pasta

Spaghettini with Chicken, Preserved Lemons, Cherry Tomatoes, Fresh Basil and Crispy Capers

Such a light, flavourful, simple dinner. My only regret is that I didn't have any goat cheese to crumble on top.

Spaghettini with Chicken, Preserved Lemons, Cherry Tomatoes, Fresh Basil and Crispy Capers

2 Tbsp canola / vegetable / peanut oil

4 Tbsp capers, drained

1 C olive oil + extra for 'sauce' if needed

3 or 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 C cherry tomatoes

1 bulb garlic, cloves chopped fine

4 preserved lemon quarters, rinsed and chopped into small pieces

handful fresh basil leaves, chopped

4 handfuls of dried spaghettini, each handful the diameter of about a quarter (0.25 cents)

- bring a large pot of salted water to a boil - turn off when at a full boil

- heat canola oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat - add capers and fry until they are crispy and bursting, about 4-5 minutes - remove capers from oil with a fork or slotted spoon and drain on paper towel - set aside

- heat 1 C olive oil over medium-high heat in a large frying pan - add chicken pieces and cook 3-4 minutes on each side until cooked through - remove chicken from pan with tongs or fork and set aside - leave heat on

- add cherry tomatoes to the pan the chicken was cooked in - cook until slightly soft and skins begin to burst - about 3-4 minutes - add garlic and continue to cook until garlic starts to turn golden - return cooked chicken to pan - add chopped preserved lemon and reduce heat

- return large pot of salted to a boil - cook spaghettini as per package instructions - once cooked, drain and add hot pasta to pan with chicken - toss well to coat noodles with oil, chicken, tomatoes, garlic and lemon - add an extra glug of olive oil if the pasta seems a bit dry

- sprinkle in fresh chopped basil - toss well to mix - plate pasta and top each serving with a sprinkle of crispy capers

- optional - serve with crumbled goat cheese on top (I WISH)

Chef Andrew Farrells' Smoky Cauli-power Mac & Cheese

In celebration of Canada's love for cheese, the much-loved Grate Canadian Cheese Cook-off returned to Toronto on April 8. This year, four of the country's top chefs went head-to-head to create the best gourmet mac & cheese recipe, each adding a twist to Canada's favourite comfort food.

In celebration of Canada's love for cheese, the much-loved Grate Canadian Cheese Cook-off returned to Toronto on April 8. This year, four of the country's top chefs went head-to-head to create the best gourmet mac & cheese recipe, each adding a twist to Canada's favourite comfort food.

Anyone who lives in Halifax has heard of Andrew Farrell. He's the much celebrated chef of the award winning Barrington Street restaurant 2 Doors Down. Last year, Andrew's entry to The Grate Canadian Cheese Cook Off, Crispy Greens Mac & Cheese, took top prize, and for good reason too - creamy cheesy noodles with FOUR varieties of Dutchman's cheese plus a crunchy broccoli-kale-Brussels sprouts topping, I mean really, how could it not?

Andrew's entry this year, Smoky Cauli-power Mac & Cheese sounded just as delicious, and so, when Dairy Farmers of Canada contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in making Andrew's recipe, I was all like, 'HELL YEAH'. It's still cold and wintery here in Nova Scotia, so the combination of tender cauliflower, earthy mushrooms and three fabulous Maritime-made cheeses sounded perfect for a cool night's supper. And perfect it was - creamy pasta and sauce with Cow's Creamery Appletree Smoked Cheddar, and (one of my personal favourites), Blue Harbour's Halifax-made Gorgonzola-Dolce style Urban Blue, all topped off with baked-until-crispy cremini mushrooms, mini cauliflower florets and Cow's Creamery Extra Old Cheddar, this is comfort food at it's Canadian best.

For more information about Canadian cheese and The Grate Canadian Cheese Cook-off, please visit www.dairygoodness.ca/cheese/all-you-need-is-cheese.

 

Gratitud Wine : Able Sense Media

A couple of my favourite shots from a shoot I recently did for Gratitud Wine with Able Sense Media.

Food prepared and styled by my friend Ryan Adams (it's good being friends with amazing chefs).

Food tweaked for the camera + props styled by me.

 

For more information on this exciting new brand of Argentinian wine, please visit www.gratitud.com.

Romesco Part Two : Ling Shrimp and il Mercato Spring Garden

I found my love for Italy at il Mercato Spring Garden.

You see, I worked there for five years - three as a waiter, two as the Assistant Manager.

My first shift was opening night of the 'new' location across the street from Park Lane - March 29, 2004. Until that point in my life, I had never seen such madness, and to top it off, had never heard of things like Short Ribs, Tallegio or Primitivo.

I was scared and excited as hell to be there.

Almost ten years later the restaurant is gone but it left me so much:

Sean, my wonderful husband. We met at il Mercato. He was my boss.

Cathy and Susan, two of my bffs, as well as many other friendships that I cherish.

An incredibly fierce devotion to, and desire to learn about, Italian ingredients, cooking and wine.

The interesting thing about this blog post is that the recipe I'm posting isn't Italian. It's Spanish.

That's something else I learned at il Mercato. Italian cooking varies from region to region within 'the boot', and oftentimes, ingredients, recipes and methods from surrounding countries - Austria, France, Croatia, Spain (and others) - are used.

Romesco is an example of that.

At one point we had a dish on the menu called 'Ling Shrimp' (although, if we're being honest - every seasonal change of the menu had some variation of a Ling Shrimp. THIS Ling Shrimp was linguine tossed with Romesco and sautéed shrimp). It was one of my favourite pastas during my time at il Mercato and so, yesterday, I decided to try and recreate it from memory.

If I told you I nailed it would you think I was bragging?

'Cause I did.

Nail it that is.

Romesco is garlicky and crunchy with a hint of vinegary tang. You can use it with shrimp, chicken, on top of a steak, on a crostini topped with feta or goat cheese, or anywhere else you want a hit of super jacked up flavour.

 

Romesco Sauce (yields about 2 Cups - takes about 4 hours ---> 3 of those hours to roast tomatoes and red pepper)

4 fresh tomatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch discs

1 red pepper, seeds and pith removed, cut into pieces

10 cloves roasted garlic

5 cloves raw garlic, rough chopped

1/2 C Parmigiano, grated

1/8-1/4 tsp chili flakes (depends on your preference for heat - add more if you like)

1/4 - 1/2 tsp salt (add 1/4 tsp, taste and add more if you want)

1/4 C olive oil

1 Tbsp red wine vinegar

A 2-inch wide slice of stale baguette, torn into small pieces

50g hazelnuts, skinned, toasted, rough chopped

50g blanched almonds, toasted, rough chopped

- Preheat oven 225° - lay tomatoes and red pepper pieces in a single layer on two parchment lined baking sheets - drizzle with olive oil and roast in oven for three hours, flipping tomato slices and pepper pieces after 90 minutes - after three hours, remove skin from roasted red pepper pieces

- in food processor, pulse roasted tomatoes, roasted red pepper, roasted garlic, raw garlic, Parmigiano, chili flakes, salt, olive oil and red wine vinegar until just combined

- add crumbled bread and pulse until mixed in - if Romesco is too thick add more olive oil by the teaspoon and red wine vinegar by the 1/2 teaspoon and taste

- add hazenuts and almonds - pulse until nuts are processed but still chunky

 

Ling Shrimp for Two

1/2 pound linguine

1 Tbsp butter

10 jumbo shrimp, shelled, de-veined

1 C Romesco

1/2 C pasta water

grated Parmigiano

- bring a large pot of salted water to a boil - cook linguine according to package instructions until al dente

- when pasta has 5 minutes left to cook, heat butter in a sautée pan over medium heat - cook shrimp (about 2 minutes on each side)

- scoop out 1/2 C pasta water before draining pasta - put hot drained pasta back in pot and add the 1/2 C pasta water, Romesco sauce and cooked shrimp - toss with tongs until Romesco 'melts' through and coats linguine and shrimp (this is not a saucy pasta - the Romesco is going to cling to the noodles and shrimp - see photo above)

- garnish with grated Parmigiano 'se ti fa piacere' - if it pleases you

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Aglio e Olio : Garlic and Oil

I don't know if you've noticed but I am in love with Italy.

Love. Love. Love.

I love the food, the wine, the people, the accents, the landscape, the ruins, the history...

I could go on, but instead I will share with you one of the most simple and delicious pasta recipes ever.

EVER!

Aglio e Olio aka Spag Garlic (AH-lee-oh OH-lee-oh means Garlic and Oil - we call it Spag Garlic in my house. Don't tell the Italians ok?)

1 box dried spaghetti

1 bulb garlic, cloves chopped

1 Cup Olive Oil

4 big pinches dried chili flakes

2-3 handfuls grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

salt and pepper to taste

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil - sample the water before heating - when it tasted like the ocean, it's perfect.
  • Spaghetti takes about 11 minutes to cook - when pasta has 7 minutes left to cook, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.
  • When pasta has 5 minutes left to cook, add chopped garlic to hot oil - gently swirl - when garlic just starts to turn golden, add chili flakes - swirl, cook 30 seconds more and remove from heat.
  • Drain pasta and toss with hot oil and garlic - add 2-3 handfuls of grated Parmigiano and salt and pepper to taste - toss and serve immediately. 

*Some people say if you add chopped fresh parsley to the garlic when it begins to brown, the coolness of the parsley will stop the garlic from cooking further - do this if you like - it tastes good, it looks pretty and the Italians pretty much add parsley to everything.

**Garlic should be GOLDEN at the most - once it turns more of a dull brown colour, it will be crunchy and bitter. Yuck. Don't do this.

***Add chili flakes to taste - as many or as few as you want.

Viva Italia!