Last week for Meat-Free Monday, I threw together a tasty pasta dish that was chock full of vegetables. It was much more appropriate than what we're having tonight -- leftover rack of lamb.
I'm doing my best!
I had been in the mood for something with cauliflower and mint, but I needed to somehow turn it into an entrée. I picked up a beautiful bunch of lacinato kale -- a.k.a. black kale, dinosaur kale, and cavalo nero -- at Cookbook, along with a head of garlic and a red onion. There was mint in the garden, hazelnuts and raisins in the pantry, and cauliflower in the refrigerator.
I was set.
There's not much to what I did, but the flavors mixed rather well. I'm a fan of toasted nuts with pasta. The contrast of the crunch of the nuts and the slipperiness of olive oil slicked noodles is satisfying.
Nuts and raisins are naturals with cauliflower and with kale, so I figured that marrying them all together would most likely work out well for the whole family. The garlic, red onion, and mint tied it all together. And to my mind, these ingredients would all feel a little bit naked without a healthy dose of crushed red pepper flakes.
I'll admit to you that my vegetarian cooking lacks some imagination. I never know how to put together a complete meal. I know how to make terrific vegetable sides and I can throw together a mean vegetarian pasta, but I need some help working out anything beyond this.
What do you folks do?
While I work on it, here's a recipe for my last-minute, thrown-together Linguine with Cauliflower, Lacinato Kale, Hazelnuts, and Raisins. Toasted bread crumbs would also be great in here, as would a few anchovies. The exact measurements are not important at all. A little more here, a little less there -- you'll still end up with a hearty and healthy meal.
Linguine with Cauliflower, Lacinato Kale, Hazelnuts, and Raisins
1/2 a head of cauliflower, cut or broken into smallish florets
1/2 a bunch lacinato kale, stemmed and chopped into wide ribbons
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
4 or so cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 cup plumped raisins
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup toasted hazelnuts
1/2 bunch chopped mint
1/2 pound linguine
Red pepper flakes
Lemon for squeezing over and/or a drizzle or two of white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmigiano-Reggiano for passing at the table
Put a big pot of water up to boil.
When the water is boiling, salt it generously and put the linguine in the pot to cook.
Heat about 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cauliflower and sauté. When the cauliflower starts to soften, add the sliced red onion and a pinch or two or three of the red pepper flakes. Sauté until the vegetables start to color a bit and are becoming tender. The cauliflower should retain a bite. Add the kale and the garlic and stir to encourage the kale to wilt. You may add a splash or two of the pasta cooking water to help with the process. Add the raisins and hazelnuts and stir to incorporate. Take about a quarter of a lemon and give it a good squeeze over the vegetables. Perhaps you'd like a drizzle of white wine vinegar as well. A hit or two of acid almost always helps! Season to taste with salt and pepper.
When the pasta is done to your taste, drain it and add it to the skillet of vegetables. Add enough extra-virgin olive oil to coat the pasta well. Shower with the chopped mint. Toss together and serve in soup plates with Parmigiano-Reggiano to grate over, if desired.
Serves 3 or 4, depending on hunger etc.