Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Fettuccini alla Carbonara

Remember I said I like smoked stuff back in my previous post? Well, after a long foray away from it I have added a bit of back bacon into my diet. I can hear relatives fainting for miles around. I haven't touched any meat but seafood for at least twelve years or so since I got sick every time I ate something with too much mammal fat in it. But I have to admit that of all the things I gave up, bacon was the one thing I hated giving up the most. Streaked bacon does still do me in with nausea (Yes, Mom, I tried) but back bacon doesn't (it's not streaked with fat). So in the past I used it in my corn chowder recipe and last night I made a favourite of Frog's : Fettuccini alla Carbonara. According to him, this meal is to the French student what Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is to Canadian students.
I'd call it a breakfast on pasta because it basically entails eggs and bacon on fettuccini. I served it the way the French do, with a raw yolk on top. It is perhaps a bit risky with the eggs we get around here but it gets mixed right into the hot pasta so it cooks a bit before it is eaten. I would recommend it because it adds a really nice creaminess to the whole dish.

Fettuccini alla Carbonara
-my notes in brackets

3/4 lb uncooked fettuccini or spaghetti
4 oz pancetta (Italian bacon) or lean American bacon {I used Canadian back bacon}
3 garlic cloves cut in half
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup heavy cream or whipping cream
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Generous dash of ground white pepper
Fresh oregano leaves for garnish {never used it last night, nor do I have fresh}

1) Cook fettuccini in large pot of boiling, salted water until just al dente. Remove from heat. Drain well. Return to dry pot.

2) Meanwhile, cook pancetta and garlic in a large skillet over medium-low heat for 4 minutes or until pancetta turns a light brown. Reserve 2 tbsp drippings in skillet with pancetta. Discard garlic and any remaining drippings {I was lucky to get one tbsp --a drawback from non-streaky bacon perhaps}

3) Add wine to pancetta mix; cook on medium heat for 3 minutes or until wine is mostly evaporated. Stir in cream; cook and stir 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

4) Whisk egg and egg yolk in top of cold double boiler. Place top of double boiler over simmering water, adjusting heat to maintain a low simmer. Whisk in 1/3 cup of cheese and pepper into egg mix. Cook and stir until sauce slightly thickens. Remove from heat.

5) Pour pancetta mixture over fettucini in pasta pot. Toss to coat. Heat over medium-low heat until heated through. Stir in egg mixture. Toss to coat evenly. Remove from heat. Serve with remaining cheese {and an egg yolk in it's shell. Save egg white for other dish}. Garnish, if desired.

My Ten...errr... Eleven Favourite Foods

I was tagged by a fellow food blogger, Michele of Chef Michele's Adventures for this subject. I have to name my top ten favourite foods. Seems an awfully limited thing for us foodies out there, doesn't it? Fellow Canadian Ruth of Once Upon A Feast is credited for starting this this meme: You are what you eat.

I just couldn't pare it down to the ten foods. I had to add one more because I just couldn't leave it out. Here they are, in no particular order:

1)Ginger- any way : fresh, pickled, candied, jellied, you name it, I like it. All hail ginger!

2)Anything from the onion family: onions, shallots, leeks, green onions, garlic … ahhh how I love them all, cooked or raw.

3)Berries: I never met a sweet berry I didn’t like. Tomatoes don't count. I said sweet didn't I? ;-) Like with peas, these have some childhood memories attached to them. Part of childhood's summer was finding the berry bushes from which to gobble all you could eat of things like blackberries, raspberries, salmonberries, blueberries, thimbleberries. My newest love is pink currants (My future mother-in-law has some growing amongst her red currants). The pink are more sweet than the red.

4)Pickles: I love pickles and will try anything pickled in the hopes of finding new favourites. My current favourites are Vlasic dills and Bick's Pickled Banana Peppers

5)Sushi: life wouldn’t quite be the same without sushi…. *drool* My favourite place to go is a little shop in the mall, would you believe it? But they make the best sushi I can remember having. If you're in the area, try it out: Togo Sushi

6)Almonds: Any way. Any where. Especially almond paste.

7)Chocolate: Like I could leave this out? I don't count white chocolate though. Too sweet for me and not REAL chocolate anyways. ;)

8)Peas: I looooove peas! In the shell, out of shell, snow, snap, sugar, fresh, frozen, dried. I think this one has one of the closest associations with childhood because of my Mom's garden. She always grew peas. My sister and I were given the run of the garden for a between-meal snack. I headed to the pea patch a lot to slit open the emerald beauties, pop the peas in my mouth and then chew on the pods like it was gum. Ahhh....

9)Anything with a smoked taste: smoked salmon, smoked gouda, smoked cheddar, bacon, kippered herring, smoked oysters, smoked mussels, etc. I’ve even been known to put liquid smoke in things like mashed potatoes because I love the taste so much.

10)Potatoes: Mashed, baked in the jacket, fried, French fries, scalloped, hashed. Oh mighty starch, you call my name!

11)Goat milk products including the milk and the cheese. Yummers! Some people find the taste of the milk too strong for them but I like the tang it has. I absolutely fell in love with this when I first had it in France.

A perfect meal of mine entails something like this: an amuse-bouche of tuna sashimi, a starter of broiled chevre salad, followed by a main dish of hashed browns with fried onions, peas and a smoked fish, dill pickles on the side, followed by a dessert of chocolate covered almonds and chocolate-dipped candied ginger.

Okay Foodie psychologists, what does that say about ME?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

It wouldn't be Christmas without them

I think I always liked Christmas the best of all the holidays because there was so much more to prepare. For weeks you were shopping and baking and decorating. Since I was little I used to help my mom prepare Christmas treats: thumbprints, peanutbutter balls, mince tarts, butter tarts, fudge, cinnamon buns, carrot pudding.

It was a little bit of a Christmas spirit boost to have my kids in class make peanutbutter balls. Since none were allergic to nuts and it didn't involve cooking, it was one of those easier class projects to do. Now they are all begging me for the recipe. Of course I'll give them the recipe (and you too).

Peanutbutter Balls

Step 1

3 cups peanutbutter (I think we always used smooth but I think it really doesn't matter)

3 cups icing sugar

3 cups rice krispies

2.5 tbsp melted butter

1) Cream together peanutbutter and icing sugar until well mixed. Set aside.

2) Mix rice krispies and melted butter until rice krispies are well-coated.

3) Slowly fold rice krispies mix into peanut butter gently until thoroughly mixed in. Be sure not to be too hard on the mixing as it will crush the rice. Set aside

Step 2

Thin butter icing

2 1/2 cups icing sugar
4 tbsp soft butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
Milk to moisten

Cream butter until fluffy. Gradually blend in icing sugar and vanilla. Add milk until icing is thin enough to flow freely from mixing utensil but thick enough coat the untensil well.

Step 3

unsweetened fine flaked coconut
food dye

Drop several drops of food dye into coconut. Mix with a fork until well blended and evenly coated with the colour. The amount of colour and the colours used are up to you. Traditionally my mother used just red and green. I used more unorthodox but pretty pale green, blue, white and purple this time around.

Step 4

1) pick up a chunk of the peanutbutter mix about the size of your thumb and roll into a ball about one inch in diameter. Continue until all the peanutbutter mix is rolled up. Depending on the size of your cookies, this should be about 4 dozen.

2) Dip each ball into the icing, roll until covered. Then drop them into the coconut, rolling until completely covered. Put onto a cookie sheet with a waxed paper lining. Repeat until all done. Place in freezer to harden an hour or so. Place in wax paper lined cookie tins, layering with waxed paper if necessary.

Hmm... I think that does it. This is WAAAAAAAAAAY more detailed than my mother's recipe. I think there was just a general understanding of the way it worked.

My sister and I liked Step 4 the most, much to my mother's chagrin, because we always licked our fingers between the rollings. We'd always be washing our hands again and again because she'd catch us doing it. Afterwards we both be sick with the sugar we'd consume. Somehow she never really stopped us though. It was funny when I made this with my students on Tuesday as they had the same look of "Nirvana reached" that we must have had when they sucked the icing and coconut off their fingers.

The same night I also made butter tarts thought I must admit I cheated a bit on them because I used pre-made tart shells. Yes. I admit it. I am an untried and scared hand at pie/tart pastry. So what I am giving you here is just the filling recipe. I hope you have your own tart shell recipe. I can give you my mother's if you want. Let me know.

Butter Tarts

1 egg
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup currants
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp lemon extract

Mix all ingredients together until foamy. Fill tart shells 2/3 full. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Let cool. Store in wax paper lined cookie tins or well-sealed plastic containers.

The currants add a sour-sweet edge that raisins just don't have. They are far too sweet in such a dessert. The lemon is a beautiful touch too as it enhances the sour-sweet of the currants. I converted a confirmed buttertart hater with these kind because he says the currants were not too sweet.

Not too much to it, eh? That's the beauty of them.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Busy little chipmunk

Only in food blogger land...

Frog from the living room: "Dinner's ready, isn't it?"

Me, in kitchen: "Yes, how did you know?"

Frog: "I could hear the camera beeping"

* * *

I was a busy little chipmunk in the kitchen last night than I was in a long while. I made two different Thai curries and two kinds of Christmas cookies. And I even managed to watch most of "The Triangle", second installment. Aaaaaaaaah... It's so nice to have reporing period over.

I used my Thai green curry and my Thai red curry last night. I pretty much used the same method for both although the ingredients in the sauce were almost exactly the same. For the red (His) I cubed up chicken breast for the main food item. In the green (mine) I used a mostly vegetarian content. I really liked the green better than the red and HE liked the red better than the green. Wow... much better choice making than the weekend! Here's the recipe for mine:

Nerissa's Thai Green Curry

1 tbsp oil (I used olive)
1 small block super firm tofu, diced
1 large green pepper, seeded and diced into 1 inch squares
4 inches of broccoli stem, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup small broccoli florets
1/2 cup frozen cut green beans (I suppose you could use fresh... not that WE get any)
2 1/2 tbsp prepared green Thai curry ( I used Maejin brand)
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 cup coconut milk

Heat skillet over medium heat and add oil when warmed up. Once heated, add tofu. Stir constantly until browned around the edges (1-2 minutes). Add green pepper, broccoli stems and broccoli florets. Stirfry with toful until the vegetables are bright green (up to 5 minutes). Add frozen green beans. Stir into vegetable tofu mix for 1 minute. Add green curry paste and fish sauce. Stir into vegetable tofu mix for 1/2 a minute. Add coconut milk. Stir to mix in curry. Let come to a simmer and keep on lowered heat, bubbling, for 5-8 minutes. Serve. Good with freshly cooked hot Thai Jasmine rice.

Serves 4

This was oh so yummy! I found Frog's red curry to be too salty for my taste. But he loved it. That's the main thing. Here's his:

The two cookies types I made are butter tarts and peanut butter balls. Both are highly addictive, suger-laden treats I grew up with. They are ONLY for Christmas (What other time of year would you justify that much fat and sugar?) in my opinion. Kinda like my mom's cinnamon buns... but that's for another day...
As I have to close up this post soon, I'll leave you with the pictures but post the recipes later.

The oh-so-yummy (favourite phrase today) butter tarts, oozing with brown sugar and currants. I know most butter tarts I've encountered outside my family have raisins but currants are the only way to go with these puppies. I couldn't imagine them without the little sour edge to those little jewels.

Peanut Butter Balls (hopelessly unimaginative in name but a joy to peanut butter lovers). My kids made some with me yesterday afternoon. They are all clamoring for the recipe and as enamored of the butter icing on them as I was at their age. They went a little overboard on making the coloured coconut so my making them at night was a way of using up the leftovers.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Let me swim in the soup...

Next time they'll have red-carpet rolled out by the seabus. I swear I felt so loved and cosseted at Shearwater on Thursday to warrant that kind of thought. People at the seabus so glad to see us again after a two-week hiatus. Lots of new things at the Shearwater store (okay maybe that doesn't make YOU feel like a princess but it does for me). But then there was dinner...

It was nice to look at the shimmery tree right near our table as I sipped my hot chocolate with whipped cream on top. I'm not normally a whipped cream girl but this stuff was great. It wasn't long before our first course came and I met God. I mean it! The broccoli and cheese soup was SOOOOOOOO good. I was horridly sad when I'd finished wolfing it down. Frog loved it quite that much too. It was all yummy and creamy with cheese as an accent to the broccoli rather than a competitor. And soft luxurious bits of onion... ahh... If I could have had a hot pool of that stuff to live in, I would have been happy as could be.

We'd both chosen the specials of the day. Frog had the prime rib with Yorkshire pudding and mashed taters. He was particularly in love with the sauce which I think I heard was au jus with red wine and garlic. Sometimes the simplest sauces are the best as the French Frog is apt to say to me... again... and again... OK I GET IT! ;-)

I simply had to try out the other special of the day: Prawns cooked with sambuca. I was curious to see what anise tasted like with seafood. I'm not sure if it is the best pairing with prawns but it was still quite nice to eat paired with the cooked fresh tomatoes and parsley. I found the result a bit sweet for my taste. I really have come to believe I like something a little more savoury/vinegary for prawns than sweet. It was a nice experience because I'd never had sambuca before in ANY way. I know I'd like it (I like pastisse too) with maybe another kind of dish, probably dessert.

All this time we were attended to diligently and kindly. I think what really struck me was new habit of the chef coming out to talk to us. I don't think that's ever happened before. Frog laughed at my surprise because he said if you are frequenting a restaurant in France, the chef/owner will make special visits to your table. Well, even if it is understandable for him, I felt special because I come from a family that didn't do restaurants very often. Then, to top it all off we were unexpectely given a piece of chocolate cake to share. It was then we found out that the red wine that had poorly combined with Frog's dinner went REALLLLLLY well with the dark chocolate of the cake. Wolf Blass Eaglehawk is an Australian wine. When combined with the chocolate in your mouth, the wine tastes all amber-sweet. I was blown away by the pairing.

We hung about for an hour, played darts (well... we tried to), talked. When we went to catch the seabus the driver's second snapped up all our grocery bags and took them to the seabus for us... We were touched by that move until he did it again on our way up the ramp to the upper dock so "you can hold hands". Awwwww... now we're positively gushing at the sweetness of the act.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Mexican Eggrolls

*The quality is poor but we were hungry and I almost forgot to take pictures.

Sometimes when looking for something completely different you stumble upon a recipe that just begs to be tried out. That happens to be the case for this recipe--Mexican Eggrolls from Recipezaar. On the webpage it seemed this was given big thumbs up and it looked so easy. My only pout about it is that it makes no effort telling how long the chicken was supposed to be marinated. Mine only got about half an hour but I'm sure it would have been better with more. Not that His Froginess Eating Machine poohpooh'd it. He attempted to complain that I'd cooked it a bit too much for his taste in between wolfbites. LOL I made mine a vegetarian version, splitting up the rest of the ingredients in half before adding chicken to Frog's half. As I am chowing down on a cold leftover right now because I couldn't resist while writing about them, I guess you can say that I'm not poohpoohing it either.

Mexican Eggrolls (from Recipezaar): The comments in [...] brackets are mine

2 cups grilled boneless skinless chicken breasts ( marinade in 1 T oil, 2 cloves garlic, 1 t cummin, and the juice of one lime [for ONE hour or overnight])
2 cups monterey jack cheese or Mexican blend cheese, shredded
1 (15 ounce) can drained black beans
2 cups frozen sweet corn (unthawed and drained of liquid)
1/2 chopped sweet red pepper [used 3/4 of a red pepper]
4-5 diced green onions
2 minced fresh garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin (can put 1/2 t more if desired)[using more=nice smokey taste]
1 (16 ounce) package egg roll wraps [double happiness brand from Vancouver]

oil (for frying) [olive oil light was all I had on hand.]

[makes 12-14 with generous filling]
20 minutes 10 mins prep

1. Chop the chicken into small dices.
2. Mix all ingrediants together .
3. Moisten the edges of an eggroll wrap and put approx 2 T filling in the middle .
4. Fold like you would an eggroll (directions and picture are usually on the
eggroll wrapper container).
5. Make sure the flap is sealed to keep the filling inside.
6. Heat oil to 350 and cook just till golden browned (aprox 3-5 min) [I cooked in 4 batches].
7. Cut diagonally and serve w/guacamole and sour cream. [served mine with southwestern style salsa, hot pickled pepper relish and sour cream]

Notes: I added a dash of lime juice to the eggroll fill. What really would have made it nice was some cilantro(At least for me as the Frog has some misgivings about cilantro). As I have some frozen in the freezer I could use that next time.