Last Night’s Dinner: Grilled Fennel and Asparagus with Whole Wheat Penne and Spinach

I haven’t been doing a ton of creative cooking for the last week or so.  Realizing there are about two weeks left until your at-home, self-catered wedding will do that.  (By the way, when I say self-catered, I don’t mean me, personally.  It’s family-catered, really.  But I have spent hours shopping for groceries and supplies, and last night I folded 140+ empanadas by hand.)

Back to everyday cooking (or, meals that don’t require eight pounds of pork)…  After a fairly laid back Saturday afternoon, I finally felt like cooking.  Or, at least, I was motivated by the fact that I had fennel, asparagus, and spinach in the fridge eagerly waiting to be used.  Nick was out for the evening, so I was on my own.  I resisted my initial instinct to order eggrolls or mozzarella sticks by reminding myself of the day’s earlier events: swimsuit shopping and wedding dress fitting.  (Dress fitting was fine; swimsuit shopping was not traumatic, but didn’t exactly send my self-esteem sky-rocketing either.)

As I’ve mentioned, vegetables and pasta are a typical go-to meal for me, but I upped it tonight by grilling the vegetables before mixing them with the pasta.  (Also, the veggies are headlined in the title because they made up the majority of the meal; I only cooked a handful of pasta for myself.)  After the whole wheat penne started cooking, I lightly oiled my grill pan and heated it on medium-high heat, and grilled about 8 asparagus spears and one fennel bulb, cut vertically into eighths, keeping the core intact.  Drizzled some oil and seasoned the vegetables with salt and pepper.

(Oh, I don’t have any pictures of the fennel cooking… turns out fennel is not very photogenic.)  I turned the vegetables every 3 minutes or so, until they looked cooked.  I know this is kind of vague… I am so bad at describing what asparagus “look” like they’re done.  Just stab them with a fork until the tenderness is to your liking.  The fennel is easier- it starts to get golden and a tiny bit translucent.   I cut the asparagus spears into two inch pieces and trimmed the core off the fennel wedges.

Once the pasta was cooked, I drained it in a colander, then returned to the pot with the asparagus and fennel, plus a little olive oil.  Then I stirred in a few handfuls of spinach until it wilted and squeezed lemon juice over it.  Seasoned with a bit more salt and pepper, and topped with a little grated Parmesan.  I think goat cheese would be amazing with this, but again, I’m gonna be on a beach in Mexico in a couple weeks, so a sprinkling of Parmesan seemed like a better idea, and was still quite tasty.

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