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Posts Tagged ‘pasta’

Wishing you and yours a very happy new year!

The past year has flown by.  It’s been a busy year – finishing up my Master’s thesis, travelling in Tanzania, starting medical school – and I have been very fortunate.  While I’ve had fewer new cooking adventures (to be remedied in 2013), I have certainly enjoyed many old favourites with friends and family!

Gourm(eh?) continues to exceed expectations. It’s hard to believe that a small project for me and Sitelle to share recipes has turned into a blog that has received over 30,000 hits!  We look forward to sharing many more in 2013 – including a few more Canadian specialties.

To start off 2013, I wanted to share the five most popular recipes from 2012.  Bon appetit!

– Catherine

5. Lotus Land Linguini

Creamy lotus land linguine

This pasta from rebar was initially cooked to fulfill a peanut craving.  The lotus land linguini turned out to be a fun and tasty dish enjoyed by all – the leftovers were perfect as a picnic lunch the next day on a wintertime outing to Peggy’s Cove!

4. Whitewater Cinnamon Buns

Waiting for the cinnamon buns to finish rising

Waiting for the cinnamon buns to finish rising

These cinnamon buns from Whitewater Cooks were nice and cinnamony, and perfect for a late morning brunch!

3. Spicy Steamed Fish, Gambian Style

Gambian platter

Sitelle shared many of the recipes she picked up while living in Gambia – and this one looks divine!

2. Christmas Cookies

Swedish Pastries (Thumbprint Walnut Christmas Cookie)

SAM_7309

Slice-and-Bake Icebox Cookies

Icebox Cookies

Christmas baking is a favourite family tradition, and these two cookies are my great-grandmother’s secret recipes.  They continue to be loved year after year!

1. Benachin

Bowl of benachin

Another of Sitelle’s Gambian dishes was our most viewed of 2012, and this is certainly a dish meant to be shared with company!

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Unsurprisingly, if I have not gone shopping in over a week, my dinner pickings tend to be slim.  Friday evening was one such occasion.  As I eyed my wilting vegetables and containers of leftovers, I wondered whether Thai take-out might be a smarter idea.  After some deliberation, my Scottish frugality won out over my laziness, and I decided to throw together a refrigerator pasta.

This turned out to be a delicious idea.  I was in the mood for something creamy, so I went for a one-pot creamy pasta.  I had some ground beef leftover from tacos earlier this week, which inspired me to give my bechamel a little kick using Worcester sauce and mustard.  And to I threw in a few vegetables that needed eating. Less than half an hour later, I sat down to a bowl of creamy pasta that could have fooled me was leftover-inspired.

Creamy penne with ground beef and vegetables  (aka refrigerator pasta)

(4 servings)

Ingredients:

1/2 pound whole grain penne

Generous handful of peas

2-3 generous handfuls of spinach

2 tablespoons butter

1 clove garlic, minced

1 red pepper, chopped (or any other veggies in your fridge that need eating – mushrooms and zucchini would be particularly delicious)

2 tablespoons flour

2 cups milk

1 bay leaf

Splash of Worcester sauce (plus more to taste)

1 teaspoon mustard powder

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

1-2 cups of leftover ground beef

Directions:

Bring a large pot of  salted water to a boil and cook penne to package directions.  One minute before you are finished cooking, add the peas and spinach. Drain into a colander.

Saute the garlic and red pepper in the butter.  Whisk in the flour and continue to cook for another minute.  Whisk in the milk, and add the bay leaf, Worcester sauce, mustard powder, and salt and pepper.  Stirring occasionally, bring the bechamel to a gentle simmer.  Allow the sauce to simmer until thickened slightly.  Taste and modify seasoning to your liking.  Toss in the parmesan, ground beef, and pasta.

Bon appetit!

– Catherine

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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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I had a love/hate relationship with dairy when I lived in France.  The French are very serious about their dairy products: whole aisles in superstores are dedicated to yoghurt, and the cheese section was often larger than the fresh produce section.  While I loved the infinite yogurt choices (Canada really needs to get on producing rhubarb and cappuccino yogurt!) and the tasty cheese (nothing makes a tomato-based pasta shine like freshly grated Parmesan), I avoided their milk like the plague. The “low-fat” milk was often creamier than whole milk and it just tasted slightly funny.  I quickly discovered, however, the beauty of crème fraiche.

Crème fraiche has twice the butterfat as sour cream, without the sourness.  It is a delight to use because it does not curdle and is surprisngly versatile. A spoonful added to any sauce infuses a delicious creaminess, while crème fraiche served with fresh berries and sugar is just divine.

This week, I had a craving for creamy  mushroom pasta.  With crème fraiche sadly unavailable in my local Halifax superstore, I resorted to using full-fat sour cream.  To avoid curdling, I made sure to cool the sauce before adding the sour cream.  This is one of my favourite comfort foods, taking less than 20 minutes to cook.   While the sour cream substitute was almost as good as its French cousin, I am still searching for crème fraiche in Canada!


Creamy Mushroom Linguine

(about 3 dinner-size portions)

Ingredients:

1/2 pound whole-wheat linguine

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 onion, diced

1 clove of garlic, minced

Thyme

1 pound of mushrooms, coarsely chopped

2 tomatoes, diced

1/2 red pepper, diced

Large splash of cooking sherry

Salt and pepper

Dash of Tobasco

About 1/4 cup crème fraiche (or substitute sour cream)

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Cook the linguine according to the package directions. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil.  When transluscent, sprinkle in the thyme.  Add the mushrooms, tomatoes, and red pepper and saute until soft.  Add the sherry and cook for two more minutes.  Season with the salt and pepper and tobasco.

Remove the sauce from the heat and allow to cool for a minute or two, before adding the crème fraiche.  Add the drained linguine to the frying pan and stir to coat the pasta evenly. Before serving, sprinkle with a generous amount of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Delicious with a bitter green salad.

Bon appetit!

– Catherine

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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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The snow is finally all gone in Halifax.  I saw crocuses in bloom today, a sure sign spring is coming.  There is nothing like pesto and asparagus to mark one’s excitement for spring!  (I confess that unlike Sitelle, I have given into the gorgeous looking and tasting asparagus from Mexico).  Pesto pasta is one of my absolutely favorite meals, and one can always count on roasted vegetables to brighten any pasta.  When produce is plentiful, grilling the veggies over the barbecue adds another level of complexity to the dish, but until summer hits, the oven does a respectable job.

This is another dish that uses, as my mother likes to call it, “the little white sauce”.  Like its namesake, this simple béchamel is the perfect versatile base for so many dishes: Add a few cups of cheddar for macaroni and cheese, mustard to make it devilish, or mushrooms and sherry for a delicious mushroom sauce.  Usually I have a few cubes of frozen pesto that I throw into the little white sauce, but tonight I used fresh – a delicate almond romano parsley pesto!

Pesto Pasta with Caremelized Onions, Roasted Asparagus, and Zucchini

(4 servings)

Ingredients:

Roasted Vegetables:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 zucchini, sliced

1 red onion, sliced

1 bunch asparagus, bottom part of stalk snapped off, cut into 2 inch segments

2 tomatoes, cut into eight wedges

Pesto Pasta:

300 grams whole wheat penne pasta

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 generous cup milk

Salt and Pepper

¼ cup pesto (https://gourmeh.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/almond-romano-parsley-pesto/)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Toss the veggies in the olive oil and garlic, and place on a tray.  Roast for 20 minutes or until tender.

Meanwhile, boil salted water, cook until al dente, and drain the pasta.  In a large saucepan, melt the butter and flour over medium heat.  Allow the roux to bubble for a few minutes, until almost fragrant.  Whisk in the milk and bring the sauce to a boil.  Simmer for two or three minutes, or until thickened.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in the pesto, followed by the roast veggies and pasta.  Toss until the pesto sauce evenly coats the pasta.  Enjoy!

–       Catherine

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Crispy Baked Mac and Cheese

February came in with a whirl here in Halifax, and Wednesday we got a quintessential Canadian dump: 45 cm of snow in about 12 hours. While absolutely beautiful to watch and to tramp through, it brought the city to a standstill. Bonus: I actually received my first university snow day (took me until degree two, but better late than never!)

Now instead of being a virtuous student and catch up on all my readings, I decided to do the obvious thing: wander around in the gorgeous snow and just have a lovely time. I spent about an hour or so at the student protest against high tuition fees before joining three friends for a Lord of the Rings marathon. And really, who doesn’t love Viggo? My friends, however, were scandalized when they discovered that while I am a big mac and cheese fan, I had never made a mac and cheese bake. Deciding this was unacceptable, they decided to remedy this grievance immediately with the a little help from Joy of Cooking.

I have to admit the mac-and-cheese was delicious. Creamy, steamy, cheesy macaroni with a crisp topping: the perfect comfort food. Worth the extra 25 baking minutes? I definitely think so (although if starving, likely awfully difficult to resist) – after all, who doesn’t love Mac and Cheese?

 

Crispy Baked Mac-and-Cheese
(6 servings)

Ingredients:
1 onion, finely minced
6 tablespoons + 3 melted tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
3 ¼ cups milk
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
3 ½ cups sharp cheese, grated(cheddar is always my standby for my non-bake mac and cheese)
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cups macaroni
1 cup breadcrumps
Salsa, ketchup, hot sauce, thai sauce (optional)
 
Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring a pot of water to boil, and cook the macaroni to al dente. Drain in a colander.

Meanwhile, sauté the onion in 6 tablespoons butter over medium heat. When translucent, add the flour and the butter browns and a nutty aroma emerges. Whisk in the milk, one cup at a time. Add the bay leaf and the Italian seasoning. Bring the béchamel to a boil stirring constantly, and simmer for 2 or 3 minutes or until nicely thickened. Remove from the heat, remove the bay leaf, and add the cheese. When melted, mix in the cooked macaroni.

Transfer mac and cheese to a casserole dish. Mix the breadcrumbs with the melted butter. Sprinkle the mixture over the pasta. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Broil for 2 or 3 minutes longer or until the bake is bubbly, brown, and crispy on top.

Serve immediately with or without a sauce of your choice!

– Catherine

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