I’ve loved to cook for years. I distinctly remember discovering that I liked being in a kitchen in my Home Economics class in Middle School. I will forever be indebted to Mrs. Dobos for introducing me to scones and teaching me how to make pie. But there were stretches of years where I lived alone and wasn’t dating anyone seriously, and let’s face it – cooking for one isn’t fun. You either put tons of time and effort into producing very little food, or you end up eating the same thing for a week straight. I love leftovers, but to a point.
Enter Adam. Ever since we started dating last year, and especially since he moved in last September, I’ve been cooking almost every day. And I love it. I love having the time to cook. I love having someone to cook for. I love trying new recipes. I love that we both eat everything and that he’s open to any and every culinary experiment and adventure.
Last weekend we were both feeling a dash of spring fever, and wanted to spend our Sunday evening cooking a spring-like meal together, and so we decided to consult our resources – my bookshelf overflowing with beautiful cookbooks full of glossy images of mouthwatering food, and, predictably, Pinterest. We quickly decided we wanted an appetizer and a pasta, both featuring green-tasting things, but nothing that would take over an hour to prepare.
The first thing we hit on was a recipe for Green Beans with Charred Onions, from Mario Batali’s Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking.
The photograph screamed seasonal deliciousness, and the recipe seemed simple but ultimately satisfying. I then remembered a recipe I’d pinned recently for pasta tossed in a creamy avocado-spinach-basil pesto that just coats each noodle in green avocado goodness. (I heart avocado.) We thought we had a winning combo.
And we did. Both dishes were super-simple to prepare, and both turned out amazingly flavorful and tasting of Spring. Exactly what we were going for.
Green Beans with Charred Onions (adapted from Mario Batali, Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking)
1 pound young green beans or haricots verts
2 medium sweet onions, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla (we thought this was too much onion – eyeball it to your liking)
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot and add 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Add the beans and blanch until crisp-tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and cool under cold running water; drain well.
Halve the onions lengthwise and trim off the ends. Cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide slices.
Heat a dry 12-inch saute pan over medium-high heat until very hot. Add the onions and saute until charred in spots but still crunchy, 4 to 6 minutes. During the last minute or so, add the beans, stirring and tossing to warm them through. Transfer the beans and onions to a large bowl.
Whisk the balsamic vinegar, orange juice, and oil together in a small bowl. Pour over the beans and onions, tossing to coat. Let stand for at least 10 minutes, or up to 1 hour, before serving.
Sprinkle the beans with sea salt and serve.
Creamy Avocado Pasta (adapted from Blissful Eats with Tina Jeffers)
1 medium ripe avocado, pitted
1/2 a lime
3 garlic cloves
1/2 a jalapeno pepper
handful of fresh basil
handful of baby spinach
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
handful to half a bag of baby spinach
basil leaves to garnish
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still al dente, 9 -11 minutes. Drain and reserve 1 cup of the cooking water. Put the handful-to-half-bag of spinach in the bottom of a serving bowl, place the spaghetti on top, and toss for a few minutes to wilt the spinach.
While the pasta is cooking make the avocado sauce. Scoop out the flesh from the avocado and place in a food processor. Zest the lime and add along with the lime juice, garlic, jalapeno, basil, handful of spinach, salt and pepper. Drizzle in oil and blend until smooth.
Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss everything together, adding a little cooking water to loosen the sauce as needed (I used about 1/4 to 1/2 a cup). Top with the grated Parmesan and basil and serve.