Thursday, February 16, 2012

Valentine’s Day Rotini with Roasted Beets, Spinach, Red Onion and Sun-Dried Tomatoes...

As promised my Valentine’s Day Rotini recipe. As I mentioned yesterday this came about after a lot of stress, searching and frustration. I wanted to make a dish that was both simple yet elegant. I wanted to make a dish that embodied the spirit of love and romance associated with Valentine’s Day, and I wanted to utilize the beets I had sitting in my crisper drawer. Unfortunately despite all my frantic searching I couldn’t find any creative or inspiring beet recipes, or V-day recipes in general - well not ones that fit my criteria anyway.

Everything was strawberry dessert this, chocolate raspberry dessert that. Pages upon pages of recipes for roasted beets and borscht served as a side dish or afterthought rather then a show stopping main, assaulted me as I scanned the internet. Not to mention virtually every "Valentine’s Day" recipe I came across seemed utterly lacking in romance. I’m sorry but Seitan Parmesan doesn’t scream love to me, it just doesn’t. Spaghetti and marinara isn’t romantic it’s economical! Not to bash these dishes, which are delicious if it’s what you’re in the mood for, but come on! Valentine’s only comes once a year, and even though it’s a stilly, bull-shit, Hallmark holiday, that doesn’t mean you and your loved ones can’t make it your own and make it something special. That’s what I do. In honesty there isn’t a single holiday - Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, St. Patrick’s Day, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Hanukkah, Halloween, Labor Day etc.... - that hold any real deep sentimental or significant meaning for me. Not culturally, not religiously. I love holidays, but not because society tells me I should, and not because someone somewhere hundreds or thousands of years ago supposedly did something significant. I love them because they give you an excuse to really go all out and do something extra special. Sometimes I do this anyway, but it’s always nice to have a ‘special occasion’ to back it up with. Holidays whether big or small are a great time to spend with the ones you love, and to shower them with a little extra love. You don’t have to buy the hype, but you don’t have to be a miserable old cynic either. So it’s that desire that was driving me to want to do something lovely for my beloved.

Though pasta doesn’t normally scream romance to me, I figured since I finally settled on an Italian appetizer I may as well make an Italian inspired main dish to go along with it. After all it would be pretty silly if I made caponata to start and say a red coconut curry to follow, or a red lentil dahl. It made the most sense to stay within one culinary tradition, so pasta it was. The beauty of pasta - besides the economical factor - is that it really is versatile. It’s like a good pair of jeans you can dress them down with a t-shirt or dress them up with a blouse. With pasta you can ‘dress it down’ with marinara or olive oil, or make it fancy with just a little thought and effort. With this dish I tried to stay within the color tradition of Valentine’s day by trying to use pink, purple and red foods but I threw a little spinach in, both for a colorful pop and a bit of added nutrition. This dish worked out so well, and it far exceeded my expectations. My guests were just as impressed as myself, and everyone went back for seconds which I consider to be the highest compliment.

However the thing I love most about this dish, - which was entirely unintentional - the thing that really tickles me about it and puts a little smile on my face is that the beets turned the pasta a lovely shade of pink! How perfect is that for Valentine’s Day? Perhaps Aphrodite the dear goddess of love was smiling down on my kitchen on Tuesday.

Valentine’s Day Rotini with Roasted Beets, Spinach, Red Onion and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Roast Beets

3 Beets peeled and cubed
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
½ tsp Crushed Rosemary
½ tsp Dried Dill
1 tsp Dried Basil
Sea Salt and Black Pepper to Taste
1 Packet Stevia (Optional)


2 lb Whole Wheat Rotini (or Gluten-Free)
2 Bunches Spinach, trimmed, washed and patted dry
1 Large Red Onion sliced in half moons
10-12 Garlic Cloves minced
10 Oil-Packed Sun-dried Tomatoes chopped or sliced
1/4 C Olive Oil
1/4 C Vegetable Broth
2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
3-4 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1-2 Packets Stevia (Optional)
Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste
Garlic Powder to taste (Optional if you want an extra garlicky kick)

- Preheat oven to 400'F (200'C) To make the beets peel and cube them into roughly ½ inch cubes. Place in a baking dish. Combine oil, vinegar, stevia and spices in a bowl and stir until well combined. Pour over beets and toss to coat. Cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven and roast for 45-60 minutes until beets are nice and tender and most of the liquid has absorbed.

- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain when finished and then return to pot and cover until ready to use.

- Heat a tsp of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat and add the sliced onion and minced garlic. Saute for 5-7 minutes until fragrant and onion becomes translucent. Add sun-dried tomatoes and stir to combine. Saute another 3-4 minutes.

- Add the spinach to the pan, cover and let steam a couple of minutes. Remove the lid then gently stir to combine the spinach. Careful so that nothing topples over the rim of the pan continue to stir the spinach into the onion-garlic-tomato mixture until the spinach has wilted and cooked down. Be careful not to overcook it though. You don’t want spinach mush! Add the roasted beets which should be down at this point, with any pan juices and stir until just incorporated.

- Next, in a bowl combine the 1/4 C Olive oil with the 1/4 Vegetable broth, tomato paste, vinegar, salt and pepper and garlic powder and stevia if using. Whisk together until well blended.

- Carefully add the sauteed vegetables into the pot with your reserved pasta, and pour in half of the sauce mixture. Stir until thoroughly combined. If the pasta looks a little dry add the remainder of the sauce and stir until well combined. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

*** Note - You can make the beets hours in advance if you like then just cover and refrigerate them until ready to use. This makes throwing dinner together later a lot quicker. Also as far as the sauce goes I only ended up using maybe ½-3/4 of it because I didn’t want the pasta to be overly saucy. However everyone’s tastes are different so feel free to use as much or as little as you like. Also it must be said that this dish was developed to feed about 5 people. If you don’t need to feed that many people feel free to decrease the ingredients by half or however best suits your family.***

*** Note - Gluten-Free if using GF Rotini***

1 comment:

  1. What a great meal! I totally loved this dish & you should make it again. ;) Thanks for always putting such thought & love into your food! It really shows through. You're the best!