Archive | June, 2011

Spaghetti Western 3.0

29 Jun

It’s our annual spaghetti western time again.

The Calgary Stampede is upon us and in our quest to plan the perfect warmup party, spaghetti western reigns supreme.

We’ve come a long way from the inaugural Spaghetti Western discovery (a vile online 1.0 version with noodles, cream of mushroom soup, tomato sauce, Worchestershire, mushrooms and grated cheddar cheese. Yeesh)

We are still digging the Caesar/redeye flavour of Spaghetti with Vodka Cream Sauce. It’s light and perfect on its own or as alongside barbecued beef (sliced flank steak) for a summer night.

We are also toying with a penne/chipotle beef spagball in a red wine tomato sauce, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Maybe next year.

adapted from Cooking Light
Serves 3 to 4

1/2 pound spaghetti pasta
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion or 2 to 3 shallots
3/4 tsp salt, divided
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup vodka
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
1/4 cup whipping cream
3 Tbsp fresh basil
Fresh parmesan

Cook pasta and keep warm. It will heat up when you add it to the sauce.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, and garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add vodka and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes or until liquid is reduced by about half. Stir in scant 1/2 teaspoon salt, broth, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and let cool slightly.

Puree the sauce until smooth. Return tomato mixture to pan.

Mix in cream, then cook the sauce for 2 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in cooked pasta and basil. Taste the pasta and adjust seasoning if needed. Serve immediately.

Hot Fun in the Summertime

23 Jun

A little more work, but a worthy summer burger with sherried mushrooms and gruyere.
Light some lanterns and dress up the lanai. Although these burgers aren’t grill safe, use the barbecue for appetizers of zingy lime shrimp, butterflied in shells.
Serve burgers with a salad of new lettuce, fresh summer stone fruit and berries, and edible blossoms.

adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
2 pounds sirloin steak tips, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Table salt and ground black pepper
10 ounces thinly sliced cremini mushrooms
1 minced shallot
2 teaspoons thyme
2 tablespoons dry sherry
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, liquid but not hot
4 hamburger buns, toasted with butter
1 ounce grated Gruyère
3 shallots, thinly sliced (browned in 1/2 cup canola oil)

Freeze meat on a tray until very firm but still pliable, about 35 minutes.
To make mushroom topping: Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add sliced mushrooms, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook until browned, about five minutes.
Add shallot and thyme and cook until fragrant. Take pan off heat and stir in sherry.

Working in batches, place one-quarter of meat in food processor and pulse until finely ground into ¹/16-inch pieces, (about 35 one-second pulses), stopping to scrape down sides gently. Dump meat gently onto tray, and continue with batches, remove any gristle.

With oven rack in the middle preheat oven to 300 degrees. Drizzle melted butter over ground meat and add 1 teaspoon pepper. Use a fork to combine gently. Divide meat into four portions. Gently flatten each ball into patties 3/4 inch thick and about 4½ inches in diameter. Keep them in the frige until ready to cook.

Season 1 side of patties liberally with salt and pepper. Using spatula, flip patties and season other side. Heat remaining teaspoon of oil in 12-inch skillet over high heat until just smoking. Using spatula, transfer burgers to skillet and cook without moving for 2 minutes. Using spatula, flip burgers and cook for 2 minutes longer. Transfer patties to rimmed baking sheet, top each with 1 ounce cheese, and bake until instant-read thermometer inserted into burger registers 125 degrees for medium-rare or 130 degrees for medium, 3 to 6 minutes.

Transfer burgers to plate and let rest for 5 minutes. Transfer to buns, top with mushrooms and Pub-Style Burger Sauce.

(we found this waaay too salty. It makes a lot of sauce for just four burgers. Next time, we will taste before adding soy last to see if it really needs that much.)

Pub Style Burger Sauce
3/4 cup mayonaisse
2 Tbsp soy sauce (we will add last and try 2 tsp)
1 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp minced fresh chives
1 medium minced garlic clove
3/4 tsp ground black pepper

Burger stand burgers

22 Jun

Summer’s first days harken nostalgia for old-fashioned hamburger stands.
Ice cold root beer, hot, salty burgers and long summer nights…

Here is a hilarious template for a cardboard burger tray.

Best Old-Fashioned Burgers
adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
“Sirloin steak tips are also labeled “flap meat” by some butchers. Flank steak can be used in its place. This recipe yields juicy medium to medium-well burgers. It’s important to use very soft buns. If doubling the recipe, process the meat in three batches in step 2. Because the cooked burgers do not hold well, fry four burgers and serve them immediately before frying more. Or, cook them in two pans. Extra patties can be frozen for up to 2 weeks. Stack the patties, separated by parchment, and wrap
them in three layers of plastic wrap. Thaw burgers in a single layer on a baking sheet at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking.”

10 ounces sirloin steak tips, cut into 1-inch chunks
6 ounces beef short ribs (boneless), cut into 1-inch chunks
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter 4 hamburger buns , soft (see note)
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
4 slices American cheese
Thinly sliced onion, soaked in water

Classic Burger Sauce, below

Freeze beef chunks until very firm but still pliable, 15 to 25 minutes.

Working in batches, place meat in food processor and pulse until coarsely ground — 10 to 15 one-second zaps — scraping down so beef is evenly ground. Dump meat onto a baking sheet without touching. Pick out any weird bits of gristle.

Gently separate meat into 4 mounds. With fingertips, shape each mound into loose patty 1/2 inch thick and 4 inches in diameter, leaving edges and surface ragged. Season with salt and pepper. Using spatula, flip patties and season other side. Keep in fridge while you toast the buns.

Melt 1/2 tablespoon butter in skillet over medium heat until foaming and toast buns.

Wipe out skillet with paper towels. Return to high heat and add oil. Heat until oil shimmers.

Add room temperature burgers to skillet with a spatula and cook without disturbing for three minutes. Flip patties and cook for one minute. Top each with cheese and cover so it melts, about one more minute.

Add patties to buns and top with onion. Spread 2 teaspoons of burger sauce on top of each bun. Serve immediately.

Makes about 1/4 cup

2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon ketchup
1/2 teaspoon sweet pickle relish
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Whisk all ingredients together in small bowl.

Summer Solstice

21 Jun

The first day of summer and the longest day of the year deserves some barbecued burgers.

Well-Done Hamburgers
Recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated, July 1, 2006 Serves 4
Adding a panade (a paste of bread and milk paste) to the ground beef creates burgers that are juicy and tender even when well-done. For a burger that cooks up flat, press the center of each patty down with your fingertips before grilling. Serve the burgers on your favorite buns or rolls. For cheeseburgers, follow the optional instructions below.
Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 10 min

1 large slice high-quality white sandwich bread, crust removed and discarded, bread chopped into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons whole milk
3/4 teaspoon table salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 medium clove garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
2 teaspoons steak sauce, such as A-1
1 1/2 pounds 80 percent lean ground chuck
Vegetable oil for cooking grate
6 ounces cheese, sliced (optional)
4 hamburger buns or rolls

Heat grill on high if using. Clean and oil grill.
Make panade: mash bread and milk in large bowl with fork, yields about 1/4 cup). Stir in salt, pepper, garlic, and steak sauce.

Crumble beef into small pieces over panade. Lightly mix to form a cohesive mass. Divide meat into four. Gently toss one ball back and forth between hands to form loose ball. Gently flatten into 3/4-inch-thick patty that measures about 4 1/2 inches in diameter. Indent centre with fingertips until it is about 1/2 inch thick. Repeat.

Oil grill on hot side, and cook burgers covered, until seared on first side, 2 to 4 minutes.

Using wide metal spatula, flip burgers and continue grilling, about 3 minutes for medium-well or 4 minutes for well-done. Add cheese with 2 minutes to go. Tent to help melt cheese. While burgers grill, toast buns on cooler side of grill.

If frying on stovetop: Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until just beginning to smoke. Add meat patties, indentation side up, and cook until well-browned, about 5 minutes. Using wide spatula, flip burgers and continue cooking, about 4 minutes for medium-well or 5 minutes for well-done. Distribute equal portion of cheese (if using) on burgers about 2 minutes before they reach desired doneness, covering skillet with lid to melt cheese

Rhubarb Squares

20 Jun

A tried and true perfect rhubarb treat. A thin custard, a zingy gingersnap crust. What’s not to love?

Recipe from Globe and Mail
1 pound rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp grated orange rind
2 1/2 cups ginger cookie crumbs (a 300 gram box)
1/2 cup melted butter
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup whipping cream

Preheat oven to 400°F
Combine rhubarb, sugar and orange rind and place in bottom of a baking dish (or parchment covered cookie sheet).
Roast for 15 or so minutes, until rhubarb is soft and juices are bubbling.
Remove from oven and cool.
Reduce oven heat to 350°f.
Combine cookie crumbs and butter. Line an 8-inch square tin or glass pan and with parchment paper (we have used a 9-inch and its fine). Pat in crumb mixture.
Beat together yolks and cream in a large bowl. Stir in rhubarb and juices.
Pour rhubarb mixture on top of crust and bake for 25 minutes or until rhubarb is set when you shake pan. Serve with ice cream. Serves 4 to 6.

Royal Dip

19 Jun

Behold the greatest combination ever.

Wrenched from the hands of a caterer and passed to us from Mrs. James.

To the unsuspecting, it seems like a weird combination. But rest assured, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The ginger thins push this nippy and unusual dip over the top.

1 container imperial cheese
150 grams cream cheese
1 tbsp brandy
1 tsp curry powder

Mix together in stand mixer and spoon into serving bowl. Sprinkle with chopped, toasted pecans.

In a saucepan, melt and boil for 15 seconds:
1 jar black currant jelly
2 tsp white vinegar
handful of raisins or currants

Cool slightly and pour over cheese.

Serve with ginger crisps (Anna’s, Ikea, or Peake Freens.)

We found a similar sounding dip in Best of Bridge:

250 gram package of cream cheese, softend
250 gram package of imperial cheese
2 tbsp sherry
1 tsp curry powder
3/4 cup peach jam
peach chutney

Using a food processor or electric mixer, blend cheeses together. Add sherry, curry and jam, mixing until smooth. Pour into sterilized jars and keep refrigerated.

To serve, garnish with chives and set out with crackers.

Bacon and tomato pasta

17 Jun

Rain or shine, winter or summer, this is happiness. Another one of our favourite family pasta dishes, thanks to its simplicity and ease.

We love all things tomato, but this is a nice variation of all’Amatriciana (minus the pork cheek) or arrabbiata (plus bacon). The ground chili pepper flakes spreads the heat evenly — we could still feel a happy burn it in our esophogus an hour later.

Steamy, spicy, chewy, viscous. It’s lovely. The sauce looks sparse, but the tomatoes break down nicely and starchy pasta water keeps the sauce loose, coating every strand. Using less than a pound of pasta helps keep it from tasting bland.

Adapted from Guy Fieri
4 to 6 servings.
2 tablespoons kosher salt
16 ounces spaghetti or bucatini pasta (closer to 3/4 of a box instead of the whole thing)
1 pound thick-cut bacon or pancetta, chopped
up to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup red onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon ground red chili flakes (if using flakes, increase to 1 to 1 1/2 tsp)
3 tablespoons garlic, minced
3 cups Roma tomatoes, diced (or more)
1/4 cup red wine (or white)
4 tablespoons basil, chiffonade
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Boil water and cook pasta.

In a large saute pan over medium heat, add bacon and saute. Remove bacon to drain on a paper towel-lined plate and remove 3/4 of the bacon fat from the pan. Add extra-virgin olive oil, onions, and red chili flakes. Cook until onions are translucent, add garlic, cook for 2 minutes then add tomatoes. Saute for 5 minutes, then deglaze with wine.

Drain pasta and add to the tomato mixture pan. Add basil and bacon. Toss with Parmesan, and add salt and pepper, to taste.

Hungry for the Hamptons

16 Jun

That beach house. That furniture. That kitchen. We can’t stop rewatching Something’s Gotta Give, even eight years later. Nancy Meyers has a way with house and food porn.

Despite the romantic midnight pancake scene and the dangling suggestion of leftover coq au vin (there’s even a recipe posted on the film’s official website)
in that amazing East Hampton refrigerator, we remain obsessed with the menu from the awkward dinner scene.

The steaming platter of lobster, an inviting white ceramic bowl holding a tangle of linguini, clams, white wine, lemon juice, garlic, shallots, roasted cherry tomatoes, topped with loads of grassy parsley, an herby looking salad, crunchy baguette and white wine. What a beautiful, summery meal to share on a rainy or mild evening.

Grab your iPod, put Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get it On, and Louis Armstrong’s inimitable version of La Vie En Rose on your playlist and get cooking.

adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style
Vegetable oil
Kosher salt
3/4 pound linguine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
1 pound large peeled shrimp (about 16 shrimp or fewer larger prawns) and clams
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/2 lemon, zest grated
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons) (or white wine)
1/4 lemon, thinly sliced in half-rounds (note: some readers have said the lemon is overpowering, and bumped up zest instead of adding slices or all the juice).
1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

Drizzle some oil in a large pot of boiling salted water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the linguine, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in another large (12-inch), heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic. Saute for 1 minute. Be careful, the garlic burns easily! Add the shrimp, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and the pepper and saute until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat, add the parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon slices, and red pepper flakes. Toss to combine.

When the pasta is done, drain the cooked linguine and then put it back in the pot.

Immediately add the shrimp and sauce, toss well, and serves 3.

The technique here is to flavour the olive oil with garlic, and remove it before it gets too browned. America’s Test Kitchen likes shorter pasta and chopped shrimp for a better fork ratio.

Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen
Serves 4

Marinate the shrimp while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

9 cloves, divided: 5 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press

(about 5 teaspoons), plus 4 medium cloves, smashed
1 pound large shrimp (21-25), peeled, deveined, each shrimp cut into 3 pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
Table salt
1 pound pasta in short, tubular shapes, such as fusilli, campanelle, or mezze rigatoni
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry vermouth or white wine
3/4 cup clam juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon lemon juice plus 1 lemon, cut into wedges
Ground black pepper

Marinate the shrimp: Toss 2 teaspoons minced garlic, shrimp, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Let shrimp marinate at room temperature 20 minutes.

Flavour the oil: Heat 4 smashed garlic cloves and remaining 2 tablespoons oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic is light golden brown, 4 to 7 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and use slotted spoon to remove garlic from skillet; discard garlic. Set skillet aside.

Cook pasta: Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta. Cook until just al dente, then drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water, and transfer pasta back to Dutch oven.

While pasta cooks, cook shrimp: return skillet with oil to medium heat; add shrimp with marinade to skillet in single layer. Cook shrimp, undisturbed, until oil starts to bubble gently, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir shrimp and continue to cook until almost cooked through, about 1 minute longer. Using slotted spoon, transfer shrimp to medium bowl.

Add remaining 3 teaspoons minced garlic and pepper flakes to skillet and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute; stir in vermouth and cook for 1 minute. Add clam juice and parsley; cook until mixture starts to thicken, 1 to 2 minutes.
Off heat, whisk in butter and lemon juice. Add shrimp and sauce to pasta, adding reserved cooking water if
sauce is too thick. Season with black pepper.

Serve, passing lemon wedges separately.

Back to our saffron/seafood/pasta obsession.
How beach house is this recipe?

Linguine with Saffron Tomato Sauce and Grilled Seafood Skewers
Canadian Living
Surprise guests — and yourself — with this sophisticated, restaurant-worthy dish. Long elegant strands of pasta marry best with this smooth tomato sauce.
Makes 4 serving(s)

1 (28 oz/ 796 ml) plum tomatoes
3 tbsp (45 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 stalk fresh basil
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp granulated sugar
1 pinch saffron threads
1/4 cup whipping cream
12 oz 375 gm linguine or spaghetti
4 bay scallops
8 colossal shrimp, peeled and deveined

Drain tomatoes, reserving liquid; chop coarsely. Set aside.

In Dutch oven, heat 2 tbsp (25 mL) of the oil over medium heat; fry garlic until light golden and fragrant, 1 minute.

Stir in tomatoes, reserved tomato liquid, basil, 3/4 tsp (4 mL) of the salt, half of the pepper, the sugar and saffron; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until spoon drawn across bottom of pan leaves space that fills in slowly, about 35 minutes.

Stir in cream; discard basil. Puree in blender until smooth. (Make-ahead: Let cool for 30 minutes. Refrigerate, uncovered, in airtight container until cold; cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 1 month.)

Meanwhile, alternately thread 1 scallop and 2 shrimp onto each of 4 small metal or soaked wooden skewers. Brush with remaining oil; sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper. Place on greased grill or in grill pan over medium-high heat; close lid and grill, turning once, until shrimp are pink and scallops are firm, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile in large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until tender but firm, about 8 minutes. Drain and return to pot. Add sauce; toss to coat. Serve each topped with skewer.

Mediterranean Summer

15 Jun


We’ve long enjoyed a quick and easy summer night appetizer (or light dinner) of tuna pureed with olive oil, capers, lemon juice and olives. The smoothness and saltiness makes it a perfect hot weather snack.

We stumbled upon this buttery tuna mousse from David Shalleck’s Mediterranean Summer and it is the bomb. We enjoyed exploring the canned fish shelves at our local Italian markets. Shalleck recommends Ortiz; Flott; Consorcio; A’s Do Mar; Ormaza; Serrats; Calliope. Just recently made this using olive oil packed tuna in a glass jar. Pricy but worth it.

“The Spreadable Tuna Mousse was the favorite recipe of la Signora, the woman who was his boss on the boat, a pillar of Italian wealth and privilege who teetered around the yacht in Chanel pumps.”


Adapted from Mediterranean Summer by David Shalleck
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
10 ounces (280 g) olive oil-packed tuna (2 cans), drained. (Any poached fish will do)
4 or 5 tablespoons (70 g) butter, unsalted, cubed
2 tablespoons heavy cream, crème fraîche, or yogurt

Mix soy sauce, balsamic vinegar and lemon juice.

In a food processor mix tuna until broken down. Add liquids and process until the mixture is smooth.

Add each cube of butter only after the previous one is mixed in. Take care: the hot machine blade can melt it.

Add the cream until barely incorporated.

Spoon mousse into serving dish, hollow lemons or tomatoes (cherry for hors d’oeuvres) or cooked artichokes.

Served near room temperature, or chilled, with small toasts or crackers, slices of baguette, or celery and cucumber.

Still Crazy After All These Years…

13 Jun

Another exhibit of problem behavior: