Happy new year!
What better way to start off 2012 than with a confession?
Here goes. Alex and I are obsessed with eating cozy Sunday night dinners at home. After a hectic weekend (which even non-New Year’s Eve weekends tend to be), I can’t think of anything better than curling up in front of the couch, setting our bowls on the coffee table, and eating and talking until our legs fall asleep, an occupational hazard of sitting on the floor.
Our Sunday night supper aren’t exactly Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques caliber. As much as it seems like a good idea in the abstract to spend all day frying and braising and whatnot, it doesn’t appeal in reality. Too many dishes.
The real confession is that 9 Sundays out of 10, we eat pasta. At least 8 of those 9, the pasta is the king of all pastas: spaghetti (or linguine, penne, or angel hair) with Alex’s tomato sauce, cut-up mozzarella, and Parm.
This pasta dish belongs in the 1 out of 9. Like the recipes in Sunday Suppers at Lucques it does require more pots than usual. But its vibrant mix of textures–the chewy pasta, smooth squash, and crunchy breadcrumbs–and flavors–sweet onions, savory toasted nuts, and fresh greens–mean I never regret having dirtied so many kitchen tools.
There is a pasta dish my mom, Katie, and I used to make from Goin’s cookbook. It actually did take hours. You had to roast cauliflower, make a currant-nut relish, and go through several more steps. It was great. But it was still pasta. This one isn’t quite that hard. But, like that pasta, it is topped with toasted breadcrumbs, which can make an otherwise demure dish really pop.
(If you don’t own Sunday Suppers, by the way, you should get your hands on it. It makes for divine inspiration when you think you’re out of things to cook, even if you don’t take the time to make the involved dishes.)
From my kitchen, basking in Sunday night pasta, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Fusilli with Squash, Chard, Walnuts, and Pangritata
Pangritata are an amazing garnish: breadcrumbs, toasted in olive oil. I spice them with red pepper and make them a little extra salty so they stand in for the Parmesan, which, surprisingly, this dish does not need.
1 medium acorn squash, halved, seeds removed
1/3 cup walnuts
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
Pinch red pepper flakes
½ bunch Swiss chard, washed and trimmed, stems coarsely chopped
1 onion, halved and sliced into thin half moons
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon thyme
Juice of half a lemon
¾ pound fusilli
In a steamer fitted tightly with a lid, heat about 1 inch of water. Place the squash halves, skin side down, on the steamer basked. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, until easily pierced by a knife. Cool until you can touch it. (If you don’t have a steamer, simply put about 1 inch of water in a pot and place the squash right in it.)
Toast walnuts in a 350°F oven for 5-8 minutes, until fragrant. Transfer to a bowl to cool.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil for pasta.
In a medium frying pan or cast iron pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the breadcrumbs, about 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the red pepper, and toast, stirring constantly, until golden. Scrape into a small bowl and set aside. Wipe out the frying pan.
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan and place it over medium heat. Cook the onions for 2 minutes, then add the chopped chard stems. Cook until both are soft. Add the garlic. Cook until it is slightly golden, 2-3 minutes.
Add a handful of salt to the pot of boiling water. Add the chard and cook it for 2 minutes. Scoop it out with a slotted spoon, and drain it in a colander. When cool enough to handle, coarsely chop.
Cook the pasta in the remaining boiling water (no worries if it’s a little green from the chard), as per package directions. Reserve about 1 cup of pasta water, then drain.
Cube the steamed squash as you would an avocado, i.e. without smushing it. Add the squash and the chard to the pan with the onion and garlic, and stir to combine. Squeeze the lemon over everything, then add the pasta with about 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Add the walnuts and toss again. Taste for salt, and add more pasta water if the dish seems dry. Scoop into bowls and top each portion with a tablespoon or so of the breadcrumbs.