Saturday, November 20, 2010

Holiday Pasta

Working in the service industry, it is not a popular stance to get excited about the holidays. When you work in retail or in food service, with the holidays comes insanely crabby and stressed out people (what do you MEAN you don't have anymore spiced pecans!! Now what am I going to do?!! This is ruining my whole shopping trip...stay right there while I call my sister and yell at her about how horrible you are because you sold out of spiced pecans..."), lots and lots and lots more work, and towards the end insanely crabby and stressed out coworkers. So when I say something like, "I love the holidays!" I get a lot of eyerolls.

But, also working in the service industry, I have very few days where I can actually see my whole family at once. I can never make it to birthday parties that are on weekends, I can't ever go to school plays or recitals. At least I know that there are two days each year that I don't work and we will all be under the same roof (at my mom's): Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I got the idea for this pasta because I wanted to see the red and green colors of the holiday season manifested on a plate. It ended up surprising me with how delicious it is - I made it as something quick before work one afternoon. The fabulous taste and beautiful presentation make this pasta fit for any holiday meal (that is, if you're like my family and don't have the conventional turkey-stuffing-potato layout). I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Holiday Pasta

  • 1/2 pound dry whole wheat short-shape pasta (I used penne)
  • 7-8 baby portobella mushrooms
  • 1 medium yellow onion 
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 1 bunch lacinto or Tuscan kale
  • 6 tablespoons of real butter
  • 1/4 cup + a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried OR 1 tablespoon fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
In a large pot, bring quite a bit of water to a rolling boil. Drop in pasta, stir, and cook until it is al dente (still firm to the bite) - about 8 minutes. When it is done, drain it in a colander. Do not rinse the pasta.

Remove the stems off the kale. Tear each leaf into bite size pieces (about two inch squares - but it doesn't have to be exact). Rinse under cool water. Simmer a couple of inches of water on another pot, add the kale, and cover to steam until desired tenderness is reached - I usually do five to ten minutes. I like a little bit of crunchy left. When it is done, lift it out of the water and drain it in a colander.

Meanwhile, cut the ends off the onion and peel off the skin. Halve and then thinly slice the onion. Wash the tomatoes (preferably with Veggie Wash) and then halve each one. Clean the mushrooms by dampening a soft, clean kitchen towel (or paper towel) and rubbing the dirt off the tops. Cut each mushroom into quarters.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a large pot (if the pasta is done already, you can use this pot). Add the onions and saute until softened, about five minutes. Add in the dried oregano and dried basil (if using fresh, do not add it in at this stage). Drop in two tablespoons of the butter, and once it melts add in the mushrooms. After they start to let out their juices, three minutes or so, add in the tomatoes and the kale. Stir well. Add the pasta, remaining butter and olive oil and sir to coat.

Once the butter is melted, remove the pot from the heat. Add in the balsamic vinegar, parmesan cheese and fresh basil (if using). If the pasta seems dry, add in some more oil and/or butter. If you like a stronger flavor, use more vinegar.

Colorful nutrition, filling comfort

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