Thursday, October 28, 2010

Day Two Sixty One - Fast, Easy, Fresh Dinners for One

Did you know that Trader Joe's dried spaghetti got voted best spaghetti in Manhattan by New York magazine last year? You would not think of Trader Joe's for pasta, I know, but a few of their pastas are fantastic...I especially love their baby ravioli and baby tortellini. And for $2.99 a bag which is enough food for at least three if not four people, that's a pretty good deal!

Taking inspiration from this week's cheese spy stories, I grabbed a bag of their baby pesto tortellini, I decided that nothing was going to trump the descriptions of the fabulous ravioli found at Chez Rene so I might as well do something completely different yet still keep with this idea of interior filling and exterior pasta dough. The mini tortellini are filled with a pesto ricotta filling and when cooked correctly melt in your mouth. There's something to me about pesto ricotta tortellini that screams Spring-time and since it has been in the low 70s/upper 60s for the past few days, I thought let's stick with something light, right?

To pair with the tortellini, I made a homemade chop chop veggie salsa composed of:

Ten baby heirloom tomatoes
1/2 yellow pepper
1/3 cup of cooked chickpeas (ideally utilize dried chickpeas that have been soaked and cooked)
1/4 cup of cooked corn kernels
1 1/2 Persian cucumbers
Fresh Rosemary
Himalayan Pink Sea Salt
My special French salad herb mix (found in the Provencal market in France and sometimes sold by a Frenchman down at the Fulton Stall Market on Sundays here in Manhattan)
A drizzle of White Wine Vinegar
A few drops of Balsamic Vinegar

Chop up all the veggies and combine with aromatics, oil and vinegar, let sit in its own juices for at least 30 to 40 minutes. Once the tortellini are cooked, let them cool down, this is not a dish meant to be served too cold or too warm. Combine with veggies, top with extra fresh rosemary, EVOO and pink sea salt. Now grate two types of cheese over the top: Asiago with Rosemary and Olive Oil, to echo the flavors already present in the pasta dish and Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese to add a nutty fullness and earthy gamey depth to it.

What is Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve?

Well it is an artisanal farmstead cheese crafted in Wisconsin but based on the European greats like Beaufort. Firm, aged raw cow's milk cheese, this definitely puts Wisconsin on the cheese map! Great on its own with a nice glass of red wine or a beer or grated on top of a pasta to give it that certain "je ne sais quoi" or utilized in a grilled cheese. It sure is worth a try if you haven't ever had it!

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