Saturday, August 23, 2014

Vegan Greek Pasta with a Side of Broccoli

Vegan Greek Pasta
a side of Broccoli

How can you go wrong with a plate full of noodles mixed with all sorts of yummy things related somehow to the concept of "Greek"?  Onions, garlic, olive oil, fresh Roma tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes in oil, black Kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, pine nuts, fresh basil, white beans and spinach - maybe we should call this dish "Mediterranean Pasta" or "This is the bomb pasta" or "Really really yummy noodles mixed with deliciousness"?  Whatever, you get my drift.

I started off with a warm sauté pan, some salt and a generous couple dollops of olive oil and  then added chopped onion and garlic.  Since olive oil is not a high heat oil I cooked these things slowly over low heat.  While they cooked I prepared all the other ingredients and got a big pot of water, salt, and a bit of olive oil started towards a boil.  The list is long but it was really pretty easy to do. Ok, I admit it... I listened to one of my teen favorites, Fleetwood Mac , while I cooked.  Cooking to music is fun, especially music you can sing all the lyrics to and freak your daughter out while doing it! And your equally "old" husband can sing along too!

I chopped up a bunch of Roma tomatoes from our garden.

Here's the rest of what I used - lemon juice, quartered artichoke hearts, pine nuts, Kalamata olives, sun dried tomatoes, fresh basil, thyme, oregano, and handfuls of fresh spinach.

I think chopping garlic is a hassle.  I think pressing garlic is a hassle.  I love garlic.  I do garlic even though I think it's a hassle.  Just get over it, sing to Fleetwood Mac, and be with the garlic.  Here's my garlic, chef knife, and this amazing bottle of olive oil I recently bought.

After I had the onions and garlic in salt and oil for a bit I added the chopped Roma toms and let that cook until the tomatoes began to break up.  Then I added the other yumminess and let it cook while the spaghetti noodles boiled.

Another photo of yumminess. So many treats in this pasta "sauce".

I added handfuls of baby spinach I bought from the Farmer's Market this week.  The spinach pretty much disappears in this dish so you can use a lot of it.  I tend to just put it on top of the "sauce" and then cover so it begins to wilt.  It doesn't have to cook long.  You can add another bunch of handfuls after the first bunch wilts into the sauce.  I think this could be any type of "green" like chard, beet greens, or kale.  Kale is a bit more coarse and may take a bit longer to cook than spinach.

Hip Hip hooray for a daughter who is home from College and can snap a photo while I unload the pasta into the pan of sauce.

Ready to eat.....

Vegan "Greek" Pasta

1/2 small onion, chopped
4 - 8 cloves garlic, chopped or pressed
2 - 3 generous tablespoons olive oil
bit of salt
2 - 4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
1/2 cup sliced or chopped pitted Kalamata olives
1 cup quartered artichoke hearts
1/2 cup or more fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup chopped oil packed sun dried tomatoes
1 cup white beans
1/4 - 1/2 cup pine nuts
1 tsp oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
4 - 8 cups washed spinach leaves
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Put a large sauté pan on the stove top and begin to heat it.  Add 2 - 3 generous tablespoons olive oil and a pinch or two of salt.  Add the chopped onion and garlic.  Be as generous as you like with the garlic.  You can use a red onion or a yellow or even fresh spring onion.  Cook over low heat until the onion begins to turn translucent.

You should probably put on the noodle cooking water, as well.

2.  Add the chopped tomatoes.  Stir and cook for another 5 minutes or so while the tomatoes break down a bit.  Don't worry if the pan seems to be full of tomato juice - the pasta will soak it right up.

3.  Stir in the olives, artichoke hearts, fresh basil, sun dried tomatoes, white beans, oregano and thyme.  Cook another 5 minutes or so.

4.  Add the pine nuts, juice from one lemon, and as much of the spinach as fits.  Cover lightly with a lid and allow to cook until spinach begins to wilt.  Stir and add the rest of the spinach. Cover again.  The spinach will cook fast.  

5.  Add the noodles directly into the "sauce" and stir.  Turn the heat off.  Cover and leave on the stove top.  Add salt and pepper to taste.


Quick Broccoli Saute'

A bunch of washed and trimmed broccoli florets 
 1 - 2 tablespoons canola or coconut oil (must be high heat oil)
2 tablespoons water

1.  Wash and cut the broccoli.

2.  Heat a sauté pan over medium high heat and add the high heat oil.  Watch for sputtering. Tilt the pan and get the oil to cover the bottom of the pan lightly.  Add the broccoli florets and cover.  Cook for 2 minutes over fairly high heat.

3.  Remove lid, add the 2 tablespoons of water mixed with the salt.  I use a 1/4 cup measuring cup.  I add the water to the cup and then a couple pinches of salt.  Cover the pan immediately and cook for 2 more minutes.  This will steam the quick fried broccoli and make it just right salty.

4.  Turn the heat off immediately after the second 2 minutes and eat promptly while it's still hot. 

This is my family's favorite way to eat broccoli.  This broccoli not only makes a great side dish but it is an amazing baked potato topper!

Remember that you can cut the use of oil dramatically in either of these recipes if you are looking to reduce calories.  Oil has a calorie content of about 120 calories per tablespoon.  We need fat in our diets but cutting the use of oils can really help with calorie reduction and remember that oil is a processed food.  In terms of nutrition, it is best to get our fats from whole food sources like nuts, avocado, etc.

Be creative with your pasta dish.  You could add your chopped broccoli into the sauce you are making. If fresh tomatoes aren't available you could easily add a can of chopped tomatoes.  You could use many types of greens including chard, beet greens, dandelion greens, sorrel, or kale.  Green olives could replace black olives.  Chopped almonds could replace pine nuts.  Garbanzo beans could replace white beans.  

This is an easy quick delicious meal... enjoy!

Remember to eat your greens.

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