Dinners in Under an Hour

Some people are impressed that we both have full time jobs and still have time to make dinner.  It’s not so hard if you’re organized and prepare beforehand.  Some quick dinners we’ve been enjoying lately have been:

japanese style pastaJapanese-style Spaghetti (previously written about here)

If you’re fast with washing and chopping vegetables, the topping and ‘sauce’ part of the pasta will be done by the time the pasta has been boiled.

farro, chickpeas, white beans, and cauliflower greensFarro with cannellini, chickpeas, and cauliflower greens

This one takes some prep work, but luckily I already had a big bowl of beans cooked up from the weekend so it just took me an hour to throw it together. Shout-out goes to the Italian mama-san I met while picking farro and beans at Guidi Marcello’s who gave me this recipe. She told me one of her favorite things to do with farro is to cook it up with cannellini beans, chickpeas, and then stir in some pesto. I improvised on that and made a creamy, hearty, risotto-like thing. I may write up the recipe later.

Cauliflower Pesto

We’re growing (or trying to) cauliflower in our yard. In retrospect, maybe I should have grown vegetables that were hard to get at the market, but then, I wouldn’t have discovered the delicious flavor of cauliflower greens.

Who knew that cauliflower greens could be so tasty?

Our cauliflower plants don’t seem to be producing the flower part of cauliflower, but they are giving off a lot of big, floppy leaves. Internet research showed that the greens were edible.  I had the first batch in a Korean tofu stew, which was quite good.  This second batch, I blanched and made into pesto, which was also very good.

cauliflower greens pestoCauliflower greens, garlic, olive oil, toasted pine nuts, a pinch of nutritional yeast, and salt.

Kinoko & Kaiware Spaghetti

I saw that some of my friends had visited Curry House in Monterey Park and while I was browsing their menu, the kinoko and kaiware (mushrooms and radish sprouts) spaghetti caught my eye. It was one of the few vegetarian dishes on the menu and then I remembered that my friend Yuko made it for us when we had dinner at her house a few years ago.

mushroom spaghetti and radish soup

The dish is flavorful and satisfying, but also quick and easy to make — the perfect combination. I sauteed sliced Japanese chives, which are between a big green onion and a leek, in olive oil and lots of black pepper, then added in two sliced shiitakes (dried and reconstituted) and a sliced maitake. The trick is to make sure there’s enough oil in the pan that the mushrooms don’t dry up. Let that slowly cook on a low heat while the pasta is being cooked.

When the spaghetti is still undercooked (only a little of the white is showing when you bite into it), drain it into the pan with the mushrooms and chive/leeks. Mix together a few tablespoons of soy sauce and about half as much mirin, then pour that onto the noodles. Pour in a ladle full of pasta water, and then mix together on low heat. The pasta should absorb the water/soy-sauce/oil mixture and finish cooking. If it gets too dry, put in more pasta water.

The dish is done when the pasta is to your desired done-ness. Top with some grated radish, shredded toasted seaweed, and lots of radish sprouts.

I also made a simple radish soup to go along with the noodles. The soup was nothing but chopped up radish, the greens, water, and the mushroom soaking liquid from the dried shiitake. The radish and greens gives the soup a mustardy, almost spicy taste, which balances out the earthiness of the mushroom liquid.

Will declared this dish “I would order this at a restaurant” although he also added “but only a fusion restaurant” after, so I’m not sure if that’s high praise or not.