Everyday Gourmet (1/7/10)

Fire and ice

Jan. 7, 2010

By Kim Dannies

My Bikram yoga teacher, Kelly, ends class with a rift on Aristotle: “Everything in moderation, even moderation.” During the past holiday season I followed her wisdom carefully, and while I’ve enjoyed every morsel of my chocolate macaroons, rare roast beef and lobster mac ‘n cheese (all in moderation, of course), I’m now hot to detox from the flow of artery clogging foods.

During the frigid month of January, more robust vegetarian dishes will be bubbling on my stove. Some will feature lentils, barley and wild rice, while others showcase pasta and polenta. All of them will have lots of spice, heat, cheese and vegetables — roasted, sautéed and pureed — to crank up the nutritional value of each dish.

To ward off icy evenings, introduce a little fire to your belly with this moderately spicy pureed pasta sauce. It is loaded with health enhancing garlic, onion, orange zest and rosemary; the mushrooms and Parmesan “meat bits” provide umami — the flavor that transforms a basic dish into a truly satisfying meal.

Red Pepper and Parmesan Pasta

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan. Roughly chop 2 sweet onions and add to the pan. Sauté 15 minutes. Add 6 minced garlic cloves. Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup of hearty red wine or stock, scraping up browned bits. Mince the zest of 1 small orange and 1/4 cup of fresh rosemary leaves. Add to sauté pan.

Add 1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes, 1/2 cup orange juice, 1/4 cup vodka and 1 12-ounce jar of roasted red peppers, drained and roughly chopped. Cut a palm-sized hunk off of a Parmesan cheese block (include the rind) and add to sauce. Add 2 pinches of kosher salt and slightly less than 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Cover and simmer on low 20 to 30 minutes until cheese is pliable.

Meanwhile, slice 10 ounces of Crimini mushrooms and sauté in 1 tablespoon of olive oil for 20 minutes; reserve.

Remove Parmesan chunk from sauce and cut into small, soft bites; reserve. Puree sauce until smooth. Add the mushrooms and Parmesan bites, and 1 tablespoon of cream. While gently reheating, adjust for seasonings and pepper heat. Serve over whole wheat pasta; serves 4 to 6.

 Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three college-aged daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.