Butternut Squash & Arugula Pasta + some rambling about vegetables.

1 Dec

About six months ago I jumped on the Meatless Monday bandwagon and dragged the family along with me.  We started eating vegetarian meals once a week for dinner.  That led to me not eating meat most days for breakfast or lunch. Which then turned into us eating meat or fish only a few times a week or in very limited amounts – more as a garnish or a source of flavor than the main focus of a dish.

It has been a good thing.  We have reaped a lot of benefits by reducing our meat intake.  There are the usual ones that you hear all the time: sustainability, health and weight loss, spending less on groceries.  All of that has been written about extensively and while I care deeply about all of those things, delight in them even, they aren’t the reason that I remain committed to eating less meat.  The real reason is that eating less meat has made me a far better cook.

I think about cooking about as often as men think about sex, what is that statistic again, 19 times a minute?  So, a marked acceleration in my cooking skills because of a simple change is kind of a big deal.  Before we cut back on meat we ate  a lot of vegetables and fruit.  More than most people, I suspect.  It was just that we bought the same variety and prepared them in the familiar ways.  Removing meat as the main focus of a plate has led me to reach for a wider variety of produce and to be creative about its preparation.  My knife skills have improved, my sense of timing and seasoning has improved, my creativity has improved.  It is easy and no great strain on our grocery budget, for me to pick up an ingredient that I have limited experience with, every single week if I am up to the challenge.   A leg of lamb costs $40, a bulb of fennel, $1.99.  Even the exotic and expensive produce doesn’t feel like as much of a commitment as a whole duck or a pound of day boat scallops.

We will probably never become full time vegetarians.  I love seafood too much, delight in artisan sausages too greatly and swoon over that aforementioned leg of lamb.  But, by spending less on meat and working on becoming better at my chosen craft, I can really honour those beautiful ingredients when we do chose to eat them.

Whew! That turned into a little bit more of a manifesto than I had originally planned.  As your reward for reading all of that, here is delicious recipe for a super quick dinner for two.  Rich, indulgent, satisfying.  You won’t miss the meat at all, I promise!

Butternut Squash and Arugula Pasta

1/2 Butternut Squash, peeled, cubed and roasted

1/2 pound of pasta

1 cup arugula, loosely packed

2 tablespoons butter, unsalted

4 sage leaves, sliced thinly

2 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed

Parmesan Cheese

Salt and Pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, add pasta and cook until just cooked.  Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan melt the butter with the sage and the thyme.  Add the butternut squash and sauté.  When the pasta has finished cooking add it directly to the saucepan of butter and butternut squash. Toss to combine and to coat the pasta with the butter and herbs.  Add the arugula and toss until it has wilted.  Add a handful of parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with more parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!

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