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Bottarga Bucatini

Way back when I began my food styling journey I tagged along with a renowned food stylist’s assistant while she shopped for some recipe development. We purchased many things but the one thing that left an impression was a piece of bottarga that the silly cashier rang in at $4.95 instead of $495! I immediately drew her attention to the misplaced decimal point and she thanked me profusely (the high-end grocery store would have definitely taken the error from her wages!).

And that was the last time I thought about bottarga, until one sleepless night in October while watching Martha Stewart on Create TV. JT and I were intrigued but I had to find the elusive delicacy first without having to put a second mortgage on the house! I ended up on Amazon and found a small jar of grated bottarga for $20 and I was able to stomach that! As one reviewer said, it’s not the best bottarga he’d ever tasted but it’s not the worst either. We definitely liked the dish well enough to invest in a higher quality product the next time.

Bottarga Pasta

Serves 2 main portions or 4 small starters

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp roasted garlic purée
  • 30 mL olive oil
  • 50 g panko
  • sea salt
  • 160 g bucatini pasta
  • 20 g capers, drained
  • 20 g raisins, chopped finely
  • 10 g preserved lemon, chopped finely
  • 250 mL chicken stock
  • juice of one lemon juice
  • 45 g unsalted butter
  • 35 g pine nuts, toasted (see notes)
  • 50 g grated Parmesan cheese, plus Parmesan shavings for serving
  • 30 g grated bottarga, divided

Directions:

  1. Cook the pasta until it is almost done but still has quite a bite (it will finish cooking in the sauce). Strain and reserve 125 mL pasta liquid.
  2. Add about 1/2 of the oil to a skillet and toast the panko with about 1/2 of the roasted garlic, set aside.
  3. Heat remaining olive oil over medium-high heat. and add the remaining roasted garlic. Add the capers and raisins and continue to cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the preserved lemon, chicken stock, lemon juice, butter, and a pinch of salt and simmer for a minute.
  4. Continue to simmer the liquid and add the pasta, cook, stirring often, until the pasta is al dente, almost 3 minutes; remove from heat and stir in pine nuts, grated Parmesan, and bottarga, toss well.
  5. Garnish with reserved breadcrumb mixture with reserved parmesan and bottarga. Serve immediately.

Notes:

  • I didn’t realize I’ve run out of my wonderful Spanish pinenuts until I was well into this recipe. I discovered I had some apricot kernels so I toasted them up and used them instead.
  • There are many simpler recipes for this traditional pasta dish, but I was really intrigued by the addition of the preserved lemon and raisins.
  • I made a small batch of Mark Bittman’s quick preserved lemons but didn’t end up using them for a few days, it still worked out wonderfully. I was disappointed that the recipe called for such a small quanitity.

Panettone Breakfast Bake

This tasty breakfast treat is super easy to make. Assembled the night before and baked for 40 minutes. I used a mini store-bought panettone like this but you can definitely make your own. If you serve them directly from the oven, they puff up like a soufflée, but they deflate just as quickly. Turn them out onto a plate and no one will be the wiser!

Panettone Breakfast Bake

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 100 g panettone
  • 3 eggs
  • 125 mL milk
  • Pinch of nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Butter 2 ramekins (about xx mL each)
  2. Cut the panettone into cubes and place into the ramekins evenly.
  3. Whisk the eggs, milk and nutmeg together and pour into the ramekins evenly. Cover and set in the refrigerator overnight.
  4. The following morning, remove the ramekins from the refrigerator and preheat the oven to 350F. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the eggs have set.
  5. Turn out onto a plate and serve with maple syrup.

Like many blogs have already declared, it is officially soup season in this part of the world. I often use lentils to “beef” up soups because they are super filling. JT loves creamed soups and I love brothy soups, so to be fair, I try to make a variety of each type to keep us both happy. That way he doesn’t complain when I make Phố or chicken soup at least once a month (read: week). This was a spur of the moment creation that was so tasty, that I wanted to make sure that I remembered what I did. Hope you enjoy it too.

Creamed Cauliflower, Lentil and Coconut Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 750 mL soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into florettes
  • 1 small sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 50 g red lentils
  • 250-400 mL vegetable or chicken stock
  • 250 mL coconut milk
  • 15 mL EVOO

Directions:

  1. Heat a large dutch oven with the olive oil and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the cauliflower and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the 250 mL chicken stock and lentils and cook until everything is soft. Blitz with an immersion blender slowly adding coconut milk, blending until smooth. Add more chicken stock to achieve your desired thickness, if necessary.
  3. Serve piping hot.

 

The first time we tried gnocchi was in the late 80’s or early 90’s. It may seem a bit odd that it took so long living in a multi-cultural city like Toronto, particularly since Toronto had the largest Italian population of any city outside of Italy (in 2016, we had the fourth largest Italian population), but back then the restaurant scene was really bad. Italian food was more or less American Italian (not to imply that it’s bad food, just limited), serving spaghetti, lasagna or pizza, nothing quite as exotic as gnocchi graced the menus. High-end restaurants were generally decorated in a men’s club style, dark and dingy and the waiters were often grumpy old guys in dark pants, white shirts and short aprons. Then, for some reason it all changed. JT read a lot of real estate articles and one such article was about a restaurant in mid-town that spent a million dollars in creating one of the best Italian restaurants in the city; imported décor, a well-paid chef and a menu that used traditional Italian ingredients described in Italian words. Of course, we had to try it and we were not disappointed. It still took a few more years for the rest of the industry to up its game but we were certainly on the right track.

When I told my Mom that I’d ordered gnocchi and what it cost, she was appalled! She called it peasant food! Of course, my generation had no idea what that was and maybe that’s why the restaurant industry changed, we were willing to pay for it! And we were hooked! Those soft little pillows drenched in a rich sauce were stuff dreams were made of, so I began experimenting with recipes after seeing Biba Caggiano make it (Biba’s Italian Kitchen) on the very early Food Network. She made it look so easy, and it was! JT proclaimed that he would no longer be able to order gnocchi in a restaurant because he would be disappointed after eating mine! Then came the low carb movement and we put those dreamy little pillows on the back burner. Fear not though, they are making a comeback albeit in moderation.

In our effort to eat less animal protein and more plant-based proteins, I created this gnocchi recipe using lentils. I’ve made them a few times because they are quite easy to make and super tasty, and they have the same light, fluffy consistency of traditional gnocchi. We like the contrast of texture by pan-frying the little pillows until one side is crispy, but you don’t have to. This recipe would be quite lovely with a sage and butter sauce or any sauce for that matter.

Pan-Seared Lentil Gnocchi with Blue Cheese Sauce

Makes about 40 gnocchi, about 2-4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 50 g red lentils
  • 90 g “00” flour
  • 10 g freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 20 g unsalted butter, divided
  • 125 mL milk or cream
  • 50 g gorgonzola, divided (any blue cheese will do)
  • parmesan for serving

Directions:

  1. Cook the lentils until soft (about 1:2 ratio) in enough water to cover. Blend in a processor until very smooth.
  2. Add the flour a little at a time and blend. Add the cheese and pulse to combine, then remove and knead gently with your hands until a smooth dough is achieved. Roll into a 1 cm roll and cut about 1.5-2 cm lengths. Roll each pillow up the tines of a fork or a gnocchi paddle to get the grooves.
  3. Boil water with a little salt and cook the gnocchi until they float to the top. Strain the gnocchi and set aside until ready to serve.
  4. Melt butter in a frying pan and sear the gnocchi until a little crispy on one side. Remove from the pan. Add 5 additional grams of butter to the pan and sprinkle about 10 g of flour on it. Cook the roux and add about 125 mL milk or cream. Add some of the gorgonzola into the roux and allow it to melt (reserve a little gorgonzola for garnish).
  5. Add the gnocchi back to the pan and stir to coat. Serve immediately with freshly grated parmesan and dot each plate with remaining gorgonzola.

Notes:

  • I use my trusted gnocchi paddle that I bought in Florence to make the grooves in the little pillows and recently I discovered that using a very small round measuring spoon to press the gnocchi up the paddle creates perfect groves on one side and a nice little divet on the other (without ruining my mani). The more grooves and divets the more the sauce will stick to it, and who doesn’t love sauce?!
  • I used gorgonzola cheese but you may use any blue cheese. Gorgonzola is slightly milder but creamier than blue cheese.
  • Traditional gorgonzola sauce uses heavy cream instead of a roux, but I prefer to use milk and a roux. You may do it either way.
  • I never add egg to my gnocchi because that is the way Biba Caggiano made it (Biba’s Italian Kitchen). My gnocchi binds well and has never fallen apart in cooking.

JT and I just completed refinishing our kitchen floors, don’t they look lovely? (and yes, that means renting a belt sander and working our ancient butts off!). The best light was on the floor, they are clean!

Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Canadian Thanksgiving was at my SIL’s place in Peterborough. She asked that we bring hors d’œuvres so I made three dips. This one was blog-worthy.

Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Makes about 250 mL dip

Ingredients:

  • 160 g roasted red peppers, skin and seeds removed
  • 15 g roasted garlic purée
  • 1 g salt
  • 10 mL red wine vinegar
  • 20 g almond flour

Directions:

  1. Combine everything in your food processor and process until smooth.
  1. Serve at room temperature with crackers or bread.

It’s been a busy year and I’ve seen spending a lot of time in front of my computer. I don’t mind doing that type of work, but I do miss cooking and with that, getting my advanced blog posts ready to publish. In fact, I am nowhere near the advanced the blog posts I should be, in preparation for our yearly sojourn to Arizona. I have four posts ready to go but I should have 10! That makes me nervous because I may not have time to post while we are in Arizona; we have three separate group friends coming down for 5-7 days each! That means a lot of sightseeing and daily adventures and less cooking and recipe developing.

You can definitely see the winter light creeping in.

I modified and made this little recipe because during one coffee break JT mentioned that he would love to have a little biscotti to nibble on while we sit and enjoy our coffees. I like making biscotti because they are easy and are not overly finicky. This recipe came together quickly and more or less in one bowl.

Chocolate Chip and Almond Biscotti

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes about 20 biscotti but it depends on how thickly you form and cut the logs

Ingredients:

  • 57 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 225 g brown sugar
  • 10 mL pure vanilla extract
  • 5 mL almond extract
  • 275 g all-purpose flour
  • 75 g almond flour
  • 20 g baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 165 g chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time and best until entirely incorporated. Add the extracts and beat.
  4. Whisk together the dry ingredients (omit the chocolate chips) and blend into the butter mixture.
  5. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  6. Form into two even logs and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and flatten slightly. Bake for 30 minutes.
  7. Slice diagonally into 10 slices each and lay flat on the same parchment-line baking sheet and bake again for about 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool completely before serving.

Notes:

  • I shaped my logs too wide, next time I shall make them more slender and have twice the number of biscotti.
  • Biscotti store well in an airtight container but if it will take you more than a week to consume, I would freeze them until required. Defrost at room temperature.
  • I didn’t have whole almonds but this would have been lovely having a few whole almonds folded into the batter.

Fresh Fig Scones

Why do the cold temperatures always surprise me? I’ve been doing this fall thing for a long time and yet, every year when the temperatures plummet, it’s like a cold, hard, slap in the face! It happens from one day to the next; on Saturday, we are lavishing in the sun, cocktailing on the back deck and enjoying al fresco meals and then on Sunday, we are dawning our socks and woolly sweaters to avoid the chill INSIDE, let alone outside! JT and I are typical Canadians, we are stubborn about admitting that its fall and winter is coming; we delay turning on the furnace at all costs because that would mean defeat, we have acknowledged the cold and succumbed to it! But eventually, we give in. I like to rebel and I generally continue to wear sandals until I can no longer feel my toes. My feet understand they don’t like to be encased in socks and shoes…they were meant to be free in flip flops and sandals!

It was on one such day that I needed a little heat-help in my chilly kitchen that I decided to make scones, and to use up some figs that were leftover from a shoot (what can I say, no one wanted them!), so I came up with this tasty treat. This recipe is very delicate and light. They are best eaten right away with sweet butter but freezing them also works. Use the oven to reheat them, the microwave doesn’t do it justice.

Fresh Fig Scones

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 10 scones

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp green cardamom, finely grated
  • 1/2 cup unsalted cold butter, cut into small bits
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 160 g fresh figs (chopped)
  • 2-3 tbsp milk or yogurt for brushing the tops.

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in the large bowl of your food processor and pulse to mix.
  3. Add the cold, cubed butter and pulse until it resembles a coarse meal.
  4. Slowly pour in the buttermilk while pulsing until the dough comes together. Remove and pour into a large bowl.
  5. Fold in the chopped figs carefully.
  6. Place largish spoonfuls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush the tops with yogurt. Bake for 15-17 minutes.
  7. Cool for 10 minutes and serve with sweet butter.

The light was still good when I shot them.

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