Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Another Linguini with Clam Sauce with a side of Sautéed Green Beans

Pasta with Clam Sauce and Italian Style Green Beans

It’s just not summer till you’ve sat down to a plate of clam linguine with a glass of chilled white wine.  Right? This sauce is loaded with parsley and lemon, but I thought I’d serve a few garden fresh vegetables on the side to up the nutritional value of this meal, and since I don’t like linguine,  I used vermicelli instead. But vermicelli with clam sauce sounds silly, so please forgive.

This recipe takes about half an hour, serves four, and it’s delicious.  The parsley gives the sauce texture, perhaps too much if you like your sauce less chewy.  You can substitute fresh spinach for some of the parsley, if you like.  I like the challenge of chewing parsley, so I stick with that for this recipe.

large pot of water, salted (1 to 2 teaspoons
1 box of either linguini or vermicelli to serve four
The parsley nicely greens up the clam sauce.

The Clam Sauce

2 tablespoons avocado oil
½ red onion, finely diced
2 to 3 tablespoons oregano
20 grates black pepper
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
2 Thai chilies
2 garlic cloves
1 bunch parsley, leaves only, chopped
2 cups white wine, in total
1 can clams (approximately 15 ounces)
½ lemon, juiced
Parmesan cheese freshly grated (optional) 

First, put on a large pasta pot of salted water, as it takes time to boil. Cover.  Have your choice of linguine or vermicelli on standby.

Use a large pan for the sauce, on medium high heat.  Pour in oil and when hot add onion, stirring occasionally till it becomes translucent and golden here and there.  Pour the oregano into the palm of your hand, and rub it into the pan, then add the pepper, paprika, chilies and garlic.  Continue to stir and cook till the pan becomes very fragrant.  Add the parsley and stir for another two minutes or so.  Add the first cup of wine along with the juice from the clams.  Heat through then turn heat down to low, cover it, and get on with the fresh beans.
Tomatoes will add a bit of braising liquid.

Sautéed Green Beans

1 tablespoon avocado oil
½ red onion, sliced and quartered
2 big handfuls fresh green beans, trimmed and cut to preferred size
1 teaspoon oregano
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
10 to 15 cherry tomatoes
sprinkling red chilli flakes 

In a medium size pan, heat oil on medium high heat.  Add onion and fry till almost translucent, then add green beans along with oregano, salt, and black pepper.  Stir whole tomatoes into the beans and then cover.  

These beans take about fifteen minutes to become tender, so the timing of your meal rests on them.  When they do become tender enough to eat, sprinkle a few flakes of chilli and they’re ready to serve.

Depending on which type of pasta you’re using, you may need to add it soon.  Read box directions for length of boiling time.  Be sure your pasta will be cooked and drained at the same time the beans are ready.

When beans are nearing tenderness, drain the clam juice into the parsley sauce, then add the next cup of white wine.  Turn heat up to get it simmering nicely.  When beans are nearly tender, add clams.  Let heat through, simmering for a couple of minutes.  Remove from heat and splash freshly squeezed lemon juice into the pan and stir well.

Drain pasta when al dente, and serve with sauce and vegetables on the side.  I like Parmesan cheese on all pasta, but it’s up to you if you want to include it. 

If you can enjoy this  lemony, fragrant and spicy dish with a glass of chilled white wine, sitting in the glorious sunshine, all the better! 

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Nutella Trifle

Nutella Trifle

This natural dessert is fairly easy to prepare, and it gets a lot of compliments.  I wouldn’t recommend it for a weeknight conclusion to a meal, but for a big party it’s wonderful. Nutella, whipped cream and bananas are a luscious combo and the bit of crunch supplied by the cookies and Werthers make it so much better.

I was making this for a large barbecue crowd, but you can divide this recipe in half to feed a smaller group.  It takes less than an hour of prep but several hours of chilling.  You will want to use a large, pretty glass bowl to show off the layers of this dessert.
Cornstarch, jaggery and a touch of salt, so much better than boxed instant pudding!
Jaggery, or shakkar, is slightly healthier than brown sugar.

½ cup plus 1 tablespoon corn starch
1 cup jaggery (or brown sugar)
4 cups 2% milk, or whole if you prefer
1 cup 17% cream
2/3 cup nutella (for custard)
pinches of salt (to taste)
1 teaspoon vanilla (for pudding)

1/3 cup nutella (for drizzling)
 one sleeve package of chocolate wafers 
2 bananas, sliced
4 or 5 Werthers Originals (hard butter scotch candies)
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar or regular sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla (for cream)

Start by whisking cornstarch and jaggery with a bit of the milk, just to make a smooth paste. Add the rest of the milk and cream, and set on medium heat.  Keep a close eye on it, stirring often so it cooks evenly.  As the mix becomes hot, add the nutella for the pudding.  It’ll be spotty and granulated at first, but as the mix cooks, it will melt out and combine beautifully with the milk and cream.  As it thickens, stir continuously. Let it boil for a couple of minutes, still stirring, then remove from heat.  Add vanilla and salt to taste.  Set aside just to cool a bit. (Some would cover it with wax paper to prevent a film from forming, but this will be a very textured dessert, so no worries.)

No need to use the entire sleeve of chocolate wafers. Keep some aside for something else, or for decorating the dish later.  I used about seven eighths of the package. Put them in a heavy freezer bag and bash them with a rolling pin.  You want a combination of small pieces and crumbs.  Put almost half of them into the bottom of the pretty glass bowl.  Spoon half the pudding over the cookie pieces.  Then add your next layer of cookie pieces and crumbs.  (Keep a bit more for the final step.)

Put nutella into the microwave just long enough to loosen it up a bit, about forty seconds.  Drizzle some of it
Homemade nutella pudding, look ma no preservatives!
Make it pretty cause some will show!
over cookie crumbs, then add the rest of the pudding.  Top with sliced bananas and drizzle the rest of the nutella over that.  Set in fridge to cool. 

Once the pudding is cold, whip the cream, and as it thickens, add vanilla sugar if you have it, plain if you don’t.  Once it’s nearly making soft peaks, add the vanilla.  It should make good peaks, but be careful not to overwhip, especially in a hot kitchen.  

Dollop the whipped cream around the perimeter of the cool pudding. Sprinkle the last of the cookie crumbs over all.  Put hard butter scotch candies into the cookie bag, and bash with a rolling pin, till you have broken bits.  Sprinkle them on top of  all.  You could decorate with the last of those chocolate wafers if you like.  Put the trifle back into the fridge to chill till serving time.

A glass bowl reveals the scrumptious layers!
Made it eggless so it wouldn't get scary!

We were having a big barbecue on a very warm evening where desserts were placed on an outdoor buffet table.  If I were serving this indoors, or in cooler temperatures, I would have used an egg based cornstarch custard, but this recipe was safer.  A starch and egg custard is richer and more luxurious, but with the cream, whipped cream and nutella, nobody noticed the missing factor.  

This would make a fabulous and fancy dessert for any occasion.  You don’t need to wait for a big barbecue!  You could even stick candles in this and call it a birthday trifle!  It will be a hit, no matter what.

Did I mention this was a Barbershop Barbercue?

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Strawberry Rhubarb Squares

strawberry rhubarb squares

Florida has oranges, California grapes, India the magnificent mango… and what do we have here in Calgary?  Rhubarb, not even a fruit, but an odd vegetable stolen by school children so the stems can be jammed into an also stolen jar of sugar.  Without sugar, the sour stalk is too shocking.

Nevertheless, we love our rhubarb, though most people just buy it.  I still have an old fashioned rhubarb patch in my garden, and once a year I harvest a few stalks.  The distinctive flavour is tart yet delicious, as long as it’s tempered with sugar, and less sugar is needed when strawberries help out. 
Rhubarb is the stalk of the huge leafed plant to left.

These squares are based on another Canadian favourite, date squares, but bad dogs had trampled my rhubarb plant, and so two stalks needed harvesting.  What an excuse that was to substitute strawberry and rhubarb for the date puree..  

I would have preferred this recipe with three stalks, but didn’t want to deplete my plant. 

This recipe makes an 8 by 8 inch pan of squares, and takes about two hours, from start to gobbling warm squares.

Rhubarb stalks
2 stalks rhubarb (3 would be better), chopped
1 cup strawberries
water to cover
½ to 1 cup jaggery powder (raw Indian sugar)

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
¾ cup jaggery powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 ½ cups unrefined oat flakes
½ cup hemp hearts (optional)
2/3 cup soft butter 

Start by making the filling. Combine rhubarb, strawberries and the first half cup of jaggery.  You can buy jaggery in Indian grocery aisles, or use brown sugar if you must.  Cover with water and set on medium high heat.  This takes a while to cook down to a paste, so check on sweetness as it’s cooking.  Add as much of the jaggery as you require.  Within half an hour, it should be thick enough.  Stir to make sure no liquid rests in the pan.  Set aside.

Don't expect it to be pretty when it's cooked!
In a mixer, use the paddle to slowly combine the flour, baking powder, salt, jaggery, cinnamon, oats, hemp and butter.  I like the hemp hearts because they’re super healthy, but you can omit them and use more oats in their place.  

When the mixture is crumbly, spread a little more than half the mix over the baking pan.  Press down with your fingers to create a firm base. 

The Great Canadian Cookbook, by Bunny Barss
This recipe has been adapted from Barss' recipe for date squares!
Spread all the rhubarb mix over the base; then use your fingers again to sprinkle the remaining flour mix over the rhubarb.  Gently press down to even out, and bake at 350 F for about forty minutes or till golden. 

These can be served warm with ice-cream, or chilled.  Buttery, tart, sweet… a very delicious cold climate treat!

strawberry and rhubarb squares
Why not try these for Heritage Day?  What could be more Canadian, eh?

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Wilma’s Miracle Cheese Biscuits

Wilma's Miracle Cheese Biscuits (spicy version)

I’ve been making baking powder biscuits since forever, and never knew they could be this easy.  When Wilma set these out for the bookclub ladies, and told us how she’d made them, I thought she was forgetting a few ingredients.  She later emailed the recipe, and I was still doubtful till I tried them myself.

As usual, I’ve dolled them up with chilies and herbs, (my additions are in Italics) but I’ll list the basic ingredients first, so you can see how ridiculously easy these are.  I’m contemplating a sweet version to use for a shortcake recipe, but that’s for later this week.  For now, we’re sticking with this flavourful and spicy version. 
Mix dry ingredients and cheese with a fork.
These take about forty-five minutes, from when you begin assembling ingredients to when you’re popping these lovelies into your mouth.  This recipe makes about eight biscuits, but it can be doubled.  Bake at 400 F.

1 cup flour  (use whole wheat)
1 cup grated sharp cheese  (use a good one)
2 tsp baking powder
2 garlic scapes, chopped (scallions would be good too!)
two stems cilantro, chopped
1 chili, finely chopped
½ teaspoon chili flakes
1 tablespoon black poppy seeds
a pinch of Kosher salt
1/2 cup ice cold water
1 tablespoon (plus) butter for greasing cookie sheet

Once well mixed, add the ice-water but don't stir too much.

Preheat the oven and generously butter a cookie sheet. Leave bits of butter here and there.  

Combine the dry ingredients with a fork.  Add the ice-water, and stir just to combine.  You can use a spoon to drop the dough onto the cookie sheet, or use your hands, like I did.  Bake at 400 degrees F for eight to ten minutes.  Cool on the sheet for a couple of minutes, then move to a rack to cool a bit more.

Serve warm or chilled, either way you'll love their flavourful cheesiness, and be congratulating yourself on how easily these are made. 
I moved these bits of butter closer to the dough. Yummmm

I made a batch over the weekend, and have been pretty much living on them.  Delicious with a cup of strong milk coffee for breakfast, but great with eggs bhurji too!

Great with more garlic scape eggs bhurji...

Monday, 28 July 2014

Lettuce Lassie (Greens and Berry Smoothie)

Lettuce Lassie (Greens and Berry Smoothie)

How much easier can it be?
Lettuce Lassie—it sounds like some kind of a proposition, but no, I’m referring to the leafy greens rather than the invitation, and the Indian lassie is the original smoothie.  I’ve a great deal of lettuce growing in the garden, and mixing it into a berry smoothie is a wonderful way to use it.

This recipe makes two medium sized smoothies, or one that is painfully large.  It takes about five minutes to prepare, including picking time, unless you need to add in a few hours to freeze some bananas if you have no frozen berries on hand.

1 banana (fresh or frozen)
1 cup strawberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup ice cubes (optional)
a small bunch of cleaned fresh green lettuce, (I have a variety so I took a few leaves from several plants)
½ cup plain yogurt
520 mls unsweetened coconut water (or optionally milk)
½ teaspoon rosewater (optional)

This quick smoothie is based on the idea of some kind of frozen fruit.  If you use all fresh, you can add ice-cubes.  I buy frozen organic strawberries and blueberries, and I use fresh bananas.  But when bananas get spots, peel them, bag them, and toss them in the freezer.  They can be used for smoothies or baking, and they won’t go to waste.

You'll notice I have no sweetener in this recipe.  I find the banana adds enough sweetness, but you could add a little something if you prefer.  I said a little!

Add all ingredients to a large blender and buzz.  Pour into serving glasses and enjoy! 

Lettuce, strawberry, blueberry and banana smoothie
Strawberries are a natural coolant, and coconut water is an excellent hydrator!