Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Quinoa Pasta and Farmer's Market Veggies with Red Lentil and Sundried Tomato Sauce

My favorite part of every week is waking up early on Sunday, taking a hike through Griffith Park, and then spending a long hour or two at the Hollywood Farmer's Market, doing my very best to not spend every cent I have to my name on the jewel toned produce, raw nuts that redefine what the flavor of a walnut is, and fermented sourdough bread from Bazan's bakery flecked with seeds, herbs and fruit.

Friends, when I say I have a love affair with plants, I mean it. My relaxation time everyday is watching the bees pollinate my vegetable plants, or visiting my favorite gardens in the neighborhood on a long walk. This pasta highlights simple spring veggies in a high-protein, savory sauce that could easily be adapted to a variety of flavor profiles. I used fresh carrots and broccoli in this batch, but asparagus, sautéed mushrooms, bitter greens, would all be nice additions. The goal here is to have equal parts veggies and pasta. Think of this as a template to add your unplanned veggies to!

Quinoa Pasta with Farmers Marker Veggies and Red Lentil and Sun-dried Tomato Sauce (Serves 4)

For the sauce
2 teaspoons
1 small leek, sliced in half moons
1 large shallot, sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon each: dried basil, oregano, thyme
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes (not packed in oil)
1 cup organic red lentils, picked over and rinsed
3 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup high quality tomato paste
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
salt and pepper to taste

For the Pasta
1 box Quinoa spaghetti
2 heads of broccoli sliced into florets
1 bunch carrots, scrubbed and sliced into long thin pieces
2 avocados sliced
2 tablespoons caper berries

Optional Garnish
minced fresh parsley and tarragon
chopped sun-dried tomatoes or fresh cherry tomatoes
crushed red pepper

Heat the oil over low heat in a medium sauce pot and sweat the shallot and leek until fragrant, add the crushed garlic cloves, and cook 3 minutes more. Then add the dried herbs and lentils and cook for 1 more minute. Add the sundried tomatoes and vegetable stock, cover the pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and uncover the pot and cook until the lentils break down and there is no excess stock left in the pot (About 30 minutes). Stir periodically to avoid scorching. When the lentils are cooked, add the tomato paste and nutritional yeast and then blend until smooth with either an immersion or traditional blender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

When you start the lentils, bring 8 cups of water and 1/4 cup of sea salt to a boil in a large pot. When the lentils are almost done, add the pasta (which should take about 8 minutes to cook) to the boiling water. Add the sliced vegetables when you have 3 minutes left on your timer to cook them gently. If you're using greens or mushrooms, cook them separately. If you're using asparagus, you may only want to give them a minute to cook to avoid veggie mush.

Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water and pour it into a large mixing bowl with the finished lentil sauce. Toss the pasta and vegetables with the sauce, capers, and sliced avocado. Serve topped with fresh herbs and tomatoes. Serve immediately. (If you are planning on leftovers, don't toss the avocado with the pasta!)