Farmers’ Market Pasta with Leeks, Spinach and Summer Squash

Recently Cook’s Country magazine arrived in the mail for the first time, and I think it has potential to be a good one. As a subscriber of the now defunct Cook’s Illustrated Entertaining editions, I am assuming this magazine was sent in its place. Slowly but surely, life is starting to feel normal again. Well, normalish. Normalish enough that I actually opened up the magazine and looked at some recipes instead of filing it away unread. Any progress is good progress, right?

Of course I went to the quick and easy recipes first. I try to do a lot of my cooking and food prep in the morning before work, because I’m not usually home until 7:00 pm — and by then, I’m in no shape to tie my shoes let alone work with fire. A recipe like this is right up my alley: fresh, flavorful, one pot, and with some added protein, it’s a complete meal. It looked way too beige for my liking, so I added some cherry tomatoes. Since I also added a bit of arugula, I skipped the basil in the original recipe, but that might be preferable if you are just using spinach. This is both good served warm and at room temperature, and a nice change from the normal pasta salads we see this time of year.

Farmers’ Market Pasta with Leeks, Spinach and Summer Squash
inspired by Cook’s Country June/July 2013

1 pound penne or similar pasta
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced thin, & washed thoroughly
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 yellow summer squash (about 8 oz each), halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick
6 oz (6 cups) baby spinach, chopped coarse
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
2 ounces good Parmesan grated (1 cup), plus extra for serving
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Optional: 2 cups grilled chicken, salmon or shrimp
Optional but recommended: a handful of arugula

1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven. Add penne and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve 3/4 cup cooking water, then drain penne.

2. Heat oil in now empty pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add leeks and 1 teaspoon salt and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add squash and 1/4 cup reserved cooking water and cook, covered, until squash is tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in penne, spinach, Parmesan, tomatoes, remaining 1/2 cup reserved cooking water, and butter until combined. Add cooked chicken, salmon or shrimp, if using. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, passing extra Parmesan separately.

farmers'marketpasta

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes with Leeks and Sausage

Fat potatoes for Fat Tuesday!

I don’t know how I originally overlooked this recipe back in the fall, but I was very excited to try it this week, as it contains all my favorites in one neat little package. Sausage? Check. Leeks? Check. Sour cream? Check. Sweet potatoes? Check. Fancy cheese? Check.

Depending upon your portion size and your appetite, this works equally well as a main dish or a side dish. It feels like a very strong side dish, so I would pair it with something on the plainer side like roasted chicken or broiled fish.

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes with Leeks and Sausage by Martha Holmberg, Fine Cooking, October 2011 (printable recipe here)

Ingredients

4 small sweet potatoes (about 8 oz. each)
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 lb. bulk sweet Italian sausage (or link sausage, casings removed)
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 lb. leeks, white and light-green parts only, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
1 tsp. chopped fresh sage
1/4 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
Kosher salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup grated Gruyère

Directions:

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F. Line a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with parchment or foil.

Poke the sweet potatoes a few times with the tip of a knife and arrange them on the baking sheet. Bake until completely tender when pierced in the fattest part with a skewer, 35 to 60 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage, reduce the heat to medium, and cook, breaking it into small bits with the edge of a slotted spoon, until no longer pink, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Pour off all but 1 Tbs. of the fat and add the butter. When it melts, add the leeks, sage, thyme, and 1-1/2 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring stirring, until the mixture just starts to sizzle. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until the leeks are very soft and starting to turn golden, 10 to 15 minutes.

When the sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, carefully cut them in half lengthwise and gently scoop the flesh into a medium bowl, leaving about 1/8 inch of flesh in the shells. Mash the scooped flesh with a fork or potato masher until smooth. Stir in the sour cream and 1 tsp. salt. Fold the sausage and leeks into the mashed sweet potato and season to taste with salt.

Position a rack 6 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler on high. Mound the filling into the potato skins and top with the cheese. Put the potatoes in a 9×13-inch baking dish and broil until the cheese is golden, about 4 minutes. Serve immediately.

Ready to go in the oven.