinks into tiny pieces)


 orzo with different veggies










5 comments:

  1. I've been ruminating over a similar idea ever since I picked up my CSA share on Saturday. Your dressing suggestion sounds perfect!

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  2. I'm with Dave - this stuff was so delicious that I could eat it right from the fridge, too! I made it last night for dinner - orzo, leftover chicken, yellow squash, spinach, tomatoes, feta. It was the perfect way to use up a bunch of stuff in my fridge. SO GOOD! :) I knew I could count on you to help me with a pasta salad!

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  3. Yay! Success. So glad! I crave it. Don't you love making something irresistible out of a few things you have on hand?!

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  4. Hi Julie! I think you know who I am (Martha Austin White's daughter) - anyway, just wanted you to know that we made this tonight, roasted veggies with fried eggs two nights ago, and the vegetable chili last night (including the corn cakes) and all were big hits. You and I have very similar tastes and values when it comes to food, and I'm always looking for new meals. Thanks for the recipes!

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  5. Courtney, OF COURSE I know who you are! I love it!
    I am so honored that my recipes have been used in your kitchen so much lately! How great that we have similar tastes/values in the kitchen. I would love to talk more sometime about recipes and get ideas from you too! Thanks for the encouragement!

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