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"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard


Friday, June 29, 2012

Roasted Cherry Tomato and Vegetable Pasta

I love to use fresh, ripe vegetables all summer long. Unfortunately there are some vegetables I just don't like no matter how hard I try. Raw tomatoes fall into this category. I know I'm missing out but I just can't stand the taste and texture of raw tomatoes. Luckily, I love cooked tomatoes in all their forms.  This recipe is a quick, easy pasta that takes advantage of vegetables in season and is endlessly adaptable. 

For the "sauce", all you need is cherry tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and whatever other vegetables you want to use.

I used asparagus, onion and zucchini.  I also like to use hot pepper flakes.
On a large sheet pan drizzle some olive oil.

Then add the cherry tomatoes and chopped onion.

Add the chopped zucchini, minced garlic and chili flakes.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a bit of dried Italian seasoning if you like.  And roast in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile boil some water for your pasta and prepare your asparagus.  

Once the vegetables have roasted for about 20 minutes, add the asparagus and toss them around again to coat with oil.  The tomatoes should be bursting at this point.  Now you should also add your pasta to the boiling water.

I also decided to have some grilled shrimp with this pasta, so I marinated the peeled shrimp for a few minutes in white wine, chili flakes and garlic.

Then threaded them on wooden skewers and grilled them for just a few minutes until just cooked through.

I also grated some peccorino cheese.

Just before the pasta was done, I scooped out about a cup of the hot pasta water.

Then I drained the pasta.  This is whole wheat spaghetti but you can use any noodle you like.

By now the vegetables should be done.  

The tomatoes will have burst and the vegetables will be caramelized and roasted.

In a large bowl (or the empty pasta pot) mix the cooked pasta with the roasted vegetables.  Add as much hot pasta water as you need to give the "sauce" some moisture, then serve in individual bowls.

Fresh herbs like basil, oregano or parsley would also be delicious mixed in at this point.

Sprinkle with the grated cheese and the grilled shrimp for a delicious, summery pasta.  

Any seasonal vegetable is great with this. In the winter I like to use fennel, eggplant and Italian sausage.  Whatever vegetables you use, this is an easy, delicious meal.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Baby Artichoke Risotto

I think I've mentioned before that I find risotto is usually not worth the effort. My results taste good but the process is so labour intensive, the results should be phenomenal.  They usually aren't.  But still I keep trying to perfect risotto.

This recipe is very tasty and makes good use of fresh, seasonal vegetables.  The process isn't really that arduous, but I don't know if I'd go through it all again.  What am I saying?  Of course I will.  I'm sure you'll see some autumn vegetable risotto again in a few months when I forget what a pain in the butt this is.  

You'll need baby artichokes, Arborio rice, asparagus, wine, chicken broth, lemon, shallots, parsley, butter and Parmigiano Reggiano.  

I found these lovely baby artichokes at our local market.

Artichokes are something else that's a lot of effort for a not-always-spectacular payoff.  
To avoid discolouration, you can prepare an acidic lemon-water bath for the artichokes.  I wouldn't bother with this step if I made this again.  The artichokes still turned a little brown and by the time they're cooked in the risotto the colour didn't matter.  

Remove the spiny, tough outer leaves from the artichokes.

And cut off the tip and a bit of the stem of each artichoke.

Then slice each artichoke in half... 

...and immediately plunge in the lemon water if using.

Repeat with all your artichokes.  You can see the discolouration despite the lemon water. It doesn't affect the taste so it's not really worth the trouble.  

Meanwhile, chop the shallots. I also chopped some garlic and onion to add more flavour.

Warm about 6 cups of chicken stock in a pot.

Melt what seems like an impossibly large amount of butter in a pan.

Then add the onions, garlic and shallots.

As they saute, dry the artichokes...

...then add them to the pan to brown.

Toss them with the shallots for a few minutes.

Then add 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice to the pan to toast for a few moments.
Mix the rice with the vegetables to coat each grain with butter.

Add 1/2 a cup of white wine to the pan and stir until it is absorbed.

Now it's time to start adding the warm stock.  Start with 1 1/2 cups.

Stir until the liquid is absorbed, then add a ladleful of stock every few minutes, stirring until each addition is absorbed.  

You can see how the liquid is absorbed when you run your spoon through the bottom of the pan and the rice stays separate for more than a few seconds.

Keep adding stock and letting it absorb for about 20 minutes until the rice is creamy and tender.

About 5 minutes before the last addition, add some chopped asparagus to the pan.

Add the remaining stock and simmer until it is absorbed.

Meanwhile grate the  Parmigiano Reggiano

Once the stock is all absorbed and the rice is creamy, add the cheese, some lemon zest and a bit more butter and stir through.

Serve the risotto with a bit more cheese on top if you wish.  You can also mix in fresh chopped parsley, which I forgot.

This meal is not light or easy but it is very tasty if you have the time and patience for a little more work in the kitchen than usual.  

Monday, June 25, 2012

Wild Boar Tenderloin with Cherry Chutney

Sometimes things I cook are just for sustenance - nothing fancy. Sometimes things don't turn out as planned. But sometimes I cook something and I'm just amazed by how well it turns out.  This is one of those times.

When we travel to the Niagara Region to visit family, we often stop at a little place called Lakeland Meats that sells a variety of frozen game meats. They even have game burgers on the grill on summer weekends.  We like game meats and they're not easy to find, so we pick them up when we can.  On our most recent trip we picked up elk steaks, duck breasts and wild boar tenderloin.

I enjoy fruit with game.  I find the sweetness compliments the meaty flavour of the game meats.  So what better than in-season local cherries to serve with the meat?  I used this recipe from Epicurious, just substituting the boar tenderloin for the pork.  I highly recommend trying this with either meat. Pork is much cheaper and easier to find and would be just as delicious.  

Here are the ingredients you need:

  • Wild boar or pork tenderloin
  • 2 cups fresh cherries
  • 1 onion
  • Cherry preserves or jam 
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Allspice
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Salt & black pepper

The wild boar tenderloin is very similar to pork. The meat has a redder colour and a bit more flavour, but you could easily substitute pork tenderloin.  Trim any fat or silverskin from the tenderloin before seasoning. 

First, make the glaze by mixing 3/4 cup cherry preserves...

...with 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar and 3/4 tsp ground allspice.

Stir together and set aside 1/4 cup to glaze the meat on the grill.

Next, the fresh cherries.

Pit the cherries. If you have a cherry pitter, this is a breeze.  You can also smash them with a knife and remove the pit, but I chose the slow way of slicing them in half like an avocado and removing the pit.

You need 2 cups of pitted fresh cherries.

Next, dice one onion.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large pan and saute the onion for about a minute.

Add the cherries, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper and the cherry preserve mixture.

Bring to a boil and simmer about 8 minutes until thick.  Add salt to taste.

Ideally, a partner can be grilling the meat while you make the chutney. If not, grill it once the chutney is done and reheat the chutney when the meat is cooked. 

Season the tenderloin with salt and pepper.

Grill over high heat until browned, then lower heat or move to cooler part of the grill and cook until done, about 15-20 minutes, brushing with the reserved cherry glaze every few minutes.

Once cooked through to about 145 F, remove from grill and let rest, covered with foil for about 10 minutes.

Slice the tenderloin. 

Then top with the warm cherry chutney.

I served this with basmati and wild rice and asparagus.

The cherry chutney is amazing. I wouldn't normally think to use allspice but it adds a warmth to the fruit and the bit of spice from the cayenne pepper makes this an amazing dish. It is very easy so there's no excuse!  You don't need a special occasion wild boar tenderloin.  Pork would be just as delicious.  With fresh cherries in season, you've gotta try this!