Fusilli Pasta with Collard Green Pesto & Garbanzo Beans

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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I made this the other night for the same group of guests that were served my Caprese Lasagna Rolls.

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I felt it was different enough from the bright red lasagna rolls and also mild enough in its flavors that a potentially very conservative palate should not object.  Regular pesto doesn’t seem to be very controversial so why should a collard greens version raise objections?  And look at the color of the pesto!

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Seriously.  That is what it looks like.

This could NOT be easier to pull off so I hope you try it.  I used toasted almonds in this but you could substitute pecans or walnuts or pine nuts (risking pine mouth!) or pistachios – maybe even cashews.  The kind of nuts & even the kind of cheese you use in pesto can be very flexible.  This makes a LOT of pesto so be prepared for leftovers.  You can use the pesto as a sandwich spread or on a collard greens pesto pizza – like this!

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Fusilli Pasta with Collard Green Pesto & Garbanzo Beans

INGREDIENTS

1 lb pasta

1 (15 oz) can of garbanzo beans (chick peas)

2 bunches of collard greens

4 garlic cloves

1/2 cup olive oil (or so)

1/3 cup grated Parmesan (plus extra for garnish)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

Parsley or basil as garnish (or micro arugula!)

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DIRECTIONS

Boil a large pot of water (large enough for the pasta).  Cut the rib out of the collard greens.

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Submerge the collard greens in boiling water for 4 minutes or so – until they are soft & bright green.  Remove them from the boiling water (reserving the now green water) & drain under cold water.  Squeeze them dry.  Take about 1/4 of the collard greens & roll them into a tube.

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Slice that tube of greens up & set aside.  Put the rest of the greens in the bowl of your food processor.

Toast the nuts in a dry pan for about 3 minutes being careful not to burn them.  Add them, the nuts, and the garlic, cheese and S&P to the food processor & pulse until it is all chopped up.  Then, with the processor running, drizzle the olive oil in until the pesto is the thickness you desire.  You might use more or less olive oil.  You can even add some water to thin it, if you like.  Adjust the S&P.

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Cook the pasta according to directions in the green collard water.  In the last minute or two of the pasta cooking, add the drained garbanzo beans & the chopped collard greens.  When done, drain & toss with SOME of the pesto.  This recipe makes quite a lot of pesto – so mix it into the pasta in increments until all the pasta is well coated.  Serve it up with extra grated Parmesan & plenty of freshly ground pepper – and maybe some obnoxiously expensive micro arugula – as I did.  Or just chop up some basil or parsley & sprinkle it on there.

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Lavash Pizza – Half Whipped Feta & Tomato & Basil and Half Collard Green Pesto & Fresh Mozzarella

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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There are many reasons one might just need an easy & quick supper.   Time might be short.  Energy or inspiration absent.  Sickness.  Dropped by your agent.  Mourning.  Lethargy.  Apathy.  Heartbreak.  Passed over for a promotion.  Laziness.  Self-pity.  Just got fired.  Hangovers.  Who knows?  Lots of reasons to just bust out the ole Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and I am not above such things.  In fact, Kraft Mac & Cheese is the silver lining in the negative world that makes me bust the box out to begin with.  Kind of like the weight loss that accompanies food poisoning.  Gotta look at the bright side.  I love Kraft M&C.  A LOT.  And one entire box is not enough.  I never eat more than one box in a sitting but I also never eat less than a whole box.  I don’t use the butter or milk – but rather – add a touch of salt.  And, with a little cheap hot sauce – like Rooster or Crystal – I am hooked up in my comfort food world.

Well – without revealing which ailment broke my spirit last night – I will say that my spirit was broken.  It was all I could do to eschew the Kraft & venture forward & try to make something I could share with youz.  This lavash pizza is the result.  As you can see – a broken spirit is as damaging to a photographer’s inspiration as it is to a cook’s – so please forgive.   Remember.  Spirit.  Broken.

The news here is the whipped feta.  It is made by simply blending 8 oz of feta with 3 oz cream cheese & just enough water to get them to blend in your food processor (or other tool you use to whip things).

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It spreads like a dream and tastes like a kinder, gentler feta.  I needed some kind & gentle last night – so I whipped some up.  This would be good on sandwiches or bruschetta or blended into a pasta dish – or on pizza!

I didn’t have enough flour to make pizza dough so I decided to try the lavash I had just purchased at the AWESOME Super King.   A quick interjection about Super King: I have always heard horror stories about the parking lot there but never really experienced anything beyond the heavy traffic in it & the zombie walkers with their shopping carts, cankles & black socks (or threadbare knee high stockings) with various slipper shoes.  But yesterday, I noticed that EVERY car I watched try to pull into a parking spot needed to make a three point turn to accomplish the task.  WTF?  The spots are no smaller than expected.  And nobody was driving a stretch Hummer.  Just a bunch of 20 year old sedans in forgettable colors & badly in need of a wash.  And old fuckers that probably haven’t had their eyeglasses prescription updated since the year their car was built.  Since I was already suffering from a broken spirit – this incompetence made me want to do what this guy in Fort Smith, Arkansas did last week:

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Which was – to hack some folks to death with a machete.   Click the Fort Smith link above for the story – but – have you ever seen a scarier looking guy in your life?  Imagine him hacking at you with a machete & screaming “I have Satan in me!” as he did so.   Who would fuck with this guy to begin with?  I see Satan all over him.  What is up with his throat?  Is that odd beard growth or a tattoo?   And he is a tiny little Manson-looking thing.  See how small?

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Anyway – this guy radiates “Do NOT fuck with me.”

You might be relieved to hear that I wasn’t carrying a machete yesterday & so the only damage I could inflict on these parking retards was the surliest stink-eye I could muster.  Like this:

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Most of the victims of my ocular hostility appeared unmoved by it.  Disappointing.  But, unarmed, there was little else I could do to express my distaste with them & their poorly crafted vehicular maneuvering.   Thus thwarted, I moved on to the shopping.

I left with about 15 bags of produce & cheeses & spent a mere $85 (which included $25 for a huge four pound wedge of Parmesan).  I love me some Super King.

I bought the lavash at Super King – which is no easy feat because they carry about a million brands.  It is VERY intimidating!

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See?  On the shelf beneath the meat?  And that is only about half of what is available because the meat counter goes on a ways & then takes a hard right & continues.  LOTSA lavash.  LOTS.

I selected one at random.

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Seriously.  I couldn’t make out any difference between them – so – I winged it.  This cost $1.99.

As to the pizza.  I topped it with (predictably) that which I had handy.  Whipping the feta took all the gumption I had.  I had recently made a crazy, vibrant collard green pesto pasta (which I will share soon) – and had this extra pesto around.

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I also had a bit of extra sauteed tomatoes from my Pan-Fried Lemon, Goat Cheese & Ricotta Gnocchi recipe.

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I also had basil & another decadent $5 container of micro arugula.  And I had lots of cherry-sized mozzarella balls.  And that is how this recipe was born.   Actually – it isn’t a recipe.  It is a suggestion.

I used one of these wire racks to cook the pizza as I feared a regular cookie sheet might result in a soggy lavash.  Egad!

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In hindsight – I think a regular baking sheet would be fine as this crisped up almost too much.  Another issue is temperature.  I cooked it at 425 for a few minutes & then smelled the edges burning.

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See the burn?  So – I opened the oven door until the oven cooled to about 350 degrees & then let it bake another 5-10 minutes – until the cheese looked like it does above.  I then topped the collard pesto side with micro arugula & the whipped feta & tomato side with basil.  I then doused the whole thing in an epic quantity of crushed red pepper.

I then poured myself a DEEP wine glass of Nyquil & glugged it as I downed this pizza.  All of this pizza.   ALL OF IT.

A hot bath & and the last dregs of my Nyquil cocktail sent me off to sleepyland at an hour too early for me to report to you here.  But – at least my miserable day had been slaughtered.  Slaughtered like those poor guys in Fort Smith & like the deserving but unpunished fuckers in the Super King parking lot.

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Creamy Goat Cheese Spaghetti with Lemon & Collard Greens

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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Yesterday, I decided to blog about wraps.  A wrap rap.  So – I set about making a wrap.  A collard green wrap.  But what to wrap it around?  I had the ingredients for a decent slaw in my fridge, leftover from my Vegan Pozole & Taco Pizza efforts so I decided to make a sort of light, Asian slaw with a soy-vinaigrette rather than anything creamy.  I also had some plain tempeh in my fridge so I opened that and marinated it in the soy vinaigrette.

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Then, with the addition of some avocado & tomato – I commenced to wrap.

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As seems to be happening more often these days, I was uninspired in the photography department.  I have exhausted my lit locations & various plates & napkins – all of which have been used many times & I now feel like all my images look the same.  Cranky & hungry – I snapped a few of the damn collard wrap & then shoved it in my face like a wine cork.

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I discovered that 1) the vinaigrette was a bit overpowering and 2) the wrap was MESSY to eat and 3) I fucking hate tempeh!  Ick!  Even my dog Dexter turned it down when I offered it to him – though my fatboy Memphis ate the piece I gave him AND Dexter’s.

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So – I found myself with nearly a full bunch of collard greens that had been quick wilted by soaking them for 2 minutes in boiling water.  I didn’t want to muck around with wraps anymore when it came time for dinner.  So – like usual – a meal was born of the other ingredients I had handy: lemon, goat cheese, parsley & pasta.  Oh – and some dried up old Parmesan.

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This is the easiest kind of dish & comes together really fast.  The ratio of lemon or goat cheese I list here is just a suggestion.  You might like less lemon & more cheese or visa versa.  Feel free to tweak it to suit you.  Also – the collard green could be replaced with any other leafy green – Swiss chard or spinach or even asparagus or something.  This is a really healthy dish, too, as pastas go – so try it!

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Creamy Goat Cheese Spaghetti with Lemon & Collard Greens

INGREDIENTS (for 2 servings)

8 oz pasta or your choice

5 oz goat cheese

1 bunch collard (or other) greens

Juice of 1 lemon

Lots of chopped parsley

S&P

Parmesan as garnish

DIRECTIONS

Boil water in the pot you will cook the pasta in.  Remove the ribs from the collard greens as is depicted above.   Roll the leaves & slice them.

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My greens had already gotten a 2 minute soak but that isn’t necessary.  The collard greens will need about 5-7 minutes in the boiling pasta water.  My whole wheat spaghetti had a 7 minute cooking time so – had I not pre-soaked the greens for my failed wrap endeavor – I would have put them in the water with the spaghetti at the same time.   The greens are forgiving so do not sweat the timing.  Just drop them into the water with the pasta when your pasta is about 7 minutes from being done.

While the pasta cooks, scoop maybe 1/4 cup of the pasta water out & heat it in another pan.  Melt the goat cheese in that until it is nice & creamy.  I used an herbed goat cheese – hence all the flecks in it.  Add the parsley & lemon juice.

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When the pasta is al dente, drain it & toss with the goat cheese.  Add S&P to taste.  Serve with additional lemon and/or parsley and/or Parmesan & plenty of fresh cracked pepper.

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Fried Catfish, Collard Greens and Macaroni & Cheese at The Serving Spoon in Inglewood

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

I selected  The Serving Spoon because it is literally ten minutes from LAX.  I needed a spot near the airport to have breakfast with my parents before I dropped them off for their return to Boston.  I did a bunch of different searches on Google & Yelp & The Serving Spoon kept making the “best of” lists – so be it.  Nestled in a corner strip mall in a neighborhood rife with abandoned businesses & auto accessory shops – the sign for The Serving Spoon was disappointing.   Owning a cafe is a fantasy of mine but my fantasy involves the design of the place as much as the menu.  I am always frustrated when any business falls short on the style-factor or any opportunity for cool graphics etc.  Here are the two signs:

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Actually – that one isn’t too bad.  Sorta retro…OK.  Seems to be original.  I actually like that one, in retrospect.  But – here is the storefront:

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Sorta underwhelming – no?  It looks like a yarn store called the Sewing Spoon.  But those two sets of wheels outside suggest there are not octogenarian knitters inside.  An urban eatery?  I’ll be the judge of that.

The interior.  Basic as basic gets.

We stepped inside & found there was a 10-15 minute wait.  On a Wednesday.  At 9:30am.  While I detest waiting for seating anywhere – this seemed a very promising indication.   I looked at the daily special board & saw OXTAILS were on the menu along with many traditional sides & peach cobbler.  For some reason – the crowd & that special board won me over completely.   I asked my parents to guess how we’d rate the food – once we had it – on a scale of 1-5.  Everyone expected to give The Serving Spoon a 5.  That can be hard to live up to.

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After about 15 minutes, I began to suspect that folks arriving after us were being seated before us.  It was the first time I ever had a fear that I was being discriminated against because of race.  As a woman?  Sure.  As a punk rock kid or person not wealthy enough to be in the Gucci store in Milan or some other fancy place?  Sure.  I’ve been judged & assessed & underestimated in various way.  We all have.  But, as I watched the hostess seat another group I swore had entered after us, I actually blushed with shame.  The shame of humiliation.  And I whispered to my mother, “What if they won’t seat us?  Oh my God.  Can you imagine?”  And for the first time, I viscerally felt a tiny hint of what so many have felt historically & to this day – when they are truly discriminated against in a really basic, human rights kinda way.  Breakfast.  Don’t we all have a right to eat in a cafe – if we can afford to pay for it?   And as I reflected on the (obvious) horrors of institutionalized racism and my first, pinky-toe sensation of how it feels to be a victim of it, the hostess approached us.  “You’re Gail, right?”  Gail is my mother – the name we put on the wait list.  With that fact confirmed, she smiled & said, “Your table is ready.”

We weren’t being ignored, after all.  Hahaha!  What an asshole I am.  The folks she seated before us had been waiting on a bench I hadn’t seen.  What a total schmuck I am.  But I can tell you – it was eye opening to feel that rejection first hand – even mistakenly.  I’ve always sympathized with victims of racism but sympathy & experience are very different.  Hot flashes & the urge to run away & hide in shame.  That’s what I felt.  How unbelievably awful.  Had you asked me an hour before how I would react to being rejected because of my race, I think I would have said, “With righteous indignation” or some other thing that had a hint of resilience in it.

It wasn’t.  I felt shame.  A really unfamiliar kind of shame.  And the urge to skulk away as invisibly as possible.

Well, thank God it was all in my bleary head because it sucked.  I can’t explain why I jumped to the most negative explanation first except to say – I have had a REALLY, no – REEEEALLY, bad month or two where everything in my life seems to be dying or breaking or needing a root canal.  I think I have some sort of minor PTSD where I now just assume & expect the worst out of every encounter – whether it is with my dentist or the vet or the refrigerator repair man or my computer or my phone or ANY technology or my agent or my friends.  Step in dog shit?  In the dining room?  OF COURSE.  Why expect better?

Right now – I seem to explain everyone’s motivations with the darkest adjectives.  Every minor problem is just the first loose thread of an unraveling sweater.  Every cloud – a category five hurricane headed straight for my face.  My TEETH – actually.  My GOD – I have been having the most nightmarish monthly run of dental horror – I can’t even get into it.  Anyway – this isn’t ALWAYS the way (that I assume the grimmest outcomes & brace for disaster everywhere) but, lately, I really do seem to expect just the worst possible news from every possible source.  Coming home to a perfectly healthy, 4 year old dog – suddenly & inexplicably dead in his bed can really put the fear of God into you.  Nothing seems safe or stable after that.  So – I am writing off my bizarre conclusion at the Serving Spoon that way – the culmination of a seemingly endless run of bad luck.

And since I mentioned him – here is my gorgeous Grisbi.  RIP – August 16, 2012.

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But I digress –

Seated in a comfy booth, we were greeted by our waitress & a waiter brought us coffees.  My mother declared the coffee to be a mere 1 on a scale of 1-5.  I thought that was harsh & might have upped that to a 2 or 2.5 — but maybe that was just the gratitude talking – gratitude that we hadn’t been chased away by an angry mob calling us “crackers.”

🙂  If you can’t laugh at yourself….

My parents ordered eggs & some of the expected AM sides like grits and biscuits.  I had spied a plate go by that looked like THIS.

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(photo stolen from HERE)

A whole fish on a plate with its battered tail curled up into the air like fried flag.  I knew what I was gonna get.

I ordered the fried catfish – the fillet, not the whole fish – with a side of collard greens and mac & cheese.  It took a while for the food to come but wowsa!  Was it worth it!  Everything was piping hot & fresh.  The mac & cheese was not mushy or bland, the greens weren’t mushy either nor the salt lick that they are at Roscoe’s.  And the catfish?  THICK, like a chicken breast, and the crust was so crispy & perfect – I was in heaven.   A little lemon on the fish & it was even better.  Really – truly outstanding.  Look at it!

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Nothing had the slightest greasy element to it.  The cleanest, freshest soul food I have ever had.   NEVER go to Roscoe’s again – until you have tried this place.

Upon leaving, I asked my parents if The Serving Spoon had lived up to our hopes for a full blown 5-star rating and we agreed, unanimously, that it had.  I cannot recommend this place more highly!  Run, don’t walk.

ESPECIALLY if you are having a long run of bad luck (LIKE ME) and expecting nothing good (or worse) from everything in life (like I am).  Break the streak & treat yourself to the joy that is The Serving Spoon!

Oh!  And lastly – the music on The Serving Spoon’s website is YOU by Lucy Pearl (featuring Q-Tip & Snoop Dogg).  Video HERE.  Serving Spoon mentioned at 1:38.  Cool!

Me and nephew snoop was eating
At the serving spoon
And my partner skin it back
Was sitting with us too
And all of a sudden
Your body was inside
I couldn’t finish breakfast
Now something just aint right
Now snoop was looking like
What the hell is wrong with you
I said I know you understand
Youve been through a few
But this one is special
Special to me
Is it my imagination killing me