Friday, June 19, 2009

Pasta with Spiced Onion-Nut-Cream Sauce

What is a gal to do when she is overrun with CSA greens? Well, I had thought that a variation of saag paneer would be nice (notwithstanding the fact that I don't eat paneer). However, none of the recipes I had looked that great and my plea on Facebook went unanswered. Using a bit of lateral thinking, I decided to adapt a favorite recipe that I got from a friend years ago from the Back to Square One cookbook by Joyce Goldstein. I thought of it because saag paneer mixes spinach and cream. This recipe (originally called, I think, Circassian Chicken Fettucine with Spiced Onions and Nuts) uses cream, so I figured, what the hell, I'll see if I can add a ton of pre-steamed and finely ground greens to it and have it be tasty.

Of course, adding the greens is not the only adaptation I've made. First off, I'm not using fettucine. I think it's delicious with fresh fettucine and I recommend others try it if it sounds good. However, long noodles are really tough for Elspeth to eat, so I opted for our standby of whole wheat penne. In addition, I decided not to use chicken breasts. Again, the recipe is quite tasty this way, but we've discovered that Elspeth isn't particularly fond of chicken. (To adapt my version back to the chicken version, you'll want to pan sear your chicken breasts, remove them from the pan, make the sauce and then re-add). It's also easier to use fake meat--Quorn tenders to be precise. If you're squeamish about fake meat and have no interest in chicken, my guess is that the dish would also be fine without a central protein.

It turns out that Elspeth was less fond of this dish than I expected, largely, I think, due to the nuts. I think the texture threw her off. When I make it again, I think I'll whiz the nuts and the cream in the blender to make a very smooth nutty cream.

2 TBSP olive oil
2 c. diced onion
1/4 tsp ground cayenne (optional or to taste)
2 tsp ground coriander
3/4 c toasted walnuts
1/2 c toasted almonds
1 1/2 c cream
1 1/2 c chicken or veggie stock
1 bunch greens, finely chopped and steamed
1 package Quorn tenders (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Prepare whatever pasta you're using according to the directions; if you're using dried pasta, you can make the sauce in the time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta
  2. If you want a really smooth sauce, combine the nuts, cream and stock in the blender and process until it's a nice consistency. Set aside
  3. Place olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent
  4. Stir in the coriander and cayenne and cook another 3 minutes
  5. Add the nut/stock/cream mixture and cook for a few minutes
  6. Now add the previously steamed greens and the package of Quorn
  7. Continue cooked until the Quorn is all the way cooked and the sauce has reduced and thickened
  8. Serve over pasta

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