Sunday, June 3, 2012

Vegetarian, with a Side of Meat

There are a lot of meals that, when deconstructed, suit a wide range of eaters.  When vegetarians come to dinner, a meat-based meal is often subtracted from to create a vegetarian option.  With more of us eating as vegetarians for part of the week, it now makes more sense to turn that meal plan on its head.  Start with a vegetarian base then add a meat, chicken or fish serving to provide an omnivore protein option.

Here's a simple weeknight recipe we made recently when both vegetarians and meat cravers sat at our table.  Beans and pasta are a classic combination in Tuscan cuisine.  Don't be surprised if your meat eaters dig into the beans as well, so make plenty.  Leftover beans can be pureed with broth to make soup or mashed with more herbs, olive oil and feta or goat cheese to make dip.

Penne with Broccoli, Parmesan And...
Serves 4

Ingredients
8-10 ounces penne rigate (or other fork friendly pasta shape)
2 heads broccoli
3 tablespoons high quality extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup sliced black olives
salt
olive oil

Vegetarian option:
1 14-oz can white beans (1/2 cup per person), drained and mixed with
1/4 teaspoon dried basil, thyme or rosemary (triple amount if using fresh herbs)

Omnivore option:
3 ounces cooked chicken breast per person
1/4 teaspoon dried basil, thyme or rosemary (triple amount if using fresh herbs)

Extra Parmesan cheese, olive oil and red pepper flakes or herbs for the table

Method
  1. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil.  Add 1 tablespoon salt to water.  
  2. Cut broccoli into florets and toss in boiling water for 4 minutes.  
  3. Remove with a slotted spoon to large, wide serving bowl.
  4. Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package directions, approximately 8-10 minutes until al dente.  
  5. While pasta cooks, saute chicken or heat beans with herbs.  
  6. Drain pasta and add to serving bowl. 
  7. Toss pasta and broccoli with olive oil and cheese.  Add olives.
  8. Serve family style in wide bowls and pass beans and chicken for diners to add as they wish.  

This post is in celebration of Brooke and Wilson who's wedding dinner will be joyfully shared by an assortment of diners.  In addition to pasta, Brooke and Wilson start their vegi-carni meals together with stir fries and pizzas to make satisfying and delicious repasts.