Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Winter Comfort Food

It's a little hard to wrap your head around winter fare when it feels like it's almost 70 degrees outside, which it did around 1pm today. Crazy. I love this climate. 

However, yesterday evening was truly wintry and I was craving some baked pasta. I had (still have) a bunch of roasted turkey breast that I made on Monday. On a whim, I picked up some smoked fontina at the grocery store. And then I invented this:

Kate's Baked Penne with Turkey, Arugula, and Smoked Fontina

1 1/3 cups dry penne pasta
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, halved or 1 garlic clove, minced
1 15-ounce can tomatoes, pureed with their juices (I prefer to puree whole ones vs. buying pureed, but that's up to you.)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3ish cups arugula
1ish cup roast turkey (or chicken), chopped in 1/2-inch(ish) pieces
1 1/2 cups grated fontina, smoked or normal

Check out my freshly pureed tomatoes in my fancy new mini-prep, a gift from Sandy. Thank you, Sanderella. I love it!


1. Boil some water and get the pasta going. I used corn pasta for the first time which I LOVE - it's wheat free and one thousand times tastier than the rice pasta that I normally use. If you can't eat wheat or gluten or whatever, this stuff is worth seeking out. I hear it's the preferred format for gluten-free pasta in Italy and you have to believe those people know what they're talking about.

Corn pasta! Amazing! This stuff has restored my will to live.

2. Get the sauce going. If you can eat garlic, saute some garlic in the olive oil until it turns golden. If you can't eat garlic (i.e. me - so annoying!) saute the garlic clove halves in olive oil until golden, then remove the clove pieces. Proceed as normal.

3. Dump the tomato puree in the pan saute pan with the garlic/oil and add the thyme and oregano. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is done. (Normally you would add salt here but I find the fontina to be quite salty, so prefer to leave it out.)

4. Crap! Turn on the oven! To 375! Now!! (I always forget to do this.)

5. When the pasta's done, turn off the burner on the sauce. Add the pasta and the turkey to the sauce. Toss to coat. 

6. Add the arugula (uncooked!). Toss to coat, trying to not spill too much of the arugula all over your stove. 

7. Stir in half of the fontina. Try to get it mixed throughout. I recommend using tongs for all the mixing procedures.

8. Put a little olive oil in your baking pan and spread it around with your fingertips until the pan is coated. (I used an enameled cast iron au gratin dish but if you don't have one of those, use a souffle casserole or just a regular 8x8 baking pan)

9. Dump the mix into the baking pan and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. 

10. Bake until you hear sizzling coming from the pan and the cheese is all melty. That should be about 12 minutes. 


A couple more winter cooking thoughts:

Roasted turnips are DELICIOUS. I'm serious. They don't taste like dirt or Siberia at all. They are sweet and juicy. Yes, you read that correctly. Trim and peel them before you cut them into quarters to roast with a little olive oil and salt. Try it!

I inagurated my new cast iron pan tonight by cooking up some mustard greens with bacon. 

Ain't she a beaut?

By the way, bacon is much easier to chop if it's frozen.
Clean and not slippery. And as much as I'd love to see Dr. McDreamy, er, McDermott, at the CPMC ER again, I'm really trying to adhere to the lesson I learned about slicing fatty room-temperature pork.

The recipe is in the style of Collard Greens Miniera, which I love. Try it. No boiling water required. The only two ingredients are bacon and greens. It's amazing. I threw a poached egg on top and called it dinner. Perfect. 

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