A Quick Recipe for a Quick Post

CrostiniSometimes you need a quick recipe:  maybe for a quick snack, or for some last-minute guests, or perhaps on day three of NaBloPoMo when you remember that you are actually participating in NaBloPoMo and need to write a quick post before going to bed.  Oops!

I kind of threw this together in the summer when visiting our friends in Bordeaux, although the combination of sweet fruit with salty ham is certainly not a new one. We had such lovely bread, great cheese and delicious summer fruit, and I decided to throw them all together into a quick appetizer.  Perfect with a glass of wine on a warm summer’s evening!

Crostini with Nectarine, Prosciutto and Goat Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1 baguette
  • 2 ripe nectarines, halved and cut into thin slices
  • 1 log of soft goat cheese
  • 12 slices of prosciutto or parma ham
  • large clove of garlic
  1. Slice baguette into fairly thin slices, about a centimetre or so would be good.  Under the grill or broiler, toast the bread on both sides, until lightly brown and golden.  Cut clove of garlic in half and rub the garlic over one side of each piece of toasted bread.  Set aside.
  2. Spread a tablespoon of goat cheese on each round of bread. Layer on a slice of nectarine and half a slice of prosciutto.  Eat at room temperature.

 

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One Pot Madness!

One-pot chorizo 001

I can honestly say that if there’s one thing that really depresses me, it’s coming home after a very busy day, starving, and being faced with cooking solo with no plan. Ugh. I’m hungry, I’m tired, and there’s nobody here to help in any way. It happens to the best of us. And for those of us who don’t have a nice mother-type nearby to pity us and feed us, what on earth does that leave for us to do?

When I have been in this situation, I will admit to having heeded the call of the Colonel. Or visited one of many other quick greasy take-away options in my neighbourhood. Sometimes I’ve cracked open an imported box of Canadian mac & cheese, complete with very nutritional powdered cheesy sauce mix. Classy, I know. I have a girlfriend who eats a bowl of cold cereal and milk when faced with these situations. Sad, sad and sad I say.

A few months ago, the same girlfriend sent me a fantastic recipe for a stew that turned store cupboard ingredients into a magical meal in about 20 minutes, with little effort. An onion, some garlic, olive oil, chorizo, red wine and tinned white beans combined in a saucepan, simmered for as long as you were willing to wait, and presto. Take that Mr. Fried Chicken! You can keep your eleven herbs and spices!

Chorizo and Butterbean Stew with Garlic and Thyme – Serves 4

Recipe from Rick Stein Coast to Coast: Food from the Land & Sea Inspired by Travels Across the World

Ingredients

  • 350g (12oz) dried Judion butter beans, soaked overnight, or 2 tins of cooked butter beans
  • 225g (8oz) hot chorizo for cooking
  • 50ml (2fl oz) olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 175ml (6fl oz) red wine
  • 1 x 400g (14oz) can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves, or 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Salt

Method

  1. Put the dried butter beans into a large pan with lots of water, bring to the boil and simmer for 1 hour until tender. Drain and set aside.  If using tinned beans, drain and rinse beans and set aside.
  2. Cut the chorizo sausages into thin slices.
  3. Put the olive oil and garlic into a pan and heat over a medium-high heat until the garlic begins to sizzle.
  4. Add the chorizo and cook until the slices are lightly browned on either side, then add the onion and continue to cook until it has softened.
  5. Add the red wine and cook until it has reduced to almost nothing.
  6. Add the canned chopped tomatoes, thyme, butter beans and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and simmer for 15 minutes.
  7. Scatter over the parsley, spoon the stew into deep warmed bowls and serve with some crusty fresh bread.

Pasta 2.0

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I think there are some basic kitchen rules that everyone should know. They are some of my tenements of cooking, rules to live by. They include:

  1. Never put anything sharp in a sink full of soapy water.
  2. Always have butter and Parmesan in your house. They can turn anything (potato, pasta, rice, veg, bread) into a meal.
  3. When in doubt, or short of time, toasted bread with whatever foodstuff you have put on top usually makes a great appetizer – try cooked, mashed frozen peas with some olive oil, crushed garlic and Parmesan. Easy peasy, if you’ll pardon the pun.
  4. Not many people can really tell if you’ve used stock cubes rather than fresh. Save yourself the trouble.
  5. Always cook pasta in loads of boiling, heavily salted water. And not some silly pinch of salt. Heavy. It should taste like salty water from the sea.

Rules #5 is quite an important one in my books. Nothing worse than when someone cooks pasta in a small pot of water with a meagre amount of salt. Ick. Bland. Boring. Awful.

Hold on a minute.

One weekend this summer, as I sat happily by the seaside, indulging in a favourite pastime of flipping through food and cooking magazines, I came upon a pasta recipe that was so crazy, so contrary to everything I had ever been taught, and so against all the rules of pasta cooking that it shocked me to my core. It couldn’t work. It shouldn’t work. It wouldn’t work. But there it was, staring up at me, taunting me from the hallowed pages of Martha Stewart magazine, a tome held by some as almost biblical in the world of home and garden magazines. How could Martha recommend something that was this wrong??

The pasta was cooked in a saucepan with a fixed amount of water and tomatoes, onions, garlic, chili and basil that would become the sauce. The water would become the sauce. No draining, no shaking, no tossing in olive oil. Pasta, water and other ingredients become one. Absurd right? Totally. Or maybe, maybe it might just work.

We decided to test out this recipe while visiting our friends in France this past August. The night was warm, the kids were in bed, and frankly if the meal completely failed I knew we had bread (please see tip #3 above) and enough wine to make up for any dinner disasters.

Well. What can I say except wow. It worked. Pasta tossed in simmering water, water reducing while tomatoes and aromatics are softly poaching in the starchy flavoursome water, all fusing together into the one pot meal to end all one pot meals. Shocking. “Kind of like risotto but with pasta”, my friend remarked. And she was right. And it was delicious. Pasta 2.0 – the way forward.

One-Pan Pasta – from Martha Stewart Living, June 2013

Serves 4

Summer 2013 (Nick's camera) 120

  • 12 oz linguine
  • 12 oz cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered if large
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 sprigs basil, plus torn leaves for garnish
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
  1. Combine pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, basil, oil, 2 tsp salt, 1/4 pepper, and water in a large straight-sided skillet.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Boil mixture, stirring and turning the pasta frequently with tongs, until pasta is al dente and water has nearly evaporated, about 9 minutes.
  2. Season to taste with salt and pepper, divide among 4 bowls, and garnish with basil.  Serve with oil and Parmesan.