RECIPE: A Simple (and Dairy Free!) Dinner from Whole Foods You Can Make in Your Hotel Room
At the risk of sounding dramatic...Pasta is my first love. Growing up with a Sicilian mother, who also happened to be an entrepreneur mother, you can bet that pasta dishes made their way onto our table a lot. I'm proud to say, though, that it was never just pasta with butter or pasta with (gasp!) store bought sauce from a jar. (No need for that, my grandmother always had an apocalyptic stash of homemade sauces in her cellar.) Although they let me be picky with meats - I gave up red meat at age nine, and haven't looked back since - they treated my brother and me as adults when it came to our palates, and encouraged us to eat whatever they were eating for dinner. Sometimes that would equate to pasta with anchovies (still not a fan, tbh) or a beautiful spaghetti dish with ricotta and lemon peel. Now, I make it for myself (and my boyfriend) a couple times a week; these days almost always with seafood - mussels and salmon make regular appearances around my way.
My favorite thing about cooking pasta dishes is that, besides being inexpensive, easy, and filling, you can so easily dress it up; it provides a hearty backbone, yes, but pasta takes on a lot of the flavors you add to it through beautiful, bright ingredients, seasonings, and proteins.
We headed over to The Social Register next door at A Loft for dinner the first night, but for the second night, we decided to take a quick visit to Whole Foods in the Ink block, brainstorm some easy-to-make recipes while we perused the aisles, and come home to whip up dinner in the suite. We went straight for the prepared food counter to get some ideas, and the pre-cooked salmon portions quickly became the centerpiece to build dinner around - not least of all because it was already made, so we wouldn't be stinking up a small space that also served as our sleeping quarters by having to cook it in the suite.
The room had a few basics, including a sharp knife, a large pot, a pan for frying and sautéing, etc. plus salt and pepper. We bought lemon and Earth Balance Buttery Spread for flavor and moisture, and some Brussels sprouts to liven up the look of the dish, et voila!
The whole thing, including desserts (hey, it's a Staycation, not a Staydiet...) was around $16/person - way less than going out to dinner, definitely more healthy, and, frankly, a lot of fun to shop for, cook and eat!
Scroll down for the recipe on how to turn this...
into this dinner for two...
2 Portions Pre-Cooked Salmon, about 6oz each.
12oz Brussels Sprouts
6-8tbsp Earth Balance Buttery Spread
1/2 lb Short Pasta - Casarecce, Gemelli, or Orechiette would all work fine.
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1/2 of a Lemon, sliced into thin wedges (reserve a few more to garnish the plates)
Large Frying Pan
Cutting Board or Cutting Surface (use a plate if you must)
Wooden Spoon or Spatula
Bring about four quarts of water to a boil.
Meanwhile, chop the Brussels sprouts into quarters - they'll fry quicker.
Heat two tablespoons of Earth Balance in the frying pan. When it starts to bubble, add in the Brussels sprouts, tossing to coat each with the "butter." Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and stir them around every minute or so to prevent burning or uneven cooking. The Brussels sprouts will take about 8-10 minutes to cook through. You don't want them soft or soggy, but they shouldn't be raw, either - just a little bit crunchy and slightly browned in spots.
By now, the water should be boiling. Add in half a pound of pasta and cook according to cooking time provided on the package. (This one recommended 11 minutes - I tried it around ten and liked the consistency, so I turned off the heat and prepped for draining.)
Drain the pasta and add 4 - 6 tablespoons of the Earth Balance - or more if you like! I found that about 1/3 of a cup covered the pasta sufficiently. Add in the lemon wedges and give it another toss/stir - the heat from the pasta will shock some of the flavor out of the lemon, while also mellowing out the sourness a bit. Lastly, add in the quartered and cooked Brussels sprouts and stir one final time.
Portion the pasta, sprouts and lemon onto plates. Top with one piece of salmon each (you can re-heat these in the sauce pan first if you'd like, one minute on each side so as not to overcook), and garnish with some lemon wedges.
Eat. Then get seconds - this recipe makes a bit more than two portions, so go for more or save some for a midnight snack!