Vegetarian day on week 3 went much better than week 2. For lunch, we went to Bandidas Taqueria for Mexican food and for dinner, I made asparagus-spinach pesto pasta with blackened shrimp and tofu. These are some things I learned that day:
1. Vegetarian Mexican food is yummy! David had the Quesadilla meal (corn tortilla quesadillas filled with mozzarella and pinto beans and served with roasted salsa, sour cream and rice and beans). He said it was possibly the best quesadillas that he’s ever had and I think I might have to agree. I had the Leona Gayle tacos (smoky-sweet chipotle organic tofu, pinto beans, cheese, roasted red salsa, romaine lettuce and sour cream), which was a bit on the sweet side and very messy to eat, but also very good.
2. Blackened seasoning is awesome! It even makes normally bland tofu taste good.
3. If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a blender to make pasta sauce if you follow these simple steps:
a) Chop up your ingredients into smaller pieces before adding to the blender.
b) Don’t fill the blender up to the top and expect the little blades at the bottom to be able to puree/blend everything. Add a bit at a time, blend, repeat.
c) Blending dry ingredients is not easy. Adding liquid (olive oil, lemon juice) helps.
d) And finally, the most important thing to remember when making pasta sauce with a blender: DO NOT use chopsticks or a rubber spatula to mix the ingredients around in the blender while it’s on. Doing so will result in pieces of chopstick and spatula in your sauce.
4. Asparagus-spinach pesto pasta is delicious!
This may look a bit toxic or radioactive, with the bright green sauce, but I promise you it’s yummy!
I can’t decide whether this is my favourite pasta dish or if I like the avocado pasta more.
Recipe (adapted from Bella’s Bistro):
- 3/4-1 lb asparagus spears
- 3 large handfuls baby spinach leaves, cut into smaller pieces
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup pine nuts, toasted (I used 1/2 cup – pine nuts are expensive!)
- 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for cooking the shrimp and tofu
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 lb pasta
- 1/2 lb raw shrimp, deveined and peeled
- 1 pack of extra firm tofu, sliced
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
- black pepper
- 1.5 tbsp blackening spice
- 2 cloves of garlic
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Cut the rough ends off of the asparagus spears and then cut the remaining spear into 3 pieces. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil (2 tsp) then sprinkle with kosher salt (1/8 tsp), garlic powder and pepper (10 grindings). Toss to coat and bake 10-12 minutes (I baked for 10 min for smaller asparagus). When cooked, set aside the asparagus tips and keep warm. The bottoms will be pureed for the pesto.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions.
- If using, put the pine nuts in a single layer in a large skillet. Heat on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and lightly browned (I toasted in a toaster oven). Remove and set aside.
- Add the asparagus, a handful of spinach, garlic, Parmesan, 1/4 cup olive oil, lemon juice , salt (1/8 tsp), black pepper (10 grindings) and pine nuts to a blender. Purée until smooth. Add another handful of spinach and puree. Repeat until all the spinach is added. If too thick, thin it with a bit of the pasta water. Set aside.*
- Sprinkle each side of the tofu with blackened seasoning. I used a total of 1 tbsp.
- In a medium-sized skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Fry the tofu for 2-3 min/side. Remove and set aside.
- Heat more oil on the pan. Add in the shrimp, and immediately sprinkle with 1/2 tbsp blackening powder. Stir until it is mixed in, and then continue stirring occasionally until the shrimp are pink and just cooked. Remove and set aside.
- After draining the cooked pasta, toss immediately with the asparagus pesto.
- Serve pasta topped with shrimp, tofu and asparagus tips
- Sprinkled with pine nuts and some extra Parmesan.
*makes about 3-4 cups pasta sauce
**Update (a week or two later): I learned something else the second time I made this – make sure you check that your blender is assembled properly/tightly if you don’t want sauce coming out of the bottom and going onto your cupboards, counters, floors, slippers, leg, etc…green pasta sauce isn’t that easy to clean up.