Build A Meal 2 – Three-Course Veggieful

Okay, there’s quite a bit of chopping going into this meal, but it’s worth the taste of tons of fresh vegetables.


Tomato Vegetable Soup

Main Course

Creamy Asparagus Penne


Masoor Dhal Salad

Dessert (pick one)

Let’s go with the simple and healthy here… fruit salad.  You want to be a little bit unhealthy?  Add a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream or mascarpone cheese creamed with a little honey and lemon zest.


For something quick and warm, try out my Sweet Pastry Bites.


Creamy Asparagus Penne


1 lb penne

1 bunch asparagus, tough parts discarded, cut into 2 inch pieces

2 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tbsp all-purpose flour

1 medium onion, finely diced

3 to 5 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped

2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

2 cups skim milk

3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed

1 to 2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Salt & pepper to taste


1.  Boil water for the pasta.  Add salt to water.

2.  While water is reaching a boil, heat the butter in a large saucepan.  Saute the onion and garlic until the onion is just becoming translucent and the garlic is fragrant.  Add the fresh herbs.  Add the flour and mix well.  Cook until the raw flour smell is gone, about 2 minutes.

3.  Add the milk slowly to the sauce base, mixing well and ensuring no lumps form.  Cook on low to medium heat, stirring frequently, until the milk is heated through and the sauce begins to thicken.  Add salt and pepper and crushed red pepper.  Continue cooking until sauce has thickened.  Add peas and remove from heat.

4.  While the sauce is thickening, the water should have reached a boil.  Add the pasta and cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, until the pasta is not quite done.  Add the asparagus and continue cooking until both asparagus and pasta are cooked, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Drain.

5.  Add the sauce to the pasta and toss well to coat.  Serve warm.

Vegetarian Aush

I have very warm memories of enjoying aush during the very chilly winter I spent in Kabul while doing my thesis research.  Every time I see a recipe for pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans, Italian style), my mind wanders back to the hot, filling Afghan dish that our wonderful cook, Habib, used to make once a week (usually Thursdays for lunch) for just a few months out of the year, unless he could be prevailed upon to make a repeat or an out-of-season effort (usually not).  Aush is basically noodles and beans in a thick sauce, accompanied by toppings including a kind of ground meat chili, various herbs or herb chutneys, and yogurt.  I believe there is a Persian version as well, with slightly different ingredients and garnishes.

Although I couldn’t hope to recreate Habib’s aush, here is my humble vegetarian version.  It’s a great warming meal for winter, but also an any-season meal if you reduce the noodles and increase the veggie content using seasonal vegetables.  While aush is an excellent one pot meal, you can also serve salad or naan (flatbread) on the side.


1 tbsp olive oil

2 small onions, finely chopped

4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

Leaves from 1/2 bunch kale, stemmed and roughly chopped (a chiffonade works)

Stems from 1 bunch of kale, finely chopped (I hate to waste the stems)

3 or 4 scallions, chopped (green and white parts)

1/2 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped (don’t use dried parsley)

2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped

1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped

1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (or use dried beans which have been washed, soaked and pressure-cooked)

1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed (or use dried chick peas which have been washed, soaked and pressure-cooked)

2 quarts vegetable stock (I also substitute the water used to soak/pressure cook the dried beans/peas)

1/2 to 2/3 lb spaghetti, uncooked, broken into thirds

For garnish (to taste, but I wouldn’t skip the yogurt):

Chopped herbs (parsley, cilantro, mint, chives)

Chopped scallions

Mint chutney

Coriander chutney

Green chilli chutney

Yogurt or sour cream (go low-fat or fat-free for an even healthier meal)


1.  In a 4- or 5-quart heavy-bottomed pot, saute the onions, garlic, kale stems, salt, pepper, turmeric and red pepper flakes until the vegetables are sweating.  Add the kale leaves, parsley, dill, mint and scallions and saute for a few minutes, until the kale begins to wilt.

2.  Add the kidney beans and chick peas and mix well.  Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer.  Continue simmering, uncovered, for about 45 minutes.

3.  The sauce should still be somewhat thin in consistency.  If not, add water or vegetable stock and bring back to a simmer.  Add the uncooked spaghetti.  Continue simmering for about 15 minutes, until the pasta is cooked.  The sauce should thicken as the pasta cooks.  If the aush is too watery, stir in a tablespoon or two of flour to thicken the sauce.

4.  Serve in bowls with the garnishes of your choice.

Leftover spaghetti squash?


Lots of leftover spaghetti squash last night, but only a little bit of tomato sauce. What to do? What to do?

Here’s an easy fix: cook up a little pasta (we used tricolor rotini), mix it up with the leftover squash and tomato sauce, throw in some extra herbs and other cooked veggies, and put it all in a shallow oven-safe dish. Top with some plain breadcrumbs, grated parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of parsley and basil. Heat under a broiler until the topping is lightly toasted. Serve with salad or a cup of soup on the side.