I’ve been a little uninspired lately. That sounds lame, doesn’t it? Summer is right around the corner and new produce is popping up galore and I’m uninspired. It’s probably more that I’m lazy than uninspired. I do love cooking (especially for others) but sometimes you get stuck in a rut. Some days, I just want to throw in the towel and say, ” let’s go out for dinner”. Usually, I want to hit up a local sushi joint (the best sushi in Kingston, which isn’t hard to accomplish, but they are still pretty good). My husband can only have so much sushi so this plan doesn’t fly as much as I would like it to.
As many of you know, I sometimes whip random things together when I’m uninspired. I start without a plan and end up with something that triumphs or fails miserably. I would like to think I get more hits than misses. And sometimes, I have to make something because the husband might be on-call and says the hospital cafeteria food is basically mystery meat served under infrared lights. So, I take pity and whip up something for him. I know, I know, I deserve the best wife of the year award.
On one of these on-call nights, I literally had 1 leek, 1/2 a bunch of asparagus, 1 orange pepper, a lemon, a little greek yogurt, chives, and parsley in my fridge. I could see very little rhyme or reason in these ingredients, so I was thinking I would not use those ingredients and make a simple chicken curry, something I’m not really a fan of, but it’s easy and quick. But, when I flew this idea by my husband it was a no-go. There I was, left stuck with these ingredients. I just tossed the asparagus, leek, pepper, and half a bulb of garlic in the oven and let them roast. I even started photographing them just in case my no-plan recipe actually led to something that I could share it with you all.
Once roasted, I decided to purée and leeks and garlic with the greek yogurt. Tasting and trying led me to add lemon and extra-virgin olive oil, but it still needed something. I whipped through my cupboards and thought nuts would make a good addition. I was making a corrupted form of a pesto. My gut told me to reach for pine nuts, but instead I went for pistachios. Thank god, for a well stocked pantry. Even when there’s nothing I have the staples. I threw everything into the blender until the nuts were smooth and when I tasted it again I literally exclaimed to myself, “this is soooooo good!” I even woke up my husband who was napping before his shift and made him try it. Half asleep and dazed, he loved it too.
I was left with a sauce and some roasted vegetables. If it was just me, I would have eaten the vegetables tossed in the sauce but my carnivore husband was already going vegetarian for the day and to make him carb free would have been absolutely blasphemous. I didn’t really have a choice here, it was either pasta, rice, or the tiniest amount of cous cous. I went with the pasta and boiled it and tossed everything together with the herbs and it all worked perfectly in harmony and unison. I chopped up a few more pistachios as a garnish for good measure. Although this is more lunch-worthy than a dinner meal it worked for my purposes and I was happy I came up with something half-way decent.
You don’t need to be an expert cook to come up with a good dish, you just need the instinct and the taste for ingredients and everything comes together in the end. I love that there is no right or wrong and that cooking can make you feel inspired even when you have no plan or road map initially. I don’t really follow the rules and who is to say you aren’t supposed to pair a with b or c. If I had to cook using only classic techniques and ingredients that were “supposed” to be paired together I might not be so enthusiastic about cooking.
Pasta Salad with a Roasted Leek, Garlic, Greek Yogurt, and Pistachio Dressing
1-2 leeks, white and light green parts, cleaned well and chopped
1/2 head of garlic
1/2 bunch of asparagus
1 pepper, any color
3/4 cup of greek yogurt
1 lemon, juice and zest
1/4 cup pistachios, plus some extra for garnish
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 cups short dry pasta, I used gemelli (cooked according to package instructions)
15 sprigs of chives, chopped
1/4 bunch of parsley, chopped (you can use any herbs you like)
salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and place the leeks, the half head of garlic (skin on and intact), and the pepper on a baking tray tossed with some olive oil and salt and black pepper. Roast until the leeks around beginning to lightly caramelize about 20-25 minutes. The garlic should be cooked through, mushy, and just slightly caramelized. If the garlic is done first, remove it from the oven. The pepper should be just lightly charred and cooked through. Remove from the oven. Allow the leeks, garlic, and pepper to cool for 15 minutes. Once cooled, remove the garlic from the skin and remove the skin and seeds of the pepper and cut it into strips.
Next, toss the asparagus with some olive oil, salt and black pepper and roast in the heated oven for 10-15 minutes. When it is done, the asparagus should be crisp and not mushy. When the asparagus to cooked, cut it on an angle into 2″ pieces.
Use a blender of food processor to make the dressing. Put the leeks, garlic, pistachios, lemon zest, and greek yogurt in the blender. Start to blend so that they start to come together. Next, squeeze in the juice of them lemon. Blend and then add in the olive oil. Keep blending until there are no large chunks of pistachio in the sauce and it is smooth and creamy. If the sauce is too thick you can add in some water to loosen it a bit. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust seasonings, if necessary.
Toss the dressing with the cooked pasta. Add in the asparagus and pepper strips. Garnish with the chives and parsley and top with some extra chopped pistachios and a drizzle of olive oil. This can be chilled for up to an hour. I thought it tasted best at room temperature.