Mint Tea Be Cocktail

Just recently I had a full day adventure in NYC with old friends. These were unexpected, last minute plans and were perfect moments for both reminiscing and making new memories. Outings that make life full and rewarding.

First, I met up with college pals. Dianne, who I’ve known since Junior High, and Dominique, since right after college, all of us graduating from University of Binghamton. We walked around eating and drinking, and window shopping our way through Soho. After attempting to eat at a French American Bistro, we ended up in a Sicilian Enoteca. The bistro didn’t open until 12n and it was 11:30a, and apparently we were all so hungry we couldn’t wait the half hour. Not even sexy drinks would tempt us into waiting. I had spotted the Enoteca as we were walking, as did Dom, so suggested it. I figured the Italians would be ready to serve food at any hour. If the sun had risen and people were awake, the Italians were ready with food. I’m glad we didn’t wait for the bistro to open their kitchen. Our Italian lunch was a symphony of delicious simplicity. We shared 3 plates; an Arugula Salad, a Fennel and Orange Salad and then Gluten Free Ziti with Shrimp in a creamy burrata, tomato sauce. I literally lapped up the last morsels of the pasta using a spoon to scoop up all it’s luscious goodness. I enjoyed the dish so much that I asked where they buy their pasta. Fortunately, it comes from Di Paolo’s Italian Market right near by in Little Italy. But before heading over to snag some gluten free goodness, we shopped a bit and I bought these flouncy white pants. Apparently, the ‘one size fits all’ JUST fits, and didn’t deter me one bit from racing to buy that pasta. Once home, I made my own version of it a few days later.

Feeling brave sharing this Rubenesque modeling moment.   Photo credit: Dianne Guarino

Feeling brave sharing this Rubenesque modeling moment.
Photo credit: Dianne Guarino

Really love this brand of gluten free pasta

Really love this brand of gluten free pasta

Paolo’s Gluten Free Ziti with fresh tomatoes and herb goat cheese. Clearly not the same but just as good.

Paolo’s Gluten Free Ziti with fresh tomatoes and herb goat cheese. Clearly not the same but just as good.

After more walking, shopping, talking and catching up we said our goodbyes to our friend Dom, then Dianne and I met up with friends from our elementary/junior high/high school days for drinks and light dinner. My original idea of meeting up at The Ten Bells was quickly shut down when we realized they didn’t open until 5 and we were all meeting at 4pm with a hard out time. Yet another timing dilemma. But I always find that these situations are for the better, as witnessed with the lunch happening. We ended up at Dudley’s, a cute little place with outdoor seating, with good food and drink in the Lower East Side. And that is where this post is really going. To share with you a recreation of the drink I so enjoyed. Sure, I meandered around to get here, but that was what the day was all about. Spending time with old friends with no real agenda but to share old and new memories. This day was not just good for me, but a great way to encourage you to do so too. I know, I’ve spouted a lot of words about a lot of other things just to get to the cocktail. But that is the beauty of life and the road we journey to arrive somewhere. It’s the mishaps and redirects that get you to the exact place you are supposed to be. In this case, Lunch Italian Style plus 4pm consumption of a refreshing cocktail with dear friends.

Friends for life: Dominique, Me and Dianne. AKA 3D. Smiles of well fed women looking for bargains.                       Photo credit: Dianne Guarino

Friends for life: Dominique, Me and Dianne. AKA 3D. Smiles of well fed women looking for bargains. Photo credit: Dianne Guarino

Nancy, Kathy, me and Dianne.                                                                                                                                             Photo credit: Kathy Lashlee

Nancy, Kathy, me and Dianne. Photo credit: Kathy Lashlee

I’m not a big drinker these days. Can’t seem to hold my liquor. But the drink that caught my eye was the cleverly called Mint to Be. An auspicious name for a cocktail that clearly defined the day and all our happenstances. It was so dang refreshing. I suppose I could have used my handy dandy phone to take a photo of the ingredients, but didn’t. Thank goodness, I only had one drink so from memory, it had Vodka, St. Germaine, tea and mint. I had no idea in what proportions so when recreating, I just guessed. And on my first try, I guessed right.
Here’s what I did.

Ingredients

2 oz. Green Tea, brewed with mint leaves & cooled
1 oz. Vodka
1/2 oz. St. Germain
Fresh Mint leaves & Cucumber for garnish

Enjoyed this drink so much,I actually almost finished it!   Photo credit: Kathy Lashlee

Enjoyed this drink so much,I actually almost finished it!
Photo credit: Kathy Lashlee

Cocktail set up. Mint, Freshly brewed Green Tea, St Germain, Vodka and cucumber

Cocktail set up. Mint, Freshly brewed Green Tea, St Germain, Vodka and cucumber

I brewed green tea and let it steep with fresh mint leaves and let it cool. In a shaker, I put ice, vodka, St. Germaine and more mint leaves then added the tea once it was fully cooled.

tea.steeping.jpg

Shake shake shake, then poured it into a cocktail glass over ice. I added a cucumber slice and more mint leaves.

Refreshing? Almost too refreshing. These babies will go down fast. So be careful. Of course, if you like your drinks stronger, you can certainly add more vodka, although it will change the flavor profile a bit. I like these ratios because it’s very smooth. JuanCarlos, who usually is the one making cocktails around these parts was pretty impressed. So we invited our neighbor friends over to enjoy. I don’t need to tell you that they did, indeed.

It truly was Mint Tea Be.

Served with crisp cucumber slices and crunchy, salty marcona almonds… A perfect cooling cocktail that suits to a T.

Served with crisp cucumber slices and crunchy, salty marcona almonds… A perfect cooling cocktail that suits to a T.

This cocktail paired with pretty much anything. Including langostinos with sautéd tomatoes & peas.

This cocktail paired with pretty much anything. Including langostinos with sautéd tomatoes & peas.

Ziti, Eggplant, Sun-dried Tomatoes & More - Pasta Sunday

final.ziti.jpg

Sure, I recognize that Cinco de Mayo is coming up, and maybe you were expecting a taco or fajita recipe.  I'm figuring... No, I'd bet the farm that there are a gazillion other sites that will provide you with oodles of Mexican celebratory dishes.  I like Mexican food but I'm Italian (well, as we all know now with 1/4 Polish, shhh). Plus, you're gonna need a dish for  Sunday.

What can I tell you?  I'm a creature of habit and I love me some pasta on a Sunday. Well, any day really, but Sundays are a must. And it's usually the kind of pasta dish where I'm just throwing together things that I unearth from the back of the fridge or from a pantry rummage.  As my grandmother, who didn't quite understand my need for experimentation, used to call it, Mescolanza. Roughly translated; 'mixed up mess' which doesn't sound very appealing, right?  Consequently, the need for another title was apparent.  Thus the renaming of these types of creations to Something from Nothing Specials was born. Although not super sexy, it does sounds more creative and less like a mistake.  I have to admit, with some pride, that I can't recall a time when I experimented with pasta and it didn't taste good.  Could bias play a role by sheer virtue that I crave pasta like a smoker craves nicotine? Sure, but I have confirmation from others that they like my creations, too.   

So this past Sunday began a bit slow and lazy. When I woke up I had in the back of my mind that it was a pasta day. Although Spring had been trying to eek its pretty little neck out, this particular day was quite chilly, and even a bit nasty. Pasta always warms my soul and my belly. Heck, who am I kidding?  It's Sunday. I don't need any other excuse to make pasta.  So, after doing some Spring cleaning, my reward was to whip me up some comfort and serve it up like a trophy for my work. (I think I might have a serious pasta problem.)

Sure, I had fresh tomatoes.  I even had mushrooms. But that big, hunking jar of sun-dried tomatoes was staring me down as I opened the refrigerator door.  Those jewel colored, intensely flavored bites reminded me of how often I cooked with them in Miami. I was immediately transported back with memory waves of the other ingredients that were my favs: artichoke hearts, capers and olives.  Always trying to keep some solid staples on hand, of course I had capers and olives at the ready.  But with artichokes in attendance, it seemed imperative that I resurrect an old dish.  Also making an appearance, but as a new addition were some baby Italian eggplant. Throw in a few aromatics and we have a pasta dish, y'all.  

The main line up.

The main line up.

Ingredients

1 lb pasta (I used gluten free Tinkyada ziti but use whatever you like)
3 small Italian eggplant, cut in 1/2" strips (approx. 4 c)
1 c artichoke hearts, quarters
1/4 c sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, sliced (approx. 1.5c)
2 T Kalamata Olives
3 large garlic cloves, sliced
1.5 T capers
3 T olive oil
1/2 -1 t salt
1/2 t red pepper flakes
2 c basil, chiffonade
Goat or Feta cheese, or Pesto, optional

 
 
onions.garlic.jpg

Instructions

Put a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Sauté the onions in oil, adding 1/2 t salt and red pepper over low heat.  Let soften while you slice the eggplant and garlic. 

egpplant.slices.jpg
eggplant.strips.jpg

Add the eggplant and slightly raise the flame to medium low.  You want to brown the eggplant a bit.  While the eggplant is cooking, prep all the remaining ingredients, and add the pasta to the boiling pot. Once the eggplant has browned, add a tad more oil in the middle of the pan to cook the garlic. Then add the capers, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts.  Lower the heat and let warm through. At this point, give it a taste for seasoning.  Capers, olives and sun-dried tomatoes can be salty which is why I only started with 1/2 t salt to start, and then added another 1/2 t before adding the pasta. 

It's important to not overcook the garlic, so only add that once the onions and eggplant are browned.

It's important to not overcook the garlic, so only add that once the onions and eggplant are browned.

The aromatic line up: Sun-dried tomatoes, capers, Kalamata olives, artichoke hearts.(Notice I only had a few olives, so that's the amount I used.)

The aromatic line up: Sun-dried tomatoes, capers, Kalamata olives, artichoke hearts.(Notice I only had a few olives, so that's the amount I used.)

Add them all to the pan so they cozy up together.

Add them all to the pan so they cozy up together.

By this time the pasta should be ready.  Reserve some of the pasta water, then drain the rest.  Add the pasta to sauce pot, stir together.  Add the pasta water as needed to loosen up. Turn off the heat and add the basil.  Serve immediately. 

Add the pasta to the mix and stir together. Now is the time to add the pasta water to your liking.

Add the pasta to the mix and stir together. Now is the time to add the pasta water to your liking.

Add the basil at the end to keep it from cooking all the way through.

Add the basil at the end to keep it from cooking all the way through.

Grate some cheese over top.  This dish would also be delicious with chunks of feta or goat cheese stirred in. I didn't have either but can completely imagine and taste it in my mind.  

final.pasta.cu.jpg
fresh.basil.jpg

Since I had so much basil, I made walnut pesto which I used to warm up the leftover pasta.  Let me tell you that was a winning combination.

Happy Sunday or any day.

Print Friendly Recipe
 

 
DP-stirredwlove-ID1.jpg

Linguine with Oven Roasted Tomatoes, Olives & Spinach

final.pasta.jpg

Hello fellow pasta lovers.  I know I have been neglecting you. Believe me when I tell you that it is not from a lack of making pasta. Quite the contrary. I make and eat pasta. (Gluten free now) Maybe not as often as before when I used to eat it every day.  Yeah, you read that correctly.  EVERY DAY. Oh the glory years.  Every day requires a lot of invention. Which meant I needed to come up with a variety of combinations to swirl, toss and top my pasta.  This is the very essence of the 'something from nothing' style, and how I pretty much make every pasta dish. Which leaves you wondering why the hell I'm not posting them given that it is the literal building block of my blog. Oh the irony.  Quite frankly, these dishes, although delicious, didn't seem like such revolutionary ideas, nor ones you wouldn't have thought up yourselves.  But maybe not. So, if it's pasta you want, it's pasta you get.  Who I am to deny anyone from eating pasta? I'm not crazy.

This combo literally was a throw it together dish from last week.  I was spending time with my niece Gianna before she headed back to college, my alma mater Binghamton University. Our afternoon of shopping ended right at the dinner hour and we were hungry.  We first thought of grabbing a bite at some local restaurant, but Gianna being every thoughtful and dollar conscious, said why spend money.  After mentioning that I didn't have a ton to choose from at home, save pasta, her answer: "Well, I would never turn down pasta."  And this why she is my goddaughter.  Like minds.

Here we go with the old open the fridge and see what we have...

Container of oven roasted tomatoes

Moroccan oil cured black olives

Baby spinach

That's all we needed to make a pasta that had some real depth of flavor.

setup.jpg

Ingredients

1 lb. linguine (I used Tinkyada gluten free)
3.5 c oven roasted tomatoes
1/2c approx. roasting oil & juices from the tomatoes
1/3 c Moroccan oli cured olives, rough chop
4 c baby spinach, rough chop
1/2 med. yellow onion, diced (approx. 2/3 c)
3 large cloves garlic, sliced
pinch red pepper flakes, optional
Magic 3 (Olive Oil,  Salt, Pepper)

Moroccan Black Oil Cured Olives

Moroccan Black Oil Cured Olives

Instructions

Dice the onions, slice the garlic, chop the olives. While the pasta is cooking, sauté the onions and garlic until just softened. Add the olives and stir to combine. 

olives.cook.jpg

Add the tomatoes plus their roasting oil and spinach and let cook until spinach is wilted and everything is warmed through.  Season to taste. (Note that the olives add a salty flavor so go light handed when adding salt.  TASTE, taste, taste.)

Once pasta is al dente, transfer it to the sauce pan and combine all together letting it cook the last minute in the sauce.  Top with grated cheese.

pasta.in.sauce.jpg

The sweetness from the tomatoes, the salty, earthy flavor from the olives and the bite of spinach. There really is no need for me to tell you that this was yummy.  Trust me, it was.  So much so, I made it again when my sis, Jill came for her weekly visit.  Pasta NEVER disappoints. It really does provide a double dose of love.

double.love.pasta.jpg

Ciao 2017 - A Year that Warmed My Heart

Another year.  Another 365 days of "what did I do with all that time?"  I do recall many moons ago an older person said to me that time goes by faster when you are older.  I didn't quite get it, but now that I am older, I see that it is true.  But I still don't get it. Time flies by quicker now. But how? But why?  Is it because as adults we wish for the weekends to come so we can have some rest? Only to find out that we have cleaning and laundry, errands and bills to attend to.  Is that why time blows past us?  Who knows, except, here it is the end of 2017 and I am still wondering what happened to March!!  What have I done with all that time?

I have accomplished some things but will readily admit that I wasted too much time.  2018 will be about making more of each moment. Well, that was the goal of 2017, so wish me luck... again.

As the year comes to a close some of you will host big parties.  Great.  But if you are like me, and don't make such a huge deal out of New Year's Eve, or feel pressure to do something, or maybe you feel sad because nothing special is happening.   Please remember it's just another night like the one before it and the one after it.  You can choose to how to honor it or not. You can use it to ump start a fresh beginning. But if you don't have big plans, so what.  You can do what JC and I like to do.  Sit quietly, rejoice in what we have now and make a list of our wishes  for the coming year. Without pressure but just gentle reminders of what we would like to reach for.

As we wrap this year, that was filled with tons of emotion for most of us, let me share some moments of just how lovely a year can be.  (Lots of photos, so keep scrolling for another message from me.)

January
Shared time with my sister Jill and nieces, Nikki and Gabrielle, as we cooked together making the original "something from nothing" recipe, Zucchini Orzo Pie and an old family tradition, stuffed breads.

top.pie.jpg
Nini.Cook.Jan.jpg
Nikki.Jan.jpg

February
Starting the month with an invite from our family friends, the Marzullos, to kick start a month of eating well.
Celebrated my birthday with my parents in Miami showing them cool restaurants for them to visit, like Prohibition. Then back home to celebrate another Pisces birthday with my 'niece', Lauren, serving up a traditional Spanish tapas lunch.

Parents.Miami.Feb.jpg
Parents.Miami.Feb2.jpg
tortilla.platter.jpg
Lauren.Me.Feb.jpg

March
Stirring it with love with Gabrielle at her workplace, Traditions, in Charlotte, NC promoting my Think...then Jump™ children's book series and reading to the kids. Back home, taking in nature with a walk through our favorite local spot, Rockefeller Park.

Gab.me.march.jpg

April
Another trip to Italy, because... Well, it's Italy and you can never get enough. And let's not forget this is the land of beauty, love and of course...pasta.  All things I hold dear.

JC.Bevegna.April.jpg
Linguini.Italy.April.jpg
My own fresh pasta made in the Tuscan Hills.  Recipe here

My own fresh pasta made in the Tuscan Hills.  Recipe here

My hubby, falling in love with Cortona in the Tuscan region of Italy.

My hubby, falling in love with Cortona in the Tuscan region of Italy.

May
JC's birthday, celebrated as usual with good food and wine.

Cucumber, radish, mint salad

Cucumber, radish, mint salad

Roasted pork loin

Roasted pork loin

JC.bday.may.jpg

June
A full month of gatherings with family and friends, both in NY and Miami.  

Us and the Nardolillo Family.  Finally, after many dates were thrown around, we found one in June!

Us and the Nardolillo Family.  Finally, after many dates were thrown around, we found one in June!

Always love visiting Miami for sun and the warming of my soul.

Always love visiting Miami for sun and the warming of my soul.

Miami gang,  Marta and Me with JC to celebrate Emilce's Birthday.

Miami gang,  Marta and Me with JC to celebrate Emilce's Birthday.

Krista and Me.  I babysat for her.  Yes, I did and now she is getting married!

Krista and Me.  I babysat for her.  Yes, I did and now she is getting married!

July
Spent the 4th sharing good times, good food and good fun with dear friends Emily and Lorne at their Bay home.

Rocked a successful event aboard a NYC nighttime cruise that Despaña co-sponsored.  Boy, was I tired after that one.

A NYC visit from my bestie, Dominique, ending a perfect  girl's day with her daughter, Lauren.

Me.July.jpg
Bayhouse.july.jpg
Despaña Gang AKA Chicas Poderosas = Powerful Girls!

Despaña Gang AKA Chicas Poderosas = Powerful Girls!

Dominique and Lauren. Don't you love those smiles!

Dominique and Lauren. Don't you love those smiles!

August
Too many photos to even think about sharing from our trip to Northern Spain, but the highlight was spending time with our dear friends, Marcos and Angelica, at their home in Amieva, Asturias.

Amieva, a beautiful view

Amieva, a beautiful view

Marcos, Angelica and JC

Marcos, Angelica and JC

Angelica and me

Angelica and me

September
How do you celebrate fall with Cuban in-laws?  Roast a pig.
How do you celebrate a friend's birthday? Call and say "I'm coming over with food and cake!"

How do you celebrate a life? By honoring it with memories, laughter and love. Sharing as a family a most beautiful memorial to rejoice in life of my dear Aunt Catherine.

Porky the pig in La Caja China, the Chinese roasting box

Porky the pig in La Caja China, the Chinese roasting box

I made a gluten free cake to celebrate Carl's birthday.

I made a gluten free cake to celebrate Carl's birthday.

Alla familia

Alla familia

Aunt Catherine's favorite hat and her corn cob pipe.  No button nose here.

Aunt Catherine's favorite hat and her corn cob pipe.  No button nose here.

October
Thanks to my sis, Alys and Mastercard, we got to visit the Chiluly exhibit at the NY Botanical Gardens

Then had a wild production experience as Team Despaña, Angelica and Master Carver Jaume Guerra were slicing up jamón on The Untitled Action Bronson Show appearing on Viceland TV.

aly.me.chiluly.jpg
chiluly.oct.jpg
Chiluly2.oct.jpg
Chiluly3.oct.jpg
Angelica & Jaume showing how it's done.

Angelica & Jaume showing how it's done.

Action Bronson checking out the jamón

Action Bronson checking out the jamón

November
NYC Marathon with my amazing sis, Alys.

Stats that make her cream of the crop.

Stats that make her cream of the crop.

Family support after 26.2 miles.  Ready for a meal.

Family support after 26.2 miles.  Ready for a meal.

December
That time of year when spending time with flour, butter and sugar is how I pass my time, baking up a storm. Thankfully, I had one brave soul to help me, my niece, Gianna to the rescue.

Gianna, directly home from college and before seeing friends, helped me make cookies... all day.

Gianna, directly home from college and before seeing friends, helped me make cookies... all day.

butterballs.dec.jpg
FullSizeRender 5.jpg
grandma.cookies.dec.jpg
jelly.cookies.dec.jpg
Lime.cookies.dec.jpg
struffoli.dec.jpg

I also had to say ciao for now to my nephew, John, as he moved away to Colorado.

So as we close the books on 2017, I wish for you all the health and love life has to offer... And there is an abundance of it. There truly is no end to that well.  You can continue to tap it and unearth it's riches.

May you find the path you were searching for.

May the passions you dream of become realities.

May the struggles you have be released and resolved.

May good friends, good food find their way into your home.

May each day bring a wonderful mixture of laughter and smiles, inner peace and joy, satisfaction and accomplishment, confidence and strength.

May you step closer to knowing and loving your true self and rejoice in your essence.

I wish all these and so much more for you.

Happy New Year

DP-stirredwlove-ID1.jpg
dana.fireplace.jpg

Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash Purée - A Recreation

 

 

final.pasta5.jpg

So yeah, I have a food and entertaining blog which means I cook a lot.  I also like to experiment, so that keeps me in the kitchen cooking things up. But I fully realize that not everyone has time to dedicate to home cooked meals all the time.  Indeed, it does take time and energy.  For some, making a meal at home can be as much of a treat as going out to dinner.  It just depends on your perspective.  Sometimes going out is the salvation and sometimes vice a versa.  And so it was a couple of weeks ago when I was down visiting my dear friends Emily and Lorne.  Emily had just watched some videos about grilling and she was excited to test drive some ideas. The goal was to grill and fill the dinner table with a variety of selections, from cauliflower to sweet potato slabs to hamburgers.  It was a delicious meal, with the best part being that everyone got involved in either cutting, flipping or tending to the grill. Plus the big treat; eating a healthy, good meal at home. And as any good 'vice versa' goes, the next evening was dinner out. They took the family, and me, for a delicious dinner at restaurant near their home in Maryland.  Two treats; one in, one out, two different ways.

On our restaurant adventure, Emily made a healthy but yummy choice of roasted butternut squash soup and salad. As did Lorne, who ordered a seared scallop dish. The boys had chicken dishes and grilled pizza.  I, on the other hand, went for the full indulgence of a Butternut Squash Pasta dish.  Decadent and delicious is the only way to describe this piece d'resistance.

There were so many layers of earthy flavors in this dish, all co-mingling in luscious harmony. I can still taste it.  So why not try to bring that harmony back.

It was Sunday again. Boy, do the weeks fly by fast.  And Sundays have traditionally signified pasta feasting day. So it goes to stand that was what I would make.  With the taste of that pasta still lingering in my mind and on my palate, I ventured to recreate it for JuanCarlos.   

I do warn you that this dish is going to take a few more steps than my own recipes.  I am usually a firm believer in simple preparation, few but fresh ingredients and not too fussy.  But this pasta was so good that I'm willing to go the extra yards.

The restaurant offered it with bucatini, which I'm sure would have been amazing, but since I am gluten free they served me a spaghetti option fitting that need.  The flavor combos were bold. Spice roasted butternut squash purée as the base. Pasta tossed with pumpkin seed pesto chive oil, wild mushrooms and wilted spinach topped with garlic confit.  Oh, if only I had thought up this medley to take credit. But alas, I did not.  I can only try to figure out what they did and remake to indulge once again.

Here goes.  Stick with me.  It will be worth it.

The line up: Spinach, wild mushrooms, butternut squash, basil, garlic, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, parmesan cheese, and pasta.

The line up: Spinach, wild mushrooms, butternut squash, basil, garlic, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, parmesan cheese, and pasta.

Ingredients

For Roasted Butternut Squash
1 butternut squash (8 c cubed), roasted
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 c olive oil 

For Garlic Confit
1 head garlic cloves (approx. 11 large cloves)
2/3 c olive oil

For Spinach & Mushrooms
5-6 c wild mushrooms (Cremini, Shiitake, Oyster, Japanese Brown Beech)
8 c baby spinach
Magic 3 (Olive Oil, salt, pepper)

For Pesto
8 c basil leaves, loosely packed
1/2 c pumpkin seeds, roasted (reserve some to garnish)
1/2 c Parmesan cheese
1-2 garlic cloves
1 1/4 c olive oil
salt, pepper to taste
1 lb pasta (I use Tinkyada brown rice linguine)
Parmesan cheese shavings (optional)

Before I embark on instructions. A quick note about multitasking.  I may not highlight this point in each post I write but it's always there.  It's the art of preparing items in a order so that food is cooking, marinating, chilling, etc while you are tackling another task.  This recipe will definitely call for some serious multitasking.

In this recipe there are two parts that will need up to an hour of cooking time.  Those are the roasted butternut squash and the garlic confit.  So we will start there.  (Confit just means poaching in oil slowly, slowly, slowly.  Did I say it takes time? Yes, slowly. And don't let the fancy name freak you out.  This method is beyond super easy.)

Instructions

Peel, remove seeds and cube the butternut squash.  (You can wash and dry the seeds, then roast them for snacking... or toss them out.)

Carefully peel the hard skin off the squash.  I find that a knife works best.

Carefully peel the hard skin off the squash.  I find that a knife works best.

Coat the squash with oil, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.   Then roast at 400 degrees for 45 min to hour, until very soft and mashable.

squash.spices.jpg
squash.prep.jpg

Once you have the butternut squash in the oven, start on the garlic confit.

garlic.cloves.jpg

Peel garlic cloves and leave whole. In a small saucepan, add garlic and enough olive oil to cover.

Olive oil's golden goodness poured lovingly over garlic cloves.

Olive oil's golden goodness poured lovingly over garlic cloves.

Over low heat, poach for one hour.

While the oven is still on with the squash roasting away, place the pumpkin seeds on a separate baking sheet, roast for 7-10 minutes, or just until lightly toasted.  Set aside to cool.

Pumpkin seeds add great texture to the pesto.

Pumpkin seeds add great texture to the pesto.

The next ingredient to tackle, and in order of length of cooking time is the mushrooms.  Clean and cut them into bite sized pieces.  Sauté them in oil, seasoning with salt and pepper.  The key to cooking mushrooms is not fussing with them.  Once you place them in the pan don't touch them.  Let them get a good sear on them then you can turn them over.  Allow them to cook and get crispy.  

I used a mixture of cremini, shitake, oyster and Japanese Brown Beech mushrooms.  Use whatever ones you like.

I used a mixture of cremini, shitake, oyster and Japanese Brown Beech mushrooms.  Use whatever ones you like.

Put the pasta water up to boil. While the water is going and the mushrooms are cooking move onto making the pesto.

In a food processor, combine basil, pumpkin seeds, garlic and pulse until a fine chop. Then add in parmesan cheese and oil. (The restaurant version called for chive oil, but I didn't feel it was necessary to tack on another item.) Pulse until well blended and season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove and clean the processor, as you will need it to purée the squash.

Pesto goodness in the making.

Pesto goodness in the making.

Once the mushrooms are done, remove and use the same pan to wilt the baby spinach, add a bit of oil to help wilt the leaves.

Spinach just needs to be wilted over low heat.

Spinach just needs to be wilted over low heat.

By this time, the garlic should be done.  The butternut squash should be roasted and ready to purée.  But before that it's time to put the pasta in to cook.  Place the squash cubes in the processor and plus until smooth.  You may need to add some oil if too thick.

Roasted chunks of sweetness

Roasted chunks of sweetness

Roasted Butternut Squash Purée

Roasted Butternut Squash Purée

Now with all the ingredients roasted, sautéd and mixed you are ready to compose the final dish. Drain the pasta and reserve some of the water.

All the work is done.  All the ingredients are ready.

All the work is done.  All the ingredients are ready.

In a bowl combine the pasta and pesto together until coated.  Then mix in the mushrooms, spinach and garlic and gently toss together. Spread the roasted purée on the bottom of each plate and then pile the pasta on top.  Finish with some roasted pumpkin seeds, shaved Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of the garlic oil and a clove or two.

pasta.toss.jpg
squash.plating.jpg
plating.jpg
final.plate.jpg

I know this sounds like more work than my usual recipes.  That's because it's not my recipe.  But honestly, once and while it's nice to spend a bit more time creating a dish that warms your belly and your soul.  It's perfect for a Sunday when you might have a bit more time to spare. And to give you some incentive to take this dish on,  increase the ingredients amount.  Since you are taking the time to make each of these items for this one dish, why not make a bit more and use the extra butternut squash, spinach, mushrooms in dishes for the remainder of week. You can use the squash to make a soup.  Use the spinach and mushrooms to make a frittata or quiche or as side dishes for chicken.  Cook once, eat twice or thrice.

As I mentioned, I use the brown rice pasta for mine but made JC's with regular wheat penne pasta. He really enjoyed this dish but in all fairness, he thought the butternut squash was too sweet for his palate. I thought it gave just the right amount to counter all the other intense flavors.

final.penne.pasta.jpg

Please give this one a try.  I can't take credit for any part of this dish other than tasting it and attempting to recreate it to share with you.  It's nice to share.

 

 

Sent from my iPad