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Archive for the ‘Italian’ Category

I’ve been waiting for some inspiration in the last year in order to bring you some new recipes on Gourm(eh), and I’ve finally admitted to myself the reason that it’s been a slow time in my culinary adventures. The truth is, it’s not very exciting to cook for oneself. One thing that I’ve really enjoyed, however, has been long-distance meal-planning with my significant other, especially because it’s so exciting to see that despite distance, food is still able to bring us together and we often send messages back-and-forth of ideas and questions about how best to prepare things, and what produce has been good lately at the market or grocery store. Yes I’ll admit, Hamilton is a bit ahead of Ottawa, but we’ve got some good things here too now! It’s not nearly as nice as a meal together, but it will do if it’s all we’ve got for now!

I’m telling you this because this recipe was inspired by his own a few weeks ago. A tomato sauce with beets! I had one pound of delicious ground beef from my CSA box, new young leeks, fresh oregano and beets, so I decided to attempt some meatballs with spaghetti and a spicy beet tomato sauce. The spicy sauce is well-balanced by the sweet beet base, and it goes very well with flavourful beef.

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Ingredients – 4 servings

Meatballs

1 lb ground beef, extra lean
2 young leeks, cleaned and minced
1 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
3 tbsp bread crumbs
1 tsp dried rosemary, crushed (I like to pound mine in a mortar and pestle)
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 egg
dash salt and pepper
olive oil

Spicy beet tomato sauce

1 onion, diced
2 young leeks, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 – 1 tsp dried chili flakes (to taste)
1 beet, diced into small pieces
1  good tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 can diced tomatoes (796 mL or 28 Oz)

Spaghetti or other pasta, enough for 4 (according to package)

Parmesan, for garnish

Directions

Mix all ingredients for meat balls except olive oil and egg in a bowl with hands until everything is well mixed, then add the egg. Form into small balls in the palm of your hands, and place on a plate drizzled with olive oil. Roll the meatball in the olive oil so it is coated, and repeat until you have made all the mixture into meatballs. Depending on the size, you should get 20-30 meatballs. Set aside in refrigerator while you prepare the sauce.

For the sauce, dice the onions first, and heat up the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Cook the onions for a few minutes, then add the minced leek. Cook for a few more minutes and then add the garlic, chili flakes and basil. Stir until the onion is soft and everything is fragrant. Add the beet, and then the tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Bring to a strong simmer and then reduce the heat and cook for 15-20 minutes, while you prepare the meatballs and the pasta.

For the meatballs, heat a small amount of olive oil over medium-high heat in another frying pan. Once the oil is hot, cook the meatballs, turning them carefully so all sides brown. Cook for another 10-15 minutes, until they are cooked through (you should not see any pink inside).  Set on a paper-towel lined plate once cooked.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, and cook pasta to your liking. Pour a ladle-full of water into the beet sauce to make it a little saucier if you like. Serve the meatballs tossed in the sauce, over the pasta, with grated parmesan and enjoy!

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To continue with the squash theme of the season, I’m posting this recipe for this very delicious risotto that I invented with my roommate during a dinner party earlier this week. I found that using delicata squash in this risotto actually avoided the need for parmesan, making this recipe an easy one for those looking for dairy-free recipes, and a delicious option for those who just simply don’t have any in their fridges (as in my case).

With the autumn changing to winter, I find myself craving the warmth of dishes like this one. The key to making risotto ultra creamy is to stir it constantly while it cooks. It may feel tedious at the time, but it sure pays off in the end!

Ingredients – 6 servings

-1 onion, diced
-1 Tbsp butter or oil + extra for roasting squash
-1 1/2 cups arborio rice
-3 cups vegetable broth
-1 cup water + more if necessary
-1 cup dry white wine
-1 whole medium-large delicada squash, seeds removed and cut into quarters
-dash of salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 400F. Clean and quarter the squash, then cover with a light coating of oil and a dash of salt. Place in a pyrex dish and bake, uncovered, approximately 30-35 minutes or until very soft and the edges begin to brown.

Place the broth and water in a covered pan and bring to a boil. Heat butter or oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan. Cook onions in pan for 2-3 minutes, until translucent. Add arborio rice and stir. Cook for 4-5 minutes, until grains become lightly toasted. Add in wine and stir. Once most of the wine is absorbed, add a cup of broth, and continue stirring. Repeat once liquid is absorbed. Mash the delicata squash and add into rice. Stir. Continue adding broth all the way until it has been fully absorbed. Keep broth simmering while you are adding it. If you run out of broth before your rice is fully cooked, just add a bit more bouillon or water that you have preheated. By the end, all that stirring will result in an unbelievably smooth risotto.

If you like, keep a few pieces of squash separate untili the end to garnish the risotto with. You can add a pinch of parmesan or crushed hazelnuts to top this delicious meal off. Bon appétit!

-Sitelle

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With the first frost approaching, I thought it would be likely this recipe would come in handy! Before moving to Montréal, we harvested all our tomatoes (even though it was just the end of August), and made pots and pots of sauce to put in the freezer. Our tomato harvest this year was phenomenal.

The oxheart variety we planted was particularly spectacular. You can see the tomatoes truly resembled a heart (with the ventricle and atrium larger on one side than the other!). Many of the oxheart tomatoes were over one pound, some almost two, and we couldn’t keep up with eating them as fast as they ripened.

Having too many tomatoes is definitely a blessing. And if you’re wondering what to do with yours, well, here’s a possibility!

Ingredients – 10-12 servings

-10-14 tomatoes (I measure the quantity by seeing how many fit into my big pot I’m going to make the sauce in, and then use all of them)
-2 onions, diced
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-3 Tbsp olive oil + more for brushing
-1/2 cup chopped fresh basil or 1.5 Tbsp dried
-1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp dried
-2 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano or 2 tsp dried
-2 bay leaves
-1 tsp salt (or to taste)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375F. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper (optional, but I find it makes cleaning up a lot easier). Slice tomatoes in half or quarters, brush with olive oil, a dash of salt, and roast in the oven for approximately 35-45 minutes, or until they begin to have brown spots on them and taste sweet.

Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions,then reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook them until they become translucent. Stir in the garlic, and cook for another minute or so but try not to let garlic brown.

Add in all roasted tomatoes and any of the juices from the bottom of the pan if it is not burnt. Stir, and then add in bay leaves, thyme, oregano, and basil. Increase heat to medium-high and wait until it is simmering. Then stir, reduce heat to medium-low or low, letting it simmer away for 40 or so minutes. Taste, and add salt accordingly.

To store, place in containers and freeze. If you use jars, make sure to freeze this with them open and then close the lids after it is solid! The sauce itself stores around 5 days in the fridge without being frozen.

You can also alternate the herbs in this with parsley, herbs de provence, rosemary, and hot pepper flakes.

-Sitelle

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For the past several years, I have embraced coming up with new or unusual ways to cook traditional foods usually eaten at and around Thanksgiving. Like Catherine, Thanksgiving is also a favourite holiday of mine. The brilliant colours around me remind me of the changing seasons, and this year, they remind me of a bountiful harvest had at our (now previous) home in Toronto. Although I loved the autumn colours in Toronto, I must admit they are absolutely stunning out here in Western Montréal. I frequently have to travel at least an hour to visit field sites at work, and I am really fortunate because I end up driving along some of the most beautiful roads in Canada. Driving doesn’t feel like a chore, in that case – but rather a treat!

This year I spent Thanksgiving in Ottawa. We decided to have a roast beef (rosbif en français), and so I thought I should try to make something different with squash, because squash are something I can never get enough of. A relative of mine who knows me well gave me a beautiful Kuri squash (aka red hubbard) as a housewarming gift a few weeks ago. What a great idea! It had a smiling face carved into it naturally in a few crevices – and made a lovely meal which I greatly enjoyed sharing with my family. I made this recipe without parmesan because of a dietary restriction – and I think in the end that allowed the subtle squash flavours to really come through. I based the recipe off one found on Bon Appétit‘s website which I bookmarked last year as a must for 2011. This is quite an ambitious project to take on if you’ve never made gnocchi, but don’t shy away just because of that. Especially if you have the helping hands of a mother or friend, it ends up being really fun and the outcome is certainly worth it.

Ingredients – 6 side portions

-1 medium kuri (red hubbard) squash
-1 Tbsp olive oil

-3 small potatoes or 1 large potato – approximately 350g
-1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
-1 egg, beaten
-1/2 tsp (freshly if possible) grated nutmeg
-1/2 tsp salt

-4 Tbsp butter
-2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
-pinch of salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Cut squash in half lengthwise, and remove seeds. Place cut-side up on a baking dish and brush with olive oil. Cook in oven at 400F for 75-90 minutes, or until the squash is fully roasted and some brown spots begin to appear on it.

Meanwhile, boil the potato whole for about 20 minutes or until a fork can be poked in and flesh is tender. Remove from water, peel, and purée the potato (use a potato ricer if you have  – which my dad and his wife do to my great surprise!). Purée the potato while it is still warm, and if you do not have a ricer, mash it up thoroughly. I like to pass it through the ricer several times because it makes the gnocchi that much more delicate

While letting the puréed potato cool, scoop the squash flesh out of the skin and purée it (I did it by hand because I did not have a food processor – but that would be great if you have one). Then place the purée in a pot and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 4-5 minutes until the mixture is hot and thickens. Remove from heat and let cool.

To the cool potato, add the nutmeg, egg, and salt. Then add the squash, and mix thoroughly. Add the flour in 1/4 cup at a time, mixing well enough that the mixture is even but not over-worked. If the dough is still quite sticky once all the flour has been mixed in, add a couple of table spoon fulls of flour until it is not too sticky to handle.

When you are ready, roll small tea-spoonfuls of the dough on floured hands, and then roll over a fork to create indentations. Place on a well-floured cookie sheet or if you have parchment paper this is the time to use it on the baking sheet.

Once your gnocchi are all formed (congratulations! it’s not the easiest thing to make), place them in the fridge for an hour.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and then cook the gnocchi in batches of 1/4 at a time. Place them into the water carefully, and wait for them to begin to float. Once they are cooked (floating), remove them with a slotted spoon and place in a single layer on a baking dish again. Repeat until all gnocchi are cooked.

To make the brown butter: in a frying pan, melt the butter over medium/medium-low heat. Once it begins to bubble, keep a careful eye. It should eventually foam white, and then the foam should pick up a yellow tinge. This is the point the pan needs to be taken off the heat immediately otherwise the butter will pass the brown/hazelnut stage and burn. Place the chopped fresh sage in the butter and return over low heat for a minute or two.

Place the gnocchi in the pan with the brown sage butter, toss so the gnocchi are fully covered, and serve as an accompaniment to a special meal!

-Sitelle

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In grade 2, I had an amazing teacher. Ms. G was Italian, and had crazy long curly black hair that terrified us at first. But soon she won us over, and took us on a cooking adventure right from the beginning. We made a cookbook. Meatballs. Hand-rolled pasta. Breads. I can’t even remember all the details exactly, but the experience itself I cannot forget.

If I could have 5 wishes granted, one of mine in my top 5 would be that every child get the chance to cook and then eat regularly with a parent or loved-one. My close experiences with food beginning when I was very little have definitely contributed to my interests. Now, after my academic exploration of food in addition to the more casual personal one, I realize more (and realize how much more is unknown to me) than ever before the challenges of equity and access to food. If only every child had access… that’s what I’m asking, and aiming, for.

So in memory of my second-grade adventures, I’m posting a recipe for italian meatballs, although probably nothing near as good as Ms. G’s. But these were so good nonetheless. This recipe is from the Joy of Cooking, with a few variations.

Ingredients – dinner for 4

Meatballs

-1 lb lean ground beef
-3 garlic cloves, minced
-1/2 cup chopped parsley
-1/2 cup grated parmesan
-1 medium onion, finely chopped
-1/2 cup breadcrumbs
-1 large egg, beaten (and a second if the mix seems dry)
-3 Tbsp (dry) red wine
-2 Tbsp tomato paste
-1 tsp salt
-1/4 tsp black pepper
-1/2 tsp dried oregano
-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
-2 Tbsp olive oil

Pasta

-350g fresh pasta (e.g. linguine)

Tomato sauce

-1 onion, minced
-1 clove garlic, finely minced
-1 tsp dried basil
-1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
-3 Tbsp olive oil
-1 can diced or crushed tomatoes
-salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the meat balls up to and including the dried oregano.  Mix well with your hands, and add an extra egg if it is difficult to shape into 2 Tbsp-sized balls.

Place the flour on a plate and roll the meatballs in the flour, and then heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat and brown all over.  Cover with a lid and let cook over medium-low for 10-15 minutes while you make the sauce and the pasta.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Meanwhile, sauté the onion in the oil in a frying pan for 3-4 minutes.  Add the herbs, salt and pepper, and garlic, and sauté for a further 2 minutes.  Add the canned tomatoes, and simmer down.

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Transfer the meatballs to the sauce, and serve over the pasta with parmesan on top.

These meatballs freeze fabulously after being cooked, and can be frozen either with or without sauce and eaten on another day.

Bon appétit!

-Sitelle

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I would love to find out how and why we get cravings.  They’re such a mystery, and at the same time, so important in driving people’s food habits.  It may be a combination of biological need, psychological drive, environmental stimuli (e.g. advertising), or completely random.  I have no idea – but I do know that I am not the only person to fall victim to these feelings!  I also recognize that some are more able to indulge in their cravings than others, which has begun to make me think about what being able to fulfill cravings might actually mean.

Some days, all I crave is the deliciously comforting combination of cheese and tomatoes.  And those days are particularly dangerous when I walk into a grocery store, as happened a few days ago.  The result: ridiculous amounts of cheese, and the resolve to make cannelloni for dinner.  I sure am happy I actualized my craving, as it resulted in a delicious meal with copious amounts of left-overs to keep me going for the next few days of unexpected snow.

Cannelloni in the making!

Ingredients

-3 garlic cloves, minced, and separated into 2
-2 + 2 Tbsp olive oil
-1 tsp each dried basil, oregano, and parsley
-1/2 tsp dried thyme
-2 cans tomatoes (purée’d or diced are best)
-pinch salt, pepper
-1 leek, minced
-1 large handful each parsley (flat-leaf is best) and basil, chopped
-1 pound ricotta cheese
-1 package strained cottage cheese
-2 eggs, beaten
-1/2 cup grated mozzarella
-1 package cannelloni or lasagna sheet noodles
-1/4 cup parmesan, grated

Directions

In a frying pan, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil over medium-low heat.  Add 1/2 the garlic, the dried herbs, and stir for 2 minutes.  Then add the canned tomatoes, salt, and pepper.  Simmer this down for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in another frying pan, heat the rest of the olive oil.  Add the minced leek, and let this melt for about 3 minutes.  Add the garlic, and then the chopped fresh herbs, and salt and pepper to taste.

In a large bowl, mix the ricotta, cottage cheese, 1/2 the mozzarella and 1/2 the parmesan, the eggs.  Mix, and then add the leek mixture, and mix again.

Then, either pipe the mix into the cannelloni noodles, or if you like assembly like me, spoon it/pipe a line onto one end of a lasagna noodle (cut them in half), and then roll it up.  Place the cannelloni in an oven dish that has been oiled with olive oil.  Continue to use up all the filling in the rest of the noodles, and then cover it all with tomato sauce generously.  The noodles soak up a lot of the sauce.  Cover the top with the rest of the cheese.  Bake at 375F for 30 minutes, until the top is golden crispy and the noodles are cooked.

-Sitelle

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With spring just around the corner, snow drops popping up out of the thawing ground, I can’t help but feel optimistic these days.  As I walk though the streets, people smile and take their time outside.  I love this change in attitude.

As spring rolls in, my tuber-rich, squash and cabbage-filled winter menu starts feeling repetitive.  The only issue here in Toronto is there’s a mismatch between spring and the first veggies (Toronto warms up faster than the surrounding agricultural land due to the urban heat-island effect).  This mismatch means I have extreme cravings for asparagus that I have to control for a whole other month before I can find some from around here.  Why do you tempt me so, asparagus from another continent?  Ontario produces more asparagus than it can handle (perhaps that is a challenge), and I am keeping all the space I have for it when it arrives in bursting bunches.  Bring it on.

All that is to say the light spring air is turning my cravings towards simple and light dishes.  This one can be made in less than 10 minutes, and is well worth it.  The gnocci, which can at times be on the heavy side, are well complemented with a light summery dressing.

Ingredients – 4 lunch servings

-1 package potato gnocci
-1/2 a shallot, really finely sliced
-basil leaves from 4-5 stalks, minced
-juice from 1/2 a lemon
-zest from 1/2 a lemon
-1 Tbsp capers, rinced
-2 Tbsp olive oil
-grated parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper to taste

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Meanwhile, chop the shallot, mince the basil leaves, and zest the washed lemon.  Combine all the ingredients except the parmesan cheese and gnocci in a bowl and mix.  When the water is boiling, drop the gnocci in, and boil until they float.  This takes around 2 minutes.  Drain the gnocci, and toss in the dressing.  Serve with grated cheese.  Bon appétit!

-Sitelle

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