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Main Dish

Explore new ‘pasta’bilities with avocados

Spinach Avocado Pasta
Spinach avocado pasta is a great summer dish with lots of fresh flavors, including some roasted tomatoes on top.

There’s a running joke that the people in my generation, Millennials, are completely obsessed with avocados.

In our house, we fit the stereotype, although we rarely eat them on toast. The truth is, avocados are more popular with our generation, because it was in the late 1990s that trade restrictions started to ease for avocados to be imported into the United States and Canada, and a 2015 Super Bowl ad then made Americans start flocking to get their “avocados from Mexico.” (Did you sing the jingle in your head when you read it?)

According to the Canadian restaurant chain Quesada on its website, 90% of the avocados eaten in the United States come from Mexico, whereas past generations had to settle for the shortened growing season in California.

Basically, we now have access to fresh avocados year-round, and they’re cheaper than before, too, so Millennials just happened to be at the exact right time in American history to enjoy the creamy, green fruits. I decided to use avocados in a little different application this week that is absolutely perfect for summer—as a pasta sauce ingredient.

I found this recipe on the blog “Healthy Fitness Meals.” You can find the original post at https://healthyfitnessmeals.com/spinach-and-avocado-pasta-recipe/. I changed up some ingredients, added others, and chose to saute the tomatoes instead of incorporating them raw, like the original author did.

Spinach Avocado Pasta
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Spinach Avocado Pasta

Spinach avocado pasta is a great summer dish with lots of fresh flavors, including some roasted tomatoes on top.
Course Main Course
Keyword avocado, spaghetti, spinach, tomatoes, vegetarian

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes halved, if large
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 large ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves
  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Boil the pasta according to the package directions, and reserve about 1/4-cup of the pasta water before draining it.
  • While the pasta is cooking, heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, basil, parsley and oregano and stir to coat the tomatoes with oil. Saute the tomatoes, stirring regularly, until they start to burst or give up their juices, then remove them from the heat.
  • Meanwhile, add the avocado, spinach, garlic, one tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper to a food processor or blender and process until smooth, adding some of the pasta water, one tablespoon at a time, until the sauce is smooth and to your preferred consistency. Taste it and add more salt and pepper, if desired.
  • Stir the pasta and sauce together until it is well coated, and then serve, topping each scoop with some of the cherry tomatoes, along with the juices from the pan.

I have to admit, eating avocados, whose taste I generally associate with flavors like cumin and red pepper, along with Italian spices was a bit weird, but I really liked it.

It was fresh and light and perfect for a summer meal. If you did want to make it heavier, serving this with some grilled chicken would be fantastic, too.

And even if it was a little cliché for a 30-something to make an avocado dish, I’ll be easily ignoring any snickering. Those earlier generations just didn’t know what they were missing.

This piece first appeared in print on June 24, 2021.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas and sponsored by Main Street Co. & Kitchen Corner in Newton, Kan. Visit their website at shopmainstco.com.

Categories
Main Dish

A one-pot meal won’t take up ‘mushroom’ in the kitchen

This one-pot recipe for creamy mushroom pasta is a great dinner for the whole family.

Joey and I have completely different styles when it comes to cooking.

I’m a measurements person. He’s an “add it until it tastes right” person.

I subscribe to the “clean as you go” philosophy. He waits until the meal is over.

I search cookbooks and online for ingredients that meld well. He goes with his gut.

So, it was a little out of character for me when he walked into the kitchen to me scrutinizing a video on my phone while furiously scribbling down notes.

I watched a video of a person with the online handle of “Everything Delish” make what appeared to be an amazing creamy mushroom pasta, but after a long search, I realized that if I wanted to recreate the recipe, I was going to have to figure it out for myself.

I found her through her Pinterest page, if you’re interested in watching the video as well, and she has a website at everything-delish.com, although I couldn’t find this particular recipe on it. So, for the most part, the following is my interpretation.

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One Pot Creamy Mushroom Pasta

This one-pot recipe for creamy mushroom pasta is a great dinner for the whole family.
Course Main Course
Keyword chicken, creamy, garlic, linguine, mushrooms, parmesan-reggiano, pasta, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 chicken breasts cut into two-inch cubes
  • 6 to 8 cloves garlic minced
  • 16 ounces mushrooms sliced (I used baby bellas)
  • 4 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup milk or cream
  • 12 ounces linguine pasta dry
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup parmesan-reggiano cheese grated
  • 6 ounces parmesan shredded
  • 2 cups fresh spinach leaves

Instructions

  • Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or a large pan with a lid over medium heat.
  • Add the chicken and brown on all sides. Don’t worry about cooking it all the way through. Add in the garlic, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, oregano, basil, onion powder, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper. Cook for several minutes, letting the garlic brown slightly.
  • Add in the chicken broth and milk. Raise the heat to a low boil.
  • Add in the dry pasta. Stir to incorporate it. A bit, then lower the heat to a simmer and place the lid on the pan. Let the pasta cook for about eight minutes or until it is al dente.
  • Remove the lid and stir. Stir in the flour, then add the cheeses and continue stirring regularly for five to 10 minutes, making sure to scrape the bottom to keep the cheese from sticking. Once the sauce reduces into a thicker, creamier consistency, stir in the fresh spinach. Let the pasta continue to heat through until the spinach is wilted, and serve.

This was so, so good. I was really nervous at first that the sauce wasn’t going to thicken, but after being patient, it finally got to a great consistency.

It also reheated really well out of the fridge, and Joey and I got several meals out of it.

When Joey figured out I was winging a recipe, he seemed a bit proud of me. I think maybe after a decade of marriage, he might finally be rubbing off on me.

Except for the whole kitchen cleaning thing. I’m not quite there yet.

This piece first appeared in print on June 3, 2021.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas and sponsored by Main Street Co. & Kitchen Corner in Newton, Kan. Visit their website at shopmainstco.com.

Categories
Main Dish Salad Side Dish

Making a cold version of tacos isn’t mission im’pasta’ble

Taco pasta salad has lots of taco flavors—from fresh spinach and tomatoes to cheese and salsa—while being versatile enough to be served cold, warm or hot.

I was unloading some groceries a few evenings ago, and Joey came to inspect what I was pulling out of the bags.

Noting that there was a salsa I don’t normally buy, a container of tomatoes and a box of pasta, he immediately asked what new recipe I was trying for dinner.

After being the guinea pig for this column for eight years, he knows an experiment when he sees one.

“It’s a pasta salad,” I told him.

His eyebrows raised. The word “salad” generally comes with things he hates—mostly raw onions and mayonnaise.

“No. This is a taco pasta salad,” I quickly amended.

His eyebrows did not go down. He was not convinced, but he said he’d trust me on this one and waited, eying me suspiciously from the dining room, while I put together my new concoction.

I found this idea when I was looking for a good summer dinner dish, and this recipe is actually a combination of two others, one from Beth Pierce over at “Small Town Woman” and another from Rebekah Garcia at “Amanda’s Cookin’.” And then I added in my own ideas to make one, delicious pasta salad. You can find the two inspiration recipes at https://www.smalltownwoman.com/easy-taco-pasta-salad/ and https://amandascookin.com/taco-pasta-salad/.

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Taco Pasta Salad

Taco pasta salad has lots of taco flavors—from fresh spinach and tomatoes to cheese and salsa—while being versatile enough to be served cold, warm or hot.
Course Main Course, Salad
Keyword cheese, ground beef, pasta, salsa, summer, tacos, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces rotini pasta or another small pasta, like macaroni
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 10 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes halved
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 ounces sharp cheddar cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 ounces pepper jack cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 15 ounces black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh spinach leaves cut into ribbons
  • 10-14 ounces mild guacamole salsa or your favorite kind

Instructions

  • Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain it, rinse it, and set it aside.
  • In a saute pan, cook the ground beef over medium heat until it is cooked through, breaking it apart as you go. Thoroughly drain all the grease from the pan.
  • Add the halved tomatoes to the hamburger, stirring regularly, until they begin to release their juices slightly—about three to five minutes—and stir in the taco seasoning and salt and pepper. Once the seasonings are well combined with the meat and tomatoes, remove the mixture from heat and let it cool a bit as you prepare your other ingredients.
  • In a large serving bowl, combine the pasta, beef mixture, cheese cubes, beans and spinach, along with about 10 ounces of salsa. Stir until the salsa coats everything well, and give it a taste. If it seems too dry or needs more flavor, add more salsa until you get your desired consistency and flavor.
  • Serve immediately at room temperature, serve cold out of the fridge, or heat the mixture in the microwave to serve warm.

On our initial eating of this, we had it at about room temperature—basically the temperature it was when I finally finished mixing it all together.

For leftovers, I ate it cold and loved it. Joey warmed his up and also thought it was pretty good. It would also be delicious to serve it with some avocado cubed up in it, but I think that might be best for serving it cold or room temperature rather than heating it up.

I don’t think I totally sold Joey on the notion of taco pasta salad, but I’m going to vouch for it being pretty darn good. It had some great taco flavor but was also a cool, summer dish, which was really nice for a hot day.

I also thought this would be a nice one to use for a barbecue or picnic, since it doesn’t matter too much if the dish stays cold or gets warm.

I probably should be a little insulted that Joey doesn’t fully trust me after all of these years, but after some of my recipe fails throughout our relationship, I can’t say that I blame him. I think I’d be inspecting any grocery bags coming into the house, too.

This piece first appeared in print on June 25, 2020.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas and sponsored by Main Street Co. & Kitchen Corner in Newton, Kan. Visit their website at shopmainstco.com.