Thursday, April 5, 2012

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Kale and Chickpeas

Who doesn't love a hearty bowl of pasta? With cool weather slowly fading away, there a precious few days left appropriate for suppers like this one. My diet naturally evolves to lighter fare as summer approaches, but I'm still peppering my diet with big bowls of comfort like this. A hearty combination of nutty whole grain pasta, chickpeas, and fresh, yet substantial kale, these belly-filling ingredients come together in a rich and creamy bechamel accented by roasted garlic and lemon zest. There are a number of steps to this recipe, but to streamline a bit you can simply saute a few cloves of chopped garlic with the shallots (onions can be substituted) if you don't have time or inclination to roast whole heads of garlic.

Too often vegetarian entrees attempt to imitate meat, but this dish embraces the ingredients, playing to their strengths with hearty, savory success. Like so many of his veggie burger recipes, Lukas Volger has hit a home run with this vegetarian entree that won't leave you wanting for meat. Whether you're a staunch vegetarian or just someone trying to eat a little healthier, this meal deserves a place on your dinner table.

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Kale and Chickpeas
from Vegetarian Entrees That Won't Leave You Hungry by Lukas Volger
serves 4

1 bunch kale (about 12 ounces, 325 g)
1 pound (450 g) whole wheat spaghetti
3 tablespoons butter
2 shallots, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) reduced-fat milk (1% or 2%)
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) vegetable stock, preferably homemade
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
Pulp or flesh from 2 heads roasted garlic, skins discarded
2 cups (425 g) cooked chickpeas, or one 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, plus more for garnish
Parmesan cheese for garnish

1. Blanch the kale in a large pot of salted water until tender, removing it from its cooking water with tongs or a slotted spoon, rather than pouring it into a colander, so as to reserve the cooking water. Finely chop the kale.

2. Return the pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. When you drain the pasta, reserve at least 1 cup (240 ml) of the cooking water.

3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until fragrant and slightly softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the shallots, whisking constantly to evenly distribute the flour, and cook still whisking constantly, until the mixture is a shade darker and smells nutty, 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually add the milk and stock, whisking constantly to break up any lumps. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until the mixture thickens slightly, 6 to 8 minutes total.

4. Stir in the salt and nutmeg and season with pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Stir in the kale, roasted garlic, chickpeas, and lemon zest, being careful to break up the kale and chickpeas are heated through, 2 to 3 minutes.

5. Combine the cooked pasta and kale mixture, tossing well with tongs. If the sauce is too thikc, loosen the dish with a bit of the reserved cooking water, adding it in small increments. Garnish with more lemon zest and pass freshly grated Parmesan at the table.

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