Comforting, But Not TOO Comforting
Dinners that hug you just the right amount
It’s official: The season of the holiday has set itself deep into my bones. I’m tired, overwhelmed, and feeling constantly full, yet still wanting to snack and drink all the time. A problem for the ages! This week, I want to continue eating foods that invoke the word “comforting,” yet don’t prompt a hangover the next day. I think today’s four recipes check both those boxes, which include a Mediterranean Gratin with Almond Breadcrumbs, Beetballs with Red Pepper Crema, Cauliflower Tacos, and Cheese Enchiladas for this week’s budget recipe.
Mediterranean Gratin with Almond Breadcrumbs
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
Time: 1 ½ hours
Mark wrote about this baked pasta over on The Beet. The combination of ingredients is a really good one, he says: Bitter greens and caramelized onions, with hearty whole-wheat pasta. It’s important not to overcook the pasta – it should be pliable but not yet edible when you drain it. And, you can do all of that in advance. Then you toast some almonds, pulse them with bread, parsley, and oil — as good a combination as exists in the world – and that’s your topping. No cheese necessary.
7 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
1⁄2 cup raw almonds
2 red onions, halved and sliced
2 thick slices stale crusty bread, torn into pieces
1⁄4 cup fresh parsley
12 ounces broccoli rabe, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1⁄2 cup pitted black olives, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine or water
1 ½ cups cooked cannellini beans, or one 15-ounce can, drained
12 ounces whole wheat penne or other similar pasta
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Heat the oven to 425°F and grease a 9-inch square baking dish or ovenproof 10-inch skillet with
1 tablespoon olive oil. Put the almonds in a large skillet over medium heat and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until they are golden and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and wipe out the pan.
2. In the same skillet, cook the onions over medium heat, covering the pan and stirring once in a while, until they’re dry and beginning to stick to the pan, 10 to 15 minutes. While the onions cook, add the bread to the food processor along with the parsley and 2 tablespoons oil and pulse until finely ground.
3. Uncover the onions and stir in 2 tablespoons oil and a large pinch of salt. Lower the heat so the mixture sizzles gently. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden and soft, adding small amounts of oil if necessary to keep them from sticking without getting greasy, 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with pepper; taste and adjust the seasoning. Transfer to a large bowl and return the pan to medium-high heat.
4. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Add the broccoli rabe, olives, and garlic and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the broccoli is crisp-tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until it darkens, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the wine and beans and cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from the pan, until the wine is reduced by half. Add the vegetables to the onions, mix, taste, and adjust the seasoning.
5. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, then start tasting. When the noodles become pliable but not yet edible, drain and reserve 1⁄4 cup cooking water. Add the penne and cooking water to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine.
6. Transfer the pasta to the prepared pan and top with the breadcrumb mixture. Bake until the pasta is tender but still has some bite and the breadcrumbs are browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Let sit for a couple minutes before cutting into squares or wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.
— Recipe from Dinner for Everyone