Allan’s Linguine alle Vongole

15 09 2009

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My husband Allan loves pasta with clams.  He has always enjoyed various pasta and seafood combinations but one night in Italy, he had the ultimate version of his favourite: Lingine alle Vongole (linguine with clams).  We were at Ristorante Romano, a Michelin-starred seafood restaurant on the Tuscan coast.  The seafood at Romano’s was fresh and impeccably prepared with typical Italian simplicity.  When we returned home, we decided to develop our own version of this classic pasta dish.

The key to this dish is using high quality ingredients.  Choose small, live clams in their shells and be sure to discard any that don’t open when cooked.  Fresh parsley, oregano, garlic and hot peppers are preferable over dried and keep the dish fresh and light tasting.  Sautéeing the whole garlic and peppers in the oil and then discarding them gives the pasta a hint of garlic flavour and heat without overpowering the dish.  However, if you prefer a bit more punch, feel free to mince some of the garlic and peppers and leave them in the sauce.  Although I usually prefer fresh pasta, this is one dish where dried works better.  If linguine isn’t available, substitute spaghetti or bucatini instead.

I guarantee that this recipe is simple to prepare: Allan doesn’t normally cook (aside from the occasional crème brûlée) and he can put this together in no time.  The pasta and clams cook at roughly the same time so everything should come together at once.

Allan’s Linguine alle Vongole (Linguine with Clams)

Makes 4 to 6 servings

  • Approximately 18 small clams, in their shells (such as baby clams, littlenecks, etc.)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil + 2 Tablespoons to finish the dish
  • 2 small hot peppers, such as Thai bird chiles OR 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 2 whole garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley + extra for garnish
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/4 cup reserved pasta cooking water
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb / 500 grams good quality dried linguine
  • A large deep skillet with a lid (or some way to cover it, such as a large plate)
  • A large pot to boil pasta
  1. Rinse clams in cold water to ensure the shells are clean and free of grit.  Make sure all of the shells are closed tight and discard any whose shells have opened.
  2. Heat a large pot of salted water to cook the pasta.  Bring to a boil on high heat.
  3. In a large, deep skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil on medium-high heat.  Add the garlic cloves and whole chile peppers. Sauté for about 5 minutes or until they turn golden brown, watching carefully so the garlic doesn’t burn.  Remove the garlic and chiles from the pan but keep the oil in the bottom of the skillet.
  4. Place the clams (in their shells) in the skillet and add the wine, chopped oregano and 2 teaspoons fresh parsley.  Cover with the lid and let simmer on medium heat.  
  5. Place the linguine in the pot of boiling water.  The clams and pasta will take about the same amount of time to cook, about 9 to 10 minutes.  Set a timer for 9 minutes.
  6. After 9 minutes, check on the clams.  The shells should be wide open.  If a few are still closed or partially open, give them a couple more minutes.  Any that do not open in that time should be discarded.   Test the linguine – it should be al dente.  Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water before draining the pasta and set it aside.  Drain the linguine.
  7. Add the cooked linguine to the skillet with the clams.  Toss to coat, adding a bit of the reserved pasta water if it seems dry.  Drizzle with remaining 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil and stir thoroughly.
  8. Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with a bit of fresh parsley.
  9. Serve with crusty bread and a glass of dry white wine.

Note: Italians don’t usually eat cheese with seafood pasta so if you want to keep it traditional, refrain from garnishing with grated parmesan.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

 

Linguine with clams + a glass of wine = the perfect meal!

Linguine with clams + a glass of wine = the perfect summer meal





Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta

19 08 2009

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Mid-August is peak tomato season and usually markets are bursting with all shapes and sizes of the delicious fruit (yes, tomatoes are fruit).  However, this year many areas have been plagued with cold, wet weather and an unfortunate blight has taken a toll on vines in some regions.  The few local tomatoes I’ve tried have been tasteless and mealy but I’m hoping to find better specimens in coming weeks.  I have found that smaller cherry, grape and cocktail tomatoes have been sweeter and juicier than the field varieties I’ve tried.

If field tomatoes are poor in your area, why not make a delicious dish with cherry tomatoes?  They should be easy to find at most markets and roasting them concentrates their flavours, giving them a sweet and slightly charred flavour.  Turned into a simple sauce with fresh herbs, garlic and olive oil, it makes delicious vegetarian summer meal.  

Click here to get the recipe from a recent Suite 101.com article I wrote:  Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Roasted Cherry Tomato Spaghetti

Roasted Cherry Tomato Spaghetti





Zucchini Pie with Fresh Basil

16 08 2009

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It’s no secret that I love savoury tarts. I have posted a number of different recipes for vegetable-based pies/tarts/quiches including Swiss Chard Tart, Leek and Ham Tart, Crustless Asparagus Quiche and Tomato Tart with Herbed Ricotta.  There’s just something about them that appeals to me and luckily the French and Italians have a strong tradition of cooking seasonal produce in pie form so I find inspiration everywhere. 

This pie is a great way to use the abundance of zucchini that crops up every summer. As a child growing up in the country, zucchini would over take gardens by the end of summer and people would give them away by the basketful.  I’m sure that farmers must laugh at city folk who actually pay for zucchini at the markets but since I don’t have room to grow my own, I have no real choice. One of my favourite recipes is Zucchini Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting but I enjoy savoury main dishes made with this versatile summer squash as well. 

Zucchini Pie makes a great vegetarian main dish or an delicious side to grilled meats. Click here to check out my recent article for Suite 101.com:  Zucchini Pie with Fresh Basil.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Corn with Red Pepper and Herbs

10 08 2009

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It’s corn season again!  It’s one of my favourite vegetables so I have fun experimenting with various ideas during its brief season. While corn-on-the cob with butter, salt and pepper is a classic that’s hard to beat, sometimes the menu calls for something a little more elegant.  Sweet roasted corn with red pepper, crispy herbs, brown butter and a hint of heat makes a tasty dish that pairs well with grilled meats, seafood or vegetarian dishes.  You can also toss the corn with pasta for a quick and delicious main course.  Click here to read my recent article for Suite 101.com: Corn with Red Pepper and Herbs.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Grilled Asparagus with Herbed Goat Cheese and Prosciutto

21 05 2009

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The weather is starting to warm up and the season for outdoor entertaining has begun.  Grilling is a popular way to cook main courses such as chicken, burgers or steaks but you can make appetizers on the grill as well.  These asparagus spears wrapped in goat cheese and prosciutto make an elegant starter that will impress your guests.  There are a number of steps but they are very straightforward. The wrapped asparagus spears can be prepared in advance and only need a couple of minutes on the BBQ.

Use the fattest asparagus spears you can find – the pencil-thin ones won’t work for this dish.  Prosciutto is an Italian cured ham that is available in many supermarkets. Ask at the deli counter and make sure they slice it very thinly.  You can substitute Spanish serrano or other cured hams.  For the cheese, you can use a soft goat cheese, cream cheese or mascarpone.  Each one has a slightly different flavour but all will be delicious. The asparagus spears can also be cooked on an indoor grill if you don’t have access to an outdoor BBQ.

Helpful tip: if you want to zest a lemon for garnish, be sure to zest it before cutting the lemon open to juice it. To get more juice from your lemon, roll it on the counter, pressing down gently on the lemon as you roll. This helps break down the inside a bit so it’s easier to extract the juice.

Grilled Asparagus with Herbed Goat Cheese and Prosciutto

Makes 10 asparagus spears

  • 10 fat asparagus spears
  • 10 slices cured ham such as prosciutto or serrano, sliced very thinly
  • Lemon zest for garnish (optional)

Herbed Cheese:

  • 3 Tablespoons (about 2-1/2 oz) soft cheese such as goat cheese, cream cheese or mascarpone – at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh chives
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme 
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • A dash of salt and pepper

Lemon-Oil:

  • 1 Tablespooon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tablespoon neutral oil such as canola or safflower
  • 1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard

To prepare asparagus:

  1. Trim any woody ends and discard.  Prepare a large bowl of ice water and set aside.  In a large saucepan, add enough water to just cover asparagus and bring to a boil.  Cook asparagus for about 2-1/2 to 3 minutes, until it is just tender.  
  2. Drain and plunge immediately into the ice water to halt cooking.  Let asparagus cool completely, drain and pat dry.

To make herbed cheese:

  1. Spoon room-temperature goat, cream cheese or mascarpone cheese into a small bowl.  Add chive, thyme, lemon juice salt and pepper.  Use a fork to mix herbs into cheese until thoroughly combined.  Cheese can be made in advance and refrigerated until use.  Bring back to room temperature before using.

To prepare lemon oil:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, oil and mustard until combined.

Putting it all together:

  1. Lay out prosciutto slices in a single layer.  Scoop a small amount of herbed cheese (about 3/4 teaspoon) and spread it in a thin layer on a prosciutto slice as though buttering a piece of bread.  Repeat for all slices.  
  2. Wrap each slice of prosciutto around an asparagus spear, starting at the bottom of the spear.  Make sure the cheese side is against the asparagus – it will act like ‘glue’ to help the prosciutto stick.  Appetizers may be prepared to this point and refrigerated until ready to use.
  3. Prepare grill or light barbeque.  Brush each wrapped asparagus spear with the lemon-oil and grill until the prosciutto begins to get crispy around the edges, about 2 minutes.  Turn over with tongs and grill for another 2 minutes.
  4. Arrange on a platter and garnish with lemon zest if desired.  They are meant to be eaten as finger food but they can be plated and eaten with a fork if you’d prefer.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Winter Caprese Salad

26 02 2009

 

Roasted tomatoes, oregano and balsamic vinegar make this salad suitable for winter

Roasted tomatoes, oregano and balsamic vinegar make a caprese salad suitable for winter

One of the most popular posts on this site is for Caprese Salad.  I did a feature last summer about composing this classic salad in various ways.  Because of the recipe’s simplicity, the key to a perfect caprese salad is selecting top notch ingredients. Unfortunately, it’s February and quality tomatoes and fresh basil aren’t available to most of us.  So why not improvise and create a winter version?  

Roasting winter tomatoes enhances their flavour, making them suitable for this salad. They don’t look as pretty as fresh slices but their sweetness will make you forget about their appearance.  A drizzle of balsamic vinegar gives the salad a bit of body and an extra boost of flavour.  I use oregano instead of basil because it has a heartier taste that stands up nicely to the roasted tomatoes.

Winter Caprese

Like my summer caprese post, this is less of a recipe than a guideline.  If you use the roasted tomato recipe I posted last year, it will yield 16 tomato halves.  Roasting the tomatoes takes some time but once the prep work is done, they go into the oven until they’re done.  I find that winter tomatoes take a bit longer to roast than summer ones so add an extra 30 minutes or so to the roasting time if nessecary.

  • Roasted tomatoes – sprinkled with oregano instead of thyme
  • Fresh mozzarella, cut into slices about 1/2″ thick.  The number of slices should be equal to the number of tomato halves used.
  • Finely chopped fresh oregano
  • Good quality olive oil, to drizzle over salad
  • Decent quality balsamic vinegar, to drizzle over salad
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Fresh ground pepper
  1. Arrange slices of mozzarella and roasted tomatoes on a platter, alternating and overlapping them.  Drizzle with a spoonful of olive oil and another of balsamic vinegar.
  2. Sprinkle salad with chopped oregano, sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Chicken Noodle Soup

20 11 2008

vegetables for soup

Yesterday I was feeling a bit under the weather and it was snowing hard outside.  I felt like having something warm and soothing for dinner but wasn’t excited about the idea of canned soup with too much sodium and soggy noodles.  I searched the pantry and fridge and came up with this easy chicken noodle soup that fit the bill perfectly and is much tastier than canned.  (It’s also delicious if you’re not feeling sick!)

Chicken Noodle Soup

Makes about 8 cups of soup

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large carrots cut into rounds about 1/2″ thick
  • 1 large stalk celery, diced
  • 3 medium leeks, white part only, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1/2 sprig of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme leaves, stripped off their branches
  • 3 chicken breasts (with skin and bones attached)
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1-1/2 cups dry egg noodles
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. In a large stock pot or cast-iron enameled pot, heat oil on medium-high heat. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper and place in pot, skin side down. Brown chicken until breasts begin to turn golden and crisp.  Turn over and brown the other side.  Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. Add carrots, celery, leeks, onions and garlic to pot.  Saute until they are just starting to soften, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add half of the sage, thyme and rosemary and stir into mixture.
  3. Place chicken pieces back in pot and cover with the chicken stock.  Place lid on the pot and let simmer gently for about 40 to 45 minutes (don’t let it come to a hard boil).
  4. After 45 minutes, remove chicken breasts from the soup.  Place on a cutting board and using a fork, pull the meat off the bone.  Cut into chunks and put meat back into the soup.  Discard bones.
  5. Add remaining herbs and the noodles to the soup and cook for another 10 minutes or until noodles are tender.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with a sprig of rosemary.
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Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Tomato Tart with Herbed Ricotta

21 08 2008

Because tomato season is so short, I’m trying to make as many tomato recipes as possible before they’re gone and we’re stuck with tasteless imports again.  I visited the farmer’s market today and picked up a variety of different tomatoes from plum to miniature heirlooms.   The plum tomatoes didn’t really look that great so I was pleasantly surprised when I tasted one and discovered that they were sweet and flavourful.

For this recipe, it’s important to use plum tomatoes because they have less liquid inside and won’t make the dough soggy.  It’s also imperative that you slice them very thinly or they won’t cook properly.  A mandoline is the best tool but a very sharp knife will also work.  You could serve small squares of this as an appetizer or serve larger portions with a salad for a main dish.

Tomato Tart with Herbed Ricotta

Makes approximately 8 appetizer sized servings

(VEGETARIAN)

  • 1/2 package of puffed pastry, thawed
  • 1-1/2 cups thinly sliced plum tomatoes – approximately 6 plum tomatoes, sliced 1/8″ thick
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano + extra for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Sea salt

 

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, mix together ricotta, garlic, 2 teaspoons oregano, thyme, parsley, 1/4 teaspoon salt and parmesan cheese.  Stir to combine thoroughly. Set aside.
  3. Roll puff pastry out to a rectangle about 9″ X 12″.
  4. Spread ricotta evenly over dough.  Top ricotta with tomato slices (some tomatoes may be overlapping or doubled).
  5. Sprinkle tomatoes with sea salt and fresh oregano.
  6. Bake tart for 20 to 25 minutes or until pastry is golden brown along the edges and on the bottom. Cut into squares to serve.  Tip: a round pizza cutter is a good way to cut the tart cleanly but a sharp knife will work as well. 

Bon Appetit and Enjoy!

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Kitchen Tip of the Week – How to Chop Fresh Herbs

18 08 2008

Starting today, each week I’m going to pass along some of my favourite kitchen tips, from chopping fresh herbs to removing the casing from sausage.  Enjoy!

Chopping Leafy Fresh Herbs

When chopping leafy fresh herbs such as basil or sage, take all of the leaves and stack them together.  Roll the leaves up tightly, as though rolling a cigar.  Place on the cutting board and slice thinly.  Chop up the slices to the size required.  This technique is called chiffonade.






White Bean Dip with Fresh Herbs

30 07 2008

Any serious cook should try to keep an herb garden.  Even if you live in a small apartment, you can keep a small one in a pot on the counter.   The types of herbs will depend on what kind of cooking you’re interested in – if you like Thai food, for example, you’d want to grow fresh cilantro, whereas a cook who prefers Italian might grow a lot of basil.  The fresh herbs I typically have on hand include: sage, Italian parsley, thyme, rosemary, basil and oregano.  I love being able to snip off a bit of herb as I need it.  It’s the ultimate fresh, local ingredient.

Here is a recipe I developed that is quick to put together.  The dip’s flavour will get stronger over time so if you make it in advance, taste it and adjust seasonings before serving.

White Bean Dip with Fresh Herbs

Makes approximately 1-1/4 cups of dip

(VEGETARIAN)

  • One 14 oz. can (398 ml) cannelini beans (aka white kidney beans) OR 1-1/4 cups cooked cannelini beans
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice 
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon very finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon very finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon very finely chopped fresh sage leaf (approximately 2 medium leaves)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pita or flatbreads for serving
  1. Place rinsed and drained beans in a large mixing bowl.  Add olive oil and lemon juice.
  2. Using a potato masher, mash beans until they are completely mashed and relatively smooth.  Do not use a food processor as it results in a dip that is grainy and lacks creaminess.
  3. Mix in chopped herbs, garlic and add salt to taste.  Dip can be made in advance and refrigerated until ready to use.  Serve with flatbread or grilled pita wedges.

Bon Appetit and Enjoy!