Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Whole wheat penne with pumpkin, chestnuts, chicken and spinach

I put this pasta together on the fly when I was home alone. I made one serving, and now I want to make it again as soon as possible. Thanks to baaaaad recessed lighting in high ceilings (and hasting shooting), the picture doesn't do it justice.

The "sauce" is canned pumpkin gently sauteed with some garlic and sage to take off the raw edge. I tossed it with penne, chopped leftover chicken breast, caramelized onions, chopped chestnuts (from a jar) and sauteed spinach. Then I used some of the pasta cooking water to loosen it up a bit.

I just loved this. I multiplied the recipe to serve 2 or 3, depending on your appetite. It is so filling and hearty. If you aren't the type to hoard jars of chestnuts around the holidays (therefore having them on hand on a random weeknight), you could skip it, or replace them with sauteed mushrooms. As a matter a fact, you could add a lot of different veggies or meat. It's the tasty pumpkin sauce that's kind of special here. And always remember: caramelized onions make anything wonderful.

Whole wheat penne with pumpkin, chestnuts, chicken and spinach
You can use rotisserie chicken if you’re not one to have leftovers on hand. You can also use chicken sausage or go veg and use cannellini beans. When I first made this, I used caramelized onions that I had on hand, but you can certainly cook up a fresh batch. To do it, thinly slice an onion and slowly cook it in 1 Tbs oil on medium-low to low for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring once in a while.

Serves 2 to 3

1 Tbs unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 to 6 sage leaves, finely chopped, or pinch of dried thyme
1/4 cup caramelized onions
3 huge handfuls spinach leaves
6 oz whole wheat penne or rigatoni
6 oz cooked chicken breast, chopped
12 cooked (from jar or vacuum pack)chestnuts, broken up or chopped

Heat the butter in a nonstick skillet on medium low. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add pumpkin, season with salt and pepper and cook, tossing and turning, 3 minutes. Add sage or thyme and cook 1 minute more. Transfer to a large bowl. Add onions.

Mist the same skillet with cooking spray and add spinach. Season and cook until wilted and tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in well-salted water to al dente. Before draining, reserve about 3/4 cup of the cooking water. Add pasta to bowl with pumpkin and combine. Microwave the chicken to warm it up, then stir it in along with the chestnuts. Stir in spinach. As you combine the pumpkin and pasta with the other ingredients, add reserved pasta water in small amounts to loosen up the consistency as desired. Divide among 2 or 3 bowls and top with grated Parmigiano. 

Friday, November 04, 2011

Restorative Kale and White Bean Soup with Egg Yolks

Soup is quite restorative in general, but for me, this one absolutely exemplifies the renewing, nourishing qualities that a healthy soup can have. It is the perfect thing to make if you've just returned from a vacation that involved lots of eating; if you're getting over a cold; or if you just want to give your body a fresh start.

First of all, it's packed with kale, a truly restorative vegetable if there ever was one. Just eating it makes me feel healthy. There's no meat, but plenty of satisfying beans. Finally, because I firmly believe that you can't just simmer some veggies in broth and expect it to taste good, I used a slightly surprising ingredient to add richness and a little backbone. Egg yolks, stirred in at the very end when the soup is at a bare simmer, create a creamy texture. In other recipes, yogurt, sour cream, a sprinkling of cheese or a chopped nuts would serve a similar "richness-making" function.

Have you ever added egg yolks to soup? If not, would you try it?

Restorative Kale and White Bean Soup with Egg Yolks
This would be delicious with chicken, but it some seems more restorative if your body doesn't need to digest any meat. Grated parmesan would also be a nice addition. If you want to really eggy, feel free to use a bit less broth and an extra yolk. And don't skip the lemon!

Serves 4 to 6

1 Tbs olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 to 2 carrots, peeled and chopped (about 1 cup)
Salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Red chile flakes to taste
1/4 tsp EACH dried thyme and dried rosemary
4 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
1 lb kale, thick stems removed, and chopped
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3 egg yolks
Lemon wedges
Optional for serving: sriracha or hot sauce

Heat the oil in a large pot on medium high. Add onion and carrot, season with salt and pepper, and cook until slightly softened and lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Add garlic, chile flakes and dried herbs and cook 2 minutes, stirring often. Add broth and water and  bring to a boil. Add kale, cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, 10 to 20 minutes. If pot is very crowded, add an additional cup of water.

Add beans and adjust heat to maintain a low simmer. Place yolks in a medium bowl and whisk in about 1/2 cup of the soup broth. Slowly pour yolk mixture into soup, stirring as you go. Check and adjust seasoning. Remove from heat. Ladle into bowls and serve with plenty of lemon wedges and hot sauce if you like.