Saturday, March 23, 2013

Pasta on the Fly... Who Knows Where it Will Lead?

Soooo, today I thought I would make a gorgeous crab and ricotta ravioli with a fresh parsley leaf imbedded in the pasta.  I actually ended up with parsley fettucine and pasta rolls and learned a few lessons along the way.  Kitchen adventures!
Herb fettucine

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Carta de Musica- the edible music sheet

This morning, I tried my hand at semolina cracker sheets, called Carta de musica in Italy.  Quick and easy to make in your stand mixer.  Great addition to your wine and cheese table...

In Italy, these elegant, light, crispy crackers are baked in long, thin sheets.  The cracker dough is basically an eggless pasta dough, made with all-purpose and semolina flours and open to an endless variety of cracker toppings.  This dough must be rolled out very thin- what better tool to use than the pasta maker!  It works.  You can also use a rolling pin, as long as you roll it out paper-thin.  Don't forget to dust your work surface with extra flour to prevent your dough from sticking.

The semolina flour adds rich, buttery flavour and a "snap" to the cracker.  Serve them piled in a basket so guests can just snap off pieces with their fingers.  Or, you could cut the dough in neat rectangles (4" x 2") for precut crackers.  The beauty of these crackers is their neutral flavour, perfect for dipping or for the toppings suggested below.
From left to right:
salt only, rosemary and salt,
smoked paprika, mixed herb and lastly,
the overcooked batch in the top corner.
 To make about 12 foot long sheets.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pasta Perfection- Make it at Home



You only need three ingredients to make your own pasta and I bet you have them in your fridge and pantry: flour, eggs and salt.  That's it!  It's easy to make and well worth the effort.  You could use your food processor or your mixer but consider going the traditional route: use your hands, feel the dough, knead it, throw it around...

Gaby, my good friend from Italy, remembers when her mom made pasta back in the day.  She had pasta drying flat on all the beds! Must have been industrial quantities of the good stuff...

Make about 1 1/2 lbs of pasta.

Monday, March 18, 2013

It doesn't have to be beef to be a burger. Try these vegetarian Mediterranean Burgers!


I love having these burgers on hand for BBQ season.  They are complex, flavourful and good for you.  Spread the word: burgers don't have to be about meat...

Makes approx. seven burgers

Persian Rice with a Golden Crust

This dish is called tah-dig, meaning crunchy bottom (or close to it).  It's a memorable dish, so different from run of the mill rice, and oh so good!  This is an easy version.   Serve it with Persian chicken  for an authentic Persian meal.

Ingredients
2     litres water
1     tbsp salt
1 1/2 cups long-grain rice (not converted; preferably basmati or jasmine)
1    tbsp plain yogourt
3    tbsp unsalted butter
1    tbsp grapeseed oil (or other light cooking oil)
1    cup almond, sliced, toasted lightly

Directions:

In a large saucepan bring water with salt to a boil. Add rice and boil 10 minutes. In a colander drain rice and rinse under warm water.

In a 2- to 3-quart nonstick saucepan melt butter. Spoon rice over butter, layering in the almonds and cover pan with a kitchen towel and a heavy lid. Fold edges of towel up over lid and cook rice over moderately low heat until tender and a crust forms on bottom, 30 to 35 minutes.

Let the pan sit for approximately one hour to loosen the bottom crust from the pan.  Invert onto a serving plate- if all goes well the crust will be crispy and come out in one piece.   

WANNA PLAY:
You could layer in lightly browned, thinly sliced onions.  Or, add raisins, dried apricots...

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Not Your Mama's Rice Pudding- Coconut Arborio Rice Pudding

My contribution to tonight's pot luck is dessert.  What to bring that would satisfy everyone, including the gluten free guests?  Something warm and comfort food"ish", but upscale... Coconut Arborio Rice Pudding.  It's been years since I have had rice pudding, and it was probably canned and too sweet.  Coconut Arborio Rice Pudding is rich and creamy, a little crunchy from the toasted coconut and not too sweet.  Definitely a keeper!

This rice pudding recipe is from a Food and Wine cookbook- it elevates traditional rice pudding with arborio rice, which is traditionally used to make risotto.  The plump arborio grains give the pudding a supercreamy texture, perfectly firm and chewy.  I added dried tropical fruit and a little cream to make it my own... and to add to the tropical, coconut flavours...

To serve 6 generously...

It's Persian New Year- Norouz! Celebrate with Persian Chicken

This dish is worth making just so you can enjoy the wonderful odors wafting through the kitchen: pomegranate, raisins, chicken all simmering happily in the oven...

In Vancouver, I met a wonderful Persian lady named Blossom.  She loves to sew and she especially loves to cook Persian food.  So, if you are lucky enough to have her as your sewing teacher every second Saturday, you will also be lucky enough to enjoy a Persian lunch.  Wonderful food...  I especially like the spices, fruit and nuts they add to their dishes: cinnamon, walnuts, pomegranate, raisins, dried apricots...

As the Persians are celebrating their New Year next week (March 21), I thought a Persian dish would be timely.  Blossom, this one's for you!
Persian Chicken with couscous
 To serve 4...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Malaysian Curried Coconut Chicken Rendang

I love curries, all kinds.  This one is from Malaysia.  Curry pastes from all over the world are now readily available in the grocery stores.  But, I often like to make my own, from scratch...

 To serve six.

Thai Vegetable Curry- It's quick and easy...

Get yourself some Thai curry paste, an assortment of veggies, a can of coconut milk and you have the makings of a great Thai dinner.  This is one of my "a little of this" and "a little of that" recipes.  Taste as you go, feel free to experiment- vary the vegetables- and taste again... it'll be just fine!



Years ago, in Ottawa, I hosted a Thai university student.  She missed her home cooking so she and I learned to cook Thai together... with a few phone calls to the family cook in Bangkok.  By the time she left, I was a pro!  This recipe is gluten free, dairy free, full of hot, spicy flavours and healthy vegetables.  Perfect!

To serve four.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Impress your palate - Creole Crab Cakes

When I moved away from home (Ottawa) to Vancouver, one of my favourite "foodie" discoveries was crab cakes.  They just aren't part of the French Canadian food repertoire.  But, new home, new traditions and great new food adventures!  The West Coast is the place to sample the best of the sea: crab fresh, amazing oysters, spotted prawns and shrimp, and, let's not forget wild salmon and halibut!  Perfect ingredients to build a repertoire of fish cake recipes...

These are the very first crab cakes I ever made.  Don't let the list of ingredients discourage you.  They are easy to make and they taste great!  Thanks Emeril for providing the inspiration...

Makes 10 crab cakes.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Irish Eyes Are Smiling- Irish Lamb Stew

I'm preparing for St. Patrick's Day this coming weekend.  What better dish to prepare than the iconic Irish Lamb Stew?  It's simple, easy and very tasty.  I started with the recipe from the Ballymaloe Cookery School.  Owner, Darina Allen, is probably Ireland's most famous chef.  The school is located in Cork, Ireland- in the middle of a 100 acre organic farm.  This is the go to place to find traditional, authentic Irish recipes.

This is one of those recipes where every Irish cook has his or her own version.  At its simplest, it contains lamb, potatoes, onions and a few herbs.  You could add Guinness beer for extra flavour and additional vegetables.  I've chosen to add carrots.  The secret here is to brown the meat and then let the stew cook on low heat for as long as it takes to render it fork tender.  That's a few hours on the back of the stove or in the oven.

To serve 4-6

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Pho Soc Trang- Vietnamese Cuisine at it's Best!

I discovered Vietnamese food on my fortieth birthday.  A friend and I went wandering through Ottawa's Chinatown looking for good eats and "stumbled" upon a small, cubby hole of a restaurant called Mekong.  The patrons were all Asian.  Hah! this one should be good!  We were perplexed by the menu.  No problem, we're adventurous!  The waiter was asked to bring us typical dishes and away we went.  Slurping pho, enjoying rice paper rolls- I was hooked!

When I first moved to Kelowna, three years ago, finding a great Vietnamese restaurant was a bit of a challenge.  Ottawa and Vancouver offered up great Vietnamese cuisine to satisfy my frequent cravings for pho- a traditional beef soup, but not in Kelowna.  And then came Pho Soc Trang, the restaurant!  It opened a few months later on Water Street.  Hallellujah!
Picture
Pho- you've got to try it!

Casa Sasso - Now That's Italian


I love Italian food- the more authentic, the better. Casa Sasso, Kelowna's newest Italian restaurant, serves up great Italian cuisine from the Rome and Naples regions.  Quoting my friend Neil (see below, second visit): "Casa Sasso offers great food, at reasonable prices- perfect!"

Casa Sasso