Normally when I get a new cookbook I start with the introduction, but I was in a hurry to get the menu planned for this past week and the grocery list done. Zoe and I picked two recipes from the section on Hearty Meals and took off running. I plugged them in the menu plan, into the grocery list and jumped into making them, never thinking twice again about the introduction, which I am reading now.
One of the things which attracted us to this book was that it looked like everyday food, which was one of the authors goals. What we decided I would make for us this week was the Rigatoni and Vegan Sausage Casserole and Pasta Chili Bake. One of the things I appreciated was that she shared information about storage times for both the refrigerator and freezer, not that ours will ever make it to the freezer. However, one of the things that I realized was that while these recipes were going to be exactly the kind of food that Zoe loves, they were not going to push or challenge me in the kitchen or help me introduce Zoe to new and different foods. Although it is going to help both of us develop a new relationship with lentils.
Interestingly, the first two things which caught my attention were not anything in or about the recipe, but what was not in them. There was no mention in either pasta recipe about adding salt to your water before adding your pasta. I have always been taught it is your one chance to flavor the pasta. So I added salt to the water before making the pasta for either dish. The other thing which was missing for me was the reminder to add salt and pepper to taste. I have seen that in just about every recipe I have encountered, so not seeing it made me step back and wonder why. Not that there is anything wrong with either not being there, it was just different. It reminded me of the first time I went to visit a church, while in seminary and they did not practice communion every week. After a while I got used to how it was done there, not good or bad, just different
One thing I learned from both recipes, was that like a fine wine, they improved in taste and flavor over time. However, we needed to add some additional moisture to both. So I added more salsa to the Pasta Chili Bake and I had some leftover tomato basil sauce to add to the Rigatoni and Vegan Sausage Casserole. I am not sure if the dish would have been moist enough had we let them sit overnight before eating them, but we didn’t. I did notice that the pasta seemed to absorb the moisture in the sauce the longer it sat in the refrigerator. It reminded me and my spiritual journey. The longer I sit and immerse myself in a lesson, the more I learn.
I found that with both recipes I got to skip a few steps because of the Pampered Chef products I was using. With both recipes, I cooked the pasta in our new Multipot with Collapsible Strainer. Since the pasta cooks in the strainer, I could drain it in the pot and then add the pasta into the 12” Nonstick Skillet. I could have even baked it in this since our cookware doubles as bakeware, but with the Pasta Chili Bake I poured it into our Large Rectangular Baker, covered it with the Large Stretch Fit Silicone Cover and baked according to directions. I am glad I used the cover as it helped hold in some of the moisture.
I found the same thing with the Rigatoni and Vegan Sausage Casserole. I used the Manual Food Processor to chop my onion, minced my garlic in the Garlic Press, and sliced my mushrooms in the Quick Slice. Since our ladle holds about ½ cup, it was easy to measure out 1/3 of the sauce, although I found that ½ cup of sauce did little to coat my pasta. This time I baked half in the Medium Rectangular Baker, covered with the Medium Stretch Fit Silicone Cover, it was still dry and did not look like pasta casseroles I have made in the past. The balance I placed in our 3 cup Leakproof Casserole, which are both freezable and oven safe. I mixed in some additional sauce to both containers and found that when I reheated it the next three times, the pasta was moister. Problem solved.
So now I am going to do what I normally do first and finish reading the introduction. Maybe there I will learn the answer to one other question, why always coconut oil. Nothing wrong, just different. Can’t wait to see what recipe Zoe picks out for me to make this week.