Friday, June 18, 2010

What I Made for Dinner Last Night

NOTE: Once again, for reasons I don't fully understand, Blogger won't let me space appropriately between paragraphs. If someone could explain the reasons for this phenomena to me, it would be appreciated.

A good friend of mine, Nadine, now raises chickens as a hobby. I'm a benefactor of her new past-time, because she regularly drops off fresh eggs at my house. If you've never had an egg from a chicken that spends its time pecking around outside, as compared to being cooped up inside in a cage, you've missed out.

Sometimes Nadine brings the eggs over and they're so freshly laid, they're warm. She raises several breeds, and the colors range from the traditional white and brown, to Easter egg colors of light blue and green. I haven't gotten a double yolk yet, but I'm still hoping.

With all the fresh eggs, eggs often play a central role in dinner. I've been making plenty of quiches and Fritattas. Another staple, however, is Pasta Carbonara--an almost meatless meal.

To make it healthier, I make my Pasta Carbonara with whole wheat pasta, and then toss in plenty of vegetables and herbs.

And, while fresh is best, frozen vegetables are second best. One of my favorite vegetables to add to Pasta Carbonara are thawed, frozen peas. Frozen, organic peas are a pantry stable, so they're always available to add to anything I cook. To thaw them out, all I do is put them in a colander and run a little warm water over them.

Making Pasta Carbonara is quick. Basically, in the time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta the meal is done.

Here's what I did. I put a large pot of salted water on to boil, then ran and did a few other things, including practicing piano with the kids, and making sure the kid's homework was in order.

Just before the water started to boil, I began heating a large, deep sided saute pan over medium-high heat and added about 1/4 pound of pancetta--sliced to 1/4 inch thick and cut into cubes. When the fat from the pancetta started to render I added two medium-sized, peeled and thinly sliced white onions to the pan. I sweated down the onions and let them cook in the pancetta fat until they started to caramelize.

As the onions cooked, I added 1 pound of whole wheat linguine to the water and started to cook. If the onion mixture needed any liquid, I added some of the water from the pasta to the pan and scraped the bottom to pick up any brown bits.

Just before the pasta was done cooking, I removed the onion mixture from the heat and added a 10 ounce bag of thawed, frozen peas. Drained the pasta and added it to the onion mixture. I then beat four eggs and added them to the pasta and onions and mixed. I returned the pan to medium-low heat and stirred for a minute or two until the eggs were heated through. Then I added a mixture of chopped fresh parsley and basil to the pan and heated for another minute. I served with a sprinkling of Romano cheese.

Because just about everything in this meal is a pantry staple--pancetta, onions, eggs, pasta, frozen peas--I can always make it last minute. I always have the herbs on hand from the garden in Spring, summer and Fall, but you can easily leave out the fresh herbs. Since I always have salad fixing on hand, I can always whip up a salad quick to go with the pasta.

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