Any other subject matter at this time, seems commonplace next to what is happening on the East Coast. My thoughts and prayers are with the families and business' who are hurting right now. I am inspired by the sense of community that comes from disasters like Hurricane Sandy and how we are capable of rallying around each other to make the best of things that are beyond our control. We need people.
Earlier this year, I contributed to six different publications about vegetarian Thanksgiving dishes. Six! That's a lot! I realize that turkey is a big deal, but is it often people's favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal? Don't answer that. It's too late. My favorite part has always been the fresh vegetable side dishes, as they always seem the canvas for creative flavors and trying new things. I made this salad last year and my sister in law is bringing these green beans to the big dinner this year. Thanksgiving is typically a spread of heavy foods, lots of cream, gravy, butter and while I get that this is tradition, I self impose the responsibility to bring a contast to that. I'm testing out a few recipes in search of a new dish to bring to my family's table this year, and this one is certainly in the running. Maybe not the lightest of the options per se, but I try to contribute something that can act as a main dish for the vegetarians and a tasty side for everyone else. I wrote the vegetarian menu for a great spread in this months Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine, and while flipping through it to find my recipes, I earmarked this great looking pasta dish. I don't often make pasta, I can probably count the times on one hand, but this recipe had the potential to be more vegetable than starch focused. I like my pasta heavy on the vegetables, light on the pasta, so that is where you'd notice the biggest change in the original recipe. I added more squash, lots of greens and scaled back the amount of pasta. They also call for pepitas. I used toasted pistachios because I love them and already had some in my pantry. If you're bulking it up for an omnivorous family, some sausage could nudge itself in here, though I'd argue the dish lacks nothing on its own.
This has been a pretty crazy season for us. Lots of travel, work, special occasions, book promoting and what not. All great things, but not exactly in moderation as of late. I'm really excited for life to slow up a bit in the next few months so I can process it all and soak this past year in. I need some stillness, quiet, time of staring into the vast ocean, long dinners with good friends, and an overall refresh. All of that is totally reasonable as we're heading into the holidays, right?! Until then, there will be some tasty squash penne.
ROASTED BUTTERNUT PENNE WITH PISTACHIO PESTO // Serves 4
Adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray Magazine, November 2010
I used a brown rice penne from Jovial pasta (a new favorite, the texture is wonderful for a GF pasta). I am not particularly fond of penne, for no good reason, and think small shells or some tagliatelle would work great too. The pesto can be made a few days in advance and kept in a covered container in the fridge. Any extra can be mixed with a splash of water and more lemon juice for a fabulous salad dressing. I would double it for that specific reason but I'll leave that up to you.
2 lbs. (one large) butternut squash, peeled seeded and cut into 1'' pieces
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil or melted coconut oil
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. sea salt
bit of fresh grated nutmeg
10 oz. brown rice, quinoa or whole grain penne pasta, or any short noodle of choice
2 huge handfuls (about 2 cups) baby spinach or well chopped swiss chard
// pistachio pesto //
1 large/ 2 small cloves garlic
zest and juice of one small lemon or lime
1/3 cup toasted, unsalted pistachio nuts
1 jalepeno or serrano, seeded (I leave a few seeds for spice)
1 cup packed herbs, a mix of any: cilantro, parsley, chives, basil
1/4-1/3 cup grated parmesan or pecorino, plus more for garnish
1/4-1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
splash of water
sea salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400' and set a large pot of salted water to boil.
On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the butternut cubes with the olive oil (enough to coat), smoked paprika, salt, a grate of nutmeg and toss to coat. Bake for about 30 minutes or until edges are charred.
For the pesto, add the garlic, lemon zest and juice to the processor and pulse a few times to break down. Add the jalepeno, pistachios, herbs and run the processor to mix, about 30 seconds. Drizzle in the olive oil and a few pinches of salt and pepper until combined. Blitz in the parm and a splash of water. Season to taste.
Cook the pasta according to instructions. Drain and reserve a cup of the cooking water.
Put the pasta back into the pot along with the greens and a generous splash of pasta water. The warm pasta and water will wilt the greens perfectly. Add more water if needed. Stir in the squash and pesto.
Garnish with a fresh sprinkle of cheese, pepper and any leftover herbs.