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Monday, April 26, 2010

Lemon Garlic Cream Fusilli with Roasted Tomatoes, Peas and Spinach

I know it's a long name, but I had to fit everything in to really convey the full experience.

Every culinary endeavor is like a puzzle for me:  how to use the ingredients I have to create something awesome WITHOUT having to make a trip across the street to the grocery store.  When you don't have a lot of money and your husband is in grad school and the state's budget cuts are seriously impeding finding a job (*shakes fist defiantly at the capitol building*), you really have to get creative.  I can't go out and simply buy a $10 chunk of greuyer whenever I feel like it (though sometimes I do).  I don't like to splurge on out-of-season veggies or primo cuts of meat.  So this daily challenge is something I revel in.  It's my own personal little Iron Chef episode, and the fewer ingredients, the more exciting (or frustrating, in some cases) it can be.

But now that volleyball season is over and Ty comes home early, I can sometimes send him to the store for that much-needed missing ingredient that I just HAVE to have (but could probably do without).  I'm a little spoiled in a way, though I know he doesn't mind walking across the street for a few minutes while I whip up a fantastically healthy and delicious meal.  So see?  It all balances out.

So the other night when I sent him to the store for milk, he didn't question it.  He just put on his headphones and good-naturedly started out the front door.  When I yelled down the hallway as he was leaving to also get some half and half, cream, and a quart of whole milk, he sort of looked at me funny. 

"A bag full of dairy?"

"I'll make you ice cream."

I'm a pretty good wife.

Truthfully, this dish could be made without a cream sauce, but something about the cream and lemon and garlic mixture compliments the sweetness of the peas so perfectly that I couldn't skimp.  If you wanted to cut out the dairy, make sure you save about a half a cup of the pasta water to throw in, along with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil.  This also tastes great, and is really nice in the summer heat when you can't stand the thought of milk products.  But tonight, in the wake of an unseasonly cold and rainy storm, I was craving a cozier meal.

What I love about this dish is the fact that it is so chock-full of veggies, it's almost like a salad and pasta in one. No need for a side salad with this one- it's already incorporated.  Although I do feel the need to express that a nice zinfindel and some crispy garlic bread are almost required to complete the perfection of this meal.  So remember: don't skimp.

I'm too embarrassed to post a picture of the final dish because I actually roasted the tomatoes a little too long and they disintegrated, making the final meal look like a hot mess.  But it still tasted good.  (Trust me?)

Lemon Garlic Cream Fusilli with Roasted Tomatoes, Peas and Spinach

12 oz whole wheat fusilli pasta
1 c frozen peas, thawed
12 oz grape or cherry tomatoes
a couple handfuls of fresh spinach
1/3 c parmesan reggiano, finely grated
olive oil
salt and pepper
parsley, for garnish

for the sauce:
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
juice from 1 lemon (meyers work best- more juice)
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 c milk or cream
1/2 shallot, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400.  Place the tomates on a baking sheet lined with foil, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven for about 7-10 minutes, or until they start popping.  Once the skin looks a little wrinkley and they are softened, remove from the oven.  You do not want to over roast the tomatoes or they will fall apart once they are mixed into the pasta. 

Transfer the tomatoes to a large serving bowl.  Add spinach leaves and peas.  Set aside

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil.  Add a big pinch of salt, and throw in the pasta.  Follow the suggested cook time on the box and cook to al dente.  Once the pasta is cooked to your desired firmness, drain the water and add the pasta to the spinach, peas and tomato mixture.  Cover the bowl with a plate, lid or foil.  This will trap the heat and help to wilt the spinach a little while you make the sauce.

For the cream sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan on low heat.  Add shallots and sautee for a few minutes, until the shallots are softened.  Be careful to control the heat and keep it low, because you don't want the butter to burn.  During this time, warm the milk separately.  You can do this either in a microwave or on the stove.  You do not need it to be hot, just warm, and you do not want to scald it.  Once the shallots are softened, whisk in the flour one tablespoon at a time.  The mixture will bubble and grow a bit.  Continue whisking until it becomes thickened, then slowly add the milk, about 1/3 of a cup at a time.  Continue to whisk as you add the milk, until the butter/flour mixture is smoothly incorporated.  Add garlic, salt and pepper, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for at least two minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.

Remove the cover from the serving bowl and pour the cream sauce over the pasta.  Add grated parmasan and mix gently.  Sprinkle a little reserve parm and chopped parsley over the top for garnish and serve.  Yummy.

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