Pear Prosciutto Pasta with Goat Cheese and Walnuts

Darren has a subscription to Runner’s World magazine, and it often has really good and healthy recipes in it.  This weekend he decided that he wanted to make us a pasta dish from the magazine.  Darren isn’t the most savvy in the kitchen, most likely because I’m a “Kitchen Commando” (his words) and I don’t really let him do much cooking, but it turned out the recipe was for a pasta salad more than a pasta meal.  I used to ingredients and the idea of the recipe and added a few more ingredients and turned it into a really amazing hot pasta dish.

Here is what I did:

I started by chopping about 100 grams of prosciutto into thin strips. (While I was prepping and cooking the “sauce” I had a large pot of water on the stove to boil, I cooked about 6 cups of penne pasta as I was preparing the rest).

Thinly chopped prosciutto

Thinly chopped prosciutto

 

I then sliced about 2 cups worth of fennel, really thin.

Thinly sliced fennel

Thinly sliced fennel

 

Next I minced 2 cloves of garlic very finely.  We happened to get some fresh, organic garlic in our harvest box this week, and wow, what a difference in taste!

Beautiful, local, organic garlic

Beautiful, local, organic garlic

 

I put the prosciutto, the fennel, and the garlic into a frying pan that had been heating up with about a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.  I sauteed this until the fennel started to soften up a bit.

Sauteing until the fennel softens

Sauteing until the fennel softens

 

Next I peeled and thinly sliced 2 pears and added the sliced pears into the frying pan, continuing to saute lightly over a medium heat.

Added in thinly sliced pears

Added in thinly sliced pears

 

Next, I added about a 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts into the frying pan and continued sauteing.

Toss in some walnuts

Toss in some walnuts

Continue to saute

Continue to saute

 

Next, I chopped up about 2 cups of fresh argula and tossed that into the frying pan, sauteing until the leaves were wilted.

Adding arugula

Adding arugula

Still sauteing

Still sauteing

Arugula starting to wilt

Arugula starting to wilt

 

(It’s starting to look like the toppings for a really delicious gourmet pizza! I may have to try that sometime!)

 

At this point, my penne was cooked to a nice al dente texture.  You don’t want your noodles too soft or they get a bit starchy.  I drained the pasta (rinsing it under cold water to halt the cooking process), returned it to the pot and turned the heat off under the frying pan.

Drained penne

Drained penne pasta

 

Next, I added about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar to the pasta and tossed it over a low heat.  I then added in the contents of the frying pan, and continued to toss, adding in a good few cranks of freshly ground pepper.

Adding the "sauce" to the pasta

Adding the “sauce” to the pasta

Tossing over low heat

Tossing over low heat

 

I then added a liberal amount (maybe 1/3 of a cup, okay probably more, I love goat cheese) of crumbled goat cheese.

Adding in some goat cheese

Adding in some goat cheese

 

I continued to toss the pasta until the goat cheese started to melt into the pasta a little bit.

YUM!  Goat cheese makes everything 100% more delicious!

YUM! Goat cheese makes everything 100% more delicious!

 

Then, I plated and served.

The finished product.

The finished product

 

I’ll admit, as I was making this, I was a bit skeptical.  It could have been so wrong, but I got lucky and it was SO right.  The licorice flavour of the fennel was very mild and subtle, and the saltiness of of the prosciutto and the goat cheese totally balanced the slight sweetness of the pear.  It was so good.  A kitchen win.  It was even good cold, and also as reheated leftovers (just tossed it in a frying pan with a bit of EVOO).

Try this.  You’ll thank me.

 

 

Black Bean Quesadillas – My (very regular) Answer to Meatless Monday

Meatless Mondays are relatively new in our house.  I grew up with a dad who was the director of Engineering at Schneider’s, so meat was just the regular, and one of my fondest childhood memories were getting together with the extended family every winter and making sausages in one of my aunt’s basement kitchens.  My one attempt at being a vegetarian in grade six or seven was quickly squashed because, steak and ribs and bacon and salami (and by my dad telling me I was ridiculous)!  So along comes the idea of Meatless Monday and when Darren first suggested it, I got downright defensive, but I LOVE black beans, so once I calmed down, I started Googling recipe ideas.

With some experimentation, I came up with these quesadillas.  They are delicious.  You may not even notice that there is no meat.  I like to pair them with a salad, usually with salsa ranch dressing for some added Tex-Mex flair.

Start by chopping up about 1/2 of a sweet onion, a jalapeno pepper, and 1/2 a red bell pepper.  I saute these lightly in a bit of extra virgin olive oil.  Once the peppers and onions are soft, I transfer the mixture to a bowl and mix in a can of black beans that has been drained and rinsed.

Black beans with cooked onions and peppers

Black beans with cooked onions and peppers

I then mix in a generous amount of medium or hot salsa (enough to moisten the black bean mixture), and a shake or two of chili powder.  I then mix in a handful (maybe a 1/2 cup) of frozen corn for colour and flavour.  This mixture is what you will fill your tortilla shells with.

Filling all ready to go

Filling all ready to go

Next, I start heating up a frying pan, and give it a good spray of Pam (or any generic cooking spray).  When the pan is hot, I place one tortilla shell (you can use white or whole wheat, whatever your preference) into the pan to start browning it up.

photo 1-1Next, toss a sprinkling of shredded cheese (if the pre-shredded Mexican blend cheese is on sale, I use this, otherwise use marble, or cheddar, or whatever cheese you like best) onto half of the tortilla shell.

photo 2-1Next, scoop a liberal helping of the bean mixture on top of the cheese.

photo 3-1

Then, top with more cheese.

photo 4-1Next, fold the tortilla so that the filling is in the middle.

photo 5Then, brown this tortilla pocket of deliciousness on both sides (the cheese should start to melt).  Put the browned quesadilla onto a cookie sheet.  Repeat as many times as you need to to make the number of quesadillas you need.

photo 5-1The beauty is, you can do all of this ahead of time.  If you aren’t ready to eat, you can put the cookie sheets in the fridge until you are ready.  Or better yet, make some extras, wrap each individual quesadilla in a few layers of plastic wrap, and freeze (makes some quick and easy single serve quesadillas).

If you are ready to eat, put the quesadillas (on a cookie sheet) into an over pre-heated to 350 degrees and bake for about 10-12 minutes,  If cooking from frozen, bake for about 20-25 minutes, flipping the quesadillas halfway through.

Once you pull them from the oven, let sit for a few minutes and then cut into quarters (I like to use a pizza cutter for this).  Serve with salsa, sour cream, guacamole, or any combination of the three.

1033249144001_2000891397001_900944612-147-1354318539781

These actually get me excited for Monday!  Try them and let me know what you think!