Have you noticed (how could you not, really?) that over the last week nearly everyone in the blogoshpere is talking about "resolutions", and my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs are no exception. We continue to cook with Giada de Laurentiis and our theme this week, unsurprisingly, is Resolutions. Well, I've got to tell you that I resolved many years ago never to make another New Year's resolution - I don't think I've ever heard of anybody who ever actually managed to keep one, so who needs to set themselves up for that kind of failure. So no resolutions for this girl. I do however think that this is a valuable time for some reflection - to contemplate the things that you may have changed over the last year that have had a positive affect on your life (and perhaps on others around you), and consider what actions might continue that positive momentum.
A couple of years ago I happened to find myself with time on my hands at Brisbane airport, as I waited for my flight home after a two week yoga workshop on Stradbroke Island. Having a browse around the book store, as you do, "The Ethics of What We Eat" by Peter Singer & Jim Mason seemed to literally jump off the shelf at me, and I have to say that my attitude to food was irrevocably changed from that moment on. So much of what I read was a real eye-opener, while other content was more thought-provoking than challenging. The end result though was that I am no longer able to just unconsciously put anything on my plate without thinking about where it has come from and what the consequences of getting it to my plate may have been. I don't have all the answers yet (probably never will), but at least I'm thinking about it, and everything I buy for my table now involves a conscious decision to get it there.
I've always liked making things from scratch, and this has become even more important to me. I think I've developed a lot of skills over the years, and I continue to take on new challenges and learn how to make new things. Last year I made cheese for the first time, thanks to the inspiration and encouragement of Natashya and Heather at Forging Fromage, and I discovered the joys of making my own ice cream (almost completely eliminating store bought ice cream from my freezer). I got more consistent about making my own bread, and even started doing the occasional bit of baking. I learned how to clean a squid, and even cleaned and gutted sardines (but that's for another post).
So I'm not making any sweeping resolutions here - I'm just reinforcing my commitment to continuing to develop my knowledge and understanding, and keep my mind open to constantly learning new skills. Two things that I do want to do are reduce the amount of white flour and sugar in my diet and begin to use more whole grains - I think there is a whole new world out there for me to discover. I'm also keen to make more of my own pasta - I eat a lot of pasta, and there is no doubt that a packet of pasta in the pantry is the ultimate convenience food - but I really want to take my time over it more often and develop my pasta-making skills.
With these things in mind, the recipe for Whole-Wheat Linguine with Green Beans, Ricotta and Lemon from Giada's Kitchen, seemed like a great place to start - whole-wheat pasta, green beans and tomatoes are tossed together in a light creamy sauce, which is made by simply combining ricotta with some of the pasta water - result a beautiful, luscious sauce, without a trace of heaviness. The whole thing is finished off with a sprinkling of lemon zest (of course it does, this is a Giada recipe after all), which really brings a bright, fresh note to this dish. This dish is truly the work of moments, but since I had a leisurely afternoon to spare yesterday I also opted to make my own whole-wheat fettucine (I used the recipe here for whole-wheat pasta, but halved the quantity which gave enough for two very generous servings) and my own ricotta.
Now you may think that sounds like a lot of effort - but truly, I don't think there would have been more than 30 minutes actual labour involved; and, since the only other effort required for this dish is trimming a few beans, sauteeing them off with a little chopped garlic, halving some cherry tomatoes, and boiling a pot of water, this is hardly arduous work.
I promise you that making your own pasta and ricotta is deeply rewarding - it's the kind of work where the sense of satisfaction derived from its completion is about three times the actual effort that went in. By all means, use store-bought pasta and ricotta here if you like - heck, that's what I do a lot of the time and I would never denigrate that - but if you have the time to spare and the inclination I urge you to try making your own. Either way, do try this dish - deliciously light, fresh and healthy, it is the absolute antithesis of so many rich, heavy pasta dishes. You can find the original recipe here or on page 112 of Giada's Kitchen - I made no changes (other than to reduce the quantities since I was eating on my own), and nor do I recommend any.
Interested in getting to know Giada a bit better? Then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and see what they've all been cooking up ....
.... or check out Giada's Kitchen and many of her other titles, available from Amazon, Book Depository UK and Fishpond NZ
I'm also submitting this post to Presto Pasta Nights, which is being hosted this week by Claire at Chez Cayenne - you will be able to see a full round-up of all the submissions there on Friday 14 January. I'm looking forward to checking out a whole lot of new pasta dishes.