Whole Wheat Pasta: It’s Come a Long Way, Baby

October 5, 2009 at 3:45 pm Leave a comment

   fresh peaches 001   I’ll indulge just briefly in a short whine about once again leap-frogging from summer into winter, with only a four-day stretch of fall between “85 and humid” and “blustery wintry winds.”  That done, I am grateful that – sandwiched between ultra-chilly mornings and frigid nights – we did enjoy a few glorious chunks of glistening autumn at its colorful and sun-drenched best.

Perhaps it’s that same unfortunate tendency to dramatize the negative that brings to mind images of gummy blobs, almost unrecognizable as comestibles, when I think back to my first encounters with whole wheat pasta years ago.   (Which further reminds me of Felix Unger describing his first day as Oscar Madison’s roommate in The Odd Couple television series:  “When I got here, you were huddled in the corner eating gray spaghetti with a pair of tweezers.”  But I digress.) 

However tainted my recollections of the early days of whole grain pasta may be, the significant point is that the current crop of products in that line are so vastly improved that I now prefer them over the semolina varieties in most cases.  And with the chill in the air leading to robust appetites, we have the perfect context for simmering stews, satisfying soups, crumb-crusted casseroles, and piles of pasta.  My appetite led me toward a simple concoction with a complicated name, and a re-purposing of a few old classics, Jambalaya and Paella, as Shrimp and Ham Jambalaella Pasta.  Trust me; it works. 

Add a basic Tossed Salad, a few slabs of Crusty Whole Grain Ciabatta Bread if you’re so inclined, and a plate of Stuffed Grilled Peaches.  Follow the instructions below, and I can virtually promise you a positive spin to your day. The pasta main dish calls for: 

2 tsp olive oil                        1/3 C chopped red onion               2 cloves crushed garlic        1/2 C chopped celery                        1 tsp Cajun seasoning        15 oz can diced tomatoes              1 TB dried parsley                   1-1/3 C chopped lean  ham               24 medium cooked shrimp                          13 oz pkg whole grain pasta                                                        1 C frozen peas 

Put a large kettle of water over high heat with lid slightly atilt.  In a large non-stick skillet over medium-low heat, spread the olive oil to coat pan bottom and sauté the red onion for a minute or two, then add the garlic and continue for another minute.  Add the celery and Cajun seasoning and stir to combine.  Gently stir in the tomatoes and sprinkle with parsley.  (You can use 3 TB chopped fresh, if preferred.)  Reduce heat to low and simmer for ten minutes.  When the pasta water is at a rolling boil, salt it and add pasta to kettle.  At this point, add the ham and cooked shrimp to the tomato mixture, stir to combine,  cover and let heat through thoroughly.  Add the peas to the pasta water the last two minutes of cooking time.  Serve sauce over cooked, drained pasta and peas, to four. 

My tossed salad included: 

4 C mixed dark salad greens                              1/2 med yellow onion, sliced into rings                                                                          1 large ripe avocado, peeled and cubed       oil and vinegar dressing

Wash and spin or dry greens, then plop them into a large salad bowl.  Gently toss in avocado and onion.  Pass the salad dressing on the side. 

For the peaches

4 large peaches, pitted & halved lengthwise       2 tsp melted butter           1/3 C coarse chopped walnuts                                  3 TB currants or chopped raisins                            1 TB honey                            1/2 tsp lemon juice                                                         1/4 tsp cinnamon                                                           1 oz Roquefort                     1-2 TB Amaretto (optional) 

Brush cut sides of peach halves with melted butter.  Place a grill pan (I priced these at fancy gourmet shops for close to $90.00 then found one at Traget for around $8.99) over medium-low heat and arrange peach halves, cut side down, in pan.  Cover loosely with foil and allow to grill for up to 30 minutes, or until tender to a fork-piercing and nicely char-lined.  

In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine walnuts, currants, honey, lemon juice, and cinnamon.  Heat in microwave for 40 seconds at 60% power.  Arrange grilled peach halves, cut side up, on a serving platter.  Stuff peach hollows with dried fruit and nut mixture, then sprinkle crumbled cheese over the tops and drizzle with Amaretto, if desired. 

The bottom line?  That cold, damp, weather is good for something after all, if it provides inspiration for a soul-warming, comfort food meal.  May you be comforted, wherever you are and whatever your climate.

Entry filed under: Musings of a Midwestern Foodie. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

Creative Cooking as a Metaphor for Life? Attitude and Perspective – III

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