Last week I cooked for my neighbor, whose wife informs me the only vegetables he likes are carrots, green beans, broccoli, and peas.  Cooking for someone else is so much different than cooking for yourself, especially when their tastes are so much different than yours.  Imagine being a contestant in Top Chef; always cooking for the judge, millionaires, actors, or even college students.  It was more challenging cooking for another, but very fun since I gave it my own twist.

I started with chopped carrots, green beans, and a sweet onion; all “traditional” vegetables from the market.  I almost stopped dead in my tracks since this isn’t a combination I am familiar with.  I then added a “twist” with garlic, shallot, oregano, and german thyme.

I recenly bought a german thyme plant and I love it already.  The leaves are so beautiful and taste delightful.

I recently got into the habit of roasting vegetables in the oven.  Except for the fact that we finally got the summer heat wave like the rest of the country, I think roasting vegetables in the oven is the perfect was to prepare them.  It’s amazing how all the flavors infuse!

I chose to make a pasta despite the fact that my neighbor doesn’t like pastas that well.  I’m told he is a hamburger and fries kind of guy, basically his tastes are simple.  I’ve made some amazing fries, such as these garlic chive fries which I know he enjoyed but what I like about pastas is that you can bake it in the oven to mix all the flavors and give it that casserole flair that we love so much as Americans.

My favorite thing about this pasta was the Manchego Cheese.  It is a sheep’s milk cheese from Spain and has a creamy flavor while being a firm cheese.  It melts perfectly though, making it perfect for many savory dishes.

My friend Erica, a talented artist and very creative person, stopped by while I was cooking to share some wine.  I shared that I wanted to add Kale to the pasta but didn’t know if I wanted that cooked kale taste.  She suggested that I bake the Kale in the oven, and it was the perfect touch.  Simply toss the kale with oil and bake at 400 deg. F for 10-15 minutes.  It makes a wonderful healthy snack.

The pasta turned out amazing and was a big hit with everyone!  This was a very simple pasta to make and the ingredients are few.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of whole wheat pasta
  • 1.5 cup of liquid from the pasta
  • 4-6 carrots sliced
  • 8-12 ounces of green beans, edges cut off
  • 3/4-1 sweet onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 shallot
  • thyme and oregano to taste (my general rule is 2-3 twigs of each)
  • 4 Tbs grape seed oil
  • 2-4 ounces of Manchego Cheese, chopped
  • a few handfuls of cut up kale
  • grated parmesan cheese
  • sea salt and crushed pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 deg. F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine the carrots, green beans and onion.  In a food processor, mix the garlic and shallot and add to the vegetables.  Add 2 Tbs grape seed oil, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spread the vegetables on the baking sheets.  Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until tender.
  4. Prepare the pasta according to the package instructions.  Drain but keep 1 cup of liquid.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, toss the kale with 2 Tbs of grape seed oil.  Sprinkle with sea salt.  Bake at 400 deg. F for 10-20 minutes until crispy.
  6. Turn the oven down to 300 deg. F.
  7. In a large mixing bowl, toss the pasta, vegetables, and Manchego cheese.
  8. Grease a large casserole dish and pour in the pasta mixture.  Pour the remaining liquid on top.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and baked kale.
  9. Bake in the oven for 15-30 minutes, until the pasta begins to brown.
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