Sunday, January 25, 2015

Lemony Orecchiette with Roasted Broccoli and Feta AND The Prodigal Blogger Returns

Southern California doesn't really understand the concept of January.  In other parts of the country (and world) people are bundled up in coats, scarves, and gloves, preparing themselves for the next round of snow storms.  In Southern California this past weekend it was in the 80s ... yes, the 80s. Now, to be fair, SoCal is also in the middle of an historic drought (details, details ...).  Nevertheless, like any good resident of Southern California, I sacrificed myself for the rest of the frost-bitten country by spending the weekend outside.

As part of my enjoying-the-drought-weather weekend, I had lunch out on the patio of a cafeteria-inspired restaurant called Lemonade.  It's basically an upscale adult cafeteria that serves fresh, flavorful food in an atmosphere vaguely reminiscent of your school cafeteria (I use the term "vaguely" because the only thing that this restaurant has in common with your school cafeteria is that you get to walk down a line with a tray and point at the food you want).

I don't know if their roasted broccoli salad with feta called to me because the summery weather made the idea of lighter fare seem really appealing, or if my body wanted something green with cheese, but while I ordered several other tasty items, I couldn't tell you what they were because the broccoli with feta was just so good that I forgot about everything else in my life (bills/chores/dissertation).

It's not fair.  It's just broccoli and feta-- how on earth could something so simple be so satisfying?  I was ready to recreate this meal the minute I got home.  I decided to add pasta and lemon to my salad because I thought it would round out the meal nicely-- and I wasn't disappointed.  So, if you're really in the need to recreate a summer dish to get over your winter blues (or a very lovely week night dinner), try this!

Lemony Orecchiette with Roasted Broccoli and Feta


2 cups of orecchiette pasta
1lb of broccoli florets 
1/2 block of feta cheese (I love the sheep's milk feta in brine at Trader Joe's)
2 cloves of garlic minced
1tsp of lemon zest
juice from one lemon
2 tbsp of olive oil (one for the broccoli and one for the dressing)
1/2 tsp of Dijon mustard
2 tsp of salt (one for the broccoli and one for the dressing)
1tsp of pepper (use half for the broccoli and half for the dressing)

Preheat oven to 425.  Wash and chop the broccoli and toss in the olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic. Lay broccoli on a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes (the broccoli will still have a bit of firmness, you may roast it a bit longer if you prefer your broccoli to be more tender).  Set aside your broccoli and boil the orecchiette pasta until al dente.  In the meantime, whisk the lemon zest, lemon juice, mustard, olive oil, and salt/pepper.  Dice your feta cheese into nice sized squares (they'll disintegrate a bit when you toss them with the pasta, broccoli, and dressing, so you don't want the pieces to be too small). 

When the pasta is finished, rinse with cool water, drain, and add to a large bowl with the broccoli, feta, and dressing.  Toss to coat evenly.  Can be eaten at room temperature or cold.  Enjoy!

Makes about 4 servings