When my husband and I first got together Sunday evenings were reserved for us and for home-cooked meals. I wasn't a very experienced cook back then, not having had much of an opportunity to stretch my culinary wings at all. Some of those early dishes were elaborate but many were more humble, ordinary dishes and they were fine. The important thing was that we were together and enjoying something that only the two of us could share. As time went on my confidence grew, and our needs changed. The Sunday dinners could be expanded to include others - especially after I moved in with him and I could fit more than two humans at the table. (Even two was a squeeze in that apartment, but it was mine.) They certainly became more elaborate as a matter of course, maybe to keep them special. After all, I was always cooking for us now. Then we were always entertaining on Sundays, during the summer and spring and fall anyway. Sunday dinner had become a Production, something to be described with Capital Letters.
Last week a minor disaster - it might have been okay, but I'm not generally willing to take a chance with this sort of thing - resulted in one night's dinner being discarded. We needed something to eat that night and the Sunday main course had just been finished. (Yes, ahead of time.) We ate it that night. Friends of my husband's invited us out the next night, so I moved that night's scheduled dinner to Sunday. That would be this dish. It is a very simple dish, healthy and vegan and hearty at the same time. At first I kind of poked at it, disappointed. It was not the kind of fun, elaborate Sunday Dinner to which I have become accustomed. Then I found myself smiling. My surroundings and circumstances are very different now. The kitchen is much larger, and if we're feeling cramped it's because of the accoutrements of parenthood that never seem to stay put away. There is more to the residence than the kitchen, too, and a slip in the budget no longer means potential disaster. (The cat trying to steal the food is still the same, though.) For a few moments on that night I found myself transported back to a Sunday night in the heady, romantic days early in our relationship, when I was still learning to cook and everything still seemed very new.
I did make a few changes to this recipe. All right, I made a lot of changes to this recipe. Serving it with pasta at all was optional at best according to the original, and of course I used whole wheat pasta. I used quite a lot of garlic. It's flu season and I will put more faith in a healthy diet with lots of garlic than I will in flu shots. (I am not a doctor, and we did get a flu shot for our daughter. I trust the diet more, but I'll take what help I can get.) I originally intended to use sun-dried tomatoes in this dish, which was an innovation. It turns out that the grocery store I used that week didn't have any and I had to use some frankly elderly sun-dried tomatoes I had on hand. (I'm glad I had them, and it cleared up some shelf space.) It gave the dish a dark color that initially I thought might be a turnoff but ultimately pleased me greatly. I later became concerned about the garlic burning so I added a jar of home-canned tomatoes. Finally, I didn't use kale. Yes, I know that the original called for kale, and was in fact pulled from an article about ways to use kale. I got a great deal on organic chard that week and the chard was significantly cheaper than kale. I used it and I'd do it again. I love kale, but I love chard too.
The result was pretty well received, if I do say so myself. My daughter, who has firmly resisted sitting for food for several months now, actually had thirds. Try this some weeknight when you're feeling the need for a healthy pick-me-up. Or try it some Sunday.
Pasta with Chard and Tomatoes (serves 4; approx. $1.45/serving)
1 box whole wheat pasta, prepared according to box instructions
1 large bunch red chard, chopped leaves only (reserve the stalks for another purpose)
1 tablespoon olive oil
10 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tablespoon mixed chopped thyme and marjoram
- Pasta pot and colander
- Large, deep saute pan
- Prepare the pasta according to the instructions on the box.
- Heat the oil in the saute pan.
- Add the garlic and cook over low heat for about two minutes. Watch carefully - you do not want the garlic to burn at all, because burned garlic tastes very very bad.
- Add the sun-dried tomatoes. Saute for about a minute.
- Add the chard and the herbs. Saute 3 - 4 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes with their canning liquid and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer until the pasta is done. The resulting sauce should be thick and dark.
- Transfer the drained pasta to a bowl. Top with the sauce.
- I garnished with a little marjoram. My husband and daughter sprinkle some Pecorino on top. This is a decidedly non-vegan option, but would be very tasty.