Hump Day!

Most folks look at Hump Day as the downhill slide toward the weekend– “I’m half-way to party time!”  For me, it signals the end of three days’ worth of thrown-together cooking to feed my son promptly in order to keep the evening (meaning homework) on track. After tonight’s meal, I get to cook whatever I want, chef UNinterrupted.  Truly, I’m close to euphoric when unencumbered by schedules and able to look at what’s fresh and available at the market to combine with what pantry items I have at home to create a great meal.  My friend Margo, who is the only other mom I know who relishes cooking on vacation, agrees that it is so much more fun to have the TIME to plan and prepare a meal properly in a relaxed environment.  FOOD can be LOVE!

Since we’re going camping this weekend, I decided I should use up most of the loose items and leftovers lurking in the fridge. I always have many shapes of pasta on hand, as well as parmigiano and half and half, so I figured I’d concoct a pasta.  A look into the fridge added a half-roast chicken, a half-log of goat cheese, the rest of the cabbage from yesterday’s cole slaw and a head of cauliflower to my list of potential ingredients.  Another look, this time into my pantry, and I found a jar of roasted red peppers.  Who knew I had the makings of fettuccine with roast chicken tossed in a roasted red pepper goat cheese sauce with barely charred cauliflower as a side? (Sorry, cabbage, you’ll probably be transformed into a saute with mushrooms, onions and crispy bits of pancetta tomorrow).  Bonus points for this dish because goat cheese happens to be my son’s favorite cheese!

A hunk of leftover goat cheese

Leftover roast chicken

cauliflower, roasted red peppers, half and half

First, I shredded the chicken, then roughly chopped a handful of peppers.  I finely diced a small onion and grated some parmigiano– some of which is shown below.  (It’s way harder to remember to shoot pictures while cooking on the stove vs. baking)!

My prepped chicken and veg

I added olive oil to a heated saucepan, and cooked the onions til soft, adding some salt and pepper.  Then I threw in the chopped peppers, heated them a bit and poured in maybe 2 cups of half and half.  I let that simmer til it thickened, then crumbled in the goat cheese and parmigiano, stirring everything thing til combined.

At that point, I decided I wanted a smoother sauce, so I dumped the contents into a stainless steel bowl (from past experience, I strongly recommend that you do not try to use an immersion blender in a shallow-walled pan– you’ll be cleaning up for days), whizzed it with my stick immersion blender, then added it back to the pan.  I tasted it and it was fine, but I wanted a little heat so I added a few sprinkles of chili flakes.

red pepper sauce with chile flakes

I turned the stove off and brought my son to his violin lesson.  When I got home, I trimmed the cauliflower, removing a little of the core, then sliced half the head into big 1/2 inch slices.  I placed them on a rimmed half-sheet pan, drizzled generously with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.  Since I had to go get my son (my husband usually does this, but he has some kind of team-building event tonight), I simply sat for 15 minutes and played with our cocker spaniel.

When I returned home with the kid, I preheated the oven to 425 degrees and started a big pot of water to boil for the pasta.  It takes about 30 minutes for the oven to heat and the water to boil, so life was good.  Water boils, I add salt and pasta.  Oven chimes ready and in goes the cauliflower.

While the pasta boils, I warm the sauce and add the shredded chicken to heat.  The pasta cooks in less time than the cauliflower (10 min vs 20), which is a good thing. I drain the pasta at al dente, mix it with some of the sauce, toss and taste.

By this time the cauliflower is ready.  I transfer the pieces to a serving platter, and bring both to the table. Time to dig in!

Pasta and roasted cauliflower

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