Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Greens, Beans, and Toasted Pasta

This tasty thrown-together dinner was loosely inspired by a NYT recipe for risotto-style pasta that I mentally bookmarked a while back.   My humble version was quick and healthy-hearty;  I'd say resulting whole was definitely greater than the sum of its parts. The collards maintain their tooth better than other greens and the starches released from the toasted pasta and the beans make a rich, creamy sauce.

The leftovers may have been even better. Overnight, the pasta soaked up the remaining liquid but retained its structural integrity. [Whole grain pasta, in my experience, never gets as mushy the white stuff.] While this pasta fagioli-esque dish was excellent hot, it also turned out to be an amazing cold pasta salad that would be a nice substitution for a mayo-based pasta salad at a picnic.

Recipe: Greens, Beans, and Toasted Pasta

Hearty greens take up a lot of space before they cook down to almost nothing. If you don't have a giant skillet, just add them a handful at a time and stir them in as they cook down. [I got this monster for <$20 at Target after a "you're gonna need a bigger wok" moment and a pre-dinner dash to the store... it's held up well for at least 4 years now.]

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 large red onion [or one medium yellow onion], sliced thin, pole to pole
1 bunch collard greens, chopped into 1/2" strips
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 lb. whole wheat pasta [rather thin like gemelli, or broken fettucini or spaghetti]
1/4 cup vermouth [or water]
1- 14.5 oz. can cannellini beans with canning liquid [red kidney would be pretty]
3 1/2 cups water
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp salt

shredded or chunked Parmesan cheese, to garnish [optional]

Heat oil over medium-high in the biggest skillet or wok you have. Add onion and saute until just translucent, ~7-10 minutes. Add chopped collard greens [in batches if necessary], garlic, and pepper flakes. Stir frequently until greens are wilted and any liquid in the pan has evaporated. [Crispy greens are great, burned greens are bad.] Stir in pasta until coated in oil, then cook ~3 minutes or until pasta gets some darker toasty spots. Deglaze pan with vermouth or water, scraping up any stuck bits and stirring until liquid is mostly evaporated, then stir in beans, water, and seasonings. Bring to the boil, reduce heat to medium (you want to maintain a "lively simmer") and stir occasionally until most of the liquid has been absorbed and pasta has reached desired tenderness, ~10-15 minutes.  Adjust salt to taste, then ladle into bowls with any remaining cooking liquid and garnish with extra cracked black pepper and cheese, if desired.

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