Wednesday, June 2, 2010

backpacker's pasta #1

Last night, I got home from work at the amazingly normal time of 6:15. 6:15! The first time I've seen my house in the light of day in almost a week. No more moving, no more cleaning the apartment, no more plane flights and wedding events.

Naturally, I wanted to make dinner to celebrate. But let's recap what was in my fridge:
  • six cans of Coke (which I don't drink)
  • canteloupe, honeydew and pineapple that a friend brought over last week
  • three jars of jam (two sweet pepper varieties - my fave)
  • three kinds of mustard
  • a pack of American cheese slices
  • seven kinds of beer (mostly leftover from the kickball housewarming party a few weeks back, and which I use shamelessly to thank all the people who help with house projects)
  • a bag of pre-cut cole slaw ingredients
That's it.

So Backpacker's Pasta saved the day. Backpacker's Pasta is one of those amazing things that, once it entered my life, just never left. It started back when I was trekking around Europe with AW and BD. We all loved pasta, we all loved vegetables, and we all really loved staying in hostels that had kitchens so we didn't have to eat out every night. We probably made pasta for dinner (which someone christened Backpacker's Pasta) two or three times a week. Wherever we went, we'd stop in a grocery and pick up three or four kinds of fresh veggies. Didn't matter what kind. Maybe a jar of sauce, if we were feeling fancy. The addition of meat usually depended on the state of the knives in the hostel kitchen. We carried a bottle of olive oil with us everywhere we went, so BP was always an option.

Back on the home front, I make Backpacker's Pasta at least a few times a month. No two batches are ever the same. As I start cooking more in the new kitchen, I plan to post lots of my favorite recipes. So now that I've eaten it for lunch today and dinner last night, it seems a fitting first recipe to post.

What's inside this time:

Cherry tomatoes
Carrots (julienned and chopped)
Dried garlic
Red and yellow bell peppers
White wine (Trader Joe's Chardonnay is my default cooking wine)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Frozen chopped basil cubes (from Trader Joe's - great in a pinch)

How I made it:

1. sauteed some carrots (and whatever else was in that bag labeled "cole slaw vegetables")

2. chopped up the carrots when they were nice and tender

3. browned the mushrooms along with the carrots and dried garlic (I would've used fresh, but dried was all I had)

4. chopped up some cherry tomatoes and bell peppers, which I'd grabbed on sale at the store

5. transferred the mushrooms/carrots to a small pan and let the tomatoes and peppers steam in the big saucepan (with just a bit of olive oil)
thrifty tip: a cutting board is a great substitute for a lid

6. after the tomatoes and peppers had softened, I added some white wine and cooked some more

7. put whole wheat spaghetti in to boil (don't forget the olive oil here, too!)

8. at the last minute, combined the two pans of vegetables with another dash of white wine

9. sprinkled with parmesan cheese (I'm a sucker for the cheap kind - it blends better than those big pieces of grated Parmesan you find in most deli cases). YUM.

I suppose you'll notice that there's one thing missing from this recipe: measurements. Sorry, but the beauty of Backpacker's Pasta is that you don't measure anything - you just throw in what you have, and add wine and salt and olive oil until it tastes good. Which, now that I put it that way, completely explains why I can't get enough of this stuff...

- LG

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