Monday, January 31, 2011

Parkas and Pasta

How many times have we endured the Canadian winter, and it's still the hottest topic of conversation between November and April. Whether we're surprised that the cold has taken longer to set in, or how long it's lasted this year, or just talking about the bone-chilling, teeth-chattering, skin-cracking cold, we persist. So naturally the first thing I want to tell you about (and the next handful of posts are likely going to start similarly) is that it's freezing here! Now since carbohydrates and fat keep our bodies (and hearts) happy, I propose we eat pasta until April. Think about the variations of pasta and sauce that are available to amuse ourselves with while we wait for the blossoms to grace our snow covered trees...

Casarecco with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

(If you have a really good jar of roasted peppers, feel free to substitute)

250g dry Casarecco (or pasta of your choice)
2 Sweet Red Bell Peppers
1 clove Garlic
1 shallot
small bunch of fresh basil
olive oil
good pinch of salt
cracked black pepper
Parmigiano Regiano

Roast the red peppers, garlic, and Shallots (skin on) in the oven and peal when cool enough to handle. Blend/food process peppers, shallot, garlic, and basil with a pinch of good course salt and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Taste the sauce and tweak seasoning to taste, then transfer the sauce to a medium pan on medium-low heat.

In the mean time, boil the pasta in plenty of well-salted water (salt the water after it comes to a boil, as salty water takes longer to boil) until al dente and drain, keeping about 1/4c of the starchy pasta liquid.

Toss the pasta and 1/4c liquid in the pepper purée and mix gently until it all comes together and the pasta is well coated with sauce. Grate some Parmigiano right into the pan and move around gently to enrich the sauce.

Serve with additional grated cheese and a glass of hearty red wine and count down the days until picnic season with us!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Small town winter soup

We've been feeling the small town winter chill lately. Trapped inside by negative temperatures in the twenty belows, looking out the windows, draft protected by sheets of plastic, at a slick cover of soupy slush on everything; you know, the kind that gets into the felt liners of your boots and freezes your toes and climbs its cold little fingers up the hem of your pants until you're completely soaked through up to the knee. And it seems like the only way to warm up properly is with a good cup of hearty soup and a long novel (I'm snowplowing through War and Peace for the first time, which is apropos because it's the only book that will last as long as the Canadian winter). But there are still a few good things going on in this small town. The farmer's market is still on twice a week. A nice treat to combat the cold weather blues and a great way to stock up the pantry with enough root vegetables to last you until Spring.

Saffron, Sweet Pea and Squash soup

1 large butternut squash, cubed and roasted until soft
2C vegetable stock/ or 1 bullion cube
3 tbsp olive oil
1 Spanish onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 dried chilli, crushed
1/2 tsp saffron
1C frozen sweet peas

This recipe is so easy and so good. Rub cubed squash with half of olive oil, season and roast at 425 degrees; it should take a half-hour to forty-five minutes. Wait twenty minutes, then take out a large soup pot (that you have a snug fitting lid for) and saute your onions and crushed garlic in the remaining oil for ten minutes or until soft and just starting to caramelize. Add turmeric and chilli and stir into the onion and garlic mixture, cooking for one additional minute. Put stock onto simmer and add saffron once its boiling.

When your squash is cooked (you should be able to stab through the flesh with a fork), peel if you haven't already done so and toss the cubes into your soup pot. Saute everything for an additional two to three minutes. Now pour saffron infused stock over top, cover and simmer for fifteen to twenty minutes until squash is falling apart. Remove from heat and blend; it's easiest if you have a hand-held blender. Return to heat, add frozen peas and bring back to a boil. Simmer for three minutes and serve with crusty bread and butter. Yum!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bach Biscuits

I have no idea where I got this recipe, but I have it written on the reverse side of page two of Bach's Prelude from Prelude, Fugue, Allegro. It's amazing how certain things just work. I've been making these biscuits, for at least four years, and have never bothered to transcribe the recipe somewhere else. Instead, every time I crave biscuits I pull out my Bach sheet music and turn to page two. It's a really good recipe. Good enough to add to a classical repertoire...

Recipe: Basic Country Biscuits

2C all purpose flour, sifted
4stp baking powder (get Rumford's if you can)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp sugar
1/2C butter cut into cubes (very very cold)
2/3C cold milk

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Put butter in the freezer. Sift all of the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl and set aside. Work the cold butter into the dry ingredients using a pastry cutter, a grater, or your fingers. If for some reason the butter is starting to warm up, stick the whole bowl in the freezer for a few minutes and start again. You must not let the butter melt, if you want fluffy biscuits. Once the butter is worked in and the mixture resembles crumbs, add the milk and mix to get a dough. With cold hands, form a round workable dough.

Roll out the dough between two sheets of wax paper to your desired thickness. Keep in mind, they will double in height when you bake them. Cut biscuits out in whatever shape and size you prefer. If you are preparing these ahead of a meal, you should refrigerate them (plastic wrapped) at this point and bake them whenever you are ready to eat them.

Brush with milk or egg and bake 8-12 minutes. Baking time depends on thickness so watch closely.

These biscuits can be sliced open and slathered with homemade jams, or used to make afternoon tea sandwiches or, of course, served with a meal.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy new year to all (and one year to us!)

Wow, The Salty Pear is a year old. How odd and exciting and fun to think that our little experiment and reminder to ourselves to write down our recipes has become something shared and beautiful and fun for our friends, family and everyone else. And it's lasted fifty-two months of photographs, picked up from the pharmacy, four apartments and three broken bodums, while keeping two cooks thoroughly happy and sated. We wish a happy new year to all! And resolve to keep cooking and posting, eating and reading, and not the least of all, enjoying it all.

We didn't manage to get much posted last month. Not that our holiday season kept us from the kitchen--- we managed to make chocolate barks, tarts, cookies, a roasted bird, nuts and all kinds of Christmas and Yalda treats. Not to mention all the scrumptious Canadiana winter snacks and the Persian pomegranites being in season--- so yummy. Maybe even more exciting, the promise of a present: there is a gorgeous little chrome, hand-crank pasta maker in our kitchen, tried and tested on New Years Eve. Expect a plethora of pasta recipes to follow shortly. But for starters, a wonderful, airy breakfast to start fresh in January.

Buttermilk Waffles and Strawberries (best served with Mimosas and Maple syrup)

Dry ingredients

1 1/2 C All-purpose or C & P flour
1 tbsp baking powder
a pinch of fine salt

Wet ingredients

1 1/4 C buttermilk (add a 1/4 C of yogurt and a tsp of vinegar into 1C of 2% milk if unavailable)
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, whites separated and set aside
2 tbsp butter, melted
a pint of strawberries, sliced for garnish

Start by preheating your waffle iron (if you don't have one you're missing out -- ours only cost like ten bucks, just skip the next bad movie you were going to see in a theatre and treat yourself). Sift dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and set aside. Whisk melted butter, vanilla and egg yolks into buttermilk, or substitute dairy concoction. Form a well in the dry ingredients, and gently stir in wet ingredients with a fork. Be careful not to over mix, or you'll end up with an unaerated batter. Now, whisk your egg whites until they form stiff, erect peaks. If you have an egg beater or electric beater or whatever, go for it. Just make sure the whites are stiff. Then, quickly with as few turns as possible, fold the whites into the batter. Cook immediately, the iron should stop spewing steam to let you know they're done. Remove and serve when golden brown, topped with strawberries and syrup. Reenact a new years toast with OJ and bubbly, for fun. Enjoy and best in 2011.