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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Rigatoni with Mushrooms I’d Never Heard Of

June 11th, 2010 · 6 Comments · Dinner, Pasta, Vegetarian

Last week, as you may have noticed on my visual market post-mortem, I came home with a pile of cool-looking maitake mushrooms from the farmer’s market. I probably sound like I know what I’m talking about, but in truth, I had never heard of maitakes before I spied them on a vendor’s table next to the Lion’s Manes (another new-to-me variety) seven days ago. Phoebe was with me and asked what they were. I told her I didn’t know but I was going to buy them anyway because they smelled so off-the-charts rich and earthy. She asked, You’re going to eat something you’ve never heard of? I told her yes — Isn’t that what I’ve been asking of you and you sister for the last eight years? I liked being able to impart that lesson to her — that just because I am a grown-up who gets more excited by a clean sink than a Bourne movie  – doesn’t mean I ever have to lose a sense of adventure at the table. I also liked being able to eat this particular adventure tossed with fresh eggy pasta and Parm.

Rigatoni with Maitake Mushrooms
Serves 4

1 pound fresh rigatoni (I used egg, but you can use regular or whole wheat and I’m sure no one will come knocking)
2 tablespoons olive oil (plus a little more for later)
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion, chopped
dash of red pepper flakes (optional if your kids don’t like heat; but they probably don’t like mushrooms either, so might as well throw it in)
1 to 2 cups maitake mushrooms (or whatever fresh mushrooms you foraged at the market today), cleaned and chopped into bite-size pieces.
zest of 1/2 lemon
salt & pepper to taste
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup Parmesan
handful of fresh thyme or parsley

In a medium pot, boil water and prepare pasta as directed. Drain, place in a large bowl (separating out pasta portions for kids who won’t eat mushrooms) and toss with a tiny bit of olive oil to prevent sticking.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-low heat, add olive oil and saute garlic, onion, and red pepper flakes until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. (Garlic shouldn’t burn since it’s “embedded” in onions.) Turn up heat slightly and add mushrooms, cooking until they release their liquid, about 3-5 minutes and adding more oil if you feel the mixture is too dry. Stir in lemon zest, salt and pepper and transfer to the bowl with pasta.

Turn up the heat to high and add another generous glug of olive oil. Add bread crumbs and cook until toasted and crispy, about 1 minute. Add to pasta bowl along with Parmesan and fresh herbs.

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