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Monday, May 9, 2011

It would be better if you could put a candle in it.

It is a friend's birthday today, and I wasn't sure what to give the girl who wants nothing. I settled on a jar of strawberry jam and a night off of cooking for her. In order to give her family a dinner that would travel well, I went with my old standard: pasta. In order to give her family a dinner that would be tasty and fresh, I incorporated some of this week's fabulous fresh organic produce.

Now I know that some of you are thinking that I was just trying to get rid of some of my veggies. A few weeks ago, you would have been so right. But I actually have gotten to the point where I use up almost all of it myself. This week, for example, all I have left is some lettuce, an onion, and a few potatoes. I can't say whether the kids have gotten better at eating their veggies, but I sure have. So when I made this dinner, it was out of thought for my friend. On her birthday.

But while we're on the topic, anyone want some slightly old potatoes?

This pasta dish is loosely based on a recipe from the New York Times a couple of years ago. I made a few distinct changes to it, though, so I'll give you my version. Just remember that I was making enough for two families (mine and hers) so you may want to cut everything in half.

Buttermilk Pasta with Cauliflower and Chard

1 head cauliflower
1 bunch chard, leaves and stems separated
2 pounds penne or other similar pasta
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup buttermilk

First, start a pot of salted water to boiling. Wash your chard and cauliflower. Cut the cauliflower into large florets, and cut the stems of the chard into 2 inch lengths.

Boil the vegetables until they are soft but not mushy.

Meanwhile, heat the oil over low to medium heat in a large skillet, and add the garlic. Cook until the garlic is golden. Add the chard leaves to the skillet, and sauté until the chard is wilty. 

When the cauliflower and stems are done, remove them from the boiling water with a handled sieve or a slotted spoon. Put the pasta into the boiling water and cook until it is about 2-3 minutes away from being completely done. Drain the pasta.

Set the vegetables aside until they are cool enough to handle, and then chop them up into smallish pieces.

Mix the cauliflower and stems into the skillet of leaves and garlic. Add the bread crumbs, and stir to mix thoroughly. 

When the pasta is done, combine the pasta and the veggie mixture. Add the buttermilk and salt and pepper to taste.

Top with parmesan cheese and serve with a simple salad.