It was the desire for more color that took an already delicious pasta dish to a higher level.
I was to prepare a large batch of linguine tossed with sauteed Swiss chard, pine nuts, golden raisins, and red pepper flakes, always a favorite for its healthy dose of green things in pasta, with a little sweet-and-heat.
It was one of several dishes I cooked recently for a local dinner held at Kipp Crusa and Tallahassee May’s farm.
Tally either grew or gathered all the lush produce for the meal. When she delivered the locally grown goodies to my home, she brought in a sack bulging with chard: long white stems with large dark green leaves that resembled ceremonial fans for an Egyptian deity. Fabulous.
And yet, she lamented the lack of Rainbow Chard, a variety loved for its brilliant, almost iridescent yellow, pink, and purple stems. “I hope you don’t mind, but I brought you some beets.”
Mind? No, never would I mind such a thing.
The beet greens and chard cooked beautifully together, the beet’s magenta stem and veined leaves providing a lively color burst. And, a little more. In contrast to the supple chard, the beets added an assertive, earthy bite to this rustic dish.
Pasta-wise, I have typically made this with whole wheat linguine. For Tally’s dinner, I chose to continue the mix-up by using whole wheat, regular, and spinach linguine—a blend sometimes referred to as “Straw and Hay.”
This is a discovery worth repeating—-and sharing.
Today, I’ve got small quantities of Swiss chard and Red Russian Kale harvested from my urban farmette, plus a few spring onions grown tall and fat from all our rain. I’ll toss in the leaves from a beet bunch in my fridge–in short order, this festive straw and hay will be ready to enjoy for dinner! The remaining beets will turn up in the next day or two in a salad or side dish.
Color begins releasing when you saute the stems with spring onions.
The greens like to swim in the stock.
Greens, Straw and Hay
3-4 T. Olive Oil
3 Spring Onions, chopped-use both white and green parts
1 bunch Swiss Chard, Beet Greens, Red Russian Kale (any or all in combination)
cleaned, dried, destemmed:chop stems like celery and set aside; coarsely chop leaves
You’ll have 2 heaping cups of chopped leaves.
1 t. Sea Salt
1/4 t. Red Pepper Flakes
1 cup Vegetable Stock
1/4 cup Golden Raisins
1/4 cup Pine Nuts
Pasta Assortment: use about 2 oz. of each (6 oz. total)
Linguine, Spinach Fettuccine, Whole Wheat Capellini
Heat a large skillet, add olive oil. SautÃ© spring onions and the chopped stems from your selection of greens on medium heat for 5-7 minutes. Sprinkle with sea salt and red pepper flakes. Stir in coarsely chopped leaf greens and sautÃ© for another 2 minutes. Pour in vegetable stock and stir well. Leaves will collapse. Add golden raisins and toasted pine nuts. Toss throughout the mixture. Set aside.
Bring a 4-5 qt. pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook your sturdier pasta first: follow package directions. Whole wheat linguine takes 10 minutes, regular takes 7-8. Do a little math, and figure the timing so that you can add the second pasta after 2 minutes so that all is done at the same time. Drain, and reserve 1 cup liquid.
Gently toss pastas with sauteed greens, insuring a good distribution of all the elements throughout. If the mixture doesn’t seem wet enough, add a little of the reserved pasta water.
You may want to grate a little parmegiano-regianno over the top, if you like. It is delicious, of course. But there’s enough good flavors–and textures—in this dish that you may not want to.
Serves 2 as main dishes or 4 as first course.
A tangle of flavor and color…