One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2014 is to cook more and another is to eat healthier, so the timing of Robert Lustig’s “Fat Chance Cookbook” was perfect.
I am by no means a cook; and I actually sort of hate cooking. Things always seem to go horribly wrong when I do try to cook, and I have absolutely no patience (or timing). As a result, my culinary skills involve heavy microwave use and a lot of takeout. So for the first recipe of the New Year, I decided to go with something easy. I chose “Green Pasta” (p. 226-227) of The Fat Chance Cookbook.
Makes: 4 cups
Serving size: 1 cup
Active time: 20 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
½ pound whole-grain angel hair pasta or spaghetti
1 cup packed fresh spinach, chopped
1 cup basil leaves, packed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup low-fat milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
Step 1: Cook the pasta according to package directions. In a blender, or food processor if you have one, blend the spinach and basil until mixed.
Step 2: In a large saucepan, sauté the garlic in olive oil. Add the milk and spinach mixture to the saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Stir occasionally until the sauce thickens slightly. Remove from heat. Add the pasta; season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the cheese. Serve immediately.
Sounds easy enough, right? 8 ingredients and 2 steps. I think even I can handle this one. I already had all the ingredients except the spinach and basil, so I headed to the store to pick them up. Problem number one: the grocery store didn’t carry fresh spinach, so I had to buy frozen. Make that three steps! Frustratingly, I had to cook and drain the spinach, and it was soggy and warm. I figured it wouldn’t hurt the taste of the pasta, but I’d highly recommend driving around and finding fresh spinach to cut out this step.
I then moved on to cooking the pasta. I prefer angel hair because I like my pasta soft and it cooks pretty quickly. I dumped a whole box of angel hair into a large pot and let it boil. Step 1 down! On to the next one.
“In a blender…” And here we encounter problem number 2. (See? Bad luck). At the time of this cooking adventure I was staying at a friend’s house—a lovely friend, but a friend without a blender. After digging through her cupboards, I found a food processor. Or really, parts of a food processor. After trying for about ten minutes to put the thing together I gave up. Plan B? I threw the soggy spinach and basil leaves on the cutting board, grabbed a huge knife, and just went at it.
I then sautéed the garlic (smelling good!) and added the milk and spinach mixture. While that was cooking, I drained the pasta. I let the sauce cook for about 5-7 minutes and then added it to the pasta.
Mistake #3 (you knew it was coming) I cooked double the amount of pasta the recipe called for, so the sauce didn’t go very far! However, I tasted the spinach/basil mix on its own and it was fantastic.
Despite my inevitable mishaps, the pasta turned out great. Even the most inexperienced cooks can pull this one off. And I didn’t feel guilty for eating it! I also had some as leftovers the next day (this time I cooked an egg over-easy in a pan and then tossed the leftover pasta in) and they were DELICIOUS. This dish would also go well with chicken. It’s a fast, easy recipe that tastes great!
Now that I have a blender and fresh spinach I may just try again!
—Amanda Oberg, Publicity Assistant, Plume and Hudson Street Press