Monday, April 27, 2015

Greek Pasta Primavera

I had a bunch of artichokes ready to bloom, the last largish ones of the year, and wanted to do something special with them.  First, I had to find out if it was a good idea to roast them before making a disaster out of dinner.  Not only is roasted artichoke a real thing, it's apparently a delicious, mediterranean-style appetizer.  Well, that's not what I'm using it for today, but nice to know.
I love how the "baby artichoke" recipe used buds that I consider fairly large for Artie.  I'm on the third round and they're maybe the size of a tennis ball.  There are many itty-bitty buds tucked in among the leaves.  I hope I get something edible off them, but I won't be greedy about it.  Artie has already exceeded my expectations for the year, and for his lifespan.

While pasta primavera is usually a vegetarian or vegan dish, I threw in half a pound of thinly sliced calamari.  The dish still has that Mediterranean feel.  Scallops or shrimp would work just as well, so I'm calling it the generic "shellfish" in the recipe.

Olive oil as needed
*1 red onion, sliced
1 medium eggplant, cut batonnet
half a lemon or 2 Tb lemon juice
*2 large or 4 small artichokes
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper
6 oz dry pasta (I used linguine)
8 oz jar pitted kalamatas
*1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 lb shellfish (optional)
4 oz feta crumbles

1.  Preheat oven to 375º.  Either use your knife skills to batonnet the eggplant or get out your awesome toy of a V-slicer to do it for you.  While you're at it, send the onion through the regular slicing blade too.  Can't help you with the artichokes.
2.  Fill a small bowl with water and the juice of half a lemon.  Cut off the base of an artichoke and the top 1/3 of it.  Then start rotating it in your hand, peeling off ripping off the petals as you go.  There's a lovely gif demonstration that makes it look so much easier than it really is.  Come on, it's Bon Appetit.  What were you expecting?  Dip the artichokes in the lemon water frequently to reduce their oxidation.  Once you're down to the soft petals, cut the flower in half and use a melon baller to scoop out the furry choke and any purple petals.

3.  Rub the artichokes all over with olive oil and place, cut-side down, on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Toss the eggplant and onion in more olive oil and spread out on the sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and the minced garlic and roast until everything is soft, about 40 minutes.

4.  About halfway through the cooking time, start boiling the pasta water.  You can also multitask at this point by halving the tomatoes and doing any necessary prep to the shellfish.  Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  When it's time to drain, keep the water.  The pasta can hang out in a colander for a few minutes.

5.  Return 2-3 C of pasta water to the pot.  Add shellfish and let it cook in the residual heat.  Even without any burner, bite-sized pieces will cook in about 2 minutes.  Basically, the amount of time it takes you to pull everything out of the now-beeping oven and grab the olives and feta.

6.  Drain off and reserve water again.  To the pot, add pasta, the shellfish, and the roasted veggies.  Stir to mix.  Add olives, brine and all, and tomatoes.  If the pasta looks dry even with the olive brine, add a bit of pasta water and a tablespoon of olive oil.  Toss everything together again and plate.  Top with feta.  Dust with fresh pepper if desired.

Difficulty rating  :)

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