Friday, April 2, 2010

The elusive pasta dish emerges from our kitchen!

I have been trying to come up with creative and delicious ways to use the abundance of chard that shows up in our weekly box. We have eaten stews, gratin, tacos, and more. Tonight we had a lovely tortellini dish with ribbons of chard and caramelized onion, plus a confetti of carrot and a sprinkling of crunchy hazelnuts. The dish is brightened by the addition of lemon zest, and finished with cheese and a dash or two of balsamic vinegar. This is my kind of comfort food - delicious, filling, and veggie-friendly, and my husband’s preferred way to eat pasta. He isn’t a red-sauce-and-noodles kind of guy (too may jars of Prego in his childhood?). But that is okay by me when we get to eat this kind of pasta dish instead!

I was inspired by Heidi Swanson’s take on pasta salad, but I served this as a warm dish. I did, however, eat the leftovers cold the next day - still delicious! Heidi garnishes her dish with butternut squash croutons. Since we’re firmly in spring, I decided to saute carrots from my box and add those in lieu of the croutons. They were a sweet addition. I also used a pesto tortellini from Trader Joe's, but you could really use any type you like.

Tortellini with Chard, Caramelized Onion, and Carrots
Adapted from Heidi Swanson

12 to 16 ounces tortellini
Olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
3 yellow onions, very thinly sliced
1 big bunch swiss chard
3 large carrots
1/2 cup hazelnuts or other nut of choice
a couple ounces of white cheddar or other cheese of choice, cut into small cubes (this is what I did) or shredded
zest of one lemon
balsamic vinegar
grated parmesan for garnishing

Make the caramelized onions [I use Martha Stewart's fail-proof method]: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onions and stir. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1 teaspoon sugar and salt and pepper to taste, stirring to incorporate into the onions. Raise the heat slightly and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. [If I still had my gas stove, I would say this is somewhere between medium and medium-high - alas, I don't, so I will fiddle with the heat a few times, bringing it up to medium-high for a minute or two, then back down to medium - just be very careful not to burn the onions! Browning is fine, burning is not.] The onions are done when they brown and almost jam-like, very much reduced in size. Set the onions aside.

While the onions are cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Salt the water and add the tortellinis. Cook according to package instructions, taking care not to overcook (mine cooked for about 5 minutes). Drain and add a bit of olive oil, stirring to coat. This will help prevent sticking.

Heat a splash of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the carrots and cook, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes, until tender. Add the chard and cook just until wilted, stirring almost constantly. Add the caramelized onions and stir to incorporate. Add the raviolis and stir everything to distribute the components evenly throughout the dish. Stir in the cubed cheese, most of the hazelnuts, lemon zest, and a few splashes of balsamic vinegar. Season to taste with S&P. Keep the mixture over the heat until you think the ravioli have heated back up. Serve garnished with parmesan cheese and the remaining hazelnuts.

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