Saturday, 15 September 2012

Fad-ulous feasts

The are several reasons why I have not blogged in a while. One of them being that work has been insane, but the other, more pertinent factor is that I went vegetarian for two months. Sorry to my Veggie friends, but I completely lost my inspiration for cooking when I couldn't sear, braise, grill, or sautee. I know...there's such a thing as grilled tofu and sauteed veg, but I found myself gravitating to bread and peanut butter sandwiches and pasta for dinner. I guess to be vegetarian it would help to love vegetables. I DO love some veg, but only if it's accompanied by meat, I suppose.

That being said, I still believe in the reason I went veggie in the first place... I wanted to protest factory farming. Look it up if interested. If not, this is not a soapbox, so don't worry. Although, if you want more information, see:

(PS: For local readers in the KW area, I would love to discover more friendly ways of eating without breaking the bank. The Healthy Butcher is all well and good, but Healthy Butcher=Sick bank account).

REGARDLESS...I am now back in cooking heaven, and as the title suggests I've realized that my cooking like my fashion has phases. Sometimes I dress punk for weeks at a time and then will go to work in slacks and a sweater...or even yoga pants. Similarly, a few months ago I was into survival food. And I don't mean trail mix. Our family really enjoys survival shows like Man vs. Wild, Dual Survivor, and Survivorman. I started buying frog legs, and learning how to gut and fillet a whole fish. It was so much fun, I even thought of making escargot from the snails in my back yard a la Gordon Ramsay. Unfortunately, I think the little buggers are so cute, that they're almost like a collection of backyard pets.

So after my veggie stint, what's the new fad? Meat of course, but also homemade pasta!!

My husband watched a Jamie Oliver show that describes how simple it is to make homemade pasta, and we've been experimenting with it ever since.

First was a tagliatelle with a basic herb and garlic tomato sauce:

The recipe goes like this:

100 grams of flour
1 egg
1 tsp. olive oil

Kneed. Roll out. Roll up. Slice. Dump in boiling water for 45 seconds. Done.

It was delicious. One thing I would recommend though, if you're going to be doing this alot, is to invest in a pasta roller (it's on my birthday list!). You can roll and roll and roll till you finally understand how the Italian mamas got so muscular, and you still won't be able to get it as thin as a roller. And with fresh pasta, it puffs up a little when it's boiled.

Yesterday, to continue with my pasta/Italian theme, dinner was chicken parmesan with homemade tomato sauce and spinach and ricotta ravioli.

Tomato sauce:

6 roma tomatoes stewed in a sautee pan with 1/2 cup water till soft

Once the tomatoes are soft, strain and pour into a food processor. Then add:

Fresh basil, sage, and oregano (dried if you don't have fresh)
4-5 cremini mushrooms
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove
1 tsp molasses

Blend. Done.

Chicken parmesan:

2 cups bread crumbs (I didn't have any French bread, so I toasted several slices of whole wheat bread and blended them in the food processor).
Enough shredded mozzarella to significantly cover each piece of chicken
1 cup of grated parmesan cheese
1 egg mixed with 1/2 cup milk for breading
Chicken breasts (I actually used thighs and they worked just as well)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Dip each piece of chicken in the egg/milk mixture. Coat thoroughly with breadcrumbs. Place the pieces on a baking sheet covered in tinfoil.
After about 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 350.
Bake for 40 minutes.

Remove from oven. Pour 1/2 of the tomato sauce into a 9 x 13 pan. Place the chicken pieces over top. Then pour the rest of the sauce over the chicken pieces. Cover each piece with a significant amount of shredded mozzarella and then sprinkle a generous amount of parmesan over top. Bake for another 10 minutes.

Spinach and ricotta ravioli

2-3 cups of spinach
1 clove of garlic
1/3 cup of ricotta

Use the same pasta recipe as above, but this time, after rolling out the dough cut it into ravioli-sized squares.
Sautee 1 minced clove of garlic and 2-3 cups of spinach in olive oil until the spinach is wilted.

Mix the spinach with the ricotta. Dab approximately 1 tbsp of the mix on a pasta square. Wet another square with water and press it over top of the square with mix. Ensure that all air is removed from the pocket and that the edges are tightly sealed.

Drop in boiling water and allow to cook for 2-4 minutes.

(My husband thoroughly enjoyed this meal, and let's just say there were no leftovers!)

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