More Pasta and Veg - may 3, 2010

We had a busy weekend, as usual, with one of the highlights being Urban Sprouts' Greens, Eggs & Jam brunch on Saturday. My husband, kids and I rode our bikes along Golden Gate Park's panhandle bike path over to Ida B. Wells High School in the Western Addition for the party. The greens and eggs were fabulous - lots of yummy food from NOPA, Radio Africa & Kitchen and Contigo Restaurants, and the bluegrass band was fun. My daughter was stumped when asked to identify their instruments - "a violin and three guitars" she told me. But it was actually a fiddle, mandolin, banjo and one guitar.

The best part of the event was meeting students from San Francisco's International Studies Academy who were preparing pesto from herbs they had grown. As you may know, pesto pasta is my children's favorite meal. They watched, wide-eyed, as the industrial strength blender mixed a green paste, bright enough to rival last month's disastrous Bean Stew with Herb Pesto. But this pesto was delicious. The big kids mixed it into the most humongous bowl of pasta I've ever seen, and served it up to my little kids straight away. 

Now we have another pesto to add to our usual basil, pine nut and garlic variety. I'll just have to keep bugging Urban Sprouts' garden teacher for the recipe.

Last night for dinner we had pasta with vegetables, which is becoming standard fare at our house. Its quick and easy and uses up lots of vegetables. My husband mixed up some appeasement meatballs with the kids, and that was dinner. The meatballs weren't as popular as usual, I suspect because the onion wasn't chopped finely enough and there was insufficient salt. They ate the pasta, leaving most of the vegetables behind. 

Meatballs: (adapted from The Spatulatta Cookbook)

This one is fun to make with kids. I'm fine having them mix the meat barehanded, as long as they scrub up well before and after. If you aren't, give them some disposable gloves or plastic sandwich bags to put on their hands.

1/2 pound ground meat (pork, beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, sausage, whatever)

1/2 pound of another ground meat (again, pork, beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, sausage, whatever)

1/2 cup breadcrumbs (you can make these by pulsing a couple heels of bread in the Cuisinart)

1 egg

1 small onion, very finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt (more or less, its hard to say)

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat the oven to 350˚. Put both meats and the breadcrumbs in a large bowl. Have your kid break the egg into a small bowl, remove any eggshell bits that may have gotten into it, then add it to the meat in the big bowl, along with the onion, garlic, salt and pepper. 

Use your hands to mix and mash all the meat together, making sure the salt and pepper and onions are distributed throughout. Take handfuls of the mixture and form them into ping-pong sized balls. My husband likes to use an ice cream scoop for uniformity. Place them 2" apart from each other on a cookie sheet. 

Bake until the meatballs are browned on all sides and smell really good.

Pasta with Spring Vegetables:

You can make this with just about any pasta and any vegetables.

1 lb or so fresh fettuccine

1 bunch asparagus, sliced into 1" pieces

a couple handful very young fava beans, shelled (you can eat the inner skin along with the bean when they are very young)

a couple handful very fresh shelling peas, shelled (you can sub in frozen if necessary)

2 Tablespoons olive oil

parsley, finely chopped

lemon, for squeezing

parmesan cheese, grated

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Also bring a small pot with about an inch of water to boil. When the small pot boils, drop in the vegetables and let them boil for three minutes. Then dump the pot into a colander in the sink. Fill a bowl large enough to hold the vegetables with cold water and ice and dump the veggies in. This stops the cooking process quickly, to insure they don't overcook. 

Boil the pasta, reserve a 1/4 cup or so of the water and drain it in the sink, then dump it back into the pot. Add the vegetables, olive oil, salt and pepper and some of the pasta water. Stir it up and put it in a large bowl, garnish with the parsley, cheese, more pepper and a bit of lemon if you like.


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