Saturday, July 16, 2011

Adventures of a Meat-Eating Veggie Lover

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I am not a vegetarian. I am the first to admit how much I love meat! However, I also LOVE veggies and I try to cook at least one (usually two) vegetarian meals a week. I like playing with the flavors, it helps out with the grocery budget, I get to take advantage of the fantastic produce in our local farmer's markets this season and most of all - it's healthier than constantly eating meat 7 days a week. Some of my husband's favorite meals are the veggie-packed ones, so I'm incredibly lucky to have him on board!

This week's star recipe was one I found in Real Simple magazine and made my own. I love finding basic recipes and really seeing how I can take them to the next level, not to mention add in more of that great seasonal local produce. I don't know about you, but in our area we are inundated with zucchini and yellow squash this time of year. I am literally getting pounds and pounds of it for free!

Unfortunately I'm not quite sure how to freeze squash so it doesn't get funky later in the year, or too mushy when you thaw it. I know I can freeze zucchini shredded for addition in sauces and breads later in the year, but I'm at a loss when it comes to squash - any advice would be appreciated on that topic! At the moment I'm having to use it as I get it, so we eat a lot of squash!

All of that to say, I added a healthy dose of yellow squash to this recipe and the flavor was absolutely delicious. I also cut the amount of pasta and spinach in this recipe in half since I'm only feeding myself and my husband - it didn't seem like a great "leftover" recipe, as the veggies would probably go the way of mush if re-heated after a day. Enough introduction - check out my Summer "Grilled" Veggie Pasta

Summer "Grilled" Veggie Pasta

- 1 1/2 lbs. eggplant
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 2-3 tbsp. olive oil
- 16 oz. fettuccine (fresh or dried)
- 5 oz. baby spinach leaves (6 cups)
- 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
- 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
- 1 large yellow squash (about 1 lb.)
*Next time I make this recipe I'm adding fresh mushrooms too!


If you are blessed enough to have a grill or even a grill-pan you can use on top of the stove, leave the veggies whole, brush them with olive oil and sprinkle LIBERALLY with salt, pepper and a dash of garlic powder before grilling. It should take about 5-6 minutes per side with the eggplant and just eyeball the zucchini and mushrooms if you're using them. When they're done, chop them into bite-sized pieces.

I, however, do not have a way to grill (yet), so what I did was go ahead and chop the zucchini and squash into about 1" pieces, toss with about 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large bowl, then seasoned with the salt, pepper and garlic powder. Do not be timid with the seasoning - nothing is worse to me than under-seasoned veggies, so bland! Transfer your veggies to a sheet pan and pop under the broiler (mine is set at 500 degrees) for about 8-10 minutes. Keep an eye on them, stirring occasionally until the veggies are tender and lightly charred on the top.

2. Meanwhile, cook your pasta according to the package directions. Be sure to reserve about a 1/2 cup of the pasta water, then drain the fettuccine and return it to the pot. Add in the grilled/broiled veggies, spinach, vinegar, a liberal sprinkle of salt and pepper. Also add in as much of the reserved pasta water you think you need to get the right texture and moisture from the pasta. I only needed a tablespoon or two, I also drizzled in about another tbsp. of olive oil.

3. The finishing touch to this dish is a small scoop or two of creamy ricotta cheese. I can't even adequately explain how delicious this little addition makes the dish! It just adds a wonderful texture and mouth feel to the pasta and veggies as you eat it. Definitely don't skip this step if you can eat dairy!

I might add a few leaves of fresh basil next time as well - this is a dish that can evolve into anything you like! And did I mention, it took maybe 15 minutes start to finish? Incredibly delicious and healthy results in next to no time at all. Perfect for a weekday meal!

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