Separate but Unequal

October 15th, 2010 · 14 Comments · Dinner, Pasta, Picky Eating, Vegetarian

I knew what I wanted for dinner yesterday before I had even taken a sip of my morning coffee. It was going to be that beautiful fusilli with chard and crunchy breadcrumbs that accompanied Melissa Clark’s story in the Times about whole wheat pasta. I didn’t have any fusilli — but I had some whole wheat rigatoni, and chard, and onions and…hey look at that!…I had some thyme and goat cheese and mushrooms, too! With the addition of each new ingredient to the pot, though, I was not only getting further away from Melissa’s recipe, I was getting further away a meal I could expect my children to eat no-questions-asked*. So just before I dolloped a hunk of very un-extractable goat cheese into the hot pasta, a point-of-no-return move if there ever was one, I made a decision: The kids are eating something else tonight. Tonight, I just need to cook my dinner the way I want to cook my dinner, and I want to eat my dinner the way I want to eat my dinner. The family has sat down to roughly the same meal for, what, about four straight nights now? Plus, I volunteered at school today and sent out Abby’s birthday invitations! Surely these noble deeds qualified me for some kind of kickback? So Andy and I had our special earthy, herby pasta and the kids had their Trader Joe’s chicken taquitos from the freezer. And the sun still rose from the east in the morning.

*in my house, mushrooms + goat cheese is asking a lot

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Fettucini with Brussels

March 23rd, 2010 · 15 Comments · Dinner, Pasta, Picky Eating, Quick, Vegetarian

When I was growing up brussels sprouts were a “punchline” food — like liverwurst and mushrooms, turning up in cartoons and sitcoms as dinner table fare kids classically hated. Things are different now — I literally can’t go a week without eating them and the girls don’t seem to know (or care) about its reputation as grown-up-only food. This recipe is a perfect weeknight dish — it takes only a few minutes. If you have a food processor on the counter, try shredding the sprouts before sauteeing. It makes them cook faster and also gives them a consistency that integrates well with ribbon pasta. (If integration is exactly what turns off the kids, of course, be sure to set aside some plain pasta before combining.)

Of course, my problem is not the brussels but the pasta — Phoebe will eat pounds of the “little lettuce leaves,” but won’t go anywhere near a noodle, so she’s allowed to have a piece of toasted baguette instead. Can’t win.

Fettucini with Shallots and Brussels Sprouts

2 to 3 large handfuls (2 cups) of Brussels sprouts, trimmed (buy the bag of pre-shredded kinds in Trader Joe’s)
1 pound fettuccini (or whole wheat spaghetti or any ribbon pasta)
red pepper flakes
1 small shallot, chopped (or a handful of chopped regular onion)
some generous glugs of olive oil
Parmesan to taste

Slice sprouts in a food processor fitted with slicing disk or chop thinly (or open your Trader Joe’s bag!) Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add red pepper flakes and onion and saute about 2 minutes until shallots have softened. Add Brussels sprouts, a little salt and a twist of pepper, then cook over medium-high heat until tender and lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water, then drain fettucini. Add pasta to brussels and toss to combine, adding pasta water as needed to loosen. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan.

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