Thursday, May 27, 2010

I've never met a vegetable I didn't like...

It's true, I love vegetables! Fresh produce is one of my all time favorite things. I sometimes can go a bit nutso in shopping the produce section, buying more produce than we can eat before the freshness expires.

I enjoy spring and summer cooking because I love vegetables. It is the BEST time of year for making salads and side dishes. Believe it when I tell you I even LOVE chopping vegetables. I own a food processor but, it rarely gets used. Give me a knife and cutting board almost anytime, unless they have to be SUPER fine or cut in mass quantities, such as when canning salsa or chile sauce.

So, I challenged myself this year to try to find some great tasting new sides that are heavy on the vegetables and other healthy foods. Of course, if they have protein I'll do a few cartwheels.

Both of these recipes come from Cooking Light magazine, the March 2010 edition. They are both winners, great fresh taste! (Excuse my photography, it's not the best... and I'm thinking the magazine let their pasta cool a bit before adding the feta so it didn't melt and get all soft like mine. Tasted good though.)

Penne with Chickpeas, Feta and Tomatoes

8 oz. uncooked penne
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. chopped shallots
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 cups halved cherry tomatoes
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup small fresh basil leaves
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. grated lemon rind
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add shallots and garlic; saute' 45 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in bell pepper and chickpeas; saute' 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes; saute' 2 minutes. Stir in pasta and reserved cooking liquid; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat. Add feta and remaining ingredients; toss to combine.

Yields: 4 servings (serving size 1 1/2 cups)

Pasta with Asparagus, Pancetta, and Pine Nuts

My results (without the pancetta) looks a bit plain but was delish! It could use a bit of red color because the one in the magazine looks much better!

8 ounces uncooked cavatappi pasta
1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut diagonally into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 tsp. minced garlic
3 Tbsp. pine nuts
2 oz. diced pancetta
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (1 oz.) crumbled Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt and fat; add asparagus to pan during the last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain. Sprinkle pasta mixture with garlic; return to pan, and toss well.

Arrange pine nuts in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 3 minutes or until golden and fragrant, stirring occasionally. Place in a small bowl.

Increase oven temperature to 465 degrees. Arrange pancetta on the jelly roll pan. Bake for 6 minutes or until crisp.

Combine lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle over the pasta mixture; toss well to coat. Sprinkle with pine nuts, pancetta, and cheese.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 2 cups)

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