Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pasta Aglio e Olio

Don't let this not so fab picture deceive you! This pasta is killer! 

I used to avoid pasta for a long period in my life as the insecurities of fitting a cookie-cutter image got the best of me and I avoided my now starchy favourites like the plague! Oh how silly I was! The wisdom of womanhood finally slapped me around a bit and taught me that anything in moderation is perfectly fine. The less you stress about the delicious food you eat, the less you calorie count, the less you feel guilty about food- the happier and healthier and lovelier you are in life! That's my pithy piece of advice for the day;)

This dish is so so so so so so so so so so GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD! I saute lots of garlic in lots of extra virgin olive oil and throw in some wine, let the baby reduce, add my chicken and presto! You are left with the most delicious sauce to lace your chewy al dente pieces of pasta.. I love food!

1 pound chicken cut into cubes, sprinkled with salt and pepper
5 cloves garlic smashed and finely chopped
10 leaves of basil finely chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1 package mixed mushrooms (crimini, oyster etc)
1/2 a head of broccoli rabe cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup freshly grated parm cheese
any pasta of your choice
salt and pepper to taste

Heat 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a pan. Add the mushrooms and cook on med-high until they sweat and brown. Reserve.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add pasta (stirring occasionally) about one minute before your pasta is finished add the broccoli rabe. Place the oil, garlic and chilis in a large saute pan. Cook on medium-low heat until the garlic softens. Add the basil and wine. Cook on med-high heat for about one minute. Return heat to medium and add the chicken and reserved mushrooms. Add a ladle full of pasta water (before you add the broccoli to the water as it will make it taste more bitter). Saute until the chicken is cooked. Add the pasta, broccoli rabe and grated parm. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Polenta and Stacked Veggies

With the holidays in full swing I haven't been cooking as much as I'd like to(gasp). As much as I love to cook a delicious meal at home, I find dining out with friends and family terribly hard to resist. I was all by my lonesome this evening as my husband had more holiday parties to attend so I decided to indulge in something he doesn't particularly like...polenta! "What, why doesn't your husband like creamy smooth, parmigiano laced, milky polenta", you ask. The answer is "I also have no clue"! But that's okay, polenta for one is just as delicious! I whipped up a big batch and ate it with crunchy char grilled veggies that tasted of garlic and aged balsamic.. Oh goodness, this dish is HEAVENLY!

2 cups polenta
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup whole milk
1 cup grated parm cheese
1 tablespoon basil chiffonade (fancy term for thinly sliced)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon aged balsamic
1 Italian eggplant cut in 1 inch rounds
1 large yellow and green zucchini cut in a 1/2 inch thick bias
1 red and green bell pepper cut into 2 inch lengthwise strips
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a grill pan on your oven. In the meantime sprinkle the eggplant with 1/2 tablespoon of salt and let the stand. Toss zucchini in 1-2 tablespoons of oil or until lightly coated. Place on the hot grill and turn over after the bottom side has grill marks (about1-2 minutes). Repeat. Place cooked zucchini in a large bowl with the smashed pieces of garlic. Toss the peppers in oil until both sides are lightly coated and cook about 5 minutes or so on each side (they take a lot longer). Add cooked peppers to the large bowl.
Rinse the salt off the eggplant and pat dry. Rub the eggplant with olive oil, it absorbs it very quickly so just ensure that both sides have a light coating. Place on the grill and cook about 2-3 minutes on each side. Add cooked eggplant to the rest of the veggies and toss in a good amount of salt (about1-2 teaspoons) and pepper as well as the balsamic.

Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a med-large saucepan.  Reduce the heat to low, add the polenta and whisk for about 5 minutes or until it has come together in a porridge like consistency. Add the parm cheese, basil, milk and a dash of salt. Whisk until the cheese has melted.

Plate by spooning a good amount of polenta on a bowl, top with some veggies, top with more polenta and a dash of grated parm cheese...yum!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Baby Greens

There's nothing special to report apart from the fact that I absolutely adore baby greens. They're so enchanting and look like art on your plate as micro pieces of endive, lola rose, radicchio etc complement one another in size, colour and texture! I simply peel the leaves off as each piece is perfectly tiny, wash them under cold water and pat dry. This is perfect when paired with a lovely dressing like my aged balsamic vinaigrette!

Vinaigrette Ingredients:
1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons good balsamic (I use a medium aged one- not the ones that costs LOADS and are meant to be used as a finishing element!!)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Place all the ingredients and a jar and close lid. Shake well and toss over the salad leaves!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Linguini with Asparagus, Buffalo Mozzarella and Poached Eggs

I was pressed for time and needed to make a hearty lunch and presto- I made this. It's surprisingly easy and ridiculously delicious! The sauce gets cooked in the time it takes you to boil your pasta! When you mix all the components together and the golden yolk spills from its casing into the basil garlic sauce- it creates a beautifully rich pasta that's cut with my favourite jarred Italian peppers and fresh bite of asparagus! You must try this at home!

1 bunch asparagus, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 a pack of linguine
1/2teaspoon red chili flakes
2 eggs
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
5 cloves of garlic pounded in a mortar and pestle
10 leafs of basil pounded in a mortar and pestle
1/2 tablespoon of your favourite Italian jarred peppers
1 large bocconcini or buffalo mozzarella ball
salt and pepper to taste

bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and throw in your pasta. In the meantime heat oil and butter in a saucepan, add garlic and chili flakes and cook on low heat. Cook until the garlic softens and turns golden add the basil and cook for one minute then turn off the heat.

When the pasta is 2 minutes from being ready, throw in the asparagus. Remove the asparagus and pasta from the water and place in the garlic basil sauce and toss in a ladle of pasta water. Let this simmer on medium heat for 1 minute- making sure to toss everything together. Turn off the heat and place pieces of mozzarella on top of the pasta..

Meanwhile add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to the pasta water and reduce to a very soft simmer. Crack the egg into a ramekin- make sure there are no shells. Create a whirlpool effect in the simmer water by stirring your slotted spoon in a circular motion and add the egg in the middle of the whirlpool. Repeat. Cook on a gentle simmer for about 2-3 minutes or until the egg whites cover and become slightly firm. If you're not used to this make three eggs and use one as a tester before serving the others. Remove the eggs from the water with a slotted spoon and gently pat dry with a paper towel. Place on top of the pasta and crack some fresh ground pepper. Place the hot peppers on top and call it a day!