Archive for April 2014

Passion for Pasta

I confess, my “throbbing” food is pasta and is the only food that actually makes me salivate. A world without pasta is a world without love. I may as well admit here and now that I have a cupboard full of different shapes, short, long, whole grain, made with and without eggs, bronzo (a bronze die used to cut the pasta), not to mention all the Asian types, wheat, rice, buckwheat. I think I need a support group.

The first time I made homemade tagliatelle/fettuccine was a complete revelation. Like most people, I relied on fresh pasta from shops. Thinking it was fine until that fateful day I made homemade. A neighbour loaned me her hand-crank pasta maker and off I went, making the dough in my Kitchen Aid. The pasta I made had pureed green tomatoes added to the dough and the sauce was made from red plum tomatoes, all from our garden. The pasta was velvety but al dente and the sweet/acidity from the vine ripened tomatoes made a sauce with a perfect right balance.

A few years ago I decided to make Fettuccine Alfredo (tagliatelle with butter and Parmesan)** for my brother who had never had fresh pasta. He took the leftovers home to reheat in the microwave the next day. When I asked how they reheated he said “I don’t know because I ate them on the bus on the way home!”

A teacher friend asked me to instruct her Grade 10 and 11 Home Ec. class in the ways of homemade pasta. I showed them how to make the dough in a processor and then the students rolled out the dough in hand-cranked machines. They were not overly impressed, or at least not yet. I made two sauces for them to try. The first one a simple tomato, garlic, EVOO and basil, the second, simply butter & Parmesan. They were very, very surprised. Comments like “I would never have thought of making homemade noodles until now”, were uplifting to hear. They loved both sauces preferring loads more sauce than any Italian would dress theirs with. Oh well…it takes time.

Sometimes we all get lazy…a tip when we do: Wenger’s Lamb & Mutton and Pasta Famiglia @ Vancouver Farmer’s Markets, makes an extremely good dried pasta. Oh, and Wegner’s lamb is also excellent.

**If you’re in the mood for Pasta now, check out my Fettuccine Alfredo recipe.

**If you would like to check out Wenger’ Lamb & Mutton and Pasta Famiglia, please see My Source List.

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Cooking Makes Me Happy

Does cooking make you happy too?

An “epicurean” is defined as someone devoted to the pursuit of sensual pleasure, especially the enjoyment of good food and comfort.

I’m all for that!

cooking makes me happyTalking about food, creating menus, sharing recipes…it just goes on and on. It’s exciting to try  experimenting with something new. We have access to so much that I never seem to run out of ideas. Italian cooking is my personal favourite and I always get lured into cook something Italian, but there’s also the many ethnic foods that we like.  I don’t know about you but I’m crazy in love with Ottolenghi’s recipes!

We enjoy cooking all sort of seasonal veggies and have discovered new ones since our travels to Italy began, so our Farmer’s Markets really gets the juices flowing.  We buy, then we try and come up with something clever and hopefully utterly delicious!

When I was hired as the chef/manager for a bank, it was a job that was custom made for me. I had this  big family who told me how fabulous I was after each meal! I was a sucker for the applause!  Who wouldn’t be??

Oh, another thing that makes me happy is my husband cooking on the barbecue! It just warms my heart and if I could only convince him to do it more often, my life would be just about perfect.

 As Jacques Pepin would say, “happy cooking!”

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New Greens And More

It’s official, winter’s over and time to get those seeds!

Growing your own arugula is very satisfying. It’s like magic! Simply seed directly in the garden or plant in a planter on a patio or balcony. Mix together some potting soil, some sea soil then plant the seeds. Water lightly. In no time at all you will be rewarded with fresh arugula and when you pinch off to use, will come back again. You can keep things going by sowing arugula seeds, in new containers, every few weeks for a steady supply all summer and fall! My arugula actually made it through last winter and is coming along very nicely!

You can grow different types of lettuce in the same way. Last year I had both lettuce and arugula going all summer and it was just wonderful to go out the back door and gather a salad! This year I am trying out Little Gem lettuce but being crazy for lettuce, I better buy some lettuce mix plants that includes some red lettuce too.

If you are a basil lover and quite frankly, who isn’t, get yourself some seeds, plant them pots using  nice, rich potting soil with a little sea soil;  place in a sunny spot and pretty soon, up they will come. I always throw in too many seeds, then have to remove the extras. There’s good news though, I wash the little basil sprouts and add to a salad or throw them onto pasta!

All you need now is a cherry tomato plant and you’re ready to rock…umm…cherry tomatoes warmed by the sun anyone? Not sure one will do the trick though! Our absolute, hands-down favourite are Sun Golds, so sweet, so perfect!

 

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It’s Spring Again!

Almost every day I go out with anticipation, to check the garden to see what plants have reappeared or have new buds on them! The rhubarb has sent up its shoots and what’s not to like about rhubarb pie or a crisp? There are always chores to be done;  plants that need to be moved to a new spot because they hate where they are and so forth but it’s the simple joy of seeing all the new, fresh, green growth that’s the best part of being a gardener!

Are you looking forward to all the yummy produce that is about to pop up in your local Farmer’s Markets? We sure are in our house. Last fall and winter, we tried, quite successfully to eat locally grown veggies that were in season.  There’s still squash about but…I am kinda done!  Enough with the squash!

I will be buying stinging nettles at the Farmer’s Market to make Stinging Nettle Tagliatelle with Asparagus and Peas**. Yum! Thinking when I next blanch and puree stinging nettles I could make a risotto and perhaps top a pizza with pureed nettles or maybe gnocchi, or…. or…. or . Local watercress is now available at the Farmer’s Market; I love watercress especially those little cucumber, watercress tea sandwiches!

Pretty soon there will be local asparagus. We love asparagus, so can hardly wait. I will be making pasta, risotto, soup, salad, asparagus with a poached egg on top, asparagus tart and best of all roasted asparagus! Local asparagus is like a completely different veggie than the imported asparagus, so delicious! I’ll be busy!

**If you would like to make the pasta, please go to Stinging Nettle Tagliatelle.

**Check out my “Spring, What’s In Season” post.

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