What to make for dinner? An oft-asked question, most likely, and one that sometimes remains unanswered. To answer this question for myself, I asked what I could make with frozen spinach. Yes, frozen. The answer?
Spinach-poblano pepper sauce, using the frozen spinach and a charred poblano pepper I had that was shriveling up. I also added cashews to the mix since I like the taste of cashews in pesto, as I used when I made cilantro pesto.
What I ended up with was an incredibly delicious take on pesto, and made light with the addition of chicken broth (vegetable broth would work) instead of cream, which not only would have made it heavier but tempered the flavors a bit. The flavor from the poblanos was a tad on the spicy side, and you want it that way since you'll mix a bit of pasta water in after you toss the pesto with the pasta.
Green pasta might be a bit disconcerting to some, though no one will have a problem with it once they taste it.
The next time you don't know what to make for dinner, look at what you have and try to think of a simple, creative way to utilize it with anything you have. Not only could this have been used as a sauce, but as a dip for chicken fingers or quesadillas, sandwich spread, or used to fill wonton wrappers, a rub for a roast or a plating sauce served alongside steak, chicken, or fish. As for the pasta, you can easily cook a chicken breast, slice it, and place on top of the pasta, or saute cubed, cooked meat with an onion in some olive oil before adding the pasta and sauce like I did. Want shrimp? that would work. There is more than one way to use this, and it can even be frozen (might want to add a bit of lemon juice if you do) for super easy meals on nights you don't know what to make.
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spinach-poblano pesto sauce
Recipe by Christina Provo
12 ounces farfalle
1 10-ounce package frozen spinach, cooked according to directions, omitting seasoning, drained and pressed
2 poblano peppers, charred on a skillet or under the broiler, peeled, deveined and seeded
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cashews
3/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
A shake white pepper
optional ingredients ~
Cubed, cooked meat
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra
- Heat a large pot of water to a boil with a teaspoon of salt. When water boils, cook pasta for 2 minutes less than recommended amount of time for al dente (pasta will continue to cook when added to skillet).
- Meanwhile, place spinach, poblano peppers, garlic cloves, and cashews in a blender or food processor. Add salt and pepper plus around half of the chicken broth. Pulse to combine, using a spatula to scrape down the sides, adding more chicken broth as needed until the mixture is roughly blended together. Slowly stream in olive oil and continue to pulse/blend until the pesto is cohesive. Taste for seasonings and adjust accordingly.
- For optional ingredients: In a large skillet, heat olive oil medium heat and add the cooked meat and saute until heated thoroughly. For shrimp, time it so the pasta is ready shortly after adding the shrimp to the skillet, as it cooks quickly. Just before the shrimp turns pink, dump in the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of pasta water. Toss both the pasta and meat/fish together, then add pesto and toss to combine thoroughly. Add about 1/2 cup pasta water, and more as needed to thin out the consistency of the sauce to create a smooth texture.
- Remove skillet from heat. Serve the pasta with a bit of olive oil drizzled on top. For the presentation factor, cook the shrimp separately and place on top, or thin the pesto out with pasta water in the skillet, sans pasta and meat, then drizzle it over cooked pasta.