Me Man, Me Cook Good Food (recipes for my man)

When it comes to food, my man and I don’t see eye to eye. We both like to eat it, but that is about the extent of the common ground. He will happily gobble up sauce from packets, large chunks of undercooked bell pepper and potatoes dipped in ketchup. I think hot water mixed with powder does not equal food, like my peppers roasted until soft and loathe potatoes. He thinks butter is the root of all evil and the addition of fruit makes most savory dishes better. I believe that salty and sweet are best kept separate and that more butter is better. Perhaps most fundamentally, I feel flavor is the most important thing about food, while he considers it nothing more than a pleasant side-effect of nutrition.

Which would all be fine and dandy if we didn’t share a good few meals per week, and try to do roughly equal amounts of food preparation. (One man-prepared meal to four Laura-prepared meals is an equal division, no?) And while he doesn’t mind eating my food (as long as I go easy on the vinegar), I… am not as kind. Confronted with a pile of raw vegetable chunks floating in grey matter, I have been known to get grumpy. Or even call his cooking unpleasant. Hardly gracious behavior, but there you have it.

And I do feel bad about it, which is why I thought of a solution: I make a list of easy-to-prep foods I like and he chooses from the list when it is his turn to create a meal. I will even go as far as to list only meals that could be considered healthy, to be made with ingredients available at the supermarket. It is genius, I say, and it starts tonight.

First up, three fast pasta dishes. The sauce should be done in approximately the time it takes to boil water for the pasta and there is hardly any chopping involved. If they do get a test drive and look good, I will add pictures.

Pasta with roasted bell pepper sauce

1 jar roasted red peppers
125 ml sour cream or full fat Greek yogurt
2 eggs, optional, as a garnish and source of protein
1 organic smoked chicken breast, optional, as a garnish and source of protein
Enough pasta for two

Start boiling water for the pasta. (Use a large pot so the pasta has room to dance around- it helps with even cooking.) If using the eggs, start boiling water to cook them.

Fish the peppers from the jar and put them in the food mill attachment that comes with the immersion blender. Blitz them for thirty seconds or so and add the sour cream or yogurt (no need to measure the amount- two or three large spoonfuls should do it.) Blitz again until the peppers and dairy form a sauce.

Add the pasta when the water has reached a firm boil and cook for the amount of time the package tells you to. If we’re having eggs, put them in their pan too (after pricking their round ends to let air escape) and boil for seven minutes. Put the pepper sauce in a different small pan and heat gently.

When the eggs are done, run cold water over them and peel them. Chop finely. Alternatively, chop the chicken breast into smallish pieces. (Don’t use both eggs and chicken- it is overkill.)

When the pasta is done, drain and mix with the warm sauce. Divide over two plates and top with eggs or chicken. Serve.

Pasta with artichoke “cream” and pine nuts

1 jar of marinated artichoke hearts (find them near the jars of dried tomatoes, but the cheap supermarket near the station doesn’t have them)
10 pitted green olives
small clove of garlic, peeled
three large spoonfuls of full fat Greek yogurt
3 tbsp pine nuts
enough pasta for two
bag of salad leaves
oil and vinegar to dress leaves

Start boiling water for the pasta. Pasta loves a big pot!

Put the artichokes (minus their oil) in the small food chopper, add the olives and the garlic. Blitz for a minute or so and add the yogurt. Blitz again until thoroughly mixed. It will be a bit chunky, that’s okay.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and boil for the time the package indicates. Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet until light brown. This should take no more than a few minutes. Take them out of the pan when they’re done, because the residual heat in the pan might burn them.

When the pasta is done, drain and leave to cool a little. Dress the salad leaves to taste. Add the artichoke mixture to the pasta, divide over two plates and sprinkle with the pine nuts. Serve, with the salad on the side.

Pasta with tuna-leek-sauce

Adapted from an idea by Jeroen

1 can of tuna (please get the Fishes albacore tuna, in the cardboard package)
2 medium leeks
glug of olive oil
125 ml crème fraiche
1 tbsp of capers, optional
enough pasta for two

Start boiling a large pot of water for the pasta.

Cut the leeks in half along their length and rinse thoroughly. Slice the white and light green parts into thin slices (thin really is better than thick here). Heat the oil in a deep skillet and add the leek. Cook over medium heat until tender.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until done. When there are about five minutes of cooking time left, add the tuna to the leeks, break up and heat gently. Then add the crème fraiche and capers (if using), mix thoroughly and heat gently for one or two more minutes. Turn the heat down low to keep the sauce warm.

Drain the pasta and divide over two plates. Top with the sauce. Serve.

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