Last week, I posted about Brussels sprouts, the little green vegetables trying to shed their bad reputation. Today, I’ll spotlight another miniature green friend, who often gets tossed under the rug (or fed to the dog.) Please, allow me to re-introduce you to the humble sweet green pea. Often cooked until mushy, overdone, brown, or, to the horror of many, straight out of the can (yuck!) peas were never a favourite of mine. Little did I realize that in another state, these little veggies could pack a flavourful punch. Some may even consider them gourmet (pea froth garnish, anyone?).
I became inspired for this little toss during a recent trip to my local supermarket. Seeking dinnertime inspiration, I was rummaging through the produce section when I paused in front of an item that I would have normally dismissed as boring and/or useless: an abnormally large variety of parsley. Five different types, in fact. Really? Do people REALLY need that much variety of an herb that serves a garnish, often tossed aside, never to be consumed? I started to think that maybe I have been missing something. I decided that this little green leaf was going to make it onto my plate tonight – and not just as a back-up dancer, but as the star of the show. “Parsley!” I said (to myself, and possibly also out loud), “You have been under appreciated.” (Then I began to wonder if under appreciated was indeed one word, two words, or not a word at all. But I digress.)
Soon afterward, I found myself making tabouleh.
I did not use a recipe, just ingredients that I had on hand and an idea in my head of what tabouleh should be. I chopped some grape tomatoes and decided to add something a little unconventional, but not too far off the rocker: a handful of diced cucumber. Traditional tabbouleh has grains mixed in, and I just happened to have a little bit of millet that I’ve been meaning to use up. Very soon, I scooping bite after bite onto my favorite crackers, indulging in the aromas of a delicious summer salad.
what you’ll need
1 bunch italian parsley, stems removed
1 cup diced grape or cherry tomatoes
2 cloves (about 2tsp) crushed garlic, blanched
1 cup diced (2 or 3 small) cucumbers, peel on
1/2 cup cooked millet (other small grains will work just as well)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tbsp rice (or apple cider) vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp kosher or sea salt
how to do it
Combine parsley and garlic into food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Add millet, cucumber & tomatoes. Pulse one or two more times, careful not to over-chop! Toss with oil, vinegar, lemon and salt. Refrigerate for one hour or overnight. The longer it sits, the better it tastes!
I’ve always been known to keep a well stocked fridge and pantry. Among other basic necessities, you’ll rarely find me lacking any of the following foods: assorted cheeses, frozen vegetables, multiple bags of pasta and jars of Classico tomato sauce. [A note on the latter: though I’m a stickler for homemade, those chefs over at Classico really know what they’re doing. Though I wasn’t paid to say that, I’d just like to inform the fine folks over at Classico that I really wouldn’t mind some free sauce. Or a coupon. You know, both are good!]
All I had was an hour, but all I wanted was pasta. With some garlic toast. And maybe even a little use-up-the-veggies-up-before-they-wilt salad. I thought it would be as fast as boiling some noodles and opening up a jar. Alas, I was jar-less. My Classico supply had been depleted.
That’s when I hit the vodka…
Paired it with tomatoes and cream and turned it into a velvety smooth sauce!
Though the actual preparation is quick, if you have the time I highly recommend that you make this earlier on in the day and let it simmer over low heat in order for the sauce to thicken and the flavours to enhance. I served mine over spinach fettucine (to add a splash of colour & pizzazz to the plate… yes, I just used the word pizzazz) with a side of pumpernickel toasted with garlic butter and a hint of shredded cheese. I balanced it all out with a cherry tomato, avocado & romaine salad tossed with Renee‘s naturally low-cal cucumber, dill & yogourt dressing.
Pasta myths debunked: Spinach pasta is not any healthier than regular pasta – the spinach is mostly used for the colour, though the spinach content does add a small ammount of vitamin A and some iron. I choose spinach pasta because I prefer the taste and texture, but you may prefer the enriched semolina (regular) variety. If you’re looking to add fibre to your diet, whole-wheat pasta is the choice for you. The “healthiest” pasta in my opinion is quinoa pasta, as it contains the most nutrients overall – however, this is not to say that you should banish pasta from your diet. In a well-balanced meal like this one, pasta can be a satisfying and healthy choice, no matter what variety you use.
Vitamins & Nutrients: Lutein, the compound that gives tomatoes their bright red colour, is a vitamin that is said to reduce the risk of serious eye disease. This sauce is chock-full of it! The avocados in your salad are a source of HEALTHY fat – the kind that helps to unclog your arteries, as well as 20 other minerals and nutrients. Contrary to popular beleif – eating avocados will not make you fat! The yogourt in the dressing is a source of “good” bacteria that help with food digestion, and is low in saturated (unhealthy) fat. People who are slightly lactose intolerant can often digest yogourt due to it’s bacterial content.
Drunken Tomato Sauce
note: you can add other vegetables into this sauce while simmering, such as diced carrots, crushed garlic, chopped spinach, etc. I kept the recipe simple because that’s how I like it but I’ll leave it to your discretion to make it your own!
what you’ll need
• 1 large can plum tomatoes (other varieties will do, but this is my recommendation)
• 1 large onion, diced
• 1 tbsp vegetable oil
• 1 tsp sugar
• 1/2 cup cream (at least 10%, use 35% if you prefer a creamier sauce)
• 1/4 cup vodka
• 2 tsp sea salt or kosher salt
• dash tabasco or other hot pepper sauce
• handful of fresh basil, chopped (optional)
how to do it
In medium saucepan, heat oil on medium and add onions. Sprinkle with sugar and cook until soft. Add tomatoes, breaking up with mixing spoon. Stir in tabasco & vodka. Simmer until tomatoes begin to break down. Bring cream to room temperature while simmering. Once sauce has reached desired consistency, slowly stir it, one tbsp at a time, into cream, just until the cream is warm. This will ensure that the cream does not curdle upon entering the hot pot. Whisk cream into sauce, slowly, little by little. Add salt and basil. Cover and simmer 10 minutes or until ready to serve. Garnish with grated fresh parmesan cheese.