Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Summer Basil & Chicken Pasta

A raid-the-fridge weeknight dinner

The herb:

I’m on a basil kick. Last week it was vegan pesto taste testing, and Monday night it was tomato and basil pizza – just some standard marina, thickly layered sliced tomatoes, and a generous sprinkling of fresh basil. Quick, delicious, and oh-so-summery.

Last night, with a bundle of basil leftover in the fridge, Basil Challenge III was upon me. Admittedly, my Summer Basil & Chik’n Pasta was born of a solemn swear to myself that I’d figure out a way to use the basil without making a special trip to the grocery store. If you cook as a vegan, I’m sure you’ve been there, too: the 7th consecutive day of swinging by the store for that one fresh ingredient that you cannot (will not! ought not!) do without.

Enough already! Basil Challenge III: raid the fridge and make it happen.

The innovation:

Employing the go-to formula for a simple, satisfying vegan dish, I reached for a grain, a protein and a veggie. Here’s what I had on hand and how I used it:
  • 2 cups pasta, cooked
  • 1 package chik’n, thinly sliced
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced into large chunks
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tsp garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, quartered
  • 2-3 cups baby spinach
  • 7-10 large basil leaves, chiffonade(d??)*
  • Sea salt & pepper to taste

Heat the EVOO on medium low and add your onion, garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook for 3-4 minutes and then add the chick’n strips. Increase heat to medium and stir frequently until chik’n begins to brown, 5-7 minutes. Next, incorporate your tomatoes and a generous sprinkling of sea salt. Keep the chick’n and tomato mixture moving, stirring frequently for 5 minutes.

The spinach and artichoke take only
a few minutes to cook. This meal
comes together quickly!
Once your tomatoes are softened and juicy, add the baby spinach and artichokes, cooking for an additional 3-4 minutes. Finally, toss in 75% of your beautiful basil ribbons, saving the rest for garnish. Combine, add salt & pepper to taste, and you’re good to go.

The alterations:

Now, I know I said I wasn’t going to go to the grocery store for this particular dish, but that doesn’t preclude me from thinking about what I’d do differently if I had!

Firstly, I’d use whole wheat pasta. The tri-colored shells were fun, but I think a nutty whole grain flavor would have really rounded out this dish. Additionally, I’d probably opt for a more flavorful chik’n than the Trader Joe’s Chickenless Strips I had on hand. Lightlife Smart Strips are among my favorite.

But as always, this dish is highly adaptable: don’t have artichokes? No prob, forget about them. Want more Vitamin A & C? Double your baby spinach. No fresh tomatoes on hand? Hell, grab a can.

Whatever it takes to save yourself that 8th consecutive trip to the store, amiright?

*I’ll cook dinner for whomever can explain to me how to conjugate chiffonade. Promise!

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