Were you that popular kid in junior high and high school with an active social life, always going to parties on the weekends? I definitely, was not! What did I do on the weekends at home when I wasn’t studying? I cooked. Today’s blog post is going to give you a little bit of insight into where my professional roots began.
This month’s Recipe Redux theme wasn’t just about coming up with a healthy recipe. We were asked to think back to early culinary memories. It really made me think about where my food and nutrition journey started from. When my parents would go out on weekend evenings, I’d play in the laboratory, aka the kitchen, seeing what kind of culinary masterpiece I could concoct, also probably leaving a huge mess behind me. I love cooking, not cleaning! Where the heck did my love for cooking come from? While my mom is a good cook, she never particularly enjoyed it. She loved telling people who asked about my interest that Julia Child’s mom didn’t like to cook either. Perhaps it was the cooking shows on PBS and Discovery Channel that I watched on sick days home from elementary school. C’mon 80’s kids…..do you remember Yan Can Cook, Pasquales Kitchen Express and Great Chefs of the World?? I loved to cook, but where would it possibly take me?
Flash forward to my freshman year of college at UC Santa Barbara. If you know me, you know I’m obsessed with Disney theme parks. I had the opportunity to participate in the Disneyland College Program during the summer of 1998. Remember the MTV show The Real World? It was basically like that, but Disney style. Throw a bunch of college students into an apartment building in the OC and have them work together at Disneyland. BEST SUMMER OF MY LIFE PERIOD. While riding on the bus to my “culinary hostess” job at Tomorrowland Terrace, aka cashier, I had somewhat of a mid life crisis career freakout at the age of 19. I was enrolled in a school where there was nothing I wanted to major in. Practically hyperventilating on this bus, more than likely due to the huge amount of caffeine I had prior, I decided to take a gamble, quit college and go to culinary school. I had met a group of Seattle folks in the program and ended up moving there to pursue a new adventure in food.
I grew up in a pretty well to do community where everyone’s kid went to university. I remember parents asking me what my plan was after this little culinary school experiment. Would I go work at Denny’s? Yep, I was actually asked that. Well, that little experiment led to work in the food industry, which then eventually led me to a career in nutrition, but that’s a whole other story for another day.
Back to those weekend evenings in junior high school. The first dish that I felt proud of making, without a recipe, was lasagna roll ups. Lasagna noodles rolled up with a ricotta cheese mixture and topped with jarred tomato sauce and vegetables. They were pretty basic, but I thought I was a master chef because I didn’t need a recipe! I made a lot of pasta dishes during that time period because it’s so easy to improvise a delicious dish.
For today’s Recipe Redux, I chose to use pasta made from pulses instead of a wheat based pasta. Why? It’s something new and different, contains more protein and fiber than traditional pasta, and is gluten free for folks that need that. There are a number of new bean, lentil and chickpea pastas on the market now. I used Banza brand chickpea penne in this dish, but Explore Asian also makes some great bean and edamame based spaghetti and fettucine that are reasonably priced. My dish is also vegetarian, paying homage to that vegetarian phase of my life! To make a meaty version, you could easily add some diced cooked chicken, or shredded rotisserie chicken from the supermarket deli.
I love chickpea and bean pasta because it contains more fiber and protein than traditional wheat pasta! It's also great for those who need to avoid gluten.
- 10 ounces button or cremini mushrooms, quartered (about 4-1/2 cups)
- 3 whole garlic cloves (do not remove papery skin)
- 1 to 1-1/4 lb cauliflower (about 1/2 a large head) cut into bite sized florets (about 4 to 4-1/2 cups florets)
- 1 large bunch kale, about 10 ounces, destemmed and leaves torn into large pieces
- 2 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
- 1-1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 1 eight ounce box of chickpea penne, or bean/lentil pasta
- 1 large bunch flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest ( from 1 lemon)
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Directly on a sheet pan, toss the mushrooms and garlic cloves with 1-1/2 teaspoons of the oil and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Spread items out over 1/2 of the sheet pan.
- On the other side of the sheet pan, toss the cauliflower florets with 1-1/2 teaspoons of the oil and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Spread out in 1 layer as much as possible.
- Place sheet pan with veggies in the oven and set timer to go off after 10 minutes.
- While mushrooms and cauliflower are roasting, grab another sheet pan. On that sheet pan, toss kale with 1 teaspoon of the oil and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Spread out kale evenly.
- Once the 10 minute timer has gone off for the cauliflower and mushrooms, place kale in oven and cook all vegetables for a remaining 10 minutes.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to directions on package.
- While pasta is cooking, chop parsley leaves and add to a large mixing bowl. Add lemon zest, 1 tablespoon oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Remove garlic from papery skin and create a paste by mashing with the back of your knife onto the cutting board. Add to parsley mixture and stir to combine.
- Add roasted cauliflower, mushrooms and kale to the bowl.
- Drain pasta and quickly add hot pasta to the bowl with the veggies. Add feta cheese and mix thoroughly to combine.
Pasta tastes best served immediately. Garnish with 1 teaspoon of feta cheese and a pinch of extra lemon zest on each serving if you wish.