Sunday, July 14, 2013

summer comfort food

I turned my air conditioning on today for the first time all summer....for two reasons.

1. It was in the 90's today and is supposed to be for the next few days...and while I'm usually a "fresh-air-and-bear-with-the-heat" kind of girl, trying to sleep when it's muggy and in the 70's is not my idea of fun.  So I caved.

2.  I had bought some veggies at the store the other day with a plan to make up a new recipe with them, and turning on the oven was NOT going to happen without some relief from the heat.

So,'s recipe post was inspired and made possible by me turning on the A/C. 
And my love of comfort food.

In the summer, most people lean towards "lighter" vs. "heavy" comfort foods.  Instead of a hot, creamy, gooey lasagna....we might make a cold, simple pasta salad.   I'm kind of "in the middle" when it comes to my summer comfort food.  I still like warm food, but nothing too heavy. 
This recipe fits that description.

Here's how to make my....

Roasted Vegetable and Chicken Pasta Toss

*Side Note:  This could easily be made vegetarian by omitting the chicken....I just (a) love chicken and (b) had some defrosting in the fridge today.*

First, we have the ingredients:

Pasta (I used whole grain penne- about 3/4 of a pound)
Veggies:  garlic, onions, zucchini, yellow squash, red bell peppers, and grape tomatoes
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Grated Cheese (I used a blend)
Not Pictured:  Chicken (I used about a pound of chicken tenders) and herbs (more about that later)

First step....preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
If you want an easy clean up, line two cookie sheets (the kind that have sides) with foil.
I used the amazing foil that has one "non-stick" side. 
The next thing you want to do is roast the garlic.  This takes the longest, so you want to make sure it goes in before any other prep.  You could even do this ahead of time.  I roasted three heads but was only going to use two.  The other one is in a paste in my freezer for a day in the future when I really want some roasted garlic but don't have the time to make it.
Ah....roasting garlic.....once I learned how to do this I was hooked.
If you've read my recipe posts before, you know about my infatuation with garlic.
And while I'm all for grating or mincing garlic to add it to recipes.....roasting it just gives it such a different yet equally delicious taste. letter over.
Back to the recipe.  :)

First, you need to cut off the tops of the garlic heads (not the side with the roots).  I cut off about half an inch down, but it really depends on the size of the bulb.

This is what it should look like.
Then, I peeled off some of the outer layers of papery "skin" from the bulb, but not from the actual cloves themselves.  Just basically until you can see where the cloves separate. 
This is not a necessary step....I just have found it's easier to get every roasted clove out when I do this.  But you can totally skip this step and it will be fine.

Put them all on a large piece of aluminum foil and drizzle them with olive oil.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

And wrap them all up in a "pouch".  I put the pouch on a pie plate for stability, but you can actually put this right on the oven rack, too. 
I roasted mine for about 45 minutes, but the cooking time will vary slightly depending on the size of the bulbs.
The next step.....prep the other veggies for roasting. 
These don't need as much time as the garlic, but I roast them at the same temperature (400) so I probably put them in the oven for the last 20 minutes.  Again, the time you'll need will depend on the size that you cut your veggies and how much you use.

I cut up two red bell peppers, first in strips that were about a half-inch wide, then into chunks.

Then, I cut the ends off my zucchini and squash and cut those both into pieces that were similar in size to how I cut the peppers.

Did I ever mention that I love chopping? 
So much fun.
(I'm not being sarcastic....I really do love chopping.)

I wanted to get an orange and yellow bell pepper to make this even more colorful, but they weren't looking too great at the store.  Mushrooms would be good, too.
Lots of possibilities for next time!

More chopping....I chopped up two small onions.

One of the onions was mixed in with the chopped veggies, then tossed with olive oil/salt/pepper on the cookie sheet.

The other onion was thrown together with two pints of grape tomatoes, olive oil/salt/pepper....and some herbs.  Which I forgot to take out for the first "ingredients mug shot" so they get their own special photo.

Since these were going to be the base for my "tomato sauce", I went Italian with my herbs-- parsley, basil, and oregano.  If you're lucky enough to have fresh herbs growing at home, you could definitely use those.  You just wouldn't put them in at this point, but instead wait until the end.

At this point, I put the two pans of veggies in the oven with the garlic, and just kept checking on them until they were ready.  It was about 20 minutes.
While everything was roasting away, I prepared the chicken and pasta.
I cut up the tenders into bite-size chunks. not my idea of fun chopping.  Raw meat is gross.
But cooked meat is yummy.
(sorry vegetarians and vegans....I'm a meat lover)
And added the chicken to a pan that had some olive oil and a pat of butter melted.  A little salt and pepper to season the chicken, and then just sauté away!

Once the chicken was started, I dropped the pasta into the boiling water.

And once everything was cooked and ready.....I started to assemble the pasta toss!
The roasted garlic came out first....and I let it cool down for a while.
If you try to squeeze it out too early, you'll definitely burn your fingers.
Learn from my mistakes.

Doesn't this look DEEE-LICIOUS?!

IMPORTANT:  Before you drain your pasta, reserve some of the starchy cooking water.  You'll be using it for your sauce.  I probably took a cup or cup and a half out, but take out more to be safe.  You don't have to use it all, but once you dump it, it's gone.

See how the tomatoes look all shriveled up and there's a lot of juices in the pan?
You want that.
It makes for a fantastic sauce.

And not to be outdone, here's the other pan of tender, roasted veggies.
Here's how I made the sauce:

After draining the pasta, I used the pasta pot to start the sauce.
First, dump ALL of the tomatoes/onions/juice from that pan into the pot. 
Add some of the starchy water and use a potato masher (carefully- it will spatter) to squish the tomatoes and make a chunky sauce.
But wait....there's more....

Remember that gorgeous roasted garlic?   Squeeze those beautiful cloves right out of their skins and into your sauce.   I used two whole heads of garlic, but you could use anywhere from 1-3 depending on your love of garlic.  I really should have used three.  :) 

Mash the garlic into the sauce.

Add in the other pan of the roasted veggies, and the chicken. 
If it's not "saucy" enough for you, add some more of the cooking water.
If you've been seasoning as you go, you really shouldn't need to add anything at this point....but take a taste just to be sure.  Even the best chefs get sent home on "Chopped" because they didn't add enough salt.  Seriously, do they not taste their food as they go??
With a little sprinkle of grated cheese on top, and you're done!

Now that's MY kind of summer comfort food.

And's pretty healthy, too....bonus!!



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