Friday, 14 October 2011

When in Rome...

During our adventures in Europe, we decided to eat the local specialities in each city we visited. Waffles, Beer, Moules and Frites in Belgium; Pannekoeken in Amsterdam; Croissants and Fois Gras in Paris; Civapcici and Pasticada in Croatia; Tapas and Paella in Spain. We totally craved Italian food the whole time we were in Europe, and except for a couple slip ups, vowed not to eat pizza or pasta until we reached Italy. 

My most memorable meal in Italy was at a restaurant on a patio overlooking the nearly 1900 year old Pantheon. It wasn't cheap, but generally, restaurants closest to touristy attractions aren't. 

I decided to order a dish I'd never heard of that sounded amazing: Bucatini all'Amatriciana. I was blown away, trying to stuff every last tasty bite into my tummy. The portion was too big and I had to leave half of it behind. It broke my heart, but we were sans fridge, so it had to be done. The meal was even better than the view (If that could even be possible!) I promised to make it as soon as I got home, before I could forget how seriously amazing this dish was. When I got home and looked it up, I found out it was pretty much the regional dish of Rome, well Lazio, the region of Italy where Rome is. How cool is that? I ate the regional dish of Rome in Rome! When in Rome...

The dish calls for Guanciale, a cured meat made from the jowls or cheeks of the pig and is the regional specialty of Lazio. I looked for this all over Bosa Foods and couldn't get my hands on it. Pancetta is close enough and makes a decent substitution, so that's what I ended up using. When I ate this in Rome, it was with Guanciale and let me tell you, it was fantastic! If you can find it, use it, if not, Pancetta is great too. 

4 cups of Tomato Sauce 
1/2 small Sweet Onion, minced
1 - 1 1/2 cups of Guanciale or Pancetta, cubed into 1/4" cubes
3 Roma Tomatoes, cubed
1 500g box of Bucatini
2 Tablespoons Salt
Pecorino Romano Cheese, shredded fine
Fresh Basil Leaves, roughly chopped
1-2 Tablespoons EVOO

In a big pot, boil water for the pasta. When it comes to a boil, add the salt and Bucatini, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking and to get all the pasta to submerge (it's pretty long and thick so it may take a while. Follow package instructions for boiling time. My box said 11 minutes, but I let it boil a bit longer as I don't like mine too hard. You want it al dente. 

Meanwhile, in a big flat bottom pan with high flat sides, coat the bottom with your EVOO. 

Lay your Guanciale or Pancetta in a single layer in the pan. Place over medium heat, covered for about 7 minutes. Flip them over and recover to cook the other side for another 5 minutes. You don't want to heat too hot as you want the fat to render out of the pork without burning. use your judgement. If it's too hot, turn the heat down. 

Once the Pancetta is golden all over, but not super crisp, add the onions to the pan and sauté for a couple minutes.

Add the tomatoes and sauté until they start breaking down a bit, about 5 minutes with the lid on. 

Pour in the Tomato Sauce, stir to combine and let it simmer with the lid on to heat through, until the pasta is ready to go. 

When the pasta is done, drain it really well, shaking off all the water- DO NOT RINSE! NEVER RINSE!!!  Get it into the pan with the sauce. Combine until all the noodles are coated and the Pancetta bits are distributed evenly. 

Throw the lid on and turn off the heat. Let it hang out, while you get your table ready, get your Pecorino Romano shredded, get your basil chopped or torn, etc. When you mix up your bowl to eat, the cheese will combine with the sauce and stick to the noodles better and it will become a part of the sauce. Don't omit the cheese and basil, they are the best part!

Dish it out into your favourite pasta bowls. Top with a very generous portion of the shredded Pecorino Romano and torn/chopped Basil leaves to taste. You can serve this up with a salad of mixed greens, tomatoes, basil, balsamic and your best EVOO. 

This dish tastes even better the next day for lunch! 

Ohhh Myyyyy Goooooood.... So Delish!


Thursday, 13 October 2011

Advocate for the Brussels Sprout

I just got back from Europe. It was an amazing holiday, full of driving, exploring and eating. Our first stop was Brussels, Belgium. I was so excited about going to Brussels, for so many reasons, but food was definately one of them! Belgian Chocolates, Belgian Waffles, Liegois Waffles, Belgian Beers, Belgian Endive, Steak Frites, Moules, and our tiny loathed friends, the Brussels Sprouts. 

How did the Brussels Sprout get such a bum rap? Traditionally, home cooks would make brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner as an after thought, spending more time and energy on the star attractions at the dinner table, like the turkey and the stuffing. Brussels sprouts would get no love and would be overcooked. Overcooking the sprout causes it to get grey and "sulferish" smelling. We all grew up being forced to eat the smelly suckers, hating every morsel. 

And what a shame too! According to sources, Brussels Sprouts are packed with anticancer properties (generally lost from boiling them), as well as indole-3-carbinol, a chemical that helps to amp up DNA repair in cells, as well as, Vitamins A, C, Folic Acid, Fibre, and some say they even help to fight colon cancer. 

My dear husband, grew up hating veggies and it's been my personal obsession to make him love veggies. So far, it's been really successful, but Brussels Sprouts were the ONE THING he refused to eat. He actually ate this dish and has been bragging to anyone willing to listen, that THESE Brussels Sprouts are to die for. Aaaahhh Mission Accomplished. 

I'm here to advocate the revival of the Brussels Sprout. These tiny bites need love and attention to deliver a nutritious and tasty side dish.

3-4 cups of Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed, loose leaves peeled off, cut in half
1/2 cup of Pancetta, diced into 1/4" pieces
1 Tablespoon EVOO
3/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Shallot, minced 
1/2 cup water
shavings of Pecorino Romano Cheese

Prep your Brussels Sprouts and soak them in a bowl full of cold water.

In a pan, heat your Balsamic Vinegar until it reduces by half, about 2 minutes over med-high heat. Stir in the butter, until it's melted. Set aside in a bowl. Whip your pan clean.

In your pan, add your EVOO and coat the bottom. Add your diced pancetta over medium heat and cover. Let the fat melt out. After about 5 minutes, the pancetta should be golden, so flip them and continue rendering out the fat and crisping up the pancetta for another 5 minutes. Spoon the pancetta into a paper towel-lined bowl. Keep the fat in the pan, but pull the pan off the heat

Drain and dry the Brussels Sprouts well (you can do this while the pancetta cooks away in the pan)

Place the Brussels Sprouts into the pan of Pancetta fat, cut side down (move fast, but don't burn yourself). Place back on the heat on medium-high heat

Add 1/2 Cup water and let it steam away until the water evaporates, about 5 minutes. 

Add the minced shallot. A minute later, add the crisped Pancetta and a couple spoonfuls of Balsamic Vinegar and toss to incorporate. Add more Balsamic as you see fit. You're just looking for a light glazing. 

Serve immediately topped with shavings of Pecorino Romano cheese. 

Optional, add toasted pine nuts for some crunch.

Oh My God So DELISH!



Living with your in-laws is never a good time. But it does have some benefits too. My father in law has a fabulous compost right outside, for all the household compostables. He's also converted his entire yard to gardening food for the house. Everything from plums, pears and figs; to green beans, parsley and carrots. Most of all, Tomatoes! around this time of year, the house is over run with tomatoes everywhere! He lays them all out in a single layer on every flat outdoor surface he can find, and then looks for opportunities to make things with all his bounty. This year, I decided to steal (err, borrow?) two huge bowls of tomatoes to make a big pot of sauce for us and them. 

One Giant Sweet Onion, diced
One Giant head of garlic, cloves sliced thin (use a mandoline-CAREFULLY!)
3-4 Tablespoons EVOO
20-30 Tomatoes, cut into chunks
2 Tablespoons of freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 Tablespoon of sea salt
1 1/2 Tablespoon ofTurbinado Sugar
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped fine

In a giant Sauce Pot, add your EVOO, and your diced onions. Sweat out your onions until they are about translucent. Add your Garlic, mix it up and let it sweat out over medium heat.

Add your tomatoes, your salt and your pepper. Stir, cover and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Do this for about an hour (or longer). Your tomatoes will be liquidy and soupy. 

Add your sugar and using your fabulous immersion blender, blend everything in your pot really well. 

Let your sauce simmer over medium (maybe a bit lower than medium) for an hour, maybe two, with the lid on. Stir in your oregano, and recover. Turn off your heat. Taste to see if you need to add seasoning. It should be tasty and balanced, but simple. You'll be adding to it when you use it to cook with later. 

Your sauce should have reduced by at least 1/3. Keep the cover on and leave it out on your stove overnight (or in your fridge-the stove may not be food safe, it's just how I do it). 

The next day, pour your sauce into big freezer bags into usable portions.  Make sure you push all the air out of the zipper before sealing the bags. Throw it into the freezer, flat.

Pull out as needed. The zippy bags make it super easy to defrost! You can just keep it in a sink full of water to defrost while you prep and til you're ready to heat it up!

Tomato Sauce.. or Saowse as they call it in Joisey.. Delish!


Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Mealtime Mashup

French Onion Soup Mac & Cheese

I know.. WTF... what am I thinking? I know... You must think I'm crazy....

...Crazy Genius! I know! 

Who doesn't LOVE French Onion Soup?! 

Who doesn't LOVE Mac & Cheese?!

So, Poof! my favourite mealtime mashup!

Now, let's be honest, I'm not even going to pretend this is even kind of healthy. Ingredients like Flour, Butter and Cheese are unavoidable (I refuse to make this dish without either! Sister needs a Roux!) but I substituted some things to make this dish slightly easier to digest. Gluten Free Pasta instead of the regular stuff. Unsweetened Unflavoured Almond Milk (I LOVE Earth's Own Almond Fresh-Tastes like milk but not!) Remember, It's ok to be bad, once in a while... Serve with something super healthy, avoid dessert that night and hit the gym!

One big sweet onion, cut in half and sliced seriously thin (Mandolin Time!)
Splash of Canola Oil
Butter (have a stick on hand, but you'll need less)
2 heads of roasted garlic (See my old post about roasted garlic)
1/3 cup AP Flour
2 cups Milk (I used unsweetened Almond milk-but regular milk would work)
2 HUGE spoonfuls of Dijon
3 cups of Gruyere Cheese shredded
1 1/2 cups Extra Old Cheddar shredded
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 teaspoon of Cayenne (to taste, I used more)
1 teaspoon of Smoked Paprika
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
salt & peper to taste (Leave the salt to last and taste the food before you add it in, you cheese may be salty enough)
3 ish cups of short pasta (I used Gluten Free Penne) (Reserve the pasta water, like a couple cups, you may need it)
6 slices +  of Sourdough bread, crusts cut off, ripped up into tiny pieces, toasted lightly in the oven

Preheat your broiler

Put a big pot of water to boil, once boiling, cook up the pasta of choice to almost al dente, according to the package directions. Try to do this at the same time as making the sauce if you can. 

In a big high sided frying pan, put all the onions in on medium heat with the lid on, stirring occasionally. If it starts burning, turn the heat down, once it starts sticking a bit, add a splash of Canola and scrape up the goodness off the bottom. 

Once it's caramelized and brown, add the roasted garlic cloves from two heads of garlic

Add 3 Tablespoons of butter. 

Once melted somewhat, add the flour and stir it up to cook off the flour and incorporate everything together, crushing any whole garlic cloves that might still be.

Slowly stir in the Almond Milk (or milk) mixing thoroughly. Add the Dijon (Be super generous with the Dijon) Stir well.

Add  2 cups of the Gruyere (reserve the third cup for later) and 1 1/2 cups of the Cheddar slowly, melting the cheese into the sauce over medium-low heat. 

Add the Worcestershire, the Cayenne, the Paprika, the Pepper, and the Nutmeg. If the sauce is looking super thick, thin it a bit with the hot pasta water. 

Taste the sauce. add salt as needed. Try to just taste it once, but, you may keep going back in like I did (I HAD to be sure it was ok!) (Even more fun is using the sourdough crust scraps... you don't want that to go to waste!)

Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter

Toss the Sourdough Croutons in the butter

Drain the pasta really well. Shake off all the water and add it to the sauce and mix really well. Let it sit while you're making the croutons and let the sauce get right up in there!

Pour all the saucey pasta into a big shallow baking dish.

Spread out the buttery croutons all over the top of the mac

Sprinkle the last cup of Gruyere over the top

Broil it til it's bubbly and browned on top

Pull it out and let it sit for a couple minutes while you get the table ready. 

Serve with veggies or salad. I served mine with steamed broccoli. 

Should serve about 6-8 people 

Sinful. Dangerous. Delish.