Tuesday, June 30, 2009
The other night I came home from a long day and was craving risotto. I don't know why, but lately I have noticed that risotto has usurped the title of "best comfort food" from my old placeholder, mac and cheese. I crave that creamy rice like all the time. I made a joke to Sarah one time about wanting to go home and curl up in bed with a nice bowl of risotto. Doesn't that sound nice?
The problem is, risotto always seems time consuming or a bit intimidating, two things which comfort foods should not be. But this dish I ended up concocting is pretty fast and easy. It began with a google search for "arborio rice recipes" which lead me to this recipe for Parmesan Black Pepper Arborio Rice Pilaf. This dish was attractive because it promised risotto-like results without risotto-like preparation. But I wanted to include some vegetables, and perhaps do something with the piece of goat cheese that was sitting in my fridge, so I turned to google again, and found a Jamie Oliver recipe for Spinach and Goat Cheese risotto via the food blog Cheese Plus Everything. I used bits and pieces of these two recipes and concocted a really tasty dinner. Here's what I did:
(I didn't put amounts for most of these, because it's really up to you....feel it out.)
arborio rice (I used a half cup of rice with one cup of liquid for one large portion - make sure to adjust proportions if making a larger serving....you already know that.)
some onion (I used a red onion, any kind is fine.)
fresh or dried mushrooms (optional)
mushroom/vegetable/chicken broth (BUT broth is only needed if you are NOT using dried mushrooms. You'll see why.)
fresh lemon juice (optional)
If using dried mushrooms, rinse well in water and then place in large bowl with a good amount of hot water to rehydrate. Set aside. Then chop up your garlic and onion. Heat a mix of butter and oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion+ HALF of the garlic (and a good amount of salt and pepper) and saute until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add rice; stir to coat for about one minute.
IF using dried mushrooms, now is the time to strain 1 cup (or whichever amount, depending on how many portions you're making) of the water. The water will now be fragrant and mushroom-flavored ! (Keep soaking the mushrooms in more water if they are not hydrated fully yet.) Add broth to the pot. (If using other stock (pre-made mushroom/chicken/vegetable) just measure out the correct amount and add it.) Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until stock is absorbed and rice is creamy and soft with a little "chew" at the center, about 12 minutes. (Feel free to add more broth as the rice cooks to make it more creamy and risotto-ish.)
While you wait for the rice to cook, heat olive oil in a pan and add the rest of the garlic. Add spinach and fresh mushrooms (if using) and saute until cooked.
Once your rice is cooked, remove from heat and stir in the sauteed vegetables, add more salt and pepper to taste, and a nice grating of Parmesan cheese. (If using dried mushrooms, make sure they are hydrated, and chop + add to mixture now as well.)
Stir in goat cheese (start with a little, add more to taste) until it melts and combines with rice mixture. Serve hot in a big bowl with some more Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of fresh lemon juice on top.
Pour yourself a glass of wine and curl up in bed with it!
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Of course, June isn't chicken and dumplings weather, but it IS strawberry season and knowing how delicious Smitten Kitchen's chicken and dumpling recipe was, I had no choice but to try out her strawberries and dumplings recipe after going a little strawberry crazy at the food coop last week.
1 quart (about 2 pints or 4 cups) strawberries, trimmed and thickly sliced
1/4 cup sugar
juice of half a lemon
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup whole milk (I went all out and bought unhomogenized milk -- it comes with cream on top!)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Accompaniment: Heavy cream (I didn't get heavy cream since I didn't want to buy so many full fat dairy products, but I would recommend getting it, or making whipped cream or adding Greek yogurt. I had the leftovers the following day with low fat plain yogurt and even that was tasty)
Stir together strawberries, sugar and lemon in a 4-quart heavy saucepan and let stand, stirring occasionally, until juicy, about 15 minutes. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Stir the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Heat the milk and butter together until just the butter melts. Stir the warmed milk mixture into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon until incorporated and smooth. Gather a golf-ball-sized portion of the batter onto a small spoon, then push the dumpling onto the stew using a second spoon. (Smitten Kitchen says this gets you 16 dumplings -- I halved the recipe but I only got six dumplings...maybe golf balls are smaller than I think they are?)
Tightly cover the saucepan and reduce heat to low. Cook, undisturbed, until dumpling looks dry on top, 15 to 18 minutes; the dumplings will have doubled in size. Let stand off heat, uncovered, five minutes, then drizzle with heavy cream right before serving.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
This is another recipe that I made quite a few months ago. Even though the leftovers are long gone, I do remember quite clearly where the inspiration to make these noodles
It was a Wednesday back in the winter at one of Nick+Faryl's wonderful "LOST"-watching parties, and we had ordered Chinese food. We'd gotten into the habit of doing a "blind vote" to determine what kind of food (pizza or Chinese) to order for dinner. A blind vote is conducted as follows: everyone closes their eyes except for one person, the "leader" of the blind vote. The leader then poses the two sides for voting - "Who wants pizza?" - and then all in favor quietly raise their hands, with no fear of judgment by others or any chance of outside influence on their choice. The leader silently counts up the votes and continues - "Who wants Chinese?"
Once the vote is done, we open our eyes and the leader announces the verdict. It's pretty thrilling, if I do say so myself. (This is obviously a pretty scientific process for just figuring out what to eat for dinner, but hey, we take dinner pretty seriously.) Try it next time you're with a large group and you need to make a decision!
In any case, on this particular night, the blind voters had selected Chinese, and I was eating a plate containing some of the best Cold Sesame Noodles I think I have ever had. I don't quite know exactly what made these noodles so satisfying and delicious, but at that moment, they were really hitting the spot. Chewy noodles, slightly spicy and sweet sauce, not too oily. I have never really been a cold sesame noodles kinda gal, but something must have changed, because the next day, I was still thinking about those noodles! Instead of taking the subway back up to the Upper West Side, I decided to try to make my own. I did some searching around on the internet and turns out that a bunch of internet cooks were raving about Tyler Florence's recipe. So I made it! This is how:
Cold Sesame Noodles
* 1/2 pound Chinese egg noodles (I used some kind of whole-grain udon noodles I think. They work too. But egg noodles are what they used in those awesome Lost-night cold sesame noodles.)
* 3 tablespoons dark sesame oil
* 2 tablespoons peanut oil (I didn't have, used olive or canola oil probably?)
* 2 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
* 1-inch piece fresh ginger, minced
* 3 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 teaspoon red chili paste, such as sambal oelek
* 2 tablespoons brown sugar
* 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
* 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
* 3 tablespoons soy sauce
* 6 tablespoons hot water
* 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
* Cucumber slices, for garnish ( I used thin slices of red bell pepper.)
* Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
Cook the noodles in large pot of boiling unsalted water over medium heat until barely tender and still firm. Drain immediately and rinse with cold water until cool. Drain the noodles really well and transfer to a wide bowl; toss with the sesame oil so they don't stick together. (Or if you're using different noodles, just follow the directions for preparing those.)
In a small saucepan, heat the peanut oil over medium-low flame. Add the green onions, ginger, garlic, and chili paste. Cook and stir for a minute until soft and fragrant. Mix in the brown sugar, peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce, and hot water. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and the peanut butter has smoothed out. Toss the noodles with the peanut sauce until well coated. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Garnish with the sesame seeds, cucumber slices, and cilantro (and red pepper if using). (You can also thin out the sauce with a bit more water if it seems too thick.)
These are actually even better if you let the sauce chill overnight. The flavors really do "mesh" when given some time to mingle.
Friday, June 12, 2009
2. My neighbor Amy (Amy S.) likes to roast beets and I am always impressed with the results. For some reason roasting always struck me as a little bit daunting, but it's not, at all. I think I was daunted because I didn't know exactly what roasting meant. Like, I thought roasting was roasting a whole goat over a spit. But apparently roasting also means putting some food in a foil packet with olive oil, which is a lot easier and very different.
So I roasted these beets and made a salad. There is a tiny greenmarket every day on Sacramento Street and it's pretty cheap. Sorry I didn't take a picture of the beets before roasting, they were pretty.
You probably don't even need a recipe for roasting beets, but I used this one: http://www.thekneadforbread.com/2009/03/27/roasted-beet-bread/
I didn't make the bread, it sounds crazy!
2 tablespoons olive oil
few sprigs fresh thyme (I used not-fresh thyme)
3 crushed garlic cloves (OK without garlic, too)
salt and pepper
1 ) Using a potato brush scrub the beets with the skin on till all the dirt is removed. Cut the stems about 2 inches from the beet off. (I cut my beets into quarters before roasting to make them roast faster.)
2 ) Get a large piece of tin foil. Place the beets on the tin foil.
3 ) Pour the olive oil over top and add the crushed garlic and fresh thyme. Add a little salt and pepper.
4 ) Close the foil to form a packet. Place on rimmed baking sheet; roast in 400F oven until fork-tender, 1 hour.
5 ) Wearing rubber gloves, peel and trim beets; cut into wedges. (I didn't have rubber gloves, and I didn't bother peeling the beets. You probably don't need to.)
The salad was lettuce, carrots, and goat cheese. I used to think I didn't like goat cheese. It always tasted like cold salty tangy creamy vagueness. I realized that it tastes way better and more nuanced if you eat it at room temperature. Recommended!
Thursday, June 11, 2009
I enjoyed my hummus making so much that when I was packing to leave I actually said "Noooo, part of me just wants to stay here and keep blending things!"
But California is fun. Seriously the only downside to the apartment I'm subletting for the summer is that we don't have a blender.
Anyway, if you DO have a blender, I encourage you to make some hummus:
I got this recipe from elise.com. It's the second result when you google "hummus recipe."
- 4 garlic cloves, minced and then mashed
- 2 15-oz cans of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
- 2/3 cup of tahini (roasted, not raw)
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
In a blender, combine the mashed garlic, garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, 1/2 cup water, and olive oil. Process until smooth. Add salt, starting at a half a teaspoon, to taste.
Oh, I almost forgot. I also made some pita to go along with it. The pita was kind of a pain in the ass (get it? the pita was kind of a PITA! HA!) but it wasn't actually hard, it just needed a lot of tending to and you have to let the dough hang out overnight, etc.
I used the smitten kitchen recipe. Good old Deb.
3 cups plus a scant 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (I used half white / half whole wheat)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast (I had not-instant yeast and I was worried it wasn't going to work but it was fine. I just had to put it in some warm water first. I don't really understand yeast yet. Just follow the directions on whatever package you have and stay calm.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature
1. About 1 1/2 hours before shaping, or for best flavor development, 8 hours to 3 days ahead, mix the dough.
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except for a scant 1/4 cup of the flour. With a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until all the flour is moistened. Knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together.
Sprinkle a little of the reserved flour onto the counter and scrape the dough onto it. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, adding as little of the reserved flour as possible. Use a bench scraper to scrape the dough and gather it together as you knead it. At this point it will be very sticky. Cover it with the inverted bowl and allow it to rest for 5 to 20 minutes. (This rest will make the dough less sticky and easier to work with.)
Knead the dough for another 5 to 10 minutes or until it is soft and smooth and just a little sticky to the touch. Add a little flour or water if necessary. (The dough will weigh about 27.75 oz./793 grams.)
2. Let the dough rise: Using an oiled spatula or dough scraper, scrape the dough into a 2-quart or larger dough-rising container or bowl, lightly greased with cooking spray or oil. Press the dough down and lightly spray or oil the top of it. Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap. With a piece of tape, mark the side of the container at approximately where double the height of the dough would be. Refrigerate the dough overnight (or up to 3 days), checking every hour for the first 4 hours and pressing it down if it starts to rise.
3. Preheat the oven: Preheat the oven to 475°F one hour before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone, cast-iron skillet, or baking sheet on it before preheating.
4. Shape the dough: Cut the dough into 8 or 12 pieces. Work with one piece at a time, keeping the rest covered with a damp cloth. On a lightly floured counter, with lightly floured hands, shape each piece into a ball and then flatten it into a disk. Cover the dough with oiled plastic and allow it to rest for 20 minutes at room temperature.
Roll each disk into a circle a little under 1/4 inch thick. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes before baking.
5. Bake the pita: Quickly place 1 piece of dough directly on the stone or in the skillet or on the baking sheet, and bake for 3 minutes. The pita should be completely puffed but not beginning to brown. The dough will not puff well if it is not moist enough. See how the pita puffs, then, if necessary, spray and knead each remaining piece with water until the dough is soft and moist; allow to rest again and reroll as before.
Proceed with the remaining dough, baking 3 or 4 pieces at a time if using a stone or baking sheet. Transfer the pita breads to a clean towel, to stay soft and warm. Allow the oven to reheat for 5 minutes between batches. The pitas can be reheated for about 30 seconds in a hot oven before serving.
So Amy was in town for a spell a few weeks ago and we decided to have another sleepover wherein we make/consume baked goods. We decided to start the night with some stuffed artichokes, and follow them up with some lemon squares - two really spring-y, fragrant foods. Amy graciously picked up some groceries and made her way over. (Between the lemon squares and the artichokes I think she bought like 12 lemons. I love lemons.) We used the following NY Times recipe for the artichokes. It looked like a pretty basic, solid recipe, and it came out really well. BUT I am curious - DO any of you have a stuffed artichoke recipe that you like to use? Feel free to paste it in the comments!
But like I said, damn. These were so tasty.
Stuffed Artichokes With Lemon Zest, Rosemary and Garlic
1 1/2 lemons, zested, then halved
4 large globe artichokes (we only used two, and halved all other ingredients.)
2 1/4 cups plain bread crumbs (we used Japanese bread crumbs aka PANKO - which is not traditional, but still tasty and maybe a bit lighter. In any case, if you want to make these and all you have is panko, by all means, go for it.)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus 4 whole sprigs
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary (We omitted. I'm weird about rosemary. Don't know why!)
8 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2 carrots, peeled
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped capers
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1/2 cup dry white wine. (Didn't have this either. It's not essential, but would definitely add to the flavor. Next time I will definitely use wine.)
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Fill a large bowl with water and squeeze juice from two lemon halves into water. Cut off artichoke stems, peel them with a vegetable peeler, rub them all over with remaining lemon half (this prevents browning) and drop them into water.
2. Use a heavy, sharp knife to cut top 1 1/2 inches off an artichoke. Pull out pale inner leaves from center. At the bottom, where leaves were, is a furry bed, the choke. Use a spoon (a grapefruit spoon works wonderfully) to scoop out choke. (Seriously - USE A SPOON - I didn't and I got stuck by a sharp piece of the "choke". It hurt!) Next, using kitchen shears or a pair of scissors, trim pointy ends from outer leaves of artichoke. As you work, rub lemon half over cut parts of artichoke. When you are finished trimming, drop artichoke into bowl of lemon water. Repeat with remaining artichokes.(At this point, we felt really connected to our artichokes and decided it would be a good idea to name them. If memory serves - Steven and Tricia? I forget which was which.)
3. To prepare stuffing, in a large bowl combine lemon zest, bread crumbs, Parmesan, chopped parsley and rosemary. Mince 6 garlic cloves and add to bowl. Finely chop one carrot and add to bowl along with capers, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Toss.
Amy is listening to the "artichoke-cean" - get it!?
4. In a small roasting pan or baking pan large enough to hold artichokes, scatter onion slices. Add reserved artichoke stems, 4 sprigs parsley and remaining garlic cloves. Slice remaining carrot into rounds and add to pan.
5. Holding artichokes over stuffing bowl, stuff choke cavity and in between the leaves with bread crumb mixture. Stand stuffed artichokes upright in pan and generously drizzle olive oil over center of each artichoke.
6. Fill pan with water until it reaches 1/4 way up the artichokes. Add wine and remaining salt and pepper to water. Cover pan with foil and poke several holes in foil. Bake artichokes for about 1 1/2 hours, or until tender; when done, a knife should be easily inserted into artichoke and a leaf should be easily pulled out.
While these baked, we began prepping the lemon square/bars/whatever you call them. We used this recipe from the ever popular Smitten Kitchen.
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
For the crust:
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
For the full-size lemon layer:
6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup flour
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
[Or] for a thinner lemon layer: (We used these proportions, it was PLENTY.)
4 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (3 to 4 lemons)
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2/3 cup flour
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet.
For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (We just used an electric hand mixer.) Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into the greased baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.
Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
For the lemon layer, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes (less if you are using the thinner topping), or about five minutes beyond the point where the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.
Cut into triangles and dust with confectioners’ sugar.
YUM. These two creations of ours complimented each other very well. We even finished baking by my self-imposed cut off time of 2 AM - (had to work in the morning). I was sleepy the next day but very happy to have a lemon bar wrapped in aluminum foil waiting for me at lunch time.
Friday, June 5, 2009
Serves 6, Takes 1 hour 20 minutes
2 yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch dice
3 cups vegetable broth
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, washed well and sliced thinly
1 small onion, cut into medium size dice
1 1/2 cup carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, plus extra for garnish
Several pinches of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
3/4 cup frozen peas
1 (15 oz) can navy beans, drained and rinsed (about 1/2 can)
3/4 cup plain soy milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup nonhydrogenated vegan shortening
PREHEAT THE oven to 425 degrees F.
Place the potatoes in a small pot and cover with water. Cover and bring to boil. Once boiling, let cook for about 10 minutes, until the potatoes are just tender enough to be pierced with a fork. Drain immediately so that they do not overcook. While they are boiling, you can prep the rest of the veggies and start preparing the biscuits -- the potatoes should definitely be done by the time you are.
Now prepare everything for the biscuits. You are not going to make them yet, but it's good to have everything ready when it comes time to top the stew. Add the vinegar to the soy milk in a measuring cup and set aside to curdle. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium size mixing bowl.
Now leave that alone and start the stew:
Mix the cornstarch into the vegetable stock until dissolved.
Preheat an oven-safe skillet (if you don't have that, just transfer contents to casserole dish), preferably cast iron, over medium heat. Saute in the oil the leeks, onions, and carrots until very soft and just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Keep the heat moderate so they won't burn.
Add the garlic, thyme, freshly ground black pepper and salt, and cook for 1 more minute. Add the cooked potatoes and frozen peas, then pour in the vegetable stock mixture. Raise the heat just a bit; it will take a few minutes but the liquid will start simmering. Once it does, lower the heat again. Let it simmer for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, but no longer than that. If you need more time for the biscuits, then turn off the heat under the stew.
Back to the biscuits:
Add the shortening to the flour in small slivers and work it into the dough with a fork or with your fingers until large crumbs form. You don't want to cream it in; there should be clumps. Drizzle in the soy milk and mix with a fork until everything is moistened (some dry parts are okay).
Wash and dry your hands, then lightly flour them and get them dirty again. Gently knead the dough about ten times right in the bowl, just so that it is holding together and not very sticky. If it seems sticky, as in sticking to your fingers, then gently work in a little more flour. Set that aside and check on your stew.
The stew should be simmering and slightly thickened. Mix in the beans. Now, let's add the biscuits. Pull of chunks of dough that are about slightly larger than golf balls. Gently roll them into balls and flatten a bit; they do not have to be perfectly round. Add them to the top of the stew, placed an inch or so apart.
Transfer the whole megillah to the preheated oven. If you are worried about spillover, place on a rimmed baking sheet, but we've never had that problem. Bake for about 15 minutes. The biscuits should be just slightly browned and firm to the touch.
Remove from the oven and use a large serving spoon to place some of hte stew and a biscuit in each shallow, individual bowl. Sprinkle with a little chopped, fresh thyme.
Serve at last! Especially yummy when you break up your biscuit and mix it in a bit with your stew.
Commentary: This turned out very, very savory and hearty. I don't think I've had enough protein (and nutritious foods in general) since I made the switch to vegan 1/2 month ago, so this recipe is a particular delight. Some proteins in the beans. Some vitamin A. I'm not a fan of cornstarch, and I think this recipe can do without it. You'll probably need some time to simmer the stew for it to thicken. Also, I didn't have nonhydrogenated vegan shortening, so I used Earth Balance. The biscuits turned out really dry and not that "buttery," but that shortcoming is easily remedied with dipping the said biscuit in the stew. I highy recommend this recipe and I look forward to testing out more Veganomicon recipes!
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
1. The dish will require more vegetables than you think. The one problem I have ever run into while making this is having an unsuccessful pasta/vegetable ratio. It should be about 1:1 with maybe a little more vegetables. Otherwise, it's kind of bland.
2. Some kind of acid is a good idea for better flavor. I like to use lemon juice or sherry vinegar. I throw it in at the end.
3. Grated parmesan is a good idea. Unless you are vegan. Or lactose intolerant. Otherwise, pile it on.
Onto the "recipe". I didn't include quantities, since it is different each time depending on what I have in the fridge.
pasta (any kind - i like chunky pasta with beans)
garlic (I had garlic greens which look like scallions, but have a milder garlic flavor)
onion, minced (I used spring onions, which are the ones with the greens attached. Again, a milder flavor)
vegetables: I used mushrooms (thickly sliced), asparagus (chopped into 1" pieces), spinach (roughly chopped), cherry tomatoes (quartered)
beans (I used chick peas, but white beans would also work)
fresh basil, chopped (you could use other herbs, of course)
lemon juice (I used 1/2 lemon)
red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
other optionals: grated cheese, fresh ricotta or mozarella, toasted pine nuts, sun dried tomatoes, pesto
Put the water on to boil for the pasta. Add pasta to water when it reaches a boil and your vegetables are 10 minutes away from being finished. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic once oil is heated. Add the vegetables in order of longest cooking time. I first put in mushrooms, then asparagus, finally spinach and lastly, tomatoes. If the harder veggies are taking too long, you can throw in some water/pasta water/stock/white wine, turn up the heat, cover, and steam for a minute or so to speed things up. I did this after adding the spinach. Add the beans to the skillet so they can heat too. When the pasta is done, drain it and add to the skillet. Turn off the heat. This is when you add additional olive oil, salt and pepper, if needed, herbs, and lemon juice/vinegar. Add parmesan before serving.