Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Penne with Tomatoes, Mushrooms, and Choi Sum


A vegetarian pasta dish to help us recover from Thanksgiving overload.  This dish uses up leftover grape tomatoes, while adding mushrooms and choi sum (or you could use spinach).

For those of you who do not know what choi sum is here is a picture.  I see this all of the time in Chinatown, and it's relatively inexpensive.  I have used it before in stir-fries, soups and just boiled or stir-fried as a side. I originally planned to use spinach in this recipe but, when I got to Chinatown, the spinach looked wilted and the choi sum looked fresh and crisp.  So choi sum it was, it was also $0.89/lb where as spinach was at least $1.50/lb.  I like the choi sum because it is a hardier green than spinach, maybe a good substitute in this recipe would be kale or something similarly bold and green.  Choi sum does have a distinct flavor, but it did not seem bitter, it melded nicely with the other flavors and added a little crunch and lots of nutrition.  For more information on choi sum click here.


2 small onions, chopped
2 cups sliced cremini mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp dried basil
1 tsp oregano
1 cup grape  tomatoes (leftover)
4-5 cups chopped choi sum
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup Thai basil, torn (leftover)
Few dashes red chilli flakes, optional
Salt and pepper

I started by cutting and preparing all of my ingredients.  Then, when I was ready to start dinner I started a big pot of, salted, water to boil for the pasta.  While the water was heating, I heated a frying pan, about medium-medium low, with  about 1 Tbsp of olive oil.  To this I added the onions and cooked until tender.  Then I added the mushrooms, minced garlic, and spices stirring until the mushrooms became tender and started to shrink.  Next I added the whole grape tomatoes and covered the pan for about 10 minutes until the tomatoes became soft and wrinkled.  By this time the water was boiling and I added the pasta (enough for two) and let it boil for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, I mashed the tomatoes with a potato masher to break them up, and added the choi sum.  The choi sum crested well above the pan, but I covered it and let it cook for a couple of minutes before I began to stir.  I added the balsamic vinegar and gently stirred while the choi sum began to wilt.  In no time it wilted to less than half of its original size and I added the basil and red chilli flakes (if the sauce seems too thick add some pasta water) then turned off the heat.  You can stir in some Parmesan if you like and add salt and pepper to taste.  When the pasta was done  I drained it and tossed it with the sauce.  Makes 2 servings.  Serve topped with Parmesan. 

It turned out great.  For a meatless dish it was incredibly filling and all of the flavors tasted great together.  Best of all I feel healthy, and full, after eating it.  Pastas are a great way to experiment with different foods and flavors.  Be creative and enjoy.

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