Laura has previously mentioned her love for her Farm Fresh box. I don't have a similar subscription, but my mother-in-law-to-be, DiAnne, does, and we are lucky enough that she likes to share. She recently gave us a huge bag of vegetables and fruit. Look at this beautiful bounty!
Those are artichokes, blood oranges, lemons, radishes, avocados, carrots, and romanesco cauliflower (Wikipedia tells me it also goes by romanesco broccoli, but I'm going with cauliflower). Getting this grab bag of produce is a great exercise in creativity in the kitchen. It's like a puzzle: how can I put these pieces together into a yummy and satisfying meal?
That beautiful romanesco was really calling out to me this night, and I remembered a recipe that's a favorite of one of my go-to food bloggers, the Amateur Gourmet. He calls it Heaven and Hell Cauliflower Pasta. I made the recipe basically as he writes it, except that I substituted whole wheat penne for the ziti to try to makes things a little healthier. Here's what you'll need to get started:
I used two heads of romanesco, since that's what I had, and they seemed to be a little on the small side. First step is chopping them into florets. I think the two heads yielded about 2 cups of florets.
Next up: chop the garlic and anchovies, and add them to a bowl with fennel seeds and hot pepper flakes. This is basically a bowl of dragon breath.
Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta and heat some olive oil in a skillet to brown the romanesco. Depending on how much cauliflower you have and how big your pan is, you may need to do this in batches -- you really want just a single layer of cauliflower so it all has a chance to get nice and caramelized. I have a really big saute pan, so I was able to get it all in there at once.
Meanwhile, you cook your pasta to al dente and add most of your dragon breath mix to the romanesco. After you've sauteed the cauliflower and the spice mixture a bit, add some of the pasta cooking water a ladleful at a time to make a sauce. You'll have to eyeball this, depending on how much water is absorbed by the vegetables. You don't want it to be liquid-y, just a bit saucy. Then you add the pasta to the pan to finish cooking and top it all off with a bit of the raw spice mixture (for extra stinky breath) and grated cheese. Here is the finished product:
Even though this dish has vegetables in it, I felt like we needed a salad to round this meal out. Luckily, we still had plenty of beautiful options left from DiAnne, the veggie fairy. I decided to make a spinach salad with blood oranges, avocado, and radishes. I don't mean to brag, but we get amazing local avocados here in San Diego.
That avocado got tossed together with the orange segments, thinly sliced radishes, baby spinach, and a simple vinaigrette.
Although this meal came together on the fly, it really turned out well. The pasta recipe can be made mostly with pantry staples (if you're the kind of person who keeps anchovies around, which I now am), but it packs a lot of flavor. The combination of sour (orange), creamy (avocado), and spicy (radish) worked well in the salad, and made me feel slightly more virtuous after eating a big bowl of pasta. I probably would not have thought to put these things together if I hadn't been presented with that bag of goodies, but I'm very glad I did!