Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Penne with Swiss Chard and Pine Nuts

When I was little, probably around 5 or 6, my dad had to make dinner for my sister and I. I'm certain it wasn't his idea to make cooked spinach, but it happened all the same. And it is the one and only meal that made me sick. I more-or-less stayed away from wilted greens for the next 20 years. But slowly, slowly I've been coming around, starting with this dish, which was great. But after this pasta, I'm a full-blown advocate of Swiss chard. I'm a visual eater. In yoga when I should be focusing on breathing, I go Zen by imagining runny eggs and coffee in the morning. So all it took was a photo of this pasta on the blog Cucina Nicolina, and I was sold. It's been a sweltering and suffocating 95 degrees with a heat index of (today) up to 115--that's hotter than Thailand people, so I know no one wants to eat anything warm. But this was light and summery with a delicious buttery crunch from the pine nuts. It was all I could do to not lick the bowl after eating this pasta. I (of course) made a couple tweets, I mean tweaks. And I must congratulate myself for a) using up semi-unusual and perishable food from my fridge and b) even having said semi-unusual and perishable food that isn't well into the process of growing something very unusual. It must be a sign of maturation as a cook. Though now I'm the proud owner of a ridiculous amount of leftover (and delicious) pasta. Doesn't anyone have a tip as to how to judge how much pasta to make for one or two people? Penne with Swiss Chard and Pine Nuts: 1/2 cup pine nuts 1 tablespoon olive oil 1/2 onion, diced 1 clove garlic, finely chopped 3 stalks of rainbow chard, with the leaves coarsely chopped and the stalks discarded 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes 1/4 cup ricotta cheese (Cucina Nicolina used 1 cup of feta cheese) 1 tablespoon cream salt and pepper 1 teaspoon dried oregano parmesan cheese 4 ounces of dried pasta (this serves about 4 people) Fill a medium sauce pan with water and sprinkle with salt (about 2 teaspoons) and bring to a boil on the stovetop. Cook penne until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain pasta and transfer to serving bowl. Meanwhile, in a frying pan, toast pine nuts on medium-high heat on the stovetop until light brown in color. Remove and place in a small bowl. Using the same frying pan, heat oil on the skillet, add onion and saute for a minute and then add the garlic, being careful not to burn the garlic. Once onion is softened, add Swiss chard and a couple spoonfuls of the pasta water to the frying pan. Bring water to a boil and simmer, while stirring, until the chard has wilted. Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer and reduce--takes about 5 minutes. Stir in ricotta until it has melted, drop in cream, while stirring until sauce has thickened. Season with salt, pepper and oregano. Transfer thickened sauce to the serving dish already filled with the pasta. Toss to coat pasta. Throw in the toasted pine nuts and top with parmesan cheese. Serves 4.

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