Wednesday, April 29, 2009

hot kitchen? cool cure.

i can't believe that it was only
weeks ago 
that i was complaining
about the never-ending winter,
the delay of spring
and how i could use a little

because now?
now it's hot.
and humid.
and i have the hair to prove it.

in some ways it's nice:
to walk the streets and see
people tucking away
from their sidewalk seats
in front of restaurants,
to slip on flip-flops
before running out the door,
to actually crave
the watermelon piling
up in bins.

but every year, i somehow
forget that as soon
as the days border
on heavenly outside,
inside, they're sweltering.
we're lucky enough to have two
permanent air conditioning units,
but when it is extra hot,
they are no match for our fourth floor
and the kitchen usually 
suffers first.

so this weekend, 
after avoiding an entire 
saturday of cooking,
i braced myself for sunday night.
what i really wanted was fish,
but i knew that involved
either standing
over a steaming
or facing the extra heat
provided by a 400 degree oven.

instead, i made one of my
hot weather standbys
(although, honestly, i don't 
think i've ever before
had to pull out the dish in april).
it's a toss together pasta 
from giada,
who i happen to really enjoy
(i'm willing to discuss why
if anyone disagrees).
yes, this means a pot of 
scalding water,
but the recipe
is so quick and easy,
that i can put a flame
under the pot of water,
make the sauce
and be out of the kitchen
before even the first
tiny bubble boils
to the surface.
here's what you do.
chop garlic in the food
processor. add:
goat cheese
whirl together.
ready for pasta.
and so bright, so pretty.

spinach leaves wait 
in your serving bowl
and when the pasta - 
whole grain which i love
(less guilt, nuttier flavor,
chewier texture) -
is perfectly al dente,
you dump the lot
on top of the veggie.
the heat and steam
from the penne wilts
the greens just enough.
tossed with the sauce
and sprinkled with cheese,
it's the perfect in-and-out
of the kitchen
it's that simple.
spicy from the garlic, smooth without
cream, just the right temperature
thanks to mixing hot and cold together.
it's pesto-like, minus the oil, nuts and
drop-by-drop dripping.
and, it's a good way to sneak in a vegetable -
and goat cheese - to the unsuspecting.

often, like most, i think,
pasta makes me feel guilty.
but, when it's unbearable
in the house, i can work in
a vegetable
the dish requires only
as much time as it
takes for the penne to cook,
i can honestly say,
this dish is nothing to feel
guilty about.
especially if you don't have
an air conditioner
in your kitchen.

whole grain penne with spinach and goat cheese
adapted from giada de laurentiis
the recipe is so simple, that i almost feel like you don't need the nitty gritty details, that the above is enough to go on. but i will give it to you anyway - you never know when another heat wave will come through and who wants to think then?the original recipe used 1 ounce of cream cheese, which to me is a waste of a purchase. instead of buying a bar, i always up the goat cheese. also, the garlic is raw, which i'm fine with, but if you're sensitve to such things, don't hesitate to reduce it by a clove or two. the great thing about this dish is that it's great as is when it's too warm to focus on an extra step, but can also really shine when mixed with halved graped tomatoes, grilled shrimp or torn basil.

1 box (16 ounces) whole grain penne
3 cloves garlic, ends trimmed and halved
1 bag (6 ounces) baby spinach, divided
3 ounces goat cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons grated parm

in saucepot, bring water to a boil; add salt. when water returns to a boil, add whole grain penne. cook according to package directions. just before draining, remove 1 cup pasta water. drain pasta. 

meanwhile, place garlic cloves in food processor; pulse until chopped. add half the spinach leaves, goat cheese, salt and pepper; process 1 minutes, or until mixture is smooth.

place remaining spinach leaves in serving bowl. as soon as pasta is drained, transfer to serving bowl on top of spinach. add spinach sauce. let mixture sit several minutes; toss together. if you need more liquid, splash in cooking water. season mixture with salt and pepper. sprinkle with grated cheese.

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