May 25th, 2010
Another quick dinner that saved us from take out. Well, actually, from the store-bought spinach ravioli that I keep in the freezer as back-up. The craziness here persists and, just as I was about to phone it in, I forced myself to stop and think a second. Because most times, taking a minute before reacting or going on autopilot is half the battle.
I thought it through: in the time that it takes me to boil ravioli, I could boil pasta. I was going to roast cherry tomatoes anyway, so I’d have those. And in the time that the tomatoes are roasting and pasta cooking, I could easily quick sauté the red chard that I’d picked up at the farmers market. (Isn’t it pretty?!)
(It’s even gorgeous all chopped up.)
A full dinner from scratch with barely additional effort. (By the way, I could have used the ravioli instead of pasta, but I thought pasta would taste better—simpler—and I could keep the ravioli for another time when I wouldn’t be so clear headed as to think things through).
These kinds of revelations and tiny shifts in behavior seem small in retrospect, but are actually pretty huge. They make the difference between a home cooked meal and take out, or all-natural ingredients and packaged ones. And these differences, put together over time, make for healthier bodies and habits.
Maybe it’s corny to point it out. I don’t know. Right now I’m working hard on getting in shape and losing the baby weight, so I’m trying to embrace—celebrate, even—the small changes that, eventually, make the big changes possible. I think we deserve applause when we’re busy and still manage to cook something from scratch for our families. When we find time to plan healthy meals. When we whip something up even when we didn’t have time to plan. When we take a moment to realize that fresh ingredients are worth the extra 10 minutes. It’s such a better approach than beating ourselves up when we call for pizza delivery (which also happened this weekend). Or than ordering pizza night after night. Don’t you think?
So this dish is in honor of celebrating our small victories. I hope it inspires you. Or, you know what, forget inspiration. I hope that you save this to your recipe box for when you need a quick meal because you have no inspiration left. How about that?
If you don’t have chard, use any darker leafy green. Even frozen spinach will do. As for the tomatoes—I know I sound like a broken record about it—but roast them one free evening and keep on hand for a frantic night. It’s as easy as throwing them in a pan with olive oil.
You’ll be so happy that you did.
Pasta with Red Chard & Roasted Tomatoes
(can be adapted to serve to children 6+ mos)
1 lb spaghetti
2-3 bunches red chard (it cooks down a lot)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, roasted
2 Tbsp olive oil
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp white wine (optional)
1/2 c chicken or veggie broth (plus a little more if not using wine)
1/4 c grated parmesan cheese
1. Put a large pot of salted water on medium-high heat (about 6 qts water to 2 tbs salt). Bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, saving a mugful of cooking water. Set pasta aside. [Note: if roasting tomatoes now, put them in the oven just before you put the water on to boil. They will cook for 35-45 min, unattended, in a 400 degree oven.]
2. In the meantime, heat olive oil in a large pan over medium flame. Add garlic and saute. As soon as the garlic begins to turn golden brown, add chard. Toss to coat with oil. Add wine (skip to next step if not using).
3. Once wine has cooked off completely, add broth. Cook until chard is fully wilted and you still have about 1/2 of the broth left.
4. Add pasta and roasted tomatoes, with the oil in which they cooked. Toss to coat. Add grated cheese. Toss to coat again, adding pasta cooking water, little by little, as necessary. (I only needed about 1/2 of the mugful that I had set aside.) This is not a saucy dish, but you also don’t want it to be dry. All of the pasta should have a nice, loose coating. Enjoy!
*Note: You can pull out some chard and puree for children as young as 6 months. I’d also include a tomato or two and a few strands of pasta to bind. If you’re taking a more conservative approach to food introductions, you may want to hold off on pasta until 8 months and tomato until 10 months.