And then there were four. Who wasn’t sad to see Nicole leave Top Chef Canada this past week? I sure was. Not only was she the last-standing female competitor on the show, but she was also the last Calgarian! Am I heartbroken? You bet. Am I – and the rest of Calgary – proud of her? You’re damn straight! At this point, it’s hard to decide who to root for; the remaining gentlemen are all great chefs, so it will be interesting to see how the final two episodes play out.
This past episode’s guest judge, Jody Claman was polarizing, to say the least. Since I was still spending some time eating my way through Vancouver last week, I was able to attend one of Matt Stowe’s viewing parties at The Cactus Club. Seeing as I am Calgarian, I was still in ‘Team Nicole’ mode at the time (I gave Matt some advanced warning that my friend and I would be wearing ‘Team Nicole’ t-shirts during his event). He was very good-natured about it, although we did get a few odd looks from some of the Vancouver attendees, which was fair, seeing as we were on his turf!
1 TBSP butter
1 yellow onion (finely chopped)
3 cloves garlic (chopped)
3 ripe tomatoes (loosely chopped)
½ cup water
1 TBSP tomato paste
1 TBSP red wine vinegar
2 TSP lemon juice
2 TSP cane sugar
salt and pepper
1 TBSP lemon zest
½ cup fresh basil (chopped)
5 cups cooked linguine
1 can artichoke hearts (drained, quartered)
1 cup cooked chickpeas
2 cups fresh spinach
With Start From Scratch starting up again in the next couple weeks, I thought I would post one of the recipes that we do in the program. Making a simple tomato sauce from scratch is one of the first things we do in the class. Aside from on pasta, this sauce makes a great base for pizza too!
Roasted cauliflower mixture:
2 1/2 cups cauliflower florets (loosely chopped)
1/2 cup pancetta (thinly sliced)
1/2 red onion (chopped)
1 TSP lemon juice
2 TSP sugar
salt and pepper
Pasta and sauce:
1 TBSP butter
1 TBSP flour
2 cups cream
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (freshly grated)
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes
2 TSP tomato paste
2 cups red swiss chard (chopped and blanched)
4 cups cooked gnocchi
2 TSP balsamic vinegar
So, I finally got a ‘real’ camera, a ‘big boy’ camera, if you will. Thank you for the golf claps (I imagined golf claps after the first sentence). It was an expensive purchase, slightly scary, but, I find, pricey times like these seem less real when you just close your eyes and hand someone your credit card. I approach the majority of life’s situations like this…Anyway, five days later, here I am with this ‘big’ camera and a couple different lenses that I don’t know how to deal with and all I’m thinking is: ‘Is this what puberty was like?’. Yes, yes it was. Except it didn’t cost me $1000.
I do realize that this recipe is going up on Valentine’s Day and, although, gnocchi doesn’t necessary lend itself to ‘romance’, I think eating this for dinner could be, at the very least, chalked up to a fun foodie fling.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Place the first 5 ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and toss to combine. Put the cauliflower mixture into a prepared baking dish and let bake in oven, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
Remove from oven, give the dish a quick stir, turn heat to high broil, and let cook for another 10 minutes or until the cauliflower and pancetta really start to caramelize and crisp up. Remove from oven and set aside for now.
For the sauce, melt the butter in a large pan on medium-high heat. Add in the flour and whisk to form a rue. Pour in the cream. Once the liquid begins to simmer and thicken, stir in the grated cheese, sun dried tomatoes and tomato paste. Reduce to medium heat and let cook for 10 minutes.
Now you can add the cauliflower/pancetta mixture to the pan as well as the chard and cooked gnocchi. Toss a few times to coat everything in the sauce. Finally, add the balsamic vinegar and give the pan one last, solid toss.
Serve nice and hot to hungry dinner-mates!
Total cook time…40 min
8 strips bacon (chopped, 1″ pieces)
1 yellow onion (chopped)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
1 cup beer (preferably Steam Whistle Pilsner)
2 1/2 cups homogenized milk
1 cup parmesan cheese (shredded)
1 cup romano cheese (shredded)
1/2 cup smoked gouda (shredded)
2 TSP chili powder
2 TSP hot sauce
1 TBSP chipotle paste
salt and pepper
5 cups macaroni pasta (cooked)
baked with bread crumb topping… (optional)
1 cup mozzarella cheese (shredded)
1 cup bread crumbs
Sometimes, even a food blogger can have a bit too much to drink. A few too many beers at karaoke, over-indulging in martinis, birthday celebrations… Yes, it does/can happen. Waking up the morning after is never all that pleasant. Let’s assume that the cooking breakfast ‘deadline’ has passed. Now, what to do? Nothing helps soothe a sore head more than some greasy, cheesy food. This recipe calls for one cup of beer because, if you’re anything like me, there’s still a half-full bottle on your counter…
Place the chopped bacon into a large pan. Cook on medium-high heat until the bacon starts to crisp up, about 6-8 minutes. Then, add-in the onion and garlic. Stir, and cook until the onions soften. Now, pour in the cup of beer. Once the mixture starts to simmer, reduce to low heat, and let bubble away for 10 minutes.
Once the beer and co. mixture has thickened, you can add all remaining sauce ingredients, aside from the cooked pasta (also preheat your oven to low broil if you’re going to bake the pasta). Turn up to medium heat and stir regularly until the cheese has melted completely, about 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. If the sauce is a bit thin, add some corn starch to thicken it up.
Add the cooked pasta to the pan and gently stir until the macaroni is completely covered in the sauce. Dish out and let the healing cheese and bacon work their magic.
*If you’re not too hurtin’ to bake the pasta, place the combined macaroni and sauce into a prepared 8″ square baking dish. Sprinkle the bread crumbs and mozzarella cheese evenly over the top of the pasta and bake until the cheese is bubbly and starting to turn golden brown, approximately 10 minutes.*
Total cook time… 25 minutes (35 minutes if baked!)
1 acorn squash
1/2 garlic bulb
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup romano cheese
1 TSP tumeric
2 TSP yellow curry powder
salt & pepper
2 cups fresh spinach
1/2 cup macadamia nuts
1/4 pound smoked salmon (chopped, skin removed)
5 cups cooked pasta (I used ditali, but feel free to switch it up!)
Let it be known that the mighty tomato does not always rule in the land of pasta sauce! Don’t get me wrong, I have had/made/enjoyed plenty of tomato-based sauces on my noodles, but in times like these (and by these I, of course, mean winter) squash is a nice, hearty alternative.
Let’s start off by roasting the squash and garlic. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Slice the squash in half, scoop out the ‘guts’ and brush the halves with some olive oil. For the garlic, try and keep the 1/2 attached to the base and slice off the tip of the garlic bulb. Brush the top with a bit of olive oil as well and wrap up with some tin foil. Place the squash and the garlic on a medium-sized baking tray and let cook in the oven for 35 minutes.
While you’re waiting, feel free to watch an episode of 30 Rock or make a salad, or something…If you decide to make a salad, try out this dressing!
Once those 35 minutes are up, remove tray from oven and let cool for 10 minutes or so. Scoop out the flesh of the squash into a blender, and squeeze the roasted garlic in as well. Also add-in the cream, water, cheese, and spices then puree until smooth. Pour into a small pot and let the sauce come to a simmer on medium heat, about 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
Now it is time to assemble the pasta! Place all remaining ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Pour the squash sauce over top and mix gently with tongs (so you won’t. Portion out into pasta bowls and enjoy!
Sorry Tomato, you weren’t invited…
Total cook time…50 min
6 strips bacon
2 cloves garlic
1 TBSP unsalted butter
8 asparagus spears
3 large parsnips
3 large carrots
2/3 cup heavy cream
3 egg yolks
1 cup freshly grated parmesan
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1/3 cup fresh parsley
salt & pepper
For those picky vegetable eaters in our lives…I am dedicating this recipe to my best friend’s son, Owen, who has been known to dislike his vegetables at times. Transforming vegetables into a brightly coloured ‘pasta’ is a sure-fire way to guarantee a kid’s dinner enjoyment…and consumption! Doesn’t it kind of remind you of Sesame Street? Grown-up note: If you want to keep it a little less colourful, and more fancy, just use an additional 3 parsnips instead of carrots for a more elegant-looking dish.
Chop the bacon strips into 1″ pieces and place into a medium-sized pan on medium-high heat. Let them cook for about 3 minutes, turning over once. During the wait, chop the shallots and mince the garlic, then add to the pan once the bacon has started to brown. Turn down to medium heat and let the mixture cook for another 5 minutes, stirring periodically. Cut the asparagus spears into thirds and add to the pan, along with the butter. Allow the mixture to cook for another 6-8 minutes, stirring intermittently until the asparagus is cooked through. Remove from heat.
Now, set a medium-sized pot 2/3s full of salted water on the stove to come to boil. While you’re waiting, you need to go 2 things:
1. Whisk together the cream, cheese, egg yolks, sun-dried tomatoes, parsley, and a good helping of ground black pepper in a bowl. This is going to be your sauce. Set aside. (note: emphasis on the FRESH parmesan! Any other store-bought type will not melt as well, and you will be disappointed!)
2. Using a vegetable peeler peel each carrot and parsnip into strips. The larger vegetables you use, the longer (obviously) and ‘noodle-y’ the strips will look like! Peel into a large bowl. You won’t be able to get quite down to the core, so reserve any leftover bits for soups/salads/whatever you feel like cooking tomorrow.
Now that you water is boiling, add-in the carrot and parsnip ‘noodles’. Using tongs, make sure every last strip is fully submerged. Leave them in the boiling water for no longer than 2 minutes, strain, and place back into the pot. Pour the still-warm bacon mixture on top, stir, and then add your sauce, stirring repeatedly until the cheese melts, helping the sauce to thicken.
Portion out onto pasta plates and enjoy! Feel free to add a bit more parmesan on top. After all, cheese does make the world go ’round.
Total cook time…25 min
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- Top Chef Canada: Taking The Challenge Home, Week 11 (and a contest!)
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- Ask Dan
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- Season 2
- Season 3
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- Top Chef Canada: Taking The Challenge Home
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