Beginners Series: Quick & Dirty Green Pasta

Apparently, writing a food blog makes you an expert on cooking. I now get lots of questions from family and friends about healthy eating. It’s cool, I kinda like giving advice, especially about something I know a little bit about. For example, a friend, who, well, eats roller dogs from 7-11 for lunch, wanted to know how to eat more vegetables. “I know I should be eating them, but they just don’t taste good.” Well my friend, I’ve got advice for that!

In general, I’m not a huge fan of vegetables either. The way they taste, I mean. Especially when someone else (over)cooks them, then serves them on the side, saying “Here, I made you some vegetables!” Being a vegetarian, I get that a lot. It’s an awkward situation, where I have to gracefully decline the slightly brown, wilted lump of broccoli and fill up on bread and pasta until I can get home. However, there is a silver lining. When I do get home, I take my veggies (the fresher and more local the better) cut them up small, and mix them with all kinds of wonderful flavors that I do like. That’s the trick. Take a little broccoli (or in the case of this recipe, some leafy greens) on your fork, along with food you do like, such as pasta, cheese, etc. It really makes all the difference.

This particular “recipe” is one I use when it’s just me and I’m hungry and I need food fast. All the measurements are for one person, so if you’re cooking for more, just up the numbers. All’s you really need is pasta, some light leafy greens (baby spinach, baby arugula), olive oil and salt. Everything else is up for interpretation. I make this all the time, but it’s never the same dish twice. I love to add in toasted almonds or pumpkin seeds, avocado (great sub for cheese for those of you not partaking in dairy) leftover cooked vegetables, fresh herbs, or whatever spices I’m feeling (spice blends are really great for this kind of thing – when I’m lazy!). Raid the fridge for the extra dressing or sauce from dinner the other night, it’s always welcome here.

So, in the beginner’s series way, read on for the step-by-step breakdown.

First, gather all your ingredients. Remember, these here are just ideas, rummage around the kitchen a bit and see what else you’ve got.

Next, put on a pot of water to boil. Once it’s boiling, add the pasta. Keep it boiling, stirring it every once and a while, until tender, 10-12 minutes usually. Taste it to make sure before you drain in.

While the pasta is cooking, mince the garlic:

 Then chop up the greens. The smaller you chop them, the more they will distribute evenly throughout the pasta, and the quicker they will wilt when you stir them in.

All’s you have left to do is put it together. In the same pot you boiled the pasta, add the oil, salt, spices and garlic. Cook for about a minute over medium heat, then turn off the heat. Throw the drained pasta back in, then the greens, and mix it all together. Garnish with cheese, or chopped fresh herbs, or toasted seeds.

Quick and Dirty Green Pasta

 enough pasta for 1 person
a splash of olive oil (maybe a tsp. or 2)
a few pinches of sea salt
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (or more if you like it spicy)
1 garlic clove, minced
a handful of tender baby greens, chopped small
cheese (I used a raw white cheddar) grated, for garnish

other garnish ideas: toasted almonds, pumpkin seeds, fresh herbs, avocado, etc.

Bring water to boil in a large pot. Add pasta and cook until tender, 10-12 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, prep the rest of your ingredients.

When the pasta is done, pour a little oil into the same pot, over medium heat. Add the salt, red pepper and garlic, and cook for about a minute. Turn off the heat and stir in the pasta and greens. Give it a good toss or two to coat everything in the oil and wilt the greens.

Serve, topped with cheese and other garnishes.

serves 1

Beginner’s Series: The Buddha Bowl

It seems every self respecting health food restaurant has a version of this dish. They may call it the Dragon Bowl, Rice Bowl, or Buddha bowl. It consists of some vegetables, a grain, sometimes a sea vegetable and/or a protein, and served with some kind of dressing. This is my interpretation. The great thing about it is you can use any veggies, grains, dressing flavors you like. I usually go for contrast – so, lots of different colors and textures. You can get different textures in the way you cut the vegetables, or use some cooked and some raw. And, my signature piece atop all of this are some crunchy, nutty sunflower seeds. I think they add a lot.

As much as I enjoy being inventive and unique in the kitchen, I am really drawn to helping out the newbies of healthy eating/cooking. So I present to you: The Beginner’s Series. A series of posts with delicious, healthy recipes that are easy to interpret  in multiple ways depending on your tastes and stock of food in the house. These will include step-by-step instructions with pictures to help out those of you who feel a little intimidated by that room with the stove. If you’re already a virtuoso with a Wustof you can skip ahead to the recipe. Let’s get started!

Since the rice (sub any grain you like) takes the longest to cook, start that first. Watch this video for help. Then, set up your mise en place, which basically means to get everything out before you start. You need your veggies (kale, pepper, carrots and arame sea vegetable are what I use here) and seeds, and the ingredients for your dressing (soy sauce, rice vinegar and toasted sesame oil).

Once you’ve got everything out, soak the arame  for 5-10 minutes in water to soften it.

Then cut up the kale:

Slice the 4 sides off the pepper, so that you have four slabs, and a core you can throw out (or compost). Trim any remaining white stuff off the inside of the peppers, smoosh them flat onto the cutting board, and slice thinly.

Grate the carrots. I use this julienne peeler, but you can just use a box grater.

Now, we start cooking. Toast the sunflower seeds in a dry skillet until toasty and fragrant.

Transfer them to a small bowl, then heat up some oil in the same pan. Drain and add the arame, the kale, and a little soaking liquid from the arame. Cook it on medium for about 5 minutes. The kale will turn bright emerald green.

Lastly, make the dressing.  Put the soy sauce, rice vinegar and oil in a bowl and whisk it with a fork (or whisk if you have one).

To serve, pile the rice and veggies into a bowl, pour the dressing over and sprinkle with seeds. I separated them in my bowl cause it makes for prettier pictures, but I think it tastes better all mixed up.

Buddha Bowl

 1 c. brown rice (or another grain)
2 c. water
1 c. arame sea vegetable
1/4 c. raw sunflower seeds
1 bunch kale (6-7 large leaves), chopped
1 bell pepper, sliced thin
2-3 carrots, grated
3 T. natural soy sauce (called shoyu)
3 T. rice vinegar
4 T. toasted sesame oil

 Combine the rice and water in a large pot. Bring to a boil then turn down to low. Cover, simmer on low heat for 45 minutes or more, until tender. Turn off the heat and let it sit, covered for 5 minutes.

Place the arame in a small bowl and cover with water. Let it soak for 5-10 minutes until soft.

Meanwhile toast the sunflower seeds. Place them in a skillet over medium heat and shake or stir them a few times until they are slightly brown and smell amazing, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Pour 1 tablespoon of the oil in the same pan, then drain the arame and add it, along with a bit of the soaking liquid. Stir in the kale and cook for about 5 minutes, until the kale is bright green.

In an off moment, toss the peppers and carrots together. Make the dressing by combining the soy sauce, vinegar and remaining oil and whisk it with a fork.

To serve, place the rice, kale mixture and peppers and carrots in a bowl. Top with dressing and seeds.

serves 4