Note: Instructions for how to boil gluten-free pasta are after the jump.
Like many families, ours has two working parents (although I am lucky enough to work at home) with a busy kid. It’s so funny because generally I don’t really think of us as busy –but then I realize that that every day we seem to be doing something. Girlfriend seems to have something every day of the week. D’Ahub and I have our work and our other activities after work. I’m kind of a social butterfly and am always flitting to a knitting group, book club meeting, or PTA. And the house and the garden and the chickens require our attention at least some of the time.
And, I enjoy being busy as long as I enjoy what I’m busy with. Of course, this past fall was very busy because I was promoting my book. Every night seemed to contain a book event or class, the days were filled with baking for the events. When I went out of town, d’Ahub and I had to arrange schedules so Girlfriend could get to her events. This kind of busy is a “happy busy”–I enjoyed it because I was getting the chance to do all the things I love—bake, meet people, and teach classes.
[This post has been interrupted for some shameless self promotion: Speaking of my book: have you gotten your copy yet?? Use the link to the left!]
Regardless of how busy we are, we do have dinner together each night. It’s our chance to relax and connect. I love to cook, but for dinners during the week we need easy to prepare meals that are delicious, balanced, and nutritious. And that accommodate our gazillion food allergies/sensitivities. Many of these are one pot meals—my favorite type of meals for busy days. I love being able to put everything in one pot and be done with it. One of my big challenges is that I tend to get stuck in dinner ruts. We end up having the same 7 dishes over and over, week after week. The dishes tend to change with the seasons to accommodate the produce and types of food that are best for each time of year, but still… And while having a rotation isn’t terrible, I do feel the need to break out of ruts from time to time. I thought it might be fun to share some of my recipes with you in case you’re looking around for easy dinners to make on busy nights.
Today’s dish is Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Chili, and Bacon. I saw something like it on Ellie Krieger’s Instagram stream–she was at a restaurant and posted a photo of her dish. (By the way, are you on Instagram? I’m there as fourchickens) It looked so good that I immediately did a Google search and found a recipe for a dish that sounded like it on the New York Times website. As per my usual way of doing things, I tweaked the dish to accommodate our needs. It turned out so delicious that Girlfriend and d’Ahub asked that we put this into our regular dinner rotation. The wonderful thing is that other than the pot you boil your pasta in, the dish uses one pot.
A note about gluten-free pasta. We love pasta and we actually eat quite a lot of it. When I was first diagnosed with gluten-intolerance, I gave up on Italian-style pasta (as opposed to the Asian rice noodles). The only types I could find were made out of corn or quinoa or potatoes and they all cooked up mushy and weird-tasting. Then my sister recommended Tinkyada pasta—and it turned out that we love it! It is made with brown rice (they do have 1 or 2 types with white rice) and if cooked well, it feels and tastes like the wheat pasta I remembered. The main thing to keep in mind is that you need to wash off all of the starch in HOT water when you drain it. I know that we all learned to rinse pasta with cold water after boiling in order to stop the cooking process. With gluten-free pasta, you have to adjust your thinking. You need to cook your pasta to al dente (a tiny bit underdone) and then rinse it in hot water. For Tinkyada pasta , I have found the following to work best:
How To Prepare Gluten-Free Pasta
- Bring a big pot of well-salted water to boil
- Put in your pasta. If I am using the spaghetti shape, I break it in half (this makes it easier to eat), but you do what you want to.
- Put in a glub of oil (I use olive oil) and mix it around with the pasta to help the pasta not form clumps while cooking. You want to stir the pasta around every few minutes to keep the clumps from forming
- Boil for 11-13 minutes (for Tinkyada pasta). This time seems to be the best for our tastes. Your tastes may vary. I recommend that you stand over your boiling pot the first time you make your pasta and check a piece of pasta every couple of minutes to find the best time for your tastes.
- Place a large colander in the sink.
- After 11-13 minutes, test for doneness and then turn off the heat, remove the pan, and pour the pasta and water into the colander to drain.
- Rinse the pasta in the colander under HOT water for 2 FULL minutes while tossing with a spoon or tongs. Trust me on this. You don’t want to use cold water. What you’re doing here is rinsing off the starch that makes the pasta stick together. It’s important to toss the pasta around (gently) to make sure each piece is getting rinsed.
- Pour about 1/8 inch of water into the now empty pan that you used to boil it. Put the rinsed pasta in there, pour a few glubs of olive oil on the pasta, and then toss with the oil and water. This will create pasta that doesn’t stick together that gluten-free pasta normally does.
Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Chile, and Bacon
–Adapted from New York Times Dining and Wine
Yield: 4-5 servings
16 ounces pasta (shape is your choice, although penne, spirals, or elbows are nice here)
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces bacon, diced
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
6 slices of pickled jalapenos (I find these in the pickles section of our grocery store), seeded and diced (you can also substitute slices of a fresh jalapeno if you desire)–you can also use less if you desire
16 ounces fresh Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced (I used a food processor for the slicing, but you can do this by hand)
4 teaspoons of butter (or extra olive oil)
Freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Boil and rinse the pasta according to the directions above.
Place a large pot (I like to use my dutch oven, but you can use any large pot with a lid) on medium high heat. Add the 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the bacon and sauté until the bacon starts to turn brown.
Add the garlic, jalapenos, and rosemary and sauté until the garlic is soft—about 2 minutes.
Add the sliced Brussels sprouts, a splash of water, a couple of grindings of black pepper, and 2 large pinches of salt. Saute until the sprouts just start to soften, about 3 minutes. Spread the sprouts mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan. Cover, lower heat to simmer, and let steam for about 3 minutes.
After the sprouts mixture has steamed for a few minutes, add the pasta and the butter (or oil) and toss until the butter is melted. Turn off the heat and serve.
Serve in bowls and top with the grated parmesan, if using.