Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Food Files: Reluctant Summer Pasta

Let's talk cooking. Feeding oneself is a basic adult task.

My mother is a great cook and I've been spoiled by her homegrown, home-raised meals for years. Me? I'd rather not be in the kitchen.

It's not that I exactly hate to cook; I just don't want to do it everyday. I have this beautiful image in my head of happy homemaking-cooking lovely, fresh, local, seasonal meals that cover all my food groups. But...this makes a lot of dishes to wash and it feels like it takes so long and there are other things I would rather be doing and [insert many more excuses here].

Unfortunately, this reluctance to make myself some darn food left me toting a cruddy can of soup to work. Not fulfilling. So, I buckled down and threw together this summer pasta.


1 yellow bell pepper (from my mom's garden)
1 red bell pepper (from the grocery store-whoa, these are expensive!)
1 bunch of asparagus minus 1/2 (I waited too long to use it and some of the stalks were a bit funky)
2 boxes of cherry tomatoes (they were buy 1, get 1)
Log o' goat cheese minus some I smeared on a Wasa cracker for breakfast
1 handful of fresh basil (mom's garden again)
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

I had to sort through these for good ones.

1. Sort through your asparagus, pick the non-funky ones, snap off the ends, and break the remainder into 2 inch or so pieces. If you are more on top of your fridge, congratulations! You don't have to throw away your food!

2. Then, spread out your asparagus on a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle liberally with salt. Roast the asparagus in an oven set at about 350 degrees F for about 10-15 minutes or until the fronds are slightly brown around the edges. Let cool.

I wish I could give more detailed instructions about the roasting, but my oven is wonky. It shoots to about 450 degrees when you have it set to only 200. I have to just check on things frequently and play it by ear. You can probably figure out how to roast some asparagus. If I can do it in an oven determined to turn itself into a flaming pit, you can manage in a better behaved appliance.

This knife definitely needs to be sharpened. I more squished than chopped. 

2. Cut up your peppers. Don't worry if they aren't uniform pieces. I personally ignore such culinary shortcomings.

This homegrown pepper tasted awesome. Thanks, mom!

3. Slice some cherry tomatoes. I made them relatively small. I also forgot that I am slightly allergic to tomatoes and have had a raw mouth for a couple days.

Hello, lycopene. 

4. Throw in some basil. Due to the sorry state of my "knife," I decided to rip rather than chop.

This looks like Christmas. But don't even think of eating it at Christmas. It would be totally out of season. 

5. Make some pasta! I choose these little spirals because (1) I love this kind and (2) the box was on sale. It was the protein added variety, which is good as the protein count on this dish is a bit low and I plan on eating it as a meal.

This pasta is For-Ti-Fied.

6. Hold on to your hats. We are about to get all fancy. I made a balsamic reduction to drizzle on the pasta. It was simple, I put about a 1/2 c. of balsamic vinegar (you don't have to use expensive stuff here), added about 1 Tbs. of sugar and let it cook down until it was a nice syrupy consistency. Be careful not to burn your pot doing this. I had a handy nonstick little pot. I will probably be poisoned by the Teflon, but at least I don't have to scrub, right?

This little pot is ah. dorable.

7. Now for the fun part! Throw everything together in a big bowl. Drizzle with more olive oil, pour in the balsamic, sprinkle with extra salt and pepper to your taste. Mix well. Now is also the time to add cheese, if you wish. I put in goat cheese because it tastes fresh and, well, I had it in the fridge. Parmesan or feta would also be lovely.

It is a very pretty pasta salad.

This is a fresh summer dish. You can eat it slightly warm (as I prefer) or cool. If I did it again, I would have made more balsamic dressing. It was a good dinner and lunch and dinner and lunch. It kept well (I added a little extra oil to freshen it up).

So I ditched the canned fodder (for now). I like having something good in my fridge that I know is yummy and healthy. I have one other meal planned for this week. Let's see if it comes to fruition, or if I will be salvaging another vegetable for not old sections. Here's hoping.

What do you cook when you don't feel like cooking? Is anyone into crock-pot meals or freezing? Share your hints!

(My excitement over having cooked myself an actual meal is kind of telling of my level in this whole "growing up" progress, isn't it? I clearly have not been independent for very long.)


  1. Looks yummy.Thank you for the compliments. I still have fresh peppers.Locally, green beans are still being picked and you can roast them too.Dad can sharpen that knife for you.XOOO

  2. I kind of like it when you make's better.

  3. Maggie: I love your little blog! It's fun both to hear what you're up to and to be reminded of what it's like when one is just starting out. Lots of experiments and adventures. :) I can't remember if this was as true when you babysat for us as it is now, but it feels like we eat most of our meals from either the slow cooker or the freezer during the school year, as we can then eat home-cooked meals without a lot of prep.

    If it can be cooked in a slow cooker or partially cooked, divided, frozen, and finished as new meal, I probably have six or eight Ziploc bags of it in the freezer. Here's one thing I like to do: Cook a bunch of bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts with onions/carrots/celery in salted water to make stock (this process is also nice because you don't have to trim the raw chicken--you just dump the package into the pot). Pull the meat off the bones and freeze a few handfuls of the chicken in bags with a cup or two of strained stock per bag. It takes a little time when you do it, but then the bags of chicken are useful for lots of good meals that would otherwise be time-consuming--quick chicken and dumplings, chicken pot pie, etc. (You can add store-bought broth to supplement when you go to use it). Okay, that's all I've got for now. Love you.

    1. Thank you! (I put up a little post in response).