Sometimes on Friday afternoons, there's a little bit of panic when I realize how much produce I have left in the fridge and the next day is market day. It seems no matter how little I try to purchase, I always end up buying more than we can eat; especially if I well-meaningly planned meals while shopping at the market and then ended up eating out every other day. It was no surprise to find myself standing in front of the fridge Friday, pulling out everything I could think of which would go nicely together. It turned out quite tasty, and it's another example of using one basic recipe - pasta with butter or olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper - and adding to it as desired. That's why I love pasta so much; it's a blank slate. You can make it with nothing or pile things in and, as long as you cook your pasta properly, it's almost always good. If you wanted to get in an extra bit of fiber, you could use whole wheat spaghetti without very much noticeable difference.
You can, of course, add or remove ingredients as suits your fancy. For me, I was using everything from last Saturday's CSA box; it just so happened that everything fit together nicely. I felt I was using such healthy ingredients that the good dose of butter, cream and Parmesan cheese was okay. If you wanted to make this healthier, it's a cinch: substitute whole wheat pasta, leave out the butter and cream but add good, extra virgin olive oil (a good drizzle after the pasta is in the bowl); finely grated Parmesan can be used to good effect with under an ounce, so I leave it on even if I'm trying to watch the calories.
I do recommend adding the greens - they are a great and sneaky way to get some extra nutrition. I was writing an article on greens this week and was amazed to discover how good they are for you. As I interviewed Sandy Sterrett of Elizabeth Telling, my CSA farmer, I learned she likes to pick the greens young, tender and delicious. Just look at the picture below - can you believe how beautiful they are? This is an assortment of Swiss chard, arugula, a few different varieties of mustard greens, and several other varieties I've completely forgotten. You can buy greens now at the farmer's market; in the winter, they might be more difficult to come by, but you can almost always find kale, collards, arugula and mustard greens in the grocery store. They aren't going to look like this, of course, but they'll still be good for you. If you are using older greens, I'd recommend chopping them very finely to ensure they cook evenly.
This is just personal opinion, but I like to cut all of my vegetables and put them in bowls or separated on a plate, and then cut the chicken last, even though I don't put it in last. This is just so that I don't have to find a new cutting board and knife after cutting chicken. Husband and I had (non-spinach related) food poisoning a few weeks ago and I can tell you, it's no fun. So wash those chickeny hands and don't contaminate!
Friday Lunch Pasta - serves 2
6 ounces whole wheat or regular spaghetti, cooked according to package directions and set aside
1 small onion, cut into half moons - or an assortment of sweet and other small onions, from CSA box, as I used
3 small shallots, cut into slivers
2 sweet red bell peppers - I used nice sweet Italian peppers from last week's market - cut into small dice and divided
1 large chicken breast, cut into 1/2" chunks and seasoned liberally with salt and pepper
4 Tbsp butter
4 cloves garlic, shaved very thinly or minced
red pepper flakes
1/2 head broccoli, cut into very small florets
4 ounces shitake mushrooms, stemmed and cut into slivers, or other mushrooms
1 large bunch assorted greens, picked over, chopped if big tough, and washed in several changes of water
1/4 cup heavy cream, optional
20 grates of Parmesan cheese - maybe an ounce or so, plus more for garnish (about 1/2 cup freshly grated)
salt and freshly cracked pepper
good, extra virgin olive oil, optional
Place a large saute pan over medium heat and add a little olive oil. Add the onions, shallot, and half of the bell pepper (this is totally optional - I cooked half of the bell pepper down with the onions for taste and then added the other half later for texture) and cook until onions are translucent, about 6 minutes.
Add the chicken and stir until it is cooked on both sides (it might not be cooked through yet, but it will be by the time you're finished), and then scoot everything to the top half of the pan. Tilt the pan a little and add the butter; lower the heat a little, to medium-low, and add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook until the garlic is soft, about 4 minutes (if the garlic is minced, only about 2 minutes), and then stir everything together; this is ensure the garlic is cooked without burning and the pepper flakes are soft. Add the broccoli and cook until it begins to soften, a minute or so (this is why we cut it small), and then add the mushrooms and the remaining red bell peppers, stirring and tossing to make sure they get a nice bit of buttery goodness on.
Add the greens. At this point, season everything liberally with salt. Add the cream and turn the heat up; add the Parmesan cheese a little at a time, stirring to melt it into the cream as you go. Stir everything together; the cream should coat everything with a little extra (to coat the pasta), everything should be cooked through but not mushy, and the greens should have wilted completely.