Broccoli and feta pasta

Happy Halloween!

This year’s spooky day snuck up on me.  I have no holiday-appropriate post.  No candy, no pumpkin, no orange food, nothing at all about putting on costumes and demanding sugary treats from strangers.

What I do have is tonight’s dinner, which accidentally turned out looking like something you might use in a haunted house to imitate human innards:

That’s Halloween-y, right?

I know the purpose of a food blog is to make you crave what I’m eating.  And that photo is not going to cause cravings in anyone.  But these words might.

Broccoli.  Feta.  Cumin.  Pasta.

I love broccoli.  I love it more than any girl should love any vegetable.  I love it almost as much as a trick-or-treater loves full-size Hershey bars in her plastic Jack-o’-lantern basket.  Almost.

So I couldn’t resist the lure of a recipe that called for blitzing broccoli with one of my most favorite of cheeses and tossing the result with warm pasta.  The professional photos of this dish were so enticing–mint-green and speckled with nubs of feta, nestled perfectly over coils of pasta.  I got hairy chartreuse lumps.  How did I go wrong?

I don’t think this was the fault of the recipe.  I forgot to peel the broccoli stalks, then got distracted while the steaming was happening and ended up with that saddest of phenomena, soggy brown broccoli.  To add insult to injury, my anemic immersion blender balked at pureeing the mess I’d made, so I had to attack it with a potato masher.  It was not my finest hour.

But you know what?  Even for all that, I’m kinda excited for leftovers.  The marriage of grassy broccoli, smoky cumin and pungent feta turns out to be a blessed one.  Someday, when the October’s-end gremlins have vacated my kitchen, I’m going to try this one again.  Watch this space.

Broccoli and Feta Pasta (serves 2-4, depending on how hungry your eaters are)

Adapted from The Kitchn

1 head (about 1 1/2 lb) broccoli

1 tbsp olive oil, plus more as needed

1 tsp whole cumin seeds, or 3/4 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp sesame seeds

Pinch of red pepper flake

2-3 large garlic cloves, sliced

3 tbsp water

Juice of 1 lemon

3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

12 oz. short pasta of your choice (I used fresh whole wheat shells)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Special equipment: large saute pan or skillet with a lid; food processor or blender

Separate the broccoli florets and stems.  Break the florets into small pieces, then peel the stems and cut them into similar-sized chunks.

Place the empty saute pan or skillet over medium-low heat, and toast the cumin and sesame seeds until they become fragrant.  Pour in the olive oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan, then add the red pepper flake and garlic.  Saute for a  couple minutes, until the garlic is soft and fragrant.

Toss in the broccoli stems and cook for 1-2 minutes, then add florets.  Saute for another few minutes, stirring often, until the broccoli is brilliant green and coated with the spices.  Add water and lemon juice, turn heat up to medium, cover, and steam the broccoli for 6-7 minutes, until it’s completely tender but still bright green.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water.  Reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking water before draining the pasta.

Transfer the steamed broccoli-spice mixture to the blender or food processor, along with 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water and half the feta cheese.  Puree until smooth, adding more water or a drizzle of olive oil as needed to get a thick pesto-like consistency.

Taste and adjust for seasoning.  It will almost certainly not need salt, as both the feta and pasta water are salty.  Toss sauce with pasta and remaining feta cheese, and serve.

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