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This is what a genuine thirty-minute meal looks like.

Dinner at the Disdain manse this evening was a colorful, healthy, economical, and realistic dish of whole wheat pasta with chard and toasted pine nuts, prepared in twenty-nine minutes and change. It did not involve any wacky uses of convenience foods, nominal dressing-up of prepared items, juggling a dozen products between the cupboard and the stove, or bacterial cross-contamination. With the exception of the chard, which I bought at the farmer’s market over the weekend, all of the ingredients are cupboard staples, and since it’s just me and the Lord (I mean Mr. Disdain, not Jehovah), there is enough left over for us to have tomorrow’s lunch taken care of as well. And I only have one pasta pot, one wide saute pan, a pair of tongs, a ladle, a cutting board, and a chef’s knife to clean up.

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Rainbow Chard and Pine Nuts
(Serves 4)

8 oz whole wheat spaghetti or other pasta

1 bunch rainbow chard (regular or Swiss chard work fine)
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
Kosher salt to taste

Start a large pot of water boiling for the pasta. Once the water boils, salt generously and add the pasta.

Meanwhile, chop the stems of the chard thinly, and slice the leafy part into ribbons. Mince the garlic.

In a wide saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the chard stems, garlic, pepper flakes, and two good pinches of salt. Saute until the stems begin to turn tender, then add the shredded greens, in two batches. Continue to saute until the greens begin to wilt, then add the balsamic vinegar and a large ladleful of the water from the pasta pot. Stir occasionally until the greens are tender, adding more pasta water as necessary. Once the pasta is cooked, remove it from the pot with tongs and drop it into the saute pan, stirring over the heat until all the liquid has evaporated.

Add the pine nuts, toss again to combine, and serve.

Notes: The balsamic vinegar may sound like a weird addition, but greens really like a bit of acidity, and it’s perfectly traditional in Italian cooking to go for the agrodolce (sweet and sour) effect that way. I frequently emphasize the effect by adding some golden raisins, briefly soaked in hot water while I’m preparing the other ingredients to soften them a bit.