Saturday, February 28, 2009

Neko Case fans, unite

Neko Case releases her new album, Middle Cyclone, next Tuesday, and I'm enjoying all the build-up. Fox Confessor Brings the Flood was pretty much the soundtrack to 2006-07 for me (as well as countless others). - you can stream all the songs from Middle Cyclone from NPR
- Greg Kott and Jim DeRogatis talk to Neko on today's Sound Opinions (a local Chicago affair)

I'm still absorbing the new album -- a different feel from Fox Confessor, full of love songs and paeans to nature. Only "Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth" strikes me as a dud (insipid lyrics and backing vocals). Paul and I have tickets to her April 24th concert at the Chicago Theatre. Can't wait!
After a rather light-on-the-veggies January, I've been trying to get back into the habit of incorporating oodles of vegetables into our meals. Here's a recipe from last weekend that was a success.

This is one of the few recipes I really like that isn't as good leftover. Alas! But it's wonderful right when it's made, and it's easy as can be. The simplicity of the recipe showcases high-quality ingredients, so it's worth splurging on flavorful feta (not Athenos or whatever comes pre-crumbled in the regular cheese section at the supermarket) and olives.

Conchiglie with Roasted Vegetables and Feta Cheese
(adapted from Jeanne Lemlin's Main Course Vegetarian Pleasures)

Serves 6 (maybe 4 if you're serving only famished burly men who are accustomed to Olive-Garden pasta portions)

3 large bell peppers, any color combination, cut into 1-inch dice (I used red, orange, and yellow)
3 medium-large tomatoes, cored, seeded, and cut into 1-inch dice
1 medium-large onion, cut into 1-inch dice, sections separated (I used red onion)
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced on the diagonal (optional)
5 garlic cloves, pressed or chopped
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
4 T. olive oil
1 lb. conchiglie (shells)
1 C. (4.5 oz) crumbled feta cheese (use good feta for this -- the flavor is really showcased in this recipe. I used a Bulgarian sheep's milk feta from Whole Paycheck)
20 black oil-cured olives, halved and pitted (once again, it's worth buying good olives for this)
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees for the veggies.

In a large bowl, combine the peppers, tomatoes, onion, celery, garlic, basil, oregano, and 2 T. of olive oil. Toss to coat the veggies thoroughly. Spread the veggies on a baking sheet (or 2) so they rest in one layer. [Lining the baking sheets with foil leads to easier clean-up, but is a bit wasteful.] Bake for 20 minutes, or until the peppers are tender. Toss with a spatula once during baking.

Once the water starts boiling, drop the pasta in and cook until tender yet chewy, about 12 minutes. Drain thoroughly in a colander and place in a large bowl. Spoon the veggies onto the pasta along with the remaining 2 T. of oil. Sprinkle on the feta cheese, olives, salt and pepper (be generous with the pepper), and toss.

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