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Spaghettini with Roasted Beet and Poppy Seed + a CONTEST!

4 Feb

 

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Disclosure: Italpasta provided me with a gift card to purchase the ingredients for this recipe.

I love pasta and I could eat it every day of the week if I had to. I’m serious. There are so many pasta shapes and so many ways to eat it that I’m sure I wouldn’t run out of options.

I was excited when Italpasta asked me to try a vegetarian recipe for pasta lovers, perfect for Valentine’s Day, featuring Italpasta Total Pasta Spaghettini. It’s a white pasta with the goodness of 10 grams of fibre packed into each serving, a great option for hubby and I because as much as we enjoy whole wheat and other “healthy” pastas, sometimes we just want (at least what looks like) the regular stuff!

This recipe features butter, spaghettini, beets and goat cheese and they all combine together to form a simple and tasty dish with a beautiful, vibrant beet red finish, perfect for Valentine’s Day or if you’re having guests over and want to impress them. At first I wasn’t sure about adding poppy seeds to the dish but they ended up adding a nice crunch. The texture of the spaghettini was perfect, I never would have known that I was eating a high fibre pasta. We’re adding this dish to our pasta rotation, that’s how much we both liked it! #win

I’ve added some of my own notes in the recipe below. If you make it and have any tips to share, please leave a comment below this post. Happy cooking!

P.S. Don’t forget to scroll down and enter my delicious Valentine’s Day contest to win an Italpasta “For Pasta Lovers” prize pack.

Italpasta’s Spaghettini with Roasted Beet and Poppy Seed

Link: http://www.italpasta.com/recipes-spaghettini-with-roasted-beet.php

Serves 2

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:

½ pound      Italpasta Total Pasta Spaghettini         225 g

2                     small roasted red beets, peeled and cut into wedges (Sandy’s notes: You can save time by roasting the beets a few days before making this recipe).

2 tbsps          unsalted butter            30mL

1 tbsp             Italpasta Extra Virgin Olive Oil 15mL

1                      small shallot, minced  (Sandy’s notes: I used half of a small onion)

1 tbsp             poppy seeds   15mL

2                      sprigs fresh thyme, leaves finely chopped

salt and pepper

¼ cup              crumbled soft ripened goats cheese, for serving      60mL

(Sandy’s notes: I quickly roasted the beets by peeling them and cutting them into cubes. Then I tossed them in a little olive oil, sea salt and pepper and I spread them out on a baking sheet covered with a sheet of parchment paper. I roasted them at 425 F for 30 minutes. You may need longer depending on the size of the beets. While you have your beets in the oven, consider making some roasted potatoes or another dish to save on energy.)

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente or to your taste. Drain and reserve ½ cup pasta water.

In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, brown the butter. Reduce the heat slightly, add extra-virgin olive oil, and stir to combine. Add minced shallot, and cook for 2 minutes, until softened, stir in poppy seeds. Toast the seeds for 1-2 minutes.

To the shallots and poppy seeds, add the chopped beets and thyme, stir for 1-2 minutes. Add ½ cup of pasta water to the skillet. Simmer the sauce over medium heat for 2 minutes. (Sandy’s notes: At this point, I added a ½ teaspoon of chili flakes to add a little spice to the dish).

(Sandy’s notes: This next step is key…stir quickly and constantly to cover all of your pasta with that beautiful red sauce otherwise it will be unevenly coloured.)

Transfer pasta to the skillet and cook for 1 minute until combined, stirring constantly. Taste and adjust salt and pepper seasoning. Serve in warm pasta bowls and top with crumbled goat’s cheese.

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If you loved the look of this pasta, Italpasta has a second Valentine’s Day inspired pasta recipe – Red Wine Spaghetti: http://www.italpasta.com/recipes-red-wine-spaghetti.php

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If you’re looking for more ways to impress your loved one on Valentine’s Day, visit Italpasta’s special Pinterest board with tips on how to set the perfect table, host Valentine’s Day on a budget and of course, cook up some awesome pasta recipes here: http://www.pinterest.com/forpastalovers/valentine-s-is-for-pasta-lovers/

Get more tips and recipes from Italpasta here:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ForPastaLovers

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ItalpastaLimited

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/forpastalovers

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/forpastalovers/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/ForPastaLovers

CONTEST – Enter to Win a Valentine’s Day Italpasta “For Pasta Lovers” prize pack!

Enter to win a prize pack valued at over $50. It will include:

  • A supply of Italpasta Tradizionale Pasta
  • Apron
  • Cheese Grater

To enter:

1) Follow me on Twitter @savvari or www.twitter.com/savvari

2) Follow Italpasta on Twitter at @forpastalovers or www.twitter.com/forpastalovers

3) Retweet my contest tweet OR tweet this message:

I want to win a #ValentinesDay prize pack from @savvari and Italpasta @forpastalovers http://bit.ly/1vszYbL #forpastalovers

Get a second chance to win by leaving a comment below this post. Tell me what your favourite pasta shape is and what your favourite way to prepare it is – macaroni with cheese? Linguine with alfredo sauce? If you have a great recipe, let me know! If you don’t use Twitter, this would be your method of entry.

You can enter on both Twitter and on the blog post once per day each until the end of the contest. Contest runs until Sunday February 15 at 5 pm EST, so get your entries in!

Additional info:

  • There is one (1) Italpasta prize pack to be won.
  • The winner will be announced by Monday February 15 at 5 pm EST.
  • The contest is open only to residents of Canada.
  • Prize will be shipped directly to the winner. A Canadian shipping address must be provided.
  • Total value of the prize is $50

 

 

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Persimon Pizza

17 Jan

Please enjoy this guest blog post from Kimberly Toureiro a.k.a @KitchenSprout. Have you ever had persimmons on pizza? After checking out this recipe that’s suitable for vegetarians and non-vegetarians, I think you’ll want to give it a try!

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Behold! The rare jewels of Spain; precious Persimons! From Ribera del Xuquer their harvest commences in the fall, and are available in limited quantities and for a limited time, from October until January only. Persimon branded persimmons, like the tomato, are not properly considered to be “berries”, but in terms of botanical morphology, the fruit is in fact a berry. This fruit is of the “Diospyros” family, which is a genus of 700 species of evergreen trees, shrubs and small bushes. The word “Diospyros” comes from the ancient Greek words “dios” and “pyros” and when translated means “divine fruit” or “divine food” – on first bite I will attest to the accuracy of the description of this obscure gem!

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The characteristics of the “Persimon” from Ribera del Xuquer differ from other persimmon varieties. They are:

1) Bright orange and tend to be larger and longer

2) Are firm and ready to eat (unlike other persimmon varieties, which must be consumed when they are soft)

3) Are not astringent (bitter) thanks to a naturally occurring ripening process

4) Have a sweet, delicate flavour similar to a peach or a mango

Persimon del Xuquer were given the name, Persimon, intentionally spelled with one “m” and were given a registered trademark.  Persimon was also granted a “Denomination of Origin” designation by the Spanish government. This highly coveted quality seal is the only one existing in the world for a persimmon fruit variety and is recognized by the European Union.

I was requested to participate in a Persimon blogger program in late December, whereby I received a case of Persimons from Ribera del Xuquer. In the basket there were five simple and enticing recipes for me to choose from, varying from snacks, mains and dessert. I choose to have a Christmas gathering of six people and I decided to take my guests on a journey to “Espana Autentica” – this provided me with a platform to not only enlighten my guests about this “divine fruit” but to demonstrate the ease of creating any of these seductive dishes. The choice was Persimon and Chorizo Pizza; this particular recipe accommodates both meat eaters as well as vegetarians, as the chorizo can be replaced with soy-based pepperoni. Choosing the pizza ensured crowd involvement, so that each one them could modify their own pizza to their desired tastes. Needless to say everyone loves pizza! It has become an international staple for the young and old, and from culture to culture.

Admittedly the sumptuous persuasion to attempt this dish was predicated on the actual and exotic combination of flavors to be found therein. Trending with “social media” lingo for “foodies” it ranks high on the “foodporn” and “mouthgasm” scale. It possesses spicy, tangy, sweet and savory all in one sensual bite. Leonardo DaVinci was once quoted as saying “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. Perhaps he had just indulged upon this very meal! Enough of the foreplay of this gastronomic adventure, let’s get to the ingredients and steps of creating this alluring pizza.

Ingredients:

500g        pizza dough

2              Persimons, thinly sliced crosswise

2 tbsp      lemon juice

1 cup       thinly sliced spicy chorizo or soy-based pepperoni

1/2 cup    shaved Manchego cheese

2 tsp        balsamic glaze

2 cups     baby arugula

1 tsp        olive oil

pinch of salt and pepper

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 425F

On a lightly oiled work surface divide dough in half.  Roll and stretch to form either rectangles or circles. Transfer to parchment lined baking sheets.

Toss Persimon slices with lemon juice and arrange on dough, top with chorizo or soy-based pepperoni slices.

Bake in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes until crust is golden brown.

Remove from oven, sprinkle with shaved cheese and drizzle with balsamic glaze.

Toss arugula with oil, salt and pepper and scatter on pizzas just before serving.

Serves 4

PER SERVING (1/4 recipe or 1/2 pizza)

573 calories, 23g fat, 9g saturated fat, 46mg cholesterol, 1053mg sodium, 76g carbohydrates, 3g fibre, 12g sugars, 21g protein, %RDI: 20% calcium, 45% iron, 4% vitamin A, 60% vitamin C

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In closing, I am honored to have been selected to participate in the Persimon blogger program; not only was it the perfect kick-start to the Christmas season, but made for a very informative and taste perceptive venture.  My guests and myself, admittedly rookies, indulged in our first time making homemade pizza…scratch that one off the bucket list. The peppery arugula, once blended with the sweet Persimon, was a symphony for the taste buds, and then the music continued to play in the form of the tart balsamic, delicate cheese and spicy chorizo and soy-based pepperoni. Being a culinary writer, I am often approached as to where certain items are best prepared. Coincidentally last Saturday, I was asked which were my top 3 pizzas for 2014.  Without reflection I immediately articulated “my house!” – the “divine fruit” Persimon, with its sweet suasion invigorated in all of us the joyful art of pizza making.

Be sure to visit the Persimon website to enter to win a trip to Spain! Click here for more info – http://persimonsays.com/contest/

Links: 

Website: http://www.persimonsays.com

Twitter: @persimonsays

Hashtag: #persimonsays

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About Kimberly Toureiro @KitchenSprout

Guest blogger Kimberly Toureiro is an accomplished and accredited food writer and food enthusiast, published locally and internationally, who is passionate about all things culinary and wine related.

Raised in Newmarket, Ontario, Kimberly – better known as the Kitchen Sprout – has lived most of her life in the bustling and multi-cultural city of Toronto, having broadened her taste buds with international fare from an early age. Never having met a meal she didn’t appreciate or a bottle of wine she didn’t enjoy, Kimberly continues to explore the ever-changing world of food trends.

When not attending menu tastings or food-related events, Kimberly can be found at a local farmer’s market, selecting fresh ingredients for her next great at-home meal.

Margherita Penne

27 Nov

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I love the Milk Calendar. I’ve been kind of obsessed with it since I was younger and I would read all of the recipes over and over again and ask my mom which ones we could try. Since we were vegetarian, there were only a few recipes we could try, so it was pretty easy to pick them out!

I was excited to get a copy of the 2015 Milk Calendar this year, even more so because I once again had the opportunity to try one of the recipes, with ingredients generously provided by the Dairy Farmers of Canada. The test recipe this time was Margherita Penne and I knew I would enjoy this dish as soon as I saw the ingredients list. Tomatoes, bocconcini, basil…..yum!

Margherita Penne

Link to the original recipe from the 2015 Milk Calendar recipe site (please note that I have not changed the original recipe, I’ve just included my own notes below) – http://www.dairygoodness.ca/recipes/margherita-penne

Course – Main Dishes

Prep. Time – 10 mins

Cooking Time – 13 mins

Yields – 4 to 6 Servings

This yummy pasta is based on the classic pizza margherita, which is topped with tomato sauce, cheese and fresh basil – sometimes the simplest things taste the best.

Sandy’s notes:

-The recipe calls for 1 1/2 tsp of dried thyme but I’m not a huge fan of thyme in pasta dishes so I only added a 1/2 tsp. It was more than enough to flavor the dish nicely in my opinion. I think 1 tsp of dried oregano would be a great substitute as well.

-If you want to be able to see the bocconcini in the dish then add it in seconds before serving it, otherwise it will melt into the pasta.

-While I enjoyed this pasta hot, I enjoyed it even more after I reheated it the next day. I just needed to add a few tablespoons of water to get the sauce going again.

-See additional tips from the Dairy Farmers of Canada below the recipe.

Ingredients:

12       oz  (375 g) penne pasta

2          tbsp  (30 mL) butter

4          cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2  tsp       (7 mL) dried thyme

1/2     tsp       (2 mL) salt

1/4     tsp       (1 mL) hot pepper flakes

2          tbsp    (30 mL) all-purpose flour

2 1/2  cups    (625 mL) Milk

2          cups    (500 mL) cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1/2     cup      (125 mL) grated Canadian Parmesan

12       1-inch (2.5 cm) mini Canadian Bocconcini

1/2     cup      (125 mL) fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

Canadian Parmesan, for serving

Preparation:

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta for about 11 min or until al dente, or according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic, thyme, salt and hot pepper flakes. Cook 1 min. Sprinkle with flour; cook, whisking for 1 min. Gradually whisk in milk. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Whisk for 3 to 5 min or until smooth and thickened. Stir in tomatoes and Parmesan.

Drain pasta and return to pot. Pour in sauce; toss, stirring 1 to 2 min over medium heat to coat pasta. Stir in Bocconcini, basil and salt to taste, if needed. Serve with grated Parmesan.

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Tips from the Dairy Farmers of Canada:

-Bocconcini come in different sizes, so if you need to cut the balls, the pieces should be about ¾-inch (2 cm) in size.

-Try cubes of Mozzarella instead of Bocconcini.

-Add some of your favourite pizza toppings to the sauce, such as pepperoni, olives or sun-dried tomatoes. Or use your favourite short pasta in place of penne.

To check out the rest of the recipes from the 2015 Milk Calendar, please visit – http://www.dairygoodness.ca/milk/my-milk-calendar/recipes/year/2015

 

Meals With My Munchkin: Il Fornello Richmond Hill

7 Sep

Note: This is not a sponsored post. We chose the restaurant and we paid for our meal.

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My baby son Ronin is now 3 months old and my husband and I have become a bit braver, so we’ve started to take him out to restaurants with us. Heading out with a baby comes with a few special challenges as every trip out requires a few extra steps of planning. Given this, my goal is to find restaurants that will easily welcome my husband, son and I when we want to have a meal out. Welcome to a new series, Meals with My Munchkin, where I’ll review my vegetarian meal at restaurants we’ve been to with our son and share my thoughts on how baby friendly the restaurant was. I’m hoping these posts will help other moms and dads feel brave enough to head out to restaurants with their babies.

We recently went to Montreal for our first road trip with the baby and it was there that he went to his first proper restaurant (blog post to come!). Since our outings there went so well, we decided to check out one of our local restaurants, Il Fornello Richmond Hill, for their weekly pizza special. Since we now dine with a baby, I called ahead to try and book a table for 3 people, so that we would have a decent amount of space for us and Ronin’s car seat. They were happy to take our reservation, which was terrific!

Our meal:

Il Fornello Richmond Hill had their Tuesday pizza special on, with all pizzas priced at $10 each (dine-in only). My husband ordered the Pizza Melanzane with tomato sauce, ricotta di bufala, sautéed spinach, eggplant, oven roasted tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. It was delicious and I loved all of the toppings, especially the oven roasted tomatoes.

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I ordered the Salsicccia Italiana pizza with tomato sauce, mozzarella, caramelized onions and roasted red pepper (there was Italian sausage in the ingredients list but I asked to have it omitted). I enjoyed this pizza too, as the caramelized onions and roasted red peppers almost melted into the cheeses on the pizza, creating a sweet and salty flavour combination which I loved. We both wanted a bit of a kick on our pizzas so we asked for some of their chill oil on the side. It worked well with the pizza and we ended up dipping our slices into it while eating….yum : )
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Their Tuesday menu also has two versions of their gnocchi on special for $12, so we ordered the gnocchi with rosé sauce as well. Best decision of the night! The gnocchi was soft and pillowy and the sauce was nice and creamy, it was a perfect match. The serving size was perfect for sharing as we both found that it would have been too heavy for just one of us to have. Overall, the food was great, so great that we are going back with friends next week!
The checklist: 
Baby friendly? Yes! The staff member who answered the phone didn’t seem to mind at all when I said we would be bringing our baby son.
Car seat friendly? Yes. When I called I booked a table for 2 + a car seat and the staff were kind enough to give us a table for 4 so that we would have enough room for our son.
High chairs? Yes, high chairs are available.
Stroller friendly? Yes. The restaurant advised that strollers are accepted. The restaurant is at ground level and there are accessibility buttons on the doors.
Change table? No. The women’s washroom did not have a change table : ( However, they did have a decent amount of additional counter space, which I was able to use for a diaper change. In my mind that is better than nothing.
Would we come back here with our baby? Yes, definitely! Hopefully they will install a change table, if they did this restaurant would be a perfect option for moms and dads with babies.
Restaurant info: 
Il Fornello Richmond Hill
8851 Yonge Street
Richmond Hill, Ontario
L4C 6Z1
Tel: 905-530-1153
Do you have a restaurant recommendation for the Meals with My Munchkin series? Let me know!
 

Alimento brings a taste of Italy to King West

30 Jul

Last week, I had an opportunity to check out the new BarMozza restaurant and market at Alimento when I was invited to their media event. As soon as I walked in I fell in love with the place as I was greeted by great smells coming from the kitchen and a beautiful setup of two long tables to seat all of the guests. The brick walls and wooden floors added warmth to the room and I instantly felt right at home in the space.

With a drink in hand, we set off on a tour of Alimento which is an Italian market, bakery and restaurant (BarMozza) all under one roof. I experienced foodie sensory overload as there was so much goodness to take in all at once. Racks and racks of Italian specialty products filled the market, including high-end pastas, gluten-free items, gorgeous fresh produce, an antipasto bar, pre-made meal area, a beautiful bakery case and the best-looking cheese counter I’ve seen since my trip to Italy last year. There were so many cheeses available (over 140 types) that my head was spinning as I wanted to try each and every one. I could easily spend hours wandering through Alimento to check out their goodies!

While on the tour, I found out that the owners of Alimento also own the six Grande Cheese locations in the GTA and it explained everything. I live near the Grande Cheese location in Richmond Hill and it’s my favourite local shop for specialty Italian products and some of the best pizza I’ve ever had.  Alimento is on another level entirely and it reminded me of some of the sophisticated gourmet food shops I had visited in Europe and the U.S. It’s a perfect fit with all of the creative agencies, clubs and restaurants that fill the King West area.

After seeing all of the fresh produce, the bakery and the great selection of cheeses I couldn’t wait to have dinner at BarMozza. We started with family-style appetizer platters filled with an assortment of cheeses, meats and bread. The fine folks at Alimento were kind enough to serve me a vegetarian-friendly plate of cheeses to start off my meal and with that, I knew that I needed to buckle my seatbelt for the long foodie ride ahead…

I started with the Verde Salad which contained green beans, garlic, tons of delicious pistachios and aged Caciocavallo cheese with a lemon vinaigrette. It was a nice, fresh and hearty salad that was a great example of how delicious vegetarian food could really be.

Next up was the Risotto Nella Ruota which contained Arborio rice, cream, Parmigiano cheese and Tartufo Nero (black truffle). We watched Chef Joe Friday prepare it in a hollowed-out Parmigiano wheel, scraping tasty bits of Parmigiano cheese into the risotto as he stirred. It was delicious but it was hands down the richest risotto I had ever tried, so I was only able to handle only a few spoons of it.

Just when I thought I had eaten enough, my main dish arrived and it was lasagna with tomato sauce, Fior di Latte, Basil Ricotta and spinach. It was so delicious that I ate the whole thing and I would have licked the last of the basil pesto off of my plate if I wasn’t in mixed company : )

We ended off with Pasticcini Misti, a mixed board of pastries to share from Alimento’s pastry team. One of my favourites was the Pine Nut Honey Tart Cake, which surprised me as I’m not usually a fan of pine nuts. The pine nuts were cooked in a honey topping, so they ended up soft and creamy, which was a great contrast to the tart crust.

A tasty dark chocolate tart with pistachios was a hit in my books as well. After visiting Italy last year, I’ve become a bit of an espresso connoisseur and I will only order it if I’m in a true Italian establishment. Alimento’s espresso definitely hit the spot and was the perfect end to a great meal!

See you soon Alimento, this vegetarian will definitely be back!

Info: 

Alimento Fine Food Emporium

522 King Street West

Toronto, Ontario

M5V 1L7

Tel: (416) 362 – 0123

Website: http://www.alimento.ca/

Facebook:  Alimento Fine Food Emporium

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/alimentofoods

Spaghetti with Spicy Kale and Garlic

20 Oct

Spinach and rapini have always been my friends, especially in the past few years when my palate grew to appreciate the different ways I could use these two leafy vegetables. I was starting to get a little bored of them both, so I decided to dive deeper into the world of leafy greens and try to use kale in a dish. So, you’re probably wondering how I call myself a vegetarian if I’ve never bought kale before! Well, I am so glad I finally did because I think I found my new favourite leafy green! My apologies to my friend Mr.Rapini but I think I’m going to be seeing a lot more of Mr.Kale from now on….mmmm.

As an online recipe hunter, I found out that there are quite a few ways to make kale but I was craving a dish similar to one of my Italian favourites, pasta with rapini. I combined concepts from a few recipes and came up with the recipe below. I REALLY enjoyed it and I had it for dinner and also for my lunch the next day! I hope you will like it too! Please comment on my post and let me know how it turns out for you.

Spaghetti with Spicy Kale and Garlic

Preparation time : 5 min

Cooking time: 30 mins

Servings: 4 (approximately)

Ingredients:

500 g pack of dried spaghetti

Half a bunch of kale, stems and leaves coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, chopped (or more if you want a stronger garlic flavour)

1 onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon crushed red chilli flakes (or to taste)

1/2 cup of vegetable stock

Salt and fresh ground pepper

2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (the fresh kind, not the pre-grated powdery stuff!)

Directions:

Bring a large pot of fresh water to a boil. Add 3 teaspoons of salt and add the spaghetti. Cook, stirring occasionally, until spaghetti is al dente, approx. 8 to 10 minutes (or cook to your preference). Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta.

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onion, chilli flakes and sautee for a few minutes until the onions are soft, stirring often. Take care not to burn the onions! Raise heat to high, add the vegetable stock and kale and toss to combine. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove cover and continue to cook, stirring until all the liquid has evaporated. Check the texture of the kale at this point. If you want it to be softer in texture, you may want to add a 1/4 cup of water to the pan, put the lid back on and cook it for a few more minutes. When it reaches the desired texture, season with salt and pepper to taste and add the balsamic vinegar. Mix well and reduce heat to low.

Add spaghetti to the saucepan with the kale in it, add a 1/4 cup of the pasta water and toss to combine. Check and adjust salt and pepper if needed. If the pasta mixture seems a bit dry, feel free to add a little more pasta water. Plate and serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top (again, the fresh kind, not the pre-grated powdery stuff!).

Enjoy! 

Eggplant Ricotta Bake

25 Sep

I love Eggplant Parmigiana (my husband makes an amazing version of it by the way) but most of the best recipes take a long, long time to make and you often have to fry the eggplant slices.

On my search to find a tasty eggplant recipe that was relatively easy to make and hearty, I found this great recipe from Everyday Food. Roasting the eggplant slices makes them sweeter and softer, so after you have baked the dish, you will end up eggplant that melts in your mouth! The recipe makes the perfect amount for dinner for two plus leftovers for lunch the next day (it tastes even better the next day!).

Eggplant Ricotta Bake

(Inspired by a recipe from Everyday Food – found here: http://to.pbs.org/qZLrmP)

Makes approximately 4 servings.

Ingredients:

2 large eggplants (1 to 1 ¼ pounds each), sliced lengthwise ¾ inch thick (leave the skin on!)

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for your baking dish

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1 container (15 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese (approximately 1-2/3 cups)

3 large eggs

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil OR oregano (use dried if you don’t have fresh)

2 cups store-bought marinara sauce

Equipment you will need:

2 baking sheets

1 8×8 square baking dish

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°.  Arrange eggplant slices in a single layer on two rimmed baking sheets.  Brush lightly on both sides with oil; season with salt and pepper (watch the amount of salt you use!).  Roast until eggplant is tender and golden, turning eggplant slices halfway through, for 25 to 30 minutes.

Note:  if you have both baking sheets in the oven on different racks, you will have to switch the position of your trays halfway through, to avoid burning the eggplant on the lower rack.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together ricotta, eggs, ½ cup Parmesan, basil, 1 ½ teaspoons salt (Note: If you seasoned the eggplant slices with a lot of salt, you may NOT need any more in this part of the recipe), and ¼ teaspoons pepper.

Brush an 8-inch square baking dish with oil. Lay a fourth of eggplant slices in bottom of prepared dish; spread with half of marinara sauce.  Top with another fourth of eggplant; spread with half of ricotta mixture.  Repeat layers, ending with ricotta; sprinkle with remaining ½ cup Parmesan.  Bake until bubbling and golden, 20 to 25 minutes.  Cool 10 minutes before serving.

I enjoy serving this with a garden salad on the side for a tasty after-work meal. This also tastes great with some buttered spaghetti on the side (freshly cooked spaghetti tossed with a few tablespoons of butter, a little bit of salt, fresh ground pepper and chopped parsley if you have it).

P.S. The Eggplant Ricotta Bake is terrific the next day as the flavours develop even more. It’s one of those work day lunches you will look forward to eating!

Mushroom Risotto

19 Sep

After having an amazing Mushroom Risotto at La Societe restaurant the other night, I felt like making another attempt at making some at home. This was my 4th time making risotto at home and I think I finally got the formula right!

Today, I followed the recipe below, based on Giada De Laurentiis’ Mushroom Risotto with Peas recipe. I made it vegetarian by using vegetable broth and I also added a cup of chopped baby portobella mushrooms to add more texture and flavour. It came out really, really well and my husband and I gobbled it up!

Risotto really is one of those things you have to keep playing with, to finally understand exactly what you need to do to get it right. Once you do…watch out, you will want it all the time!

Mushroom Risotto

(Inspired by Giada De Laurentiis’ Mushroom Risotto with Peas recipe – found here: http://bit.ly/q9nF7J)

Makes approximately 6 servings.

Ingredients:

8 cups vegetable broth

1/2-ounce dried porcini mushrooms

1/4 cup unsalted butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups finely chopped onions

10 ounces white mushrooms, finely chopped

1 cup of chopped baby portobella mushrooms

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice or short-grain white rice

2/3 cup dry white wine

2/3 cup grated Parmesan

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, optional

+ patience!!!  : )

Directions

Bring the broth to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan. Add the porcini mushrooms. Set aside until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Keep the broth warm over very low heat.

Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the white mushrooms, chopped portobellos and garlic. Transfer the porcini mushrooms to a cutting board. Finely chop the mushrooms and add to the saucepan. Saute until the mushrooms are tender and the juices evaporate, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and let it toast for a few minutes. Add the wine; cook until the wine is absorbed, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of hot vegetable broth; simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Continue to cook until the rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy, adding more broth by cupfuls and stirring often, about 28 minutes (the rice will absorb 6 to 8 cups of broth). Mix in the Parmesan. Season with pepper if desired.

What’s your favourite type of risotto?

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