the song: "Dirty Pants" Smog
In my cooking class this afternoon, we made a whole wheat orange raisin muffins. While perusing the recipe, I commented to my coteacher that the muffins would be earthy. My elementary kids (kindergarten through fourth grade) picked up on our talk and asked me what it means when something tastes "earthy."
"You know," I said to my group of thirteen aproned foodies-in-the-making "It's when the food has a nice texture in your mouth, but is also really simple and natural. It kind of tastes like dirt." The reception to my answer was less than enthusiastic.*
My coteacher came to the rescue, as he often does. "Granola bars are earthy," he offered, "And you all like granola bars, right?" Good save. I'm happy to report that the majority of my kiddos ate the muffins that were indeed very dense and "earthy."
It was an honest mistake. As a gardener, I genuinely appreciate when I can taste the dirt in my vegetables. Perhaps my afternoon conversation inspired my meal this evening. The husband is out stretching creative muscles, so I decided to treat myself to a special solitary meal. A meal to show myself a little love. A reminder that a night at home in pajamas with a cat in your lap and a can be pretty freaking awesome. The pint of Scottish Ale was a nice touch as well.
This particular dinner featured homegrown cauliflower and parsley with grainy chickpeas, tart feta, and a hearty dose of garlic. It is the definition of "earthy." It's dense and simple all at once. I find it extremely satisfying; I kept going back for one more taste of the cauliflower/feta/chickpea combination. If you can manage a big crunchy grain of sea salt in the same bite, more power to you. This dish would actually be delicious without the pasta, as well (I was planning ahead for lunch leftovers for tomorrow, otherwise I would have left it out.)
Whatever ingredients you add, use the freshest/highest quality you can get your hands on. This goes for the olive oil and salt, too. And please don't overcook your vegetables. Roast the cauliflower until the florets are just tender. Saute your herbs and garlic just until fragrant. Most importantly, take a minute to really taste it while you eat. Earthy, right?
Whole Wheat Pasta with Cauliflower, Chickpeas, & Feta
1 large head cauliflower, separated into florets
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1-2 large garlic cloves, diced
cracked red pepper, to taste
small handful parsley (or other herb), chopped
salt (preferably large sea salt)
about 3/4 cup whole wheat pasta (I used penne)
1/4 cup feta cheese
First, roast your cauliflower. Toss the florets with olive oil and a generous pinch of salt, then spread evenly onto a roasting pan or baking sheet. Roast at 425 degrees for 15-25 minutes depending on size of florets, until just tender and slightly browning.
In the meantime, cook your pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
In a medium skillet, heat a splash of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add your chickpeas, parsley, garlic and cracked red pepper (I like quite a bit). Stir until herbs and garlic are just fragrant, about 30 seconds, then turn heat to low. Add cauliflower and oil from roasting pan and stir gently to combine. Stir in pasta and remove from heat. Add feta cheese and salt to taste. Serve immediately or at room temperature.
*Note to self: In future classes, don't suggest to children that what they are about to make tastes like dirt. Also, eight year olds have no appreciation for mouthfeel.