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Pizza rustica 1

Hello? Why, Hello! It’s been such a while since I last saw you, have you changed your hair? Yes, as you’ve no doubt guessed, life has been busy. But when isn’t it, and is that ever excuse enough for complete and utter neglect? I think not. Be that as it may, I have been somewhat distracted by other tasks, though here I am again, cooking it up and sharing what I can. Right! Lets get this year on the road! Lets finally, three weeks in, Whoop it up for 2008. Hope it’s cooking.

As a little make-up kiss, I give you a dish that sets my mouth to watering every time I think about it. It’s a dish that’s rich and warm and comforting and the perfect meal for that lazy, hazy, feet on the couch time between Christmas Feasting and New Year Bashing. Also, note to self for next year, would be perfect as a New Year Day Bash Recovery Unit. The recipe is from that Matron of the Mixing Bowl, Nigella, though I tinkered here and adapted there to come up with something better suited to a Dutch Father-in-law and a bacon-loving Mother-in-law. Also, I might add with a pat on my own back, I had enough foresight to pre-make the pastry during my initial Christmas Baking Bonanza in mid-December, which took a lot of the effort out on the day. Handy when you’re trying to keep guests vaguely entertained at the same time as cook up a brunch.

*Use a 23cm Springform Pan to make the pie.

Pizza rustica 2

Pizza Rustica a la Paesi Bassi

For the Pastry:
250g plain flour
1 stick (125g) butter, cold, cut into 1cm pieces
2 egg yolks
2 Tbsp iced water
1 heaped tsp salt
1 Tbsp caster sugar

For the filling:
75g Luganega (Italian Pork Sausage)
1 Tbsp Olive oil
250g ricotta, drained
50g smoked provolone, diced
125g dutch Gouda, diced
50g freshly grated parmesan
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp Italian Parsley, finely chopped
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
2 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
100g mortadello, chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
freshly ground black pepper
1 heaped Tbsp dry breadcrumbs

For the glaze:
1 egg yolk
2Tbsp milk

large pinch fleur de sel

Make the pastry:
– put the flour and butter in a dish in the freezer for 10 minutes. While this is chilling, mix the egg yolks, water and salt in a small bowl.

– When the butter is thoroughly chilled, add the sugar to the bowl and rub the butter into the flour and sugar until it resembles something between damp sand and oats porridge. Little lumps of butter are a good thing, you don’t want to overwork the butter into the flour.

– Add the egg/water mix and gently mix with your hands until the dough just comes together. It should still be a somewhat loose and crumble.

– Tip the pastry out and work it together with your hands to form one lump, more or less. Divide the dough into two parts: one slightly larger than the other. Wrap each in cling wrap and refrigerate.

Make the filling:
– Place a baking tray in the oven and pre-heat it to 400˚F

– Skin the Luganega, heat the oil in a skillet and fry the sausage meat for about 5 minutes, breaking it up as you cook it. Allow to cool

– Mix all the ingredients, including luganega, except the bread crumbs in a large bowl until well combined.

Assemble:
– Roll out the larger of the pastries to line the bottom and sides of your greased springform pan, allowing for an overhang. Sprinkle the bottom of the pastry wit the dried bread crumbs, then add the rest of the filling mixture.

– Roll out the smaller pastry large enough to cover the tin with an overhang. Roll up the two overhangs to seal the pie and press with prongs of a fork.

– glaze with the eggy milk mix and stab here and there with a fork to make air vents. Sprinkle the top with fleur de sel.

– bake for 10 minutes at 400˚F, then turn the oven down to 180˚F and bake for a further 45 minutes.

– Allow the pie to cool for 15 minutes before serving, although it’s excellent cold as well.

Pizza rustica 3
 

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Mushrooms, mixed

We’re still having our love affair with an Indian Summer here in TO. The evenings remind us that the season is changing, but the days are still above 20˚C. Fall is mushroom season, though, and even though it’s warm out, a nice comfort dish at night is in the calling. After all the salads and crisp fruit and veg, it was fun to eat something as soft and warm and aromatic as this. Besides, how could anyone resist such colourful, strange, beautiful and ugly looking mushrooms? Does anyone know what they are?

Mushroom Risotto

Mushroom Risotto with Many Varieties

1 Tbsp Olive oil
300 g mixed mushrooms, I used shitake, chantrell, Big Orange Ones, and Some Other Wild Type
1 Shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper
squeeze of lemon juice
1 cup Arborio or other Risotto rice
4 cups veg/chicken stock
⅓ cup dry white wine
½ tsp sweet paprika
⅓ cup grated Parmesan/parmigiana

– if using Chantrell mushrooms, keep a handful aside, to add right at the end, to preserve their delicate flavour.

– roughly chop the mushrooms. Take half of them and process in the food processor until finely chopped.

– heat the oil in a large saucepan/skillet on a medium heat. Saute the shallot and garlic for a few minutes, then add the mushrooms. Season with thyme, salt and pepper. When the mushrooms are tender, add a bit of lemon juice and taste the mushrooms to make sure they’re good.

– remove half the mushroom mixture from the pan and reserve. Add the rice to the remaining mushrooms in the pan and stir constantly. The rice will start going translucent and might pop a little.

– Now add the wine and stir until it’s all cooked off.

– Turn up the heat a little on the hob and start adding the stock, about a cup at a time, stirring until it’s absorbed. Make sure the last lot of stock is absorbed before adding the next cup. This will probably take 15 – 20 minutes.
– about half way through the stock supply, re-add the rest of the mushroom mix and continue with the stock. Add the remainder Chantrell mushrooms now, if using.

– just before serving, add the Parmesan. Serve with fresh ground black pepper and extra parmesan.

Mushrooms, mixed 2

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Pesto Spaghetti with fresh tomato

I smelled them before I saw them. In fact, I smelled them from about 10 yards away, and I immediately switched into hunter mode. I had to find them. Which stall was it? A glint in my eye as I spied them: big wound woven baskets stuffed to bursting with fresh, deep green basil plants. So fragrant that there was a visible mill of people around them and I’m lucky I ended up going to the market an hour earlier than I’d originally planned or I’d have missed out. So fragrant were they, in fact, that when the fabulous Mr P arrived home later in the day he immediately remarked on the smell from the front door, which is as far as you can get from the kitchen in our apartment. “Hmm, Basil!” I heard him mumble as he juggled his usual load of computer bags, keys and shoe-removal. And of course, in my state of grocery fever, I’d bought far more than two people could use. Basil doesn’t really like the fridge, so there was really nothing for it but to use it all up, while it was still so fresh and firm and fragrant. Again I had a mini day dream about having my own little kitchen garden.

I’d never made my own Pesto before.basil
I’m not sure why because I know it’s
not a complicated process and the
ingredients are simple and easy to
come by. Somehow I’ve never even
thought about making Pesto, in the
same way that I’ve never thought
about blending my own mustard or
cooking up my own ketchup. I’ve
upgraded my buying from little jars
of mass produced to hand made
Farmers Wife fare at the St Lawrence,
but further than that crossed my mind. Until last night. And I can tell you: you can taste the difference. Not that the Market stuff is not good, but making it and eating it fresh like that was a special treat. Of course, now I have a whole jar of it and will no doubt have to give it away so that it gets used while still fresh. But what’s better than a gift of food?

I used Elise’s recipe, and doubled it according to the amount of basil I had, but there are other recipe’s here, here and here, so find the one that sounds yummiest to you.

Basil is great on it’s own, but my favourite way to eat it is with a big pile of fresh, ripe tomatoes chopped up on top of it.

Basil Pesto

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Tomato Medley with Shitake and Marrows

A tomato is a tomato. Or is it? I’ve been doing some reading, which if I remember, I’ll tell you about later, and I’ve learned a thing or two about tomato’s. Turns out that the baskets and baskets of fresh Field Tomatoes we’re seeing in the supermarkets and food markets this time of year are quite probably the most watery, least flavourful tomatoes one can buy. Other than middle of February, shipped from Australia or some such Tomatoes, that is. The reasons have a lot to do with the industrialisation of food growing over the last 50 or so years and the scientific “improvements” catastrophe’d upon this once exotic fruit to insure a crop which grows fast, large and resists things like bugs and weather. Large yields equals large profit for the farmer. I found out the truth of this first hand by buying various tomatoes from various sources and the bulk-available, large, red ones were by far the blandest.

I’ve made a promise to myself to only buy tomatoes from the Organic Farmers Market and make them last as long through the week as they can. And what a difference! Each bite packs a punch of plenitude. Raw, cooked, sliced, diced and just pooped straight in the mouth. Yum. Now I fully understand why Ms R, a friend living in the Cornwall countryside of Ontario, has pledged to eat nothing but her own tomatoes, out of her garden. I remember an email from her last year where she was impatiently looking forward to her lunch, which was going to be her first tomato of the season sliced, with salt and pepper, on fresh bread. And what a lunch it would have been, no doubt, after so many months without a fresh tomato! I remember from many years ago when I lived in Ottawa as a student for a year, she would send through frozen tubs of home made pasta sauces to cook up for dinners. Delicious! Over the Summer, as her garden produced more tomatoes, peppers, marrows than the family could consume, Ms R cooked up large batched of sauces; Ragu, primavera and so on, to be frozen and used through the long Winter months of snow and cold and on until the next seasons produce were plump in the garden again. How I wish I had my own little patch of garden delights to tend!

Three Tomatoes

Tomato Medley with Shitake, Marrow and Polenta

Golden cherry tomatoes, halved, to make up a cup
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp good balsamic vinegar
½ tsp sea salt
good grinding of fresh black pepper
chopped basil, to make about ¼ cup
2 or 3 small yellow tomatoes (I used the low acid Peach Delight), sliced
2 or 3 small red tomatoes, sliced
cubed white cheese, I used a Basque sheeps milk cheese called Etorki, to make about ⅓ cup
1 tsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium brown onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
¼ tsp dried thyme
pinch ground sage
10 – 12 shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1 marrow or zucchini, cut in half; 1 half grated coarsely, 1 half cut in half lengthwise and sliced
salt and pepper
Parmigiano or parmesan to finish

– preheat the oven to 400˚F

– in a small bowl, combine the extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, salt pepper and 2 Tbsp of the basil, mix well. Add cherry tomatoes and mix.

– in a foil lined tin, bake the tomato mix for 40 mins, basting with the juice after 20 mins

– in a Saute pan, gently heat the butter and olive oil. Add garlic and onions and saute for 1 min until the garlic becomes fragrant

– add the mushrooms, herbs, salt and pepper and cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes until the mushrooms are soft. Add marrow or zucchini and bring to a low simmer. Leave to simmer with the lid on while you prepare the polenta.

– make the polenta according to the manufacturer’s instruction. I prefer to make mine with water, not milk, and I add 1 tsp ground mustard while it’s cooking and finish it off with a little dollop of butter and about 2 Tbsp Parmigiano.

– arrange the sliced tomatoes around the plate, top with the sheeps cheese and baked cherry tomatoes; reserving the juice and oil. Sprinkle with fresh chopped basil.

– dish up the polenta, topped with the shitake marrow mix. Drizzle the juice and oil from the tomatoes over the dish and salad. Garnish with fresh basil and Parmigiano.

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Bell Peppers, multicoloured

Peppers!

Sometimes we bite off more than we can chew. Did you ever, as a child, put an entire hard boiled egg in your mouth at a picnic, and then sit there (knowing your Mother could see you) and realise you couldn’t spit it out, abut couldn’t chew and swallow it all either? Oh the dilemma.

I was irresistibly lured to a table at Saturday’s market covered in punnets of brightly coloured sweet bell peppers. Poor Mr P already had the glazed over eyes of a pet chihuahua being dressed up in frills again, when I spotted them down the isle and uttered a wee whoop of excitement. So, to inspire a second wind of Excitement and Vigour for all things shopping, I sold the idea of buying yet more produce to have to lug home by mentioning some magic words: Stuffed Peppers, and, Minced Beef. Oh, that brought the twinkle back long enough to persuade him to help find the prettiest and shiniest peppers by far.

But now I was committed, through the Kharmic backlash of my own desire for all things shiny, to actually make the damn things. I decided against the mince in the end, simply because we’d had quite the culinary weekend and I felt like something more, well, simple really. Of course, having not made stuffed peppers in many a year, I’d forgotten just how long they take to make, the results of which were that we only ended up eating our dinner at ten last night! Well, at least it was good. And shiny.

Note on the recipe: I used 3 anchovy fillets in the recipe, but in retrospect it could have used an extra 3.

Bell Peppers Stuffed With Wild Rice, Tomatoe, Chard, Anchovy and Olives

Sweet Bell Peppers stuffed with Wild Rice and a Mediteranian Medley

Wild rice to make 1 cup when cooked (I used ⅓ cup grain)

4 medium sized bell peppers

2 Tbsp Olive oil
2 Shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 large tomatoes, chopped
Small bunch Swiss chard, 5 or 6 stems, chopped
10 Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
3 anchovy fillets, chopped
handful finely chopped Italian parsley
about ⅓ cup chopped fresh basil
80 ml grated parmigiana or Parmesan
salt and ground black pepper to taste

about 1 cup chicken stock

– start by putting the rice on to cook and pre heating the oven to 380˚F (wild rice can take longer to cook, mine took 45mins) when done, remove from heat and set aside.

– carefully slice the tops off the peppers, keeping them intact. remove all the seeds and inner squishy stuff. Wash inside and out and put aside.

– heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat, add shallots and garlic. Saute until translucent.

– add tomato paste, cook stirring for a few seconds then add tomatoes and swiss chard. Allow to cook until soft, about 7 or so minutes. Remove from heat

– In a large mixing bowl, mix rice, tomato sauce and the rest of the ingredients (excluding the stock), leaving about 2 Tbsp of the cheese aside.

– season to taste.

– arrange peppers bottom down in a greased, oven proof dish. Fill with rice mixture, sprinkle with remaining cheese and place tops on top.

– pour stock into the dish and bake for about 1 hour in the oven, basting with the stock every 20 mins to keep the veg moist on top.

Bell peppers

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Fresh Summer Pasta

The first time I went to the Trinity Bellwoods Organic Farmers’ Market, their first time open for the season, there were about 5 scraggly stalls selling bits and bobs of grown greens and a bread maker with flour still under her nails selling a few loaves here and a biscuit there. Probably just enough to satisfy the crowd of about 10 people strolling from one table to another, taking their time squeezing the marrows, sniffing the small, sweet strawberries.

This week there was a buzz in the air as middle aged matrons bustled and elbowed their way to the front of the queue in a craze of fear of missing the best tomatoes to that woman with the straw hat, or not getting to the baker’s table in time to get a hot spelt and hemp loaf. Canadian politesse and reserved respect for other human beings’ right to exist only just managed to thinly veil the boiling of blood and the animalistic focusing of attentions on each one’s spotted prize. Twice I was thwarted of the exact tomato, deep red and orange, I’d had my eye on while seemingly patiently waiting for the farmer to serve me my turn.

But still.

At the breathless end I had a bag full of goodies ready to turn into a feast for two. And what better way to serve up the freshest of Summer produce than simply and unfussily with a bit of pasta. Time consuming stews and soups and long cooking pies and roasts will have their turn in the months to come, but the freshest ingredients, pulled from the garden that very morning, need only the slightest, lightest bit of help and a good wine to go with it.

Fresh Summer Pasta

1 Tbsp veg oil, like Canola
1 white onion, finely chopped
1 shallot, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Shitake mushrooms, halved (or quartered if very large)
bunch fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped (to make about ¼ cup) – put about 1tbsp aside for final garnish
3 Tbsp fresh Origano, finely chopped

a dozen or so green asparagus, chopped into 2″ lengths
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
60 ml extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Parmigiano cheese

Penne, enough for 2

– cook the penne until el dente

– while pasta is cooking, heat canola in large sauce pan or frying pan on a meduim heat (not hot). Saute garlic, onions, mushrooms and about half the herbs. Season while cooking as this is when the mushrooms will absorb the flavours of the herbs and salt and pepper best.

– when mushrooms are soft add the asparagus and cook for just a few minutes until asparagus softens slightly and is bright green.

– when pasta is done, rinse under the tap and add to mushroom and asparagus. Add rest of herbs, cherry tomatoes and olive oil. Stir to mix and remove from heat so as not to cook the tomatoes or the oil.

– serve and garnish with Parmigiano, parsley and black pepper

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Risotto with peas, marrows and sundried tomato

I always thought of risotto as a fussy, difficult to make dish. It was Jamie Oliver, eventually, who persuaded me to give it a go, thanks to the effortless way he makes everything seem so do-able. And he was right. The only real skill you need for risotto is patience. It’s going to take a half an hour of your time while you sit over the pan stirring, and everything else will be fine. Don’t think you can quickly do this or that while it cooks. Now I love making risotto. It’s a dish that can be both fresh and comforting. For this one I used the ingredients I’d bought earlier that day at the Organic Farmers Market at the park: peas still in the pod and two plump, shiny marrows, one yellow, one green and a very fragrant bunch of sage.

The other things I picked up were a fresh tomato, which tasted nothing like any watery, tasteless tomato I’ve ever bought here in Canada. This one was so enticingly fragrant, so delicately flavoured and sweet, that putting a slice in your mouth made you close your eyes and savour every little morsel. Then I found a quart of wild blueberries, which again are nothing like their mass grown, store bought counterparts. Like fat and pimply troll next to a delicate, pretty elf. I’ve made a blueberry pie for the weekend in the country!

Pea and Marrow Risotto with Sundried Tomatopeas-in-pod-single.jpg

1 – 2 marrows cut into thin strips
1Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp butter
Handful fresh sage, chopped
1 brown onion, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
5 or 6 sun dried tomatoes
1½ cups Arborio rice
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar in ± 80 ml of water

4 cups fresh chicken stock, warmed
about 1 cup fresh peas
180 – 125ml grated Parmegiano cheese
S + P

– heat oil and butter in a large, heavy based pan. Sauté marrows with sage until tender. Remove from pan and keep warm.

– sauté onion, shallot and garlic until translucent. Add more olive oil if needed but don’t let the garlic brown (it turns bitter)

– add rice and tomato to pan and cook, stirring continuously until rice begins to turn translucent at the edges.

– add vinegar water and stir until it’s all been absored.

– add ½ cup warm stock and stir until absorbed. Keep adding stock in quantities of about 1 cup, stirring, and only adding more once the previous has been absorbed. About half an hour. Add peas with last bit of liquid.
– when all liquid has been absorbed stir in cheese, leaving some for a garnish.

peas-comp.jpg

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