Holiday Detox

Thursday, December 29, 2011

I don't know about you, but I think I've had enough holiday cuisine for a while. Especially since I washed it all down with a big glass of eggnog. Always it seems once the holidays are over and a new year is on the horizon, I am more than ready for a little life detox - clean up, reorganize, rethink and revise the past year to make room for a fresh start in the new year. And though there are a million projects and things to do, taking time out to make a healthy dinner is the best way for me to stay healthy and fueled to forge ahead. As usual, after all the holiday treats, I am ready to clean up my eating as well. No need to make drastic diet changes or anything such, but there are certainly some brown rice and roasted veggies dinners on the menu in the near future.

That being said, I thought it would be nice to share a healthy pasta dish that I make probably every other week for dinner, because it is hearty, flavorful and quick to make. I make a few variations of this pasta based on what is in my fridge but it always goes something like this: sauteed onion or shallots, a pinch of red pepper flakes, fresh kale or chard, and one other thing (either cherry tomatoes or sundried tomatoes or olives), all tossed with whole wheat or semolina pasta and topped with Pecorino cheese and pine nuts. There is a everything you need in a satisfying dinner in just this one dish. I follow the recipe template below and swap out likewise ingredients. This time I used up kale and chard and tossed in kalamata olives. I would have to say my favorite combo is whole wheat pasta with the recipe as it is written below.



Penne with Kale, Sun Dried Tomatoes and Pecorino

Serves 6

A quick and simple pasta dish that packs a lot of flavor. This pasta is also great with whole wheat penne.


1 pound penne pasta
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 medium shallots, chopped, about 3/4 cup
1 bunch kale (dino kale preferred), greens separated from stems
1-1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1/2 cup sliced sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
fresh ground pepper
sea salt
1/2 lemon (optional)
1/2 cup Pecorino cheese, grated, plus more for garnish
pine nuts for garnish


Bring a large pot water to a boil. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over low heat. Add the chopped shallots and season with salt and pepper. Cook over low/medium heat, stirring occasionally until soft. Chop the stems of the kale and add to the shallots. Continue to cook until the onions begin to brown and caramelize, about 10 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes.

When the water has come to a rapid boil, add 2 tablespoons of salt and the pasta and cook, according to the package, until al dente, tender. To test the pasta, remove one noodle and bite the center of the noodle; it should be tender but not chalky. Roughly chop the greens of the kale and add to the shallot mixture. Let wilt and gently stir. Add the sun dried tomatoes and their oil. Season with a bit more salt and pepper. When the kale has wilted add the cherry tomatoes halves and turn off the heat. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the greens and tomatoes.

When the pasta is al dente, immediately add the pasta to the sauté pan with the caramelized onions while reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl and add the Pecorino cheese. Taste for more salt and pepper and serve immediately. Top with pine nuts, if desired.

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