Main Courses · Pasta · Pork

Bacon and Charred Tomato Fettuccine

There are several ways to char the tomatoes for this dish, or you can cheat and buy a 28 ounce can of fire-roasted tomatoes from the supermarket!

Stove top – place whole tomatoes in a dry frying pan or on a comal over medium heat until skins blister and darken, turning to get as much char on each tomato as possible.

Oven – cut tomatoes in half lengthwise and place on sheet pan.  Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in 350 oven for about 40 minutes until charred and caramelized.

BBQ – rub whole tomatoes with oil and place directly on grill grates over medium heat, turning until charred on all sides and skin is starting to slip off.

This will serve 4 people.

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Bacon and Charred Tomato Fettuccine

 

7 Roma tomatoes

2 Tablespoons olive oil (for charring in oven or on grill)

salt and pepper

1 lb bacon

500 grams fettuccine

1/2 cup grated Parmesan plus more for serving

fresh basil – for serving

Char tomatoes, place in bowl and when cool enough to handle, roughly chop and put back into bowl.  Set aside.

Bring a large pot of well salted water to boil and cook fettuccine according to package directions.

Meanwhile, chop bacon into roughly 1/2 inch pieces and fry, in large frying pan or pot, stirring frequently, until crispy.  Using slotted spoon, remove bacon from pan and place on paper towel to drain.  Pour out (and reserve) all but 4 tablespoons of bacon fat from pan.

When pasta is about 1 minute away from being fully cooked, drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.

Add 1/2 cup reserved pasta water to bacon fat in pan, and bring to simmer over medium heat.  Add fettuccine, using tongs to toss pasta and coat all strands with the bacon fat.  You can add some of the bacon fat you drained off or additional pasta water at this point if pasta looks dry.  Add the tomatoes and any juices in the bowl and continue cook, tossing lightly for 1 minute.

Remove from heat, sprinkle Parmesan and toss again to combine.

Divide mixture among 4 bowls, garnish with fresh basil leaves.  Serve with additional Parmesan.

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Chicken · Main Courses · Pasta

One-Pot Chicken Penne in Tequila Tomato Sauce

The alcohol in the tequila cooks off, but the flavour remains, adding a nice depth to this simple sauce.

You might be interested to know this is my own creation.  Because of that, I did some research as to what a serving of pasta actually is.  Answers were all over the map from as little as 60 grams all the way up to 113 grams of dried pasta.   I guess the correct answer to what is a serving is “how hungry are you?”

Because of package sizing, I allow 125 grams per person.  If it is just the two of us for dinner, I know there will be enough leftovers for tomorrows lunch.  If I am cooking for a crowd, this guarantees I will not run short of the main course.  My grandmother was not Italian, but she would have died of embarrassment if guests were ever able to reach the bottom of a serving bowl.   I learned from the best.

So, this will serve 2 people, with enough left over for someones lunch the next day.

Ready in 45 minutes or less.

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One-Pot Chicken Penne

in Tequila Tomato Sauce

1 Tablespoon canola oil

1/2 yellow onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1   6 oz chicken breast, cut into 1″ cubes

salt and pepper

2 Tablespoons tequila reposada (the gold stuff)

250 grams penne

3 cups water

14 oz can diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon butter

chopped parsley, for garnish

Parmesan cheese for serving

Lightly season the cubes of chicken with salt and pepper.

Heat canola oil over medium-high heat in large deep sided pan and add onion, and cook until onion becomes translucent and begins to brown.  Add garlic and cut chicken breast.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is no longer pink.  About 3 minutes.  Chicken may not be completely cooked thru at this point.  Transfer contents of pan into bowl and set aside.

Add tequila to pan and stir to pick up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Tequila will reduce by about half after about 30 seconds.

Add 3 cups of water to tequila in the pan, then add your pasta.  Stir.  Increase heat to high, cover and bring to boil.  Watch carefully.  You don’t want this to boil over.

Once boiling remove the lid and stir frequently to be sure pasta cooks evenly and to prevent sticking.

At the 8 minute mark, when the pasta is about halfway cooked thru, add the diced tomatoes and their juices along with the chicken breast & onions.  Continue to cook, stirring often until pasta is cooked thru.

Stir in the butter, taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Sprinkle parsley over top and serve with parmesean cheese on the side.

 

 

 

Pasta · Sides

Linguine with Zucchini & Walnuts

A nice way to enjoy those zucchinis you worked so hard this summer to grow.

This takes minimum effort which makes it a great weeknight meal choice.  There is protein in the walnuts, which makes this perfect for Meatless Mondays.

Use a vegetable peeler (or mandolin) to slice the zucchini lengthwise into long thin ribbons. If you don’t feel you have the time or patience to do this, just cut it in half lengthwise and slice thinly into half moons.

Don’t skip the part where you salt the zucchini.  Use that 30 minutes to get the water ready for the pasta, toast the walnuts and mash the garlic and anchovies into submission.  You can have this on the table in 45 minutes.

Serves 4 as a main, 6 – 8 as an appetizer or side.

 

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Linguine with Zucchini & Walnuts

2 1/2 lbs small zucchini, trimmed

1 teaspoon salt

2 cloves garlic minced

2 anchovy fillets, chopped

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 lb linguine (450 grams)

1/3 cup olive oil (plus more for drizzling)

3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

1 cup grated parmesean

1/2 cup fresh basil or mint leaves, thinly sliced

Use a vegetable peeler to shave the zucchini into long ribbons, or simply slice the zucchini lengthwise, then cut crosswise into half moons.  Discard any scraps.

Place the zucchini ribbons into a colander, over a large bowl and sprinkle with salt.  Let stand 30 minutes, tossing a couple of times.

Rinse under cold running water and drain well.   Spread over 2 lint-free kitchen towels, roll up gently to absorb any excess water and set aside.

Meanwhile, toast walnuts in a small dry pan, tossing frequently, over medium heat until fragrant.  Transfer to small dish immediately so they don’t burn.  Set aside.

On your cutting board, using the side of your knife, mash garlic, anchovies, crushed pepper flakes with a pinch of salt to form a paste.  Transfer the paste to a large serving bowl.

Meanwhile, cook, pasta according to package directions until tender, but still firm to the bite.  Reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water and drain pasta.

Transfer pasta to the bowl with the anchovy garlic paste add a splash of pasta water and the olive oil.  Toss well to combine.

Add zucchini, walnuts, half of the cheese and continue tossing until well combined.  Season with salt and pepper, toss again, adding additional pasta water if mix seems dry.

Drizzle with additional olive oil, sprinkle with remaining cheese and the chopped basil.  Serve.

Incase you are interested, the original version can be found here.

 

 

 

 

Fish and Seafood · Main Courses · Pasta

Mussels in White Wine with Linguine & Fresh Herbs

I spent a summer in PEI when I was (much) younger.  Our cabin overlooked the very water from which we dug the mussels for our dinner almost daily.

Even now, some 30 years later, (oh, wait, I’m sure its only been 3 years!) whenever I see a package of mussels, I am, briefly, transported back there.  Its good to have such memories.

Of course, because of Kevin’s  allergy, I rarely cook shellfish anymore.   Since I was dining alone last week, I could not pass up that package of mussels I found in Costco!

Bonus:  I put this all together in 35 minutes!  It is quick enough for a weeknight meal, yet impressive enough to serve guests.  If you do your prep work in advance, you will be able enjoy cocktails with your guests and whip this up in the time it takes to cook the spaghetti !

 

This will serve 2 and can easily be doubled.

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Mussels in White Wine with Linguine & Fresh Herbs

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons butter

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes

1 cup white wine (I used a Barefoot Pinot Grigio, but any white you like to drink will work here)

1 pound mussels, rinsed, scrubbed & beards removed

250 grams linguine

1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (I had mint, cilantro, parsley & basil on hand, but toss in whatever you happen to have)

1 small tomato, diced

Bring large pot of salted water to boil.

Heat oil and butter in a large, heavy pan over medium heat.  Once foam subsides, cook garlic, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper until garlic is softened and begins to brown,  3 – 4 minutes.

Add wine and boil about 4 minutes, until liquid is reduced by half.  Add mussels, give the pan a good shake, cover and cook, shaking occasionally, until mussels open wide.  5 -8 minutes.    Turn heat off.  Remove mussels from the broth, discarding any that have not opened.

While mussels are cooking, add linguine to the pot of boiling salted water and cook until just slightly underdone.

Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water.

Add 1/4 cup pasta water to the mussel broth and bring to boil.  Reduce heat to medium, add drained linguine, tossing with tongs until linguine is coated in sauce. About 1 minute.  Thin sauce with additional pasta water if needed.

Divide linguine and mussels between 2 plates.  Sprinkle chopped herbs and tomatoes over top and serve immediately.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Main Courses · Pasta

Gnocchi with Bacon, Tomatoes & Cream

Inspiration for this came from LCBO, whose recipe included Speck and Taleggio cheese.  Ingredients I have no hope of finding here in PV, so I  switched those ingredients for ones more easily found in my grocery.    If you are unable to find Taleggio, Manchego or Smoked Provolone, you can sub in Fontina or even regular Provolone.

The flavour of the bacon really shines in this dish, so buy your favourite brand to make this.

 

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Gnocchi with Bacon, Tomatoes & Cream

1 Tablespoons olive oil

6 thick-cut slices bacon, cut into 1/2 ‘ pieces

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 Tablespoon tomato paste

1 large clove garlic, minced

4 springs fresh thyme

1/4 cup red wine

3 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 cup whipping cream

1/2 cup manchego cheese, grated

1/2 cup smoked provolone, grated

2 packs store bought Gnocchi (500 gms each)

In large skillet, over medium heat, cook bacon until nearly crispy.   Be careful not to burn it, you don’t want bacon crunches in this dish.   Remove from pan , set aside and drain all but 2 Tablespoons bacon fat from the pan.

Add onions to bacon fat and cook over medium – high heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent.  About 10 minutes.  Do not let them brown.  Add tomato paste, garlic and thyme and cook, stirring for another minute, until tomato paste darkens a bit and garlic becomes fragrant.  Add thyme sprigs, white wine and chopped tomatoes.  Cook, stirring often over high heat for about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a full boil over high heat.

Reduce heat under tomato mixture to very low and add cream and cheese.  Stir until cheese is melted then let simmer slowly while you cook the gnocchi.  Stir in bacon

Break apart the gnocchi and carefully add to the large pot of boiling water.  Cook Gnocchi only until it rises to the surface of the water.  Skim out the cooked gnocchi as it rises to the top of the water with a slotted spoon and add to the tomato cream mixture.

Once all gnocchi has been transferred to the tomato cream mixture, stir the mixture to coat gnocchi.

Pour into serving dish and serve hot.

 

 

 

 

How To... · Pasta

Pizza Dough

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Making pizza on an evening when you are not in a rush is good for the soul.   For us, it is a team activity which means time well spent together.  I prep the dough, we both do the toppings and Kevin cooks it on the grill which avoids heating up the house.

By using instant yeast, rising time is cut in half so we can start the dough around 4 and be eating by 6:30.

So, this Saturday night, when dinner can get to the table ‘eventually’, mix your dough, then maybe mix a cocktail to unwind…  kick back and listen to some great music with your significant other and wait for the dough to rise.

While you are waiting, chop up some fresh herbs and stir them into to can of tomato sauce for a fresher tasting pizza sauce.

And, remember to have fun with your toppings.   What about that leftover brisket, souvlaki or  bbq chicken already in your fridge?  Maybe charred veggies?  Or stick with traditional pepperoni.  Whatever makes you happy.

Cooking time will depend on where you are cooking it – our charcoal grill cooks it in about 6 minutes, but it takes nearly 15 in our oven.  So you will have some experimenting to do, but don’t stress over it, its all part of the fun.

The one piece of specialty equipment you will need for this is a pizza screen or use an upside down pizza pan or cookie sheet.  Using one of these takes all the stress of getting that dressed pizza off of the peel and onto the grill.  Just be sure that if you are grilling this, the pan you choose fits your bbq.

 

Pizza Dough

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon instant yeast

2 1/2 cups flour

6 – 8 oz water

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus a bit more for brushing the bowl

In bowl of stand mixer, whisk sugar, salt, yeast and flour together.  Add the olive oil and 6 oz of water.  Using the dough hook, on low speed, mix until dough comes together and forms a rough dough.  If dough looks dry or is not coming together, add more water by teaspoons until it looks right.  Knead with mixer until smooth.  About 5 minutes.  (this can be done by hand if you prefer).

Turn dough onto floured board and knead 3 – 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.  Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, place in warm, draft free area and let rise until doubled in size- 30 – 40 minutes.

Punch dough down and place on lightly floured board.  Divide in half for 2 large pizzas or into 3 for 3 medium ones.  Form pieces into balls, place on cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap and put back in warm place to rise for another 30 minutes. ( here is where we take that 3rd ball of pizza and toss it into the freezer for later use.  Also, if you are making the dough ahead, you can pop it into the fridge now for up to 2 days. Of course, you will thaw and or let dough warm up and rise before proceeding)

Preheat your oven or grill to 500F.

Working with one ball at a time, roll or press out dough on a lightly floured surface to a roughly circular shape, about 10″ across for a mediium pizza.  Place on your pizza screen or upside down pan.  Add sauce and toppings as desired.  Pop the pan into your oven or the grill and bake 8 – 14 minutes, until cheese has melted and crust is golden.

Pour yourself another glass of wine and enjoy.

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Beef · Main Courses · Pasta · Pork

Bolognese Sauce

BologneseA family favourite in our house, and so easy to put together.  It does take time, so its a good ‘Sunday afternoon when there is nothing much to do’ project.  The good news is that the flavours are even better the next day, so make on Sunday to enjoy later in the week.  After a long day at the office, dinner will be a snap!  Just boil your favourite pasta and you have a quick and easy mid-week dinner.  This serves 8 generously, and freezes very well.

 

Bolognese Sauce

 

3 Tablespoons oil

2 yellow onions, diced

5 celery ribs, diced

3 medium carrots, shredded

6 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 lb bacon finely chopped

1 lb lean ground beef

1 lb lean ground pork

1 can tomato paste (6 oz)

14 oz can tomato puree

1 cup dry red wine

1/2 cup water

1 cup milk (whole milk is best, but skim will work too, if that’s what you have)

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Get your big pot out… not that one, the bigger one – 6 – 8 quarts.   There is lots of stirring and simmering involved here and you will want the extra room a larger pot gives you.

Heat oil in pot over medium heat.   Add onion, celery, carrot and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until onion is translucent and vegetables are slightly soft.  Do not let them brown.  About 15 minutes.

Increase heat to medium- high, add bacon, beef and pork and cook, stirring to break up  any chunks until meat is no longer pink.  About 10 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium and stir in tomato paste  until well combined with meat and vegetables.  About 2 minutes.

Stir in tomato puree, wine, water, milk, salt and pepper.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered until liquids reduce and sauce is thickened.  About 2 hours.  Remember to stir occasionally while sauce simmers.

Spoon over cooked pasta and serve immediately or cool sauce uncovered, at room temperature.  Once sauce has cooled, cover and refrigerate.  Will keep  3 days in the fridge or frozen up to 3 months.