This dinner was inspired by the fact that I had a small amount of a number of vegetables that needed to be used…and lots of different food preferences that prevented me from combining it all into one dish. I’ll tell you what I did, but it will work with anything.
Overview: I prepared one type of pasta…four kinds of vegetables…offered two kinds of sauces (one from a jar, one homemade), two kinds of beans (our protein that night) plus two additional add-ins and set it up buffet-style. As you can see from the photos here, our individual creations were totally unique…and everyone ate happily.
You can do this type of meal with any type of grain…any kind of vegetables…any kind of protein (chicken, beef, fish – great for leftovers!)…and any kind of sauces. So it never gets boring. I used the same pan to cook all of the veggies, cooking each in succession, so clean-up was pretty easy.
Preparing the vegetables takes the most amount of time. If you don’t have time to chop, defrost a variety of frozen vegetables instead.
Ingredients I used:
Pasta: Brown-rice spaghetti.
• Greens (a combination of Swiss chard and kale – although I didn’t tell my family I used kale because no one likes it.)
• Zucchini & onions
• Onions, peppers & garlic scape
• Garbanzo beans
• Pinto beans
• Spaghetti sauce (from a jar)
• Sesame sauce (I made it from scratch – recipe below)
• Jarred chopped basil (This adds great flavor whether your sauce selection leans Italian or Asian. It’s also great on its own with no additional sauce.)
• Capers (from a jar)
1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. You should be able to do a lot of prep while the water boils and then again while the pasta cooks.
2. Cook the veggies. The short version is that I sautéed everything but the tomatoes with olive oil and a bit of salt. Read on if you want more specifics.
Prep: I used a combination of kale and Swiss chard. When I use these types of hearty greens, I generally slice them into thin ribbons, which makes it more delicate to eat (more like spinach, which my family actually does really like.) For the chard, I sliced the leaves off of the spine before slicing the leaves into ribbons. I didn’t want to use the spines for this dish so I just quickly chopped them and put into a plastic bag and froze. The next time I make vegetable soup, I will add it in.
To cook: Heat a sauté pan on medium-high heat (I cook it at 6 or 6-1/2 where 10 is the highest setting). Once hot (test by wetting your fingers and shaking the water onto the pan – the water should sizzle; make sure it all evaporate!), add some oil and swirl to coat the bottom (2-3 Tablespoons should do it, I think, but I don’t measure). Add the greens, and cover for about two minutes. Uncover, add salt if desired, and move the greens around greens with a spatula or wooden spoon until they are cooked. Remove to a serving bowl and cover with foil to keep warm.
Zucchini and onion:
Prep: I used a spiralizer to turn the zucchini into “spaghetti.” Before cooking the spiralized zucchini, use a sharp knife to slice through the pile in a “plus” pattern to cut the strips into easily eatable lengths. I halved the onion and then cut it into thin strips to match the shape of the zucchini.
To cook: Heat a sauté pan on medium-low heat (I cook it at 4-4-1/2). Once hot, as above, add some oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the onions and sauté about 2-3 minutes. Add the zucchini and sauté some more until cooked – probably no more than 4 minutes. Check the texture – it should be soft but firm, not mushy. Remove to a serving bowl and cover with foil to keep warm.
Onions, Peppers & Garlic Scape:
Prep: I diced the onions and peppers and sliced the scape. If you don’t have scape, just use garlic, either fresh or from a jar. (Our scape came from our weekly farm share delivery.)
To cook: Heat a sauté pan on medium-low heat (I cook it at 4-4-1/2). Once hot, as above, add some oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the onions and scape and sauté 2-3 minutes. Add the peppers (if you are using garlic, add the garlic at this point) and sauté some more until cooked – probably no more than 4 minutes. Check the texture – again, it should be soft but firm, not mushy. Remove to a serving bowl and cover with foil to keep warm.
Prep: I actually already had a tomato salad that I’d prepared in the refrigerator, and simply put it out with the rest of the choices. Otherwise, I would have simply diced some fresh tomatoes. My tomato salad was drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, with fresh basil torn in, plus a bit of salt, pepper and onion powder.
3. Rinse the beans. Rinse thoroughly under the faucet until the water runs down completely clear instead of any foamy accumulation over the beans. Note: I buy organic beans in BPA-free cans to protect my family against ingesting BPA. I served the beans at room temperature.
4. Sesame sauce: This sauce is yummy on EVERYTHING! Professional instructions for sesame sauce typically tell you to cook this in a saucepan, but I just mix it up on the counter. The hot water makes it easy to blend to the right consistency. If you want it warm, you can microwave it for a bit if you don’t want to dirty another pan.
Ingredients: (measurements are approximate since, as you know, I don’t measure – and, of course, adjust to your own taste)
• 4 Tablespoons Tahini (sesame paste)
• 2 Tablespoons Soy sauce
• 1 teaspoon cooking sherry or rice vinegar (I do a “splash”)
• 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
• ½ tsp garlic powder or 1 clove minced garlic (Note: I used onion powder because of my daughter’s food sensitivity to garlic and it is still delicious.)
• ½ tsp Ground ginger (or use minced fresh or jarred ginger)
• hot water
• chili paste (optional if you like a spicy kick).
Directions: Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix quickly with a fork or small whisk to blend. Add a bit of hot water (one-to-two tablespoons or so) to thin it out to the desired texture. Adjust spices to taste.
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