Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Penne Pasta with Kale and White Beans -- a vegetarian dish from Leslie Budewitz

LESLIE: Sometimes a recipe appeals to me, but necessity—limitations in the grocery store—triggers changes. I changed all three of the main ingredients in this one, and we loved it. We’ll be making it again, my way, soon.

Beans and tomatoes are among the few foods we regularly use canned. Low-sodium versions of most beans are readily available and we choose them, even though neither of us has a medical condition for which a low salt diet is advised, because the amount of sodium in regular canned beans is high and I’d rather get it from added salt, which we can taste and control.

Cooks debate whether to salt the water before cooking pasta. We routinely do because we live at altitude, about 3,400 feet above sea level, and salt helps water boil faster. Obviously, you can’t change the boiling time if you live at or close to sea level. But I also like the slightly-salty taste it adds, especially if I’m making a sauce, as in this dish, and may want to add a little of the salty-starchy pasta water. Another debate is over adding oil. I might do it with long pasta, to prevent clumping, but it also coats the pasta and keeps the sauce from adhering and who wants that? With short pasta like penne, regular stirring should suffice.

This dish reheats nicely, but you will want to add a little water or spray the pasta before micro-waving it.

Penne Pasta with Kale and White Beans

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for the cooking water
10 ounces dried whole-wheat penne pasta (elbows or another smallish, shaped whole-grain pasta will also do nicely)
1/4 cup olive oil
4 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 bunch kale, chopped (5-6 cups, lightly packed)
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (if packed in oil, rinse; if very dry, plump in hot water)
One 15-ounce can white or cannellini beans, unseasoned, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon fresh chopped sage or 1 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for optional garnish

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Salt well, then add the dried pasta. Cook for 1 minute less than for al dente, according to the pasta directions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain pasta in a colander.

While the pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet to medium and add the oil and garlic. When the oil begins to shimmer, reduce heat to low and cook 5-8 minutes, stirring frequently, until the garlic is a light golden brown. Be careful not to let it burn.

Add the kale; increase the heat and cook about 3 minutes, stirring once or twice, until it has brightened and begun to wilt. Stir in the chopped sun-dried tomatoes, beans, sage, red pepper flakes, the 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the black pepper; cook, stirring, just until heated through.

If the pasta is not yet done, remove the skillet from the heat and cover it to keep it warm. If the pasta is done, add 1/2 cup of its reserved cooking water and the 1/4 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano to the skillet, stirring to create a sauce; increase the heat to medium-high, then add the cooked pasta, stirring for 1 to 2 minutes or until the pasta is al dente and has absorbed some of the sauce.

If the mixture seems dry, add some or all of the remaining pasta cooking water, as needed.

Serve right away, sprinkled with more cheese, if you like. If you don’t, pass the extra cheese to me.

Serves 6-ish.

"A treat for the senses." --- librarian and reviewer Lesa Holstine, on the Spice Shop Mysteries

From the cover of CHAI ANOTHER DAY, Spice Shop Mystery #4 (Seventh St. Books, June 2019): 

 Seattle Spice Shop owner Pepper Reece probes murder while juggling a troubled employee, her mother's house hunt, and a fisherman who's set his hook for her.

As owner of the Spice Shop in Seattle's famed Pike Place Market, Pepper Reece is always on the go. Between conjuring up new spice blends and serving iced spice tea to customers looking to beat the summer heat, she finally takes a break for a massage. But the Zen moment is shattered when she overhears an argument in her friend Aimee's vintage home decor shop that ends in murder. 

Wracked by guilt over her failure to intervene, Pepper investigates, only to discover a web of deadly connections that could ensnare a friend - and Pepper herself.

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. Her first historical short story, "All God's Sparrows," is nominated for the 2018 Agatha Award for Best Short Story; read it on her website. A past president of Sisters in Crime and a current board member of Mystery Writers of America, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat, an avid bird-watcher.

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  1. Let's see: pasta, beans, a leafy green vegetable, and cheese?
    YES! Please.
    This is a winner.

  2. Right? An all-in-one dinner, and a complete protein. Plus yummy!

  3. It does look yummy. Bonus points for easy and healthy!