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Simple Pasta – or is it?

Pasta is one of the great simple dinners. I’m not saying it can’t be a great meal but the part I love about pasta dishes is that their true beauty is sublime. Often the most spectacular plates are made from only a few ingredients.

Living with a chef in the house I often have sauces leftover, and pasta makes a great vehicle to carry sauce in a new way. Our latest favourite is to use a mixture of goat cheese with herbs that is made for filling mushroom caps. Stirred in at the last minute with sautéed veggies, it makes a tangy and filling dinner that is reasonably healthy and is done in less than 20 minutes. What’s not to like about that?

They say that Marco Polo was the one that brought pasta to Italy from his travels in Asia, but history shows that various places in Italy already had pasta as a common food in the 13th century when Marco Polo was travelling. (Whoever “they” are, they’re wrong.) Many other countries have similar foods that offer a hearty meal from a sort of boiled dough; spaetzle and orzo,as well as various dumplings like perogies use the same ingredients – flour and water, sometimes with eggs. This is a food of the people, a staple for the working class.

Maybe that’s why so many people love pasta – it’s not intimidating. You can drill down to the details and cook it just right, add just-picked herbs and quality oils, grate masterfully aged Parmigiano Reggiano. But you can also open the box and stir in that glow-in-the-dark powder and still have dinner.

Nello, in New York City, serves white truffle pasta in season. It’s not on the menu, so be prepared to pay the going price.

I wasn’t surprised when I saw an article today on a restaurant in New York serving the most expensive pasta in the U.S. Americans do love superlatives, and there are expensive and rare ingredients that work wonderfully well on a simple canvas like pasta. White truffles, which are in season at the moment, sell for hundreds of dollars an ounce, so when you shave one over pasta sautéed in butter, it can cost a lot. (The current price is apparently $275. If you visit the restaurant in the fall when black truffles are in season, it’s a bargain at about half the price.)

Any way you want to serve it up, pasta is a great way to start the week. I feel better having had some. It could be one of the world’s oldest comfort foods.

Here’s to a great rest of the week.

Sunday Fun Day

Here at Rabbit Hollow we live a simple life. We are fortunate enough to love what we do.We live in a beautiful place, surrounded by breathtaking views, a breadbasket bounty and caring neighbours. Every season has its own beauty here, and thankfully we have moments to enjoy each one. In winter and early spring, Sundays are often the days that contain those moments. Today was full of them.

I spent the afternoon in the garden today, cleaning up some of the fall fodder. I feel an especially gratifying sensation when spring comes and I see the garden come to life. New shoots, birds singing more gaily and increasingly sunny skies all contribute to the cheery ambience. Ella and I revel in the returning glow of longer days.


This time of year also means hubbie and I have more time to cook. Sunday dinner is an important event when we can make it happen. Tonight was a prime example, with steaks, roasted potato wedges and broccoli. The truffle oil and grated parmesan on the potatoes was as elegant as asset as the wine pairing we chose from the cellar.


I hope you find happiness in your life to the same degree as we do here. It may not be the same passions you share; the sentiment is what’s important.

Cheers!

Flavours Galore

Who says Monday has to be humdrum? Why can’t we start the week with a bang?

I needed to shake myself out of the doldrums and so when I saw a robin this morning, I was spurred on. I grabbed a recipe I had set aside in my pile of “meals to be made soon” and set to work.

When in doubt, roast chicken is always a good go-to meal. You can do an indefinite number of things to it, and serve it with just about anything. Almost everyone loves roast chicken. Just make sure it’s cooked (160F internal temperature) and voilà!

If you are a regular reader, you know that I am an adventurous amateur cook. The recipe I am featuring tonight is full of aromatic flavours, with an exotic combination of ingredients. A number of items do not hold usual spots on many grocery store shelves, but if like me you don’t have a local specialty food store, I can recommend a place to help you out. They are often an inspiration for me, and the recipe I used tonight is from their wonderful website, with just a few adaptations.

World Spice Merchants in Seattle is a treasure trove full of spices, herbs, blends and teas from around the world. The staff in the store is knowledgeable and the website is a virtual encyclopedia of information on spices and their uses. Even if you have no need to shop, I recommend you peek at their beautiful website and blog set-up.

Daylight Saving Time started this week, and so the days are longer now. However, I didn’t want to be cooking late. My plan was to have a meal that could be organized easily; while the chicken roasted I could prepare the other parts of the dinner. I even had time to walk the dog.


I also wanted to start the week with a recipe that gave us some leftovers. Roast chicken for two means at least a few sandwiches or meat for a salad. The original recipe was for roast quail, but that was too fussy for an everyday meal. (Besides, I’ve always thought quail has too many bones for the meat you get to eat – it’s more work than enjoyment.)

Sometimes I stick with old-time favourites to accompany a new item, but tonight I wanted to keep to a theme. I cooked farro, an ancient grain, and sautéed some veggies with smoked salt. The grain has a wonderfully nutty texture and the smokiness from the salt provided a perfect foil to the complexity of the flavours in the chicken. I even splurged with a local wine from our cellar; after all, creative effort deserves reward and recognition.

So, there you have it: Aromatic Deluxe Roasted Chicken. If I do say so myself, it turned out rather nicely.

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​Happy Monday. Here’s to a great week!

 

You win some, you lose some… and some you get rained out

I remember this expression from my childhood, and it has applied in so many situations I long ago lost count. Everyone likes to win at something, but quickly we learn that we won’t win every time. For there to be a winner there also has to be a loser. You wouldn’t have a game otherwise. But it’s the times when you can’t seem to win no matter what that can be the toughest. Matters beyond your control stop the game mid-stream, and you have to change things up to continue. Such is life, or as the French put it,

C’est la vie.

I’ve been in this kind of situation in the kitchen when I did movie catering. I remember the first time I cooked brownies for 100 people on a catering truck while parked on a steep hill. I had to think fast when they came out of the oven – there was a thicker end to the baking pan of batter that was a big brownie (more like cake) and a thinner end that was more like a biscotti. I could not choose “game over” as an option, the cast and crew had to have dessert. So I iced the thick half and dusted the thin half with icing sugar. I cut the pieces smaller and served up a choice: chocolate wacky cake AND biscotti. It worked, even though it wasn’t the original game plan. I did make a note to myself to prop up the pan the next time we cooked on a hill, though. When you get rained out, you learn a lot.

We got rained out tonight for dinner. We were supposed to meet friends at a local restaurant to catch up on all our news, as we hadn’t seen each other in months. We wanted a place on the Westside so it would be close for all of us. She made reservations.

We pulled up first and found the restaurant closed up. We knew it wasn’t open for lunch and we had arrived early… we checked the website and it said they were closed Mondays. So we texted our friend; perhaps she had made a mistake when reserving? She and her partner pulled up a few moments later, and she told us she had specifically asked if they were open since the website said otherwise. The staff said of course and took her booking.

when things don’t look good, we try to think outside the box and see other options.

Growing up with parents who worked in the movie industry meant I learned the motto, “Be Prepared” long before I was a Girl Guide. My hubbie is just as adaptable having spent years in a hot kitchen. We are always prepared for rain. (If we ever ended up on a show like Amazing Race, I think we would do really well.)

It took only a minute or so before we had come to a consensus. Many small restaurants are not open Monday, something we can sympathize with since we know weekends are the busy days. We brainstormed and quickly found someplace close that was open and headed out.

So I’m sorry, Thai Fusion , but I can’t offer any commentary about your experience. It’s a shame, as we don’t get out that often and I like to support small businesses. Unfortunately since part of my expertise lies in customer service I have to say that you did lose out when you had a staff member so out of it they never realized even after taking a reservation that they booked clients for a night you’re not open. You missed an opportunity to win.

As a result, 19 Okanagan Grill and Bar got our business tonight. They welcomed us with open arms and smiles, and took good care of us all evening. The drinks were fun and tasty; my Pineapple Ginger Margarita was the perfect beverage for reminiscing about my Mexican holiday. The food was hot and full of flavours. I had plenty of fish tacos in Mexico, and I already know theirs are good so I chose the Butter Chicken Bowl. I was pleased with the abundance of veggies, chicken and rice; the hot naan bread was a perfect accompaniment. My hubbie said his Cajun Burger was just right too, with a good kick of heat, fresh lettuce and tomato and hot fries. Our friends were both happy too – apparently the Caesar cocktails are at least as good as the Margaritas.

I’m glad I was able to support a neighbourhood business tonight. I am thankful that we got some quality time with friends, and a fun memory to share. Thanks, 19, for keeping us out of the rain. You’re a winner in my eyes. I’m sure we’ll see you again soon.

I love me some latkes!

I’ve been meaning to make potato latkes since I saw a recipe posted before Hannukah. I’m not Jewish, I just like the look, and the idea of savoury “pancakes” for dinner. So tonight was the night!


The recipe took a bit of fiddling with, but I got it to work, and was most pleased with the results as they cooked – it was easy to do them in the oven.

The trick was, we were having fish with the latkes, so the usual applesauce accompaniement didn’t make sense. I adapted a Caribbean mango condiment to serve with it and voila! If I do say so myself, it was a delicious meal. I included some fresh spinach, my hubby made a sort of salmon slider – we both enjoyed it immensely. 


I’ll post the adapted recipe tomorrow – just didn’t want to miss my commitment to make a daily entry. 

Happy cooking!

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