Saturday, January 16, 2010

Presto Pasta Nights and Orecchiette with Braised Greens and Purple Cauliflower served with Easiest Whole Wheat Biscuits

I have the honor of hosting Presto Pasta Nights this week!  This weekly round-up of pasta recipes was started by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast, and I've had a great time participating with some of my favorite pasta dishes in past weeks.  (In fact, if you need some ideas, I've linked to my past PPN entries at the bottom of this post.)  I hope you'll share your recent pasta creations with me this week.  I really look forward to seeing what everyone comes up with and trying some new pasta recipes!  If you'd like to join in the round-up this week, just email me a link to your post along with a photo of your dish.  You can email your entries to me at schatfield (at) berkeley (dot) edu and cc Ruth at ruth (at) 4everykitchen (dot) com.  Please also link back to this post and to Ruth so others can join the fun!

To whet your appetite, I'd like to share a yummy pasta dish with you.  It combines al dente orecchiette with lots of tasty, colorful veggies.  I used purple cauliflower, which makes for an impressive dish but doesn't save well - if you expect to have leftovers, I'd suggest white as the purple color bleeds into the pasta and turns everything a funny color if it's left in the fridge overnight!  The nutty flavor of the cauliflower pairs well with assertive greens like kale and mustard greens.  You could use any combination adding up to about a pound of your favorites.  I particularly like the little touches added into this recipe - currants, pine nuts, and anchovies.  All three of these add bursts of flavor and really make this pasta perfect. I served it with healthy whole wheat biscuits to round out the meal.

Orecchiette with Braised Greens and Purple Cauliflower (adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques via Serious Eats, original recipe here)
Serves 4

1/2 pound kale, stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
1/2 pound mustard greens, stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1 sprig rosemary
A couple of generous pinches of red pepper flakes
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minched
1 head purple cauliflower, about 2 pounds, broken into bite-sized florets
1 pound orecchiette pasta
2 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
3 T pine nuts
2 T currants
1/2 cup panko, toasted

1. In a large heavy pot, heat half the olive oil over medium heat, then add half the red pepper flakes and the rosemary sprig. Allow them to sizzle in the oil for a minute and then add half the onion. As it softens, after about two minutes, add the garlic and season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the onion turns golden, then add the greens and stir to coat with the oil. Splash in 1/4 cup of water and cover tightly, turning the heat to low. Cook until tender, about 30 minutes, then remove the rosemary sprig. 10 minutes before cooking is through, add the currants to plump up.

2. In the meantime, heat the remaining oil in a second wide, heavy skillet over medium heat and add the remaining onion and red pepper flakes. When it begins to color, add the anchovy fillets, mashing them into the oil to melt. Increase the heat to high and add the cauliflower with a hefty pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, tossing and stirring often, until the cauliflower is richly caramelized and tender, but not mushy. Season to taste as necessary. When the cauliflower is near done, add the pine nuts to toast in the pan.

3. In the meantime, cook the orrecchiette in salty boiling water until al dente. Drain, reserving a full cup of pasta cooking water. Combine all the ingredients into the largest pot, where you cooked either the kale or the cauliflower, and turn the heat to high. Allow the pasta to turn slightly golden and crisp, scraping it off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. After a couple minutes, add some reserved pasta water to create a silky sauce and season to taste. Serve in bowls with the panko breadcrumbs scattered over the top.

Easiest Whole Wheat Biscuits (adapted from The Mayo Clinic Williams-Sonoma Cookbook via Yasmeen Health Nut, original recipe here)

1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 T of baking powder
1 tsp vital wheat gluten (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
2 T cold unsalted butter,cut in small pieces
1 T honey
3/4 cup low fat milk

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

2. Place the whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, baking powder, vital wheat gluten, and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse a few times to combine everything.  Add the butter and pulse until it is cut in and only pea-sized pieces of butter remain.

3. In a liquid measuring cup, combine the milk and honey and whisk together.  Pour into the food processor and process until everything is just combined.  The dough should be slightly sticky.  [Alternately, you can whisk the dry ingredients together by hand, cut in the butter with a pastry blender, and stir in the milk and honey with a rubber spatula until just combined.]

4. Turn the dough onto a floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold the dough over on itself 5 or 6 times. Press into a 1-inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter, being sure to push straight down through the dough. Place the biscuits on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Dough can be refrigerated at this point if needed.

5. Bake until lightly brown and risen to twice their unbaked height,12-14 minutes (a bit longer if chilled first). Serve warm.


  1. This looks amazing. I love purple cauliflower! I have never thought to pair it with pesto and pasta. Yum! Thank you!

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. What a perfect winter pasta dish. Thanks so much for hosting this week's Presto Pasta Night.