Monday, February 21, 2011

Pasta with Roasted Spring Vegetables in Cambozola Sauce

Let’s start with the giveaway winner. Congratulations...


 ...Kelly! You win the CSN Stores gift certificate! Congratulations! And who says the person who enters 5 minutes after you post it won’t win? Not I. I’ll be sending your email address to my contact with the company. Stay tuned!

When I researched the best ways to start an exercise plan - what was now all those moons ago - one thing I always saw mentioned was goal setting. Most “professionals” agree that it is important to set both long term and short term goals, the idea being to motivate yourself early with small accomplishments, and to keep the motivation going for the long term. By accomplishing your smaller short term goals, you’ll build up enough muscle, endurance, discipline, etc. to complete your long term goals. Makes sense. And for some people, like Husband, it’s invaluable advice. Results can be slow to show on the scale or on our bodies, but when you have a cold, hard accomplishment under your belt, that can be just the thing to keep you going. Me? I make goals, sure. But I never took much time to structure them or really give much thought to them. I was so overweight that the scale provided me with all the motivation I needed pretty early on. I guess that’s one advantage to to being obese vs. just overweight? Heh.

I’ve been thinking more about goals lately, and I’ve come to realize it’s kind of like the approach you take when applying to colleges. When deciding where to apply you have the schools you’ll probably get into, and probably end up going to. Those are the realistic schools that are “the middle”. But what if by some catastrophe, you don’t get into any of those middle schools? The probability is low, sure, but you don’t want to be caught with no acceptances. Catastrophe indeed! So you apply to a “safe” school or two - schools you know for sure you’ll get into and wouldn’t be completely miserable attending. Even better is when your safe school has rolling admissions. Having that acceptance under your belt does wonders for your confidence when applying to the better schools. And then, of course, you have to apply to a few schools - the ivy leagues - that you don’t seriously think you’ll get into, and never really considered attending, but figured it’d be fun to try on the off chance that by some miracle of paperwork error, they let you in.

What does any of that have to do with goal setting? Bear with me. As I’m writing this, I’ve just come from a local wine-maker’s house. Ever had a pot luck luncheon with a wine-maker? Let’s just say my glass was never allowed to go empty. Let’s also say it was very good wine, and it seemed to evaporate from my glass as soon as wine was poured in.

I expect I’ll be getting an email from my editor sister tomorrow with a few dozen corrections and even more questions of clarification of what the heck I’m talking about.

But I do have a point! And it’s that goal setting should be like applying to college. Shoot for the stars, hope to get there, but at the same time be practical and expect for something a bit closer to earth. When I first started running, I couldn’t even run a mile. So that was my first goal. Run a mile. Did that. Then my goal was to run a mile under 14 minutes. Then 12. Then run 2 miles. Then 3. When I first started out, my long term goal was to be able to run a 5K (aka: 3.1 miles). It sounded so far, but I was confident I could reach it with a little work. And I was right! My next long term goal was a 10K (aka: 6.2 miles). I started getting my runs to 3.5 miles, then 4, etc., etc.. The thought of running over 6 miles sounded crazy, and I wasn’t sure I’d ever get there, but I figured I’d try. And with a little more work, I did it! I just kept pushing back my goals, and eventually meeting them - both short term and long. They were like getting into my safe schools right away and my middle schools eventually. All the while I was secretly shooting for the stars.

I was at the gym once - gosh, maybe almost a year ago now. A neighbor who had seen me running around the area and being a regular at the gym asked me if I was training for a marathon. I scoffed. A marathon!? At that point I wasn’t yet able to run a 10K let alone several 10Ks. I still don’t think I’ll ever be crazy enough to run a full marathon (aka: 26.2 miles). Just can’t imagine doing that to my poor, poor body. But. In just a few weeks, I’ll be running my very first race. A half marathon, no less! Aka: 13.1 miles. I’ve never actually run that far before, but I’m confident I can finish. That confidence actually blows my mind. This time last year I was scoffing at the very idea of running a half marathon, and now I’m actually going to do it. I feel like I just go into Stanford!

I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I am far too sauced to think of a not-so-witty segue into this dish. Besides mentioning that the recipe is basically a sauce. So there’s that. Not my best work, I know.

A Facebook friend of mine has been mentioning her current obsession with paninis, and especially her complete obsession with cambozola cheese on these paninis. Always one willing to talk food, I commented on her status, asking what was this cambozola cheese and why was it so special? And then proceeded to Google the stuff, since I’m impatient and a dork. And let’s just say it went downhill from there. Cambozola cheese is described as a blue brie, and that’s exactly how I would describe it too. It’s a triple cream cheese, so it’s rich and creamy like brie, but it’s also made from the blue mold of other blue cheeses, so it does have what I like to call, a bit of stinkiness to it. Who doesn’t like a beautiful marriage of a creamy, stinky cheese?

On a happy, splurging shopping fest last week I picked up a wedge of the cambozola, along with some Brussels sprouts and asparagus. I thought a good cheese with two of my favorite vegetables would be a good way to celebrate my finally landing a job. No biggie. I start tomorrow. I’m breezy.

Who knows what possesses me to cook the things that I cook, but I thought the cheese would go beautifully in a pasta sauce. The creaminess added a wonderful, velvety texture, and the stinkiness added a beautiful dimension to the dish. I could definitely taste it, but it sat in the background and sang me a light tune. Husband came home and tried this pasta, and he of the not very sensitive taste buds concurred. He loved how the flavor came through, and he’s not even big into the stinky cheeses. Another thing I appreciated was that while this sauce is completely heavy on flavor, as you can see from the pictures, it’s not very saucy. There is no puddle of creamy liquid that’s dripped off the pasta to rest at the bottom of the plate. All the sauce is stuck firmly to the food, as it should be. In that sense, it doesn’t feel like a heavily sauced dish. But the flavor is so present, you don’t miss it. By all means, if you like a looser sauce, go ahead and add some cream or milk or chicken broth. Whatever your heart desires. My heart desired this sauce as is, and so did my taste buds.

Think you don’t like Brussels sprouts and asparagus? Ever tried roasting it? Brussels sprouts can be bitter, but roasting them for a long time under high heat with some balsamic vinegar brings out their hidden sugars and really makes them something special. I would highly recommend giving it a try. But if you’re not into it, any vegetable will do. You could throw in some artichoke hearts and peas, or broccoli would be delicious. I used whole wheat pasta, an angel hair.  You could use a regular fusilli.  That’s the great thing about cooking - just tweak it till you love it!

Pasta with Roasted Vegetables in Cambozola Sauce

Makes ~6-8 servings

½ lb. whole wheat pasta (I used angel hair)
1 ½ lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
½ lb. asparagus, trimmed
3 TB olive oil, divided
2 TB balsamic vinegar
2 pinches of salt
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 small shallot, chopped
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 TB butter
2 TB flour
2 cups dry white wine
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
½ tsp ground black pepper
6 oz. cambozola cheese
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 TB fresh lemon juice (about half a lemon)
¼ cup fresh parsley, minced

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a roasting pan, toss the Brussels sprouts and asparagus with 2 TB of olive oil, the balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt. Roast the vegetable mixture in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until they are soft and have a nice golden brown color, tossing every about 10 minutes to ensure they brown evenly.
  2. Now would be a good time to get a large pot of water boiling for your pasta. The sauce only takes about 15 minutes, not counting the prep for the mise en place, so might want to wait until the vegetables have a good head start in the oven before starting.
  3. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, sauté the onion and shallot in the remaining 1 TB of olive oil and pinch of salt until they are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the black pepper and red pepper flakes, stir, and cook for one more minute.
  4. Now would be a good time to drop your pasta, if you haven’t done it yet.
  5. Clear a space in the pan and add the butter. When it has started to melt down, add the flour and mix them together to form a paste. Let the paste cook for a minute or two to get rid of the raw flour taste. Add the wine and bring the mixture to a simmer. Let the mixture cook until it has thickened and the wine has reduced by about half, about 3 minutes.
  6. Turn the heat down to low and add the cheeses, stirring until they are fully melted and incorporated into the sauce. Stir in the lemon juice, parsley, and roasted asparagus and Brussels sprouts. Stir in the cooked pasta drained straight from the pot, you can use a little of the starchy pasta water if you want to thin out the sauce at all.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Just a Giveaway

It's that time again, folks!  CSN stores is sponsoring another giveaway on this here humble food blog.   As you may recall, CSN stores sells, um, everything - from cookware (ahem, my personal fave thing to shop for) to swing sets!  So just like last time, one lucky winner will be awarded a one-time-use $35 gift certificate, good at any of CSN’s 200+ online stores.

To enter leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite thing to do with avocados besides guacamole. My very good friend might have an avocado tree that might be in bloom, and she might be the giving sort of person, and so I might have a few dozen (ok, more like 7 or 8) avocados ripening in my kitchen that are going to need a very permanent place in my belly sometime very soon.  Please make sure you provide an email address if there isn’t one linked to your profile.

For additional entries, do one or all of the following, then come back and leave a separate comment for each, letting me know the deed is done.
  1. Become a fan of (“Like”) Bananas for Bourbon on Facebook, and if you already are, just say so!
  2. Subscribe to my blog via an RSS feed (just click that “Follow” button in the toolbar on the right), and if you already do, just say so!
  3. Post a link to this giveaway on your blog, and let me know about it.

The rules: open to US and Canada residents only, as that is where CSN store's products ship. The giveaway closes this Sunday, February 20th at 12:01pm Pacific Time. The winner will be selected by a random number generator and announced (and contacted!) sometime after that.

I don't have a recipe fit to print just yet, but don't worry, there are a few in the pipeline.  If all goes to plan, you'll be seeing a new recipe and a winner by the end of the long weekend.