Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Driving down under & Easy Tuscan Pasta


Did you ever feel like a taxi driver? Perhaps 'chauffeur' sounds better, at least fancier. Now that school is in full swing, I seem to be doing a lot of driving for my 2 children - dropping/picking them up from the bus stop, after school activities, sports' training, friends' houses, etc. I'm so glad I got rid of my old station wagon last year and bought a sporty sedan. At least, I can troll the streets in luxury. I was warned by others that getting a 5-seat sedan was a bad idea. It wouldn't be good for carpooling since it doesn't seat 7 people. Do I really want 6 kids and myself in the car, six girls laughing and chatting it up in the backseats? I think not. It all sounds nice but the screaming and singing  is quite dangerous for a driver like myself.  I am a very distracted driver - 'look at that colourful bird....hmm, what kind of car is that....oh, I love that old Stevie Wonder song, time to start speeding and do the white man's overbite while I bop my head around.' Yes, I admit, I am a sub par, female driver. While some people have huge dreams of what they'll do and buy when they strike it rich, mine are simple - I want a chauffeur to drive ME around.

Driving in Sydney has it challenges. For starters, driving on the opposite, dare I say wrong side of the road, is quite an adjustment. My husband has taught me to hug the centre line of the road as it is quite natural to veer to the left. The first few months living here, I drove around with my radio off, clenching the steering wheel while saying aloud, 'drive on the left, Susan, stay in lane, you are too young to die, hug the white line!' just like Rain man, over and over again. Another challenge that I face on a daily basis is playing chicken with oncoming cars in my neighbourhood. With cars usually parked on either side of the street, it is Russian roulette to decide who will move over to the let the other one through first - yikes!

Sydney is Australia's largest city and it is estimated that there are 4.6 million people in the Sydney area. While the city has grown, the road infrastructure is lacking. The roadways are very congested and many of the major roadways are narrow local roads. I cringe when a big city bus is in the lane next to me as I think it could sideswipe me at any moment. Despite my complaints, I find the drivers in Sydney to be quite nice. You don't hear the symphony of horns blaring like you do in New York. In fact, I rarely hear horns at all as you are only suppose to use yours if you are about to get into an accident. The drivers use their turn signals most of the time and are courteous about letting you switch into their lane when your directional is on.

Like learning the Aussie lingo, there are is different lingo for driving too. Your car trunk is the boot, gas is petrol, the petrol station is the servo, the bonnet is the hood and many others.The 'Yield' sign has been replaced with a different warning, 'Give Way'.  The warning of a crosswalk is oddly indicated by a huge snakelike zigzag lines on either side of the crosswalk. There are a lot of roundabouts (aka rotaries) instead of traffic lights. Speed cameras are in effect in various areas and it is a shock if you get a ticket in your mailbox. The fines are expensive, you can't contest them (you must pay), and you lose points on your license. The sad thing is after passing the speed camera sign so many times, it becomes part of the scenery and you forget about it until you get a ticket. (Perhaps that happened to me?) I love seeing the koala and kangaroo signs but unfortunately I haven't seen either in this densely populated area.

With all my driving adventures, I don't have always have the time to make the dinners I'd like. During the week, I am always look for something fast, easy and nutritious. A favourite dish is Easy Tuscan Pasta which can be made in 20 minutes or less, all while the pasta is cooking. It is healthy and very filling.

Easy Tuscan Pasta

Base Recipe:
1 regular sized bag of penne or rigatoni

1 can of stewed or diced tomatoes

1 bag on fresh spinach

1 can navy/cannellini beans, drained

1/2 - 1 container of feta (plain, not in oil)

Add Ons:
sauteed onions, mushroom, garlic, olives, sundried tomatoes, Chorizo sausage, red chili flakes

1) Fill large pot with salted water and boil. When it has reached a rolling boil, add bag of pasta.

2) While pasta is cooking, empty entire can of tomatoes into large saucepan and heat through. Add bag of spinach. Spinach will appear to be overflowing from the pan but as you stir it more and more, it will decrease in size and mix in with the tomatoes.

3) Drain and then rinse can of beans. Stir beans into sauce until beans are well blended and some are starting starting to break. Do NOT cook the beans for too long as they will become glue-like. The beans add a nice creamy texture to the dish; you don't want to lose that.

4) Sprinkle 1/2-1 container of feta cheese in sauce and stir until mostly melted in the sauce and the sauce looks creamy and lighter in colour.

5) Serve over cooked pasta on its' own or with salad, bread, red wine.

-  Use penne or rigatoni pasta. Thin pasta, like spaghetti, does not work well.
-  Cooking pasta - cooks often add some oil to their water hoping it'll prevent the pasta from sticking. The oil doesn't help it and only makes the pot greasy. Salted water is best as it makes the water boil at a higher temperature and only very minimally transfers the salty taste to the pasta. To stop pasta from sticking together, add 1 cup of cold water to the pot and stir just before draining pasta.

- This is a base recipe because it is quick and easy but you can also personalise it to suit your taste. I purposely did not put sizes on the ingredients as some may like more or less of the canned tomatoes, spinach, and/or feta.

- If you have the time, I would encourage chopping and sauteing an onion and/or mushroom as the very first step, then adding the tomatoes. Leftover, cut up sausages adds flavour as does chili pepper flakes or olives or sundried tomatoes. Whatever is in your refrigerator that you think would taste good, give it a go!

Thanks for reading. If you like this recipe/blog, please comment below and spread the word about this blog. Also, you can subscribe to this blog on the upper right side of the page. Bon Appetit from down under!

0 yorum:

Post a Comment

Special design for SuzyQ Under Down by GeCe