Monday, July 19, 2010

Grilled Veggie Pasta

I am happy to say that this is the recipe that finally got me over my aversion to zucchini and squash. I started making this dish last summer, when veggies were plentiful and I didn't know quite what to do with them all.

Here at our house we're huge fans of Penzey's Spices, and we are fortunate enough to have a retail location about 35 minutes from home. They have a mail-order catalog which we subscribe to as well, and each issue comes full of recipes created both by home cooks and by Penzey's to showcase their products. This meal was designed to highlight the aromatic flavors of their Pasta Sprinkle and their Freshly Ground Pepper, and it accomplishes just that.

The dish is very simple, and it is very adaptable to what you have on hand in your own home. You start out by grilling an array of vegetables, cooking up a pot of pasta, and then combining everything with plenty of fresh pepper, garlic powder, Pasta Sprinkle, olive oil, and vinegar. It's unbelievably fresh, flavorful, and satisfying despite the fact that it's completely vegetarian. We made this by sauteeing the veggies in a skillet whenever we made it last summer, but now I actually own an indoor grill pan. I used the grill pan for this dish and we thought it made a huge difference! Besides giving those veggies the festive grill marks, I was able to cook the veggies until they were tender but held their shape and were still quite crisp. Since I don't like my zucchini mushy, I loved this cooking method.

I do wish the pictures were a bit more colorful for you; I just used the veggies I had here at home, and there was a lot of green and yellow going on! This dish would be great, I'm sure, with just about any grilled vegetable you can think of, but I usually use a combination of onions, bell peppers, and zucchini/squash. The original recipe, which I have provided below, suggests other veggies that would be yummy, as well. I threw in two jalapenos this time, and I loved the added kick they provided. Garden-fresh jalapenos taste so much better than their storebought counterparts! I'm being spoiled by my in-laws!

No matter what veggies you try, just make sure you try this sometime before summer's over. If I may be so bold, I declare that satisfaction will be guaranteed. And even if it doesn't work out, it'll still help you use up that summer produce!

Grilled Veggie Pasta

adapted from Penzey's Spices (Harvest 2009 issue, p. 40)

makes 4-6 servings

1 lb. dry pasta (any shape)
2 lbs. fresh garden vegetables - your choice of any of the following:
-1 small green zucchini
-1 small yellow zucchini
-1 large red onion (I had yellow)
-1 red bell pepper
-1 yellow bell pepper (I had green)
-1 small eggplant
-1 (6-ounce) package whole button mushrooms (optional, but they add great flavor)
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1-2 Tbsp. Pasta Sprinkle (a combination of basil, oregano, thyme, and garlic)
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic, divided
1/2-1 tsp. freshly ground pepper, divided
1/4-1/2 tsp. salt (optional)
1-2 Tbsp. balsamic or red wine vinegar (I use up to 1/4 cup)

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta, and preheat an outdoor grill or a grill pan to medium-high. Wash and dry all veggies, then cut in pieces large enough to rest on the grill without falling through the grating. Place veggies in a single layer on a pan and coat with the 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 tsp. granulated garlic, and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Toss to coat both sides well.

2. When the water comes up to a boil, add the pasta and cook according to the package directions. Drain and rinse very briefly. Place the pasta in a large bowl and toss with the remaining olive oil, along with 1 Tbsp. of the Pasta Sprinkle and the remaining granulated garlic. Cover and set aside while the veggies are grilling.

3. Grill the veggies in a single layer, in batches, so as not to overcrowd the pan or grill. Cook over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes, then turn them. Cook for another 2-4 minutes (depending on which veggies you're using and how large the pieces are), until the vegetables are tender but still firm enough to have a crunch. Remove vegetables to the pasta bowl and add the remaining Pasta Sprinkle, pepper, garlic, and salt (if using). Toss everything together, add the vinegar, then toss again. Divide into shallow bowls and serve.

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