Friday, April 20, 2012

Scenes From a Run - Tulip Edition

Rebuilding mileage after an injury, especially an injury you haven't really recovered from, sucks. Tulips help. I forgot how much I love running through Washington Park after work. I need to bring this back.

The city announced a press release that (basically) said, if you want to see the tulips, go see the tulips, STAT. The early summer we had this spring means the tulips won't really be sticking around for Tulip Fest, bummer. A sunny and perfect April day before a rainy weekend sounded like a great time to go. 

2.5 miles later and a few tulip breaks, here ya go!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

New Orleans inspiration - Pasta Rosa

Back in February I traveled to New Orleans for a few days before The Rock Boat set sail. It was such a blast and of course the food and drinks were amazing! I wrote myself a note of meals I had to recreate at home and this was my first attempt!

On our last night in NOLA we had dinner at Coop's Place.  I had already had my fill of shrimp poboys so I was looking to try something new. The "Pasta Rosa" caught my eye and it did not disappoint. It was the perfect blend of spice from the cayenne pepper, creaminess from the goat cheese as it melted, and crunch from the pine nuts. And sneaking in some vegetables never hurts when eating out all the time while on vacation.

Now... my attempt to recreate the dish was helped by the list of major ingredients on the menu. I'm not much of a follower of recipes so all measurements are approximate/eye balled and certain ingredients are to-taste (like the cayenne pepper, add a little at a time). This made 2-3 generous servings so you may need to adjust the amount of ingredients to suit your crowd. I also think this dish would be great with chicken or as a vegetarian dish. Maybe next time!

1/4-1/2 cup julienned sundried tomatoes
1-2 oz. pine nuts
penne pasta (4-6 oz dry = 2-3 cups cooked)
pancetta (I used 4-5 slices of center cut bacon)
2-3 TBS olive oil
6 - 9 oz baby spinach (1 small bag)
1-2 cloves garlic (minced)
½ lb shrimp (about ¼ lb per person)
1/4 cup goat cheese
Salt, pepper, garlic power, chili powder, cayenne pepper (to taste - or whatever sounds good to you)

1. I bought dry sun dried tomatoes (not in oil) so I started by soaking them in water (enough to cover). I added a little bit of salt, pepper, garlic powder and chili powder to the bowl just to spice 'em up. They soaked around 15-20 minutes while I was preparing other things. Save the water to add to the mix later.
2. Toast pine nuts in a small dry skillet for 3-4 minutes until lightly browned (keep an eye on them).
3. Bring water to a boil and cook penne (or pasta of your choice) per the directions.
4. Chop bacon (or pancetta) into small pieces and cook in a large pan until nearly crispy.
5. Add 1 TBS olive oil, minced garlic, drained sun dried tomatoes, and 2-3 TBS of the soaking liquid (reserve the liquid).  Sautee until tomatoes are softened adding more water as needed.
6. Add spinach to the pan and cook until wilted, stirring every 2-3 minutes.
7. Add shrimp and cook 2-3 minutes per side or until pink. (I pushed the spinach mixture to the side so that the shrimp had contact with the pan - you could also remove the spinach and return once the shrimp is cooked.)
8. Toss in cooked pasta and add another 1-2 TBS of olive oil, 1-2 TBS of the tomato soaking liquid or pasta water (you want enough moisture so that everything is coated).
9. Season with salt, pepper, chili powder, cayanne pepper to taste. Toss and mix well.
10. Serve and top with toasted pine nuts and goat cheese.
11. Enjoy!

My taste buds thought I did a pretty good job recreating this dish and it's definitely something I'll make again.