Tuesday, March 23, 2010

forget the rainbow - I'm eating the jewelry box

I think I enjoy looking at food as much as I like eating it. A well constructed salad or a nicely plated entree are just beautiful to behold, especially when you make a habit of "eating the rainbow."

On Sunday night, I made Colleen's Mother-In-Law's Crowd-Pleasing Pasta with Tomatoes and Artichokes. I actually expected it to make more than it did, based on the volume of the Pasta Jambalaya, but I think Colleen and her MIL have a better grasp of appropriate portions than Nava and her teenage boys.
It's kind of like a milder Pasta Puttanesca. There's nothing really remarkable about this dish, but I can see how it would please a crowd - it has a nice flavor and the artichokes lend a sweetness that balances the saltiness of the kalamata olives.

Last night, I made Roasted Asparagus Soup with Thyme, accompanied by the outstanding and positively glorious Fruited Spinach Salad.
The soup looks absolutely revolting - I'll give you that. Fortunately, you can only see about a third of the bowl. Even though the recipe called for four pounds of asparagus, and even though asparagus is in season now, making it much more affordable, I ended up getting only 3 lbs because I couldn't really deal with the idea of spending $10 on asparagus alone. Maybe I'm just being neurotic or pinching my pennies dry, but when you're talking about 10% of my weekly food budget on just one vegetable...

Anyway, ignore how it looks - it tastes so good! Fast forward to tonight - for the first time in recorded history, my husband chose to reheat the leftover soup rather than the leftover pasta for dinner. So, you know it had to be good. Personally, and I do believe I was somewhat alone in this, I was just as excited about the salad - it looks like jewels!
Although the "recipe" called for macadamia nuts, I found them to be even more cost-prohibitive than 4 lbs of asparagus, so I used hazelnuts and they were just fine. The gorgeous and surprisingly tasty dressing was a simple raspberry vinaigrette. It was just supposed to be 1 cup of raspberries blended with 1/2 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar, but since I didn't have seasoned rice vinegar, I used a mixture of 75% mirin and 25% rice vinegar. It was perfect.

I was planning to just heat up the leftover pasta and make salads for dinner tonight or convince Mister to go out somewhere with his brother and future sister-in-law, but Mister wasn't hungry or social, so I just made myself a mega-salad, spread some hummus on a slice of bread, and poured my last glass of Yellow Tail Riesling.
Ignore Mister's bike lock. Apparently, there wasn't a better place for him to put it than on the dining table. My mega-salad had mixed greens [hiding underneath] cucumbers, red bell pepper, sliced carrots, quartered kalamatas, and mandarin sections. I was going to sprinkle it with nuts and add a few cubes of smoked tofu, but I think I ran out of space, so I just wrote those ingredients into my new menu. Best segue ever?

1. Tuscan Vegetable Ragout accompanied by roasted asparagus. It's been ages since I've made this and it's always so good without being too innard-warming, so I figured it was a good Springtime dish. I added smoked tofu the last time I made it and plan to do so again.

2. Black-Bottom Pineapple Tofu with Cashew Coconut Rice - The innermost desire to eat this again actually fueled my choice of cookbooks to browse, so the only reason it isn't the first meal to appear on this list was because I got distracted and misdirected by the Tuscan Ragout. It will probably end up being Hazelnut Coconut Rice, though, because I'm really good at letting nuts go rancid (I just found a bag of sunflower seeds that "expired" in July 2009) and I'm trying to break myself of that habit.

3. Spicy Stirfry with Clementines, Asparagus, and Tofu - I'll probably just use the other jar of mandarin oranges I got when there was 2-for-1 sale at Superfresh, rather than peeling and sectioning the Clementines. Also, I am unaware of anywhere that you can buy only 3 and I don't want a whole bag this late in citrus season.

4. Warm Chickpea Ragout with Swiss Chard, Carrots, and Harissa - I don't know if harissa can go bad, but I want to use up as much as I can before I find out the hard way that I tracked this stuff all over the southeastern corner of Philadelphia just to waste my money. As an added bonus, it tastes good!

5. Two-Broccoli Stirfry on Soba Noodles - I was reading through a couple of older posts and seeing this made me say "that was pretty good - I hope this week we break the two-week pattern of all the 'fresh' broccoli at WF rotting in its bin." If it's still not broccoli season, though, I have no issue using frozen broccoli - the WF Organic store brand is really good!

6. Penne with Broccoli and Creamy Tomato Sauce - I know I'm pushing my luck here with the broccoli situation, I just remembered how tasty this is and how it's even easier than it is tasty! Win-win, if you ask me, so let's just hope the broccoli is done being gross.

All six of this week's meals are taken from my ol' faithful Vegetarian Times Fast & Easy. It's a little tofu-heavy, but I managed to get two pasta dishes in there (even if one is soba) so Mister will be okay. I think he is warming to tofu more as I find more ways to make it palatable, both in taste and texture.

On a final note, click here for a thoroughly insightful and inspirational post from Mama Pea. It'll take only a few of your precious minutes to read and you'll be a better person. Besides, you've already wasted many precious minutes reading my babbling - you may as well redeem yourself.

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