Sunday, September 25, 2011

Collard Green Chips

I'm going to be honest, this post barely contains a recipe. But, it does contain an idea. An idea that you should embrace, attempt, and then explore. 

If anyone has trouble getting enough leafy greens in a day, this idea is for you. 
If anyone has kids that wont touch a vegetable, this idea is for you.
If anyone gets a hankerin' for salty chips on a weekly basis, this idea is for you.

This idea is not new. In fact, a whole year ago I posted about it. It wasn't new then either. The idea is baking hardy leafy greens in the oven until you get chips. This time the star of the show was some collard greens. I have to admit that I had never purchased this leafy green before. However, when I saw the large bunch at the store, I knew what I wanted it for.

Collard Green Chips

1 large bunch of collard greens
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chili powder

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
2. Remove tough inner stem of the leaves.
3. Break leaves up into smaller pieces.
4. Toss leaves in olive oil, until evenly coated, 'rubbing' the oil into the leaves.
5. Add garlic powder and chili powder and mix until evenly coated.
6. Place leaves in a single layer on a baking sheet. (note: do not layer the leaves or they will not cook consistently)
7. Baked in 425 degree F oven for ~10 minutes, turning halfway through, until crispy.

I apologize for the iPhone quality picture, but I was too busy eating a whole bunch of collard greens to get my actual camera out. That is right, I ate a whole bunch of collard greens. I wasn't kidding when i said this is a great way to get your leafy greens in. 

The best part is that you can season these however you like. I can imagine using a splash of balsamic, dill, cumin, curry powder (not all together of course), or whatever your heart desires! There is a lot of room for experimenting here. Just be sure to lay off the salt (I usually don't add any). The dehydrated greens actually taste a bit salty naturally!

Not only can you experiment with different seasonings, but you can also experiment with different greens, or other vegetables for that matter! I have only attempted kale and collard, but swiss chard, beets, sweet potatoes, carrots or turnip would also work (adjust oven temps and times accordingly). Fall is the perfect time to experiment because the hearty greens and root vegetables are definitely in season. 

I would love to hear about any vegetable/seasoning combinations that turn out to be winners!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Homemade Beet Pasta with Zucchini and Goat Cheese

I finally did it! I finally made homemade pasta! This has been something I have wanted to do for over a year, and finally I made an attempt at it! Now, it might seem like all I do now is eat and make Italian food since I got back from Italy. I swear, that is not the case. I still have been making overnight oats, lentil stews, and salads galore. However, as I was looking at some of my evernote recipes, I came across this beet pasta by bell' alimento. Bell' alimento is filled with Italian recipes, so I suggest you take a look around the site. Anyway, this caught my attention because not only was the pasta beautiful, but we had some beets from the garden that were ready to be pulled. Perfect timing.

Homemade pasta is incredibly simple to make, especially when you have a kitchen aid mixer. I am lucky enough to have access to one right now so making the dough was a breeze. I followed the recipe from bell' alimento almost exactly, so you can reference from there. However, I did substitute some kamut flour (1 cup) for some of the all purpose.  I also had to add some more water, which may be due to the flour substitution. It also might be because my beet puree was not as fine as it should have been. I recommend you really pulverize those beets.

Addition of the Beet Puree
Mixing in the Beet Puree
While i did have a kitchen aid to make the dough, I do not have any utilities to actually make the pasta itself. This means that I was working hard rolling out the dough as thin as I could, and then using a pizza cutter to make my pasta. Let's just say it was rustic.

Wearing a pane (bread) apron my Nonna brought my Mom from Italy
Since I was making this for dinner and it was already 6:30 when I started, I made the pasta in batches. The first batch was for dinner that night. It was a little thick.

The First Batch Drying
This made it difficult to cook and the pasta was very large. It really didn't matter though. Because it was homemade it didn't feel too chewy, and was still delicious. It was a little disappointing though when the vibrant red colour turned pale pink upon boiling, and the water took up most of the colour. It still look pretty against that green zucchini and the goat cheese. It was such a beautiful dinner.

Homemade Beet Pasta with Zucchini and Goat Cheese

1 serving of homemade beet pasta
1/2 medium zucchini, sliced thinly and in half
2 garlic cloves finely minced
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 serving of goat cheese

1. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil on medium heat until pan is hot.
2. Add garlic and sautee for a few minutes until fragrant.
3. Add zucchini and heat until cooked through.
4. Drain pasta and add to the pan, tossing to combine.
5. Add goat cheese in crumbled and toss to combine.

How pretty is it! It isn't only pretty but it tasted good too. Such a good dinner that was worth the effort! Next time it won't be so effort filled though. After dinner I took the rest of the dough out of the fridge and rolled it out, thinner than I had before. I also cut this one into lots of different shapes. This was really one big experiment.

I made some lasagna noodles, linguini, and farfalle. I allowed them to dry overnight between two tea towels. the lasagna noodles needed some extra time, but in the morning I bagged up the pasta in ziploc bags and stuck them in the freezer. We will see how the recipe handles it.

I am really excited to try out some more pasta recipes since it isn't all that hard. I think I might put a pasta roller/maker on my Christmas list though.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Trofie con le Acciughe

This post is coming later than I would have liked but it has been a busy week. I think I am FINALLY settled back in, living with my parents. Shortly after my return from Italy I really wanted to recreate a pasta dish I had in Venice, at a restaurant called Osteria alla Botte. It was linguinie with anchovies, and was amazing. The sauce was very "harsh" just like the waiter said, but I loved it. Most people may not share this love, but I love anchovies. I enjoyed every bite of that dinner. I knew during my trip I would come across dishes I would want to recreate. This was a perfect contender. It was amazing, but simple. I was fairly certain the sauce contained olive oil, onions, and anchovies. That is it. I will never know if I am correct or not. After attempting to recreate this dish, I wouldn't be surprised if I was right. I added a little healthy flare to the dish but it was still delicious. Not quite as rich as the Venician variety but I was okay with that. The recipe is very vague as it was over a week ago and I didn't really measure anything when I was cooking. But, I did use these two items in the dish, both brought back from Cinque Terre.

Trofie con le Acciughe
serves 3

~3 tbsp olive oil (be generous)
1/3 cup onion chopped into ~2 cm pieces
anchovies (according to your taste, I added maybe 1/4 of the jar)
2 cups finely chopped Kale
spinach trofie pasta

1. Cook pasta according to package instructions. I used a bag of dried pasta I purchased in Cinque Terre. Any type of pasta would work here. I think linguini or rotini would be nice.
2. Head olive oil on medium and then add onions. Saute until about half cooked.
3. Add anchovies and stir while sauteing for ~5 minutes. Once the anchovies have disolved into the sauce that is forming, add the kale. Stir until kale is cooked and wilted.
4. Turn heat to low and add the pasta. Add enough so you reach the ratio of pasta to sauce you like.
5. Serve hot.

I absolutely loved this pasta dish, probably the best I have ever made. You definitely need to be generous with the oil, as I attempted making this sauce again with less, and it just wasn't as good. The oil helps the anchovies dissolve into the sauce and give it a nice even consistency (note that you can't see any anchovies in the picture). The sauce was also a little less 'anchovie-y' than the version I had in Italy. I could have gone for some more. My Dad said it was really good, and said to me afterwards, "I knew there was a reason we let you live here." Even my Mom who doesn't really care for anchovies liked it! There is a misconception that anchovies taste very fishy, but that is only if you pop a whole fillet in your mouth. When part of a dish such as this one, they really just add some salt and a unique flavour. You can add 1 or 10, and you will get more or less of that flavour. I encourage all of you anchovy haters out there who have never tried anchovies to give this recipe a shot, starting out with just one fillet. I have a feeling you will be adding more of them in no time. And if you are like me and love anchovies, you MUST try this recipe adding as many fillets as your heart desires.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Arrivederci Italia

Did you miss me? I have definitely missed writing the blog. I haven't cooked in 3 weeks and I am excited to get back in the kitchen. I have been home for a few days now and am pretty much unpacked from the move back into my parent's house. I think by next week you can expect a new recipe or two.

To tide you over until then, I thought I would show you a few highlights from the trip. They are in no particular order.  Blogger photo uploader drives me crazy.

This was my favourite photo from Venice. I really liked this area of Venice (Dorsoduro) as it was quiet and more quaint. There are also better restaurants outside of San Marco.

The three nights in Venice resulted in 1 really bad expensive dinner, 1 good dinner, and 1 dinner that was phenomenal and worth mentioning. It was at this very small restaurant near the rialto bridge. It was fairly hard to find but well worth it. It is also important to make a reservation or you will not get a table. At this restaurant I had linguini with anchovies and it was the most memorable restaurant meal for me in Italy. Expect a recipe soon, if I succeed at recreating it that is..

In case you were thinking it, yes I ate meat and seafood in Italy. My desire to sample authentic food trumped by desire to eliminate my meat consumption. I am very glad I did as I did not have to turn down food made for me by my family, and I was able to try some really delicious food. The vegetarian options on menus are few and far between. I am also glad I decided to eat seafood because in Cinque Terre, I had the best seafood I had ever had. Our first night there we went to Ciak. We were very hungry from travelling from Venice and this was the first place we saw. It looked busy and the food looked delicious. We ordered a seafood risotto. It came in this big ceramic pot which is cooked from a flame from below. It was absolutely amazing, and comes in a close 2nd for my favourite restaurant meal during the trip. The chef can be seen every day hanging out outside the restaurant, and preparing food for the evenings dinner. A window from the street looks directly into the kitchen and dining room, which draws many curious people to stop and take a look. This restaurant is a bit pricey but is worth it at least once if you are spending time in Monterosso Cinque Terre. They also do not carry any house wine and the bottles are expensive. Skip the wine and save room for the sea food. Check out their website for information and their history.

I would like to point out that the seafood risotto and the pasta with anchovies were my favourite restaurant meals in Italy. I say this because for the first 4 days I was staying with my Grandfather's sister and her husband in Pescara, and she made us many fantastic home made meals. Upon our arrival she has fresh homemade pasta made with eggs from these chickens you see here. It was amazing pasta with such fresh homemade sauce. We also were able to sample the freshness of the eggs by simply having fried eggs one night for dinner. This may sound crazy to some, but they were the best eggs I have ever had. I had never had a fresher egg. The yolk was so much creamier and delicious.  It might be due to their rather unconventional diet (keep reading). We got to visit the chickens one day in the small town where my Grandfather was born. The house is now under the care of my Great Aunt and Uncle. They have fixed up the house and they maintain a large garden and chicken coop. The chickens get fed whatever food is laying around. While we were there, they feasted on some pasta with tomato sauce, and the watermelon (pictured below). After deciding the watermelon was not fit for human consumption, it was subsequently dropped off the kitchen balcony into the chicken coop (one story below) by my Aunt, resulting in a splatter of watermelon, happy chickens, and a quiet laugh from my Aunt. I will miss my Zia Cesira until my next trip to Italy.

Also during our visit to the house, I walked around the garden with my Nonna and Aunt picking any ripe vegetables and admiring what was to come. I had my camera with me and my Nonna made me take a picture of these tomatoes. I am glad she did.

This is my Zio Nunzio taking care of the garden. He takes a 45 minute drive every day to care for the garden and the house. His hard work sure pays off!

Now this isn't food related but it was my favourite sight in Rome. I didn't manage to get a good picture of the Trevi Fountain, but the sight blew me away. I guess I didn't realize the size the fountain would be. When the slender street leading to the fountain opened up into the Piazza, I was surprised. The fountain was large, dynamic, and vibrant and I knew immediately that I loved it. It was very busy so it was hard to soak it in, but I could have sat by the the fountain for hours.

Oh the gelato. I had gelato almost every day in Italy. It is almost neccessary. It makes a perfect afternoon snack to tide you over until dinner which is always late, and cools you off from the afternoon heat. I usually got a 'piccoli' size cup and sometimes in a cone, but this particular day where this photo was from I was feeling a bit more adventurous. It was actually my favourite gelato of the trip. The flavour you see is stracciatella which is just a milk gelato with chocolate pieces. It was my go-to flavour. What you don't see is a venetian cream stracciatella below the regular straciatella. This flavour was to die for. Most likely due to added cream or vanilla. It was more rich than the other flavours I had tried and was a welcomed change. In case you are wondering, yes, I am currently in gelato withdrawal.

In both Rome and Venice, we tried to visit a market to get some fresh fruit to have for snacks. This photo is from the Rialto market in Venice. It was a Sunday so there wasn't too much at the market but I thought these peperoncinni were beautiful. We went home with nectarines, bananas, plums, figs, zucchini and tomatoes. Since Venice was rather expensive to eat out in comparison to Rome, we decided to make our own lunches as well as breakfasts during our stay (we stayed in an apartment with a kitchen). After purchasing some fresh buns, mozzarella, and prosciutto we had all we needed.

This is a photo of a portion of the Pons Aemilius bridge over the Tiber river which flows through Rome. It is right alongside a much newer bridge, Ponte Palatino. This bridge portion is now called Ponte Rotto and is the oldest bridge in Rome. It was build in the second century BC. It is amazing that even this portion has withstood the last 2000+ years.

In Rome we stayed right in Campo dei Fiori. It was a great location to stay as it is central to most attractions in Rome. Here we are enjoying a cafe latte at one of the restaurants overlooking the market at work. My Nonna lived in Campo dei Fiori in her teenage years and it was great to hear about her memories of this market. The market has shifted over the last 50 years. It used to be a spot for fresh fish, fruit, meat, vegetables, eggs etc. Now it is mostly fruit/veggies and some specialty foods mostly geared to tourists. Regardless, it still has some charm. There is also a great deli along the border of the market where we used to get sandwiches for breakfast.

Well, I hope you enjoyed those few photos and a small sample of my experience during my trip. Like I said, I hope to share a recipe soon. I purchased some food items in Cinque Terre and I hope to use them to recreate some of the dishes I had in Italy.