Thursday, July 17, 2008

Random healthy foodie post: late evening summer vegetarian dinner with what's in the house

Late evening summer dinner, relatively speedy:

1. Get home around 8:30 p.m.

2. Fill large pot with water and put on stove on high, immediately. Don't forget to cover it.

3. Unload car.

(3.' Plug laptop in if it was in your briefcase in the car and you are an internet addict. Put perishables in fridge if you had any in the car. Greet and feed animal[s] as needed.)

4. Take miscellaneous ingredients out of fridge. Contemplate them.

5. Plug in the food processor.

6. Heat some olive oil in a medium-sized pot, on medium heat.

7. Peel two white onions and two carrots. Also three cloves of garlic. Or was it four?

8. Cut them in a few large chunks and dump 'em all in the food processor. Whirrrrr! They will be finely minced or smaller.

9. Dump them in the olive oil and stir. Watch the stove, adjust the heat a bit up or down depending whether you have gas or electric range. (I have electric, which I dislike, because it is less subtle and it's easier to burn things, but that's life.) The kitchen will start to smell good.

10. By then your water has boiled. Dump half package of whole wheat pasta in it. (That's what I had left over - chiocciole, to be exact; use whatever you have on hand, whole wheat or white. Whole wheat is healthier of course and lower glycemic index and glycemic load, has fiber, etc. and the food industry has figured out to make it taste good now.) Add some salt, stir, and set your kitchen timer. (The package said ten minutes but that makes it al dente very very dente, so adjust one minute up if needed; I did and it was still al dente and didn't wreck the pasta. But this was large pasta; don't do that with capellini!)

11. Notice that you have every herb and spice on the planet on your spice shelf except for basil and oregano. Sniff the thyme, decide it doesn't go with what you're making.

12. Add to the veggie mixture:
- some hot red pepper flakes (I think maybe 1/4 teaspoon, but it could have been more; be careful if you don't like hot stuff, and either way make sure you don't use too much or it will drown out the other tastes);
- a half teaspoon (more or less) of cinnamon;
- and a teaspoon of sugar (sugar takes the acid edge off tomato sauce, my momma taught me that, and one teaspoon of sugar isn't gonna kill you). Stir.

13. Grab leftover half-jar of tomato sauce (okay, it was really high-class strained tomatoes but I'd used half of it a week ago and it was going to go bad if I didn't use it -- you can use a small can of diced tomatoes instead --always keep canned tomatoes in the house, buy 'em when they are on sale at the supermarket-- or tomato sauce but not paste and nothing flavored with herbs, you just want the pure tomato) and dump it in the veggie mixture. Stir, cover, cook on low. Or a little higher if your stove and your pot can stand it, but not too high.

14. Grate some cheese if you have some leftover cheese. Parmesan or swiss would be nice. The only cheese I had in the house was a leftover chunk of extra sharp Vermont cheddar. Worked fine.

15. When your timer goes off, taste the pasta to make sure, then dump it in a colander over the sink.

16. Transfer pasta to big bowl.

17. Give the sauce a stir and dump it on the pasta. Mix.

18. Serve with the grated cheese. Only put cheese on what you're going to eat i.e. on what's on your plate.

19. If you have a bottle of red wine around, pour yourself a glass.

20. Consume.

You will also have a ton left over for tomorrow's lunch or supper and more. It stores fine in the fridge and the sauce helps the pasta not to get all dried out and hard and weird. You can eat the leftovers cold or hot.

Here endeth the lesson.

It was good, too. Trust me on the tiny bit of cinnamon. I discovered this several spaghetti sauces ago. I didn't do the red pepper flakes last time, though.

If it is a summer evening this dish will make you sweat, and a little more so if you are living in the land of hot flashes, but afterward you'll feel cool and delicious.

With tip of the summer straw hat to JohnieB, who recently paved the way to Simple Cookery.

I also had a green salad to start with.

Alas, I do not have a digital camera so I cannot take photos like either JohnieB or The Cunning Runt of foodie fame, so I had to paint with words, but I did give you a recipe.


johnieb said...

Oh yah, that's good; I must try the cinnamon and sugar trick. I also like a celery taste, so Celery root, Celery, or lovage go in my blend. It's a good quick meal for the busy person.

Do we know anybody like that?

FranIAm said...

Johnieb and CR are the food-meisters... the food and the photos leave me swooning. I want to eat with them, enjoy the wine and the bounty of the table.

You are a master of words however and this has me longing for an invitation for dinner as well!!

Kitten said...

This sounds very tasty, and something I have to try very soon!

Jane R said...

Come on over, Fran! And thanks, Kitten, let me know how you do. JohnieB, I am not a huge fan of celery, but good for you, someone needs to be, and de gustibus non est disputandum and all that. Greetings to Miz Scarlett. (For you who don't know, that is Mr. JohnieB's feline companion.)

Monique said...

You've gotta try this recipe with Al Dente Whole Wheat Fettuccine which cooks in just 4 minutes and is the most tender WW pasta you'll ever try. If you can't find it at your local store, go to They also make a great pasta sauce that is sweetened with fresh, grated carrots.

johnieb said...

There certainly is no accounting for taste; you should see what the Resident Holy Hermit eats.

Kate Anne said...

Cinnamon I haven't tried -- thanks for the suggestion -- but the sugar in sauce tip was one shared by my father along with a little sugar sprinkled in salads when using certain vinegars -- cutting the acid there too.

Jane R said...

Wow, interesting, Kate Anne. I would never dream of putting sugar in a salad dressing, but I am very un-American about salad dressing, or very European: I usually just have olive oil and a bit of salt, or olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or a French vinaigrette (dijon mustard beaten with red wine vinegar, then beat in oil --they used to use peanut oil in France when I was growing up but of course hardly anyone uses peanut oil any more; I use canola or safflower for vinaigrette-- and add a touch of salt and pepper. Or else what my mother made, which was lemon juice and a mix of oils.

I wonder if the acidity of the vinegar could be cut by simply using less vinegar I've noticed Americans (at home and also in restaurants) make their vinaigrette overly vinegar-y, at least for my taste. (I realize it's all a matter of taste and of course the sweeter salad dressings taste delicious to you.) You know what they say -- it takes four men (this is a sexist proverb, it's much more often women who made salad) to make a vinaigrette: a spendthrift for the oil, a miser for the vinegar, a wise man (or a counselor) for the salt, and a madman to mix it all up.

It's really important not to use herbs in the tomato sauce if you do the cinnamon thing. (Sugar of course you can use to cut the acidity in any tomato sauce including the kind with oregano; you can't taste the sugar at all.) While you can barely taste the cinnamon, there is a hint of it there and it is a flavor that goes with tomato, onion, carrot et al. (it gets emphasized more and combined with cumin and other spices in North African stews) but not at all with green herbs.