Saturday, January 13, 2018

Something fast: pasta

A sprinkle of dried hot pepper seeds, added at the table, kicked up this dish a notch.
I took two of my granddaughters to their ski lessons today. It was cold on the hill and my oldest granddaughter suffered from the the cold today. This is not like her but it does happen and it was a disaster. She didn't want to whine and so she didn't tell her instructor that her feet were feezing. By the time I got her inside, she was sobbing from the pain.

It was quite the morning. When those two left with their dad, I was tuckered. I opened a beer and before I got it down, my third granddaughter arrived. It was a busy afternoon following a very busy morning.

I had no energy for preparing a nice weekend dinner. I rummaged about the fridge and found some Egg Creations, a Danish Fontina cheese, cherry tomatoes, garlic and a big head of broccoli.

I am not allowed eggs. The yolks contain too much cholesterol. Therefore, I eat Egg Creations Original with the yolks removed. And the Danish Fontina cheese may be a knock off of the Italian original but it is less expensive and melts wonderfully when chopped into small pieces to be added to steaming hot pasta. I always love cherry tomatoes fried with a little olive oil and chopped garlic. I knew I could not go wrong.

I cooked the pasta and drained it, added the tomatoes fried with chopped garlic, added the Egg Creations and stirred. When the eggs stuff began to set, I added the Dutch Fontina cheese. The small cubes began melting immediately.

I divided the pasta in half in order to serve both my wife and me. I dressed the dinner with the steamed (micro waved) broccoli and voila, dinner was served -- and it was good, not great, but damn good. (I hope my one granddaughter, the one with the cold feet, is feeling better and will be up for skiing next weekend. A bad experience can sour a person . . . )

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Cauliflower as a side dish

Forgive the picture. It's winter and the sun sets before I serve dinner. I must shoot my pictures under the glaring light of the kitchen pot lights. Ugh.

Now, that I've got that out of the way. Check out the pan-roasted cauliflower with garlic, parsley and rosemary posting in the cooking section of the New York Times. I served this to company and the woman, a fine cook in her own right, wanted the recipe.

I add some large, cherry tomatoes and some sliced almonds to my version. It was yummy. And the squeeze of lemon added at the table proved very important. So, don't forget the lemon slices.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

I made a fast dinner using leftovers on Hallowe'en.

The kids start ringing our doorbell early on Hallowe'en. This makes it the perfect evening for a quick, clean-out-the-fridge dinner. I made pan fried sole fillets topped with pan roasted sliced almonds and grilled minced garlic with large chunks of sundried tomato. Off to the side, I served oven roasted red peppers and cherry tomatoes plus pan-grilled romaine. All came on a bed of long, grain rice.

I roasted the tomatoes and pepper slices in the oven at 400-degrees for about forty-five minutes. The next time I will cut the time back to half and hour. Luckily, Judy loves the pepper slices slightly crispy and caramelized. Overdone or not, she loved 'em. (You gotta know your audience.)

The romaine was half a head, a leftover from last night's dinner. I chopped it in half and quickly grilled it in a little olive oil with minced garlic. It took less than five minutes and was flipped once.

The almond slices were toasted in a small frying pan. It took but a few minutes and then I left them to be sprinkled later on the sole. To add a little extra punch to the pan fried sole, I gently fried some minced garlic and sundried tomatoes in a little olive oil for about a minute. The mix was drizzled on the sole before serving.

The sole was fried in a little hot olive oil for five minutes - two and a half minutes per side. It had a nice browned look. I like that. But, it wasn't overcooked. I salt and peppered it in the pan while it cooked.

And the long, grain rice was put on the burner about twenty-five minutes before I planned on serving it. It was done in about twenty minutes. Rice can be cooked and then left as it stays warm in the pot with the lid in place. Just remember to turn off the burner.

Being retired and living on a fixed income means I must cook often I must not toss leftovers. Seniors, like me, must watch their money. I'm rather proud of this dinner made from ingredients hanging about in our fridge. It was tasty and cheap. . . . Oh, gotta run. Some ghost or goblin is at the door.

Monday, September 25, 2017

An amazing salad featuring raw brussel sprouts

I love the fall. Real field tomatoes and freshly picked brussel sprouts. I managed to put both into tonight's dinner. Judy gave my effort a two thumbs up.

The brussel sprouts were inspired by a recipe found online in the Cooking section of the New York Times. The writer of the piece thought the recipe a winner but many of the comments said otherwise. Many folk found the dish boring as published. I kicked it up with lemon, green onions and pan roasted minced garlic.


  • Two dozen brussel sprouts, stems removed, exterior leaves peeled, and then coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup of very coarsely chopped, pan-roasted, walnuts
  • 1/4 cup of Pecorino Romano cheese, again very coarsely chopped
  • 4 coarsely chopped green onions
  • 1 minced garlic clove, pan roasted in a little olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp good extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • salt to taste

  1. Remove the stems of the brussel sprouts and the exterior leaves. Coarsely chop the raw sprouts and place in a large bowl.
  2. Mix the olive oil, lemon juice, pan roasted minced garlic, coarsely chopped green onions, Pecorino Romano cheese and walnuts.
  3. Add olive oil mixture to brussel sprouts and mix well. Feel free to use your hands. Salt to taste.

I served this with some slices of roast chicken on a bed of Basmati rice with fresh field tomatoes on the side. At the table I sprinkled some grated Parmesan on both the brussel sprouts and tomatoes. The Parmesan was an afterthought. I had some grated Parmesan in a bowl in the fridge. It looked nice on the plate but it wasn't necessary.

The bread, by the way, came from Angelo's on Wonderland Road North in London. For good bread, I always go to Angelo's. The bread featuring sun-dried tomatoes is now available only on weekends. It is one of my all-time favourite breads.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Garlicky pasta & lemon: served daily but always different

Tonight I made the garlicky pasta with lemon recipe that I have been making every night for dinner for the past few evenings. Each night I add different ingredients to play with the base flavour. Tonight I added coarsely chopped tomatoes, two kinds, about three tablespoons of coarsely chopped hazelnuts, some chopped basil and, of course, grated Parmesan, about a quarter cup. At the table I added some extra dried pepper flakes and more grated Parmesan.

The trick here is to use richly-flavoured field tomatoes. If your tomatoes are the hard, tasteless variety form Mexico, this dinner will fail. It desperately needs the strong, fresh tomato flavour. I also used about ten cherry-sized yellow-cream tomatoes. All in all, this had lots of tomato flavour.

One often reads how hard it is to feed oneself on a budget. No it isn't. Not if one knows a little about cooking. If you insist on opening a can, you had better be prepared to open your wallet.

I bought my pasta on sale for 89-cents for a 900g bag. My tomatoes and broccoli came from Thomas Bros. Farmer Market on highway 4 south of London. (I used one, large, red tomato.) Parmesan is expensive but I buy it in big blocks from Costco. It's a lot of cheese but it keeps and goes a long way. The hazelnuts came from the Bulk Barn in the Smart REIT run mall in London's northwest.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

I'm still tryng variations on garlic, oil and pasta

If you read the post before this one, Garlic plus pasta can almost carry a meal, you will know I am experimenting with flavour riffs based on garlicky pasta. Tonight it was the usual dinner for two starting with 150g of small penne flavoured with a tablespoon of pan-roasted minced garlic and quarter teaspoon of dried hot red pepper flakes.

To the garlicky pasta base, I added:

  • 1/4 cup pan-roasted pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped artichoke hearts 
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped black olives
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup of pasta water (reserved before draining pasta)

Originally, I was going to use coarsely chopped hazelnuts but Judy convinced me to use the pine nuts in our fridge instead. She wanted to cut into our growing list of leftover ingredients. She was right.

To get an idea how to proceed with this dinner, please read Garlic plus pasta can almost carry a meal. But don't let yourself get bogged down in following the recipe. Be bold. Invent your own riffs on this solid, basic pasta recipe. Tomorrow night I am going to try basil and coarsely chopped field tomato as the additions to the garlicky pasta. I think it will be wonderful.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Garlic plus pasta can almost carry a meal

I love pasta. 75g dried pasta almost makes a meal, at least for me. A 900g bag can be found for under a dollar. That's enough pasta for a dozen healthy dinners at little more than 7-cents a piece. Pretty inexpensive, eh?

Of course, pasta alone does not make a meal. But it doesn't take much to turn a plate of  pasta into a pleasant dinner, especially when accompanied by a glass of white wine poured from a box.

Before boiling the pasta, take one tablespoon plus a little extra of fresh, minced, Canadian garlic and  brown it in a couple of tablespoons of good olive oil. Don't use too high a heat. You don't want to burn the garlic, just turn it golden brown. When done, if you'd like a little bit of spicy heat, add some red pepper flakes to the pan. A quarter teaspoon, or a little more, should suffice. Now, set all aside and turn your attention to the pasta.

Cook the pasta in a little less water than the instructions on the package suggest. This will increase the starch in the water. Reserve about a quarter of a cup of the pasta water immediately before draining.

With the pasta drained, add the remaining, raw, minced garlic. Half a teaspoon is about perfect. If you are not as fond of garlic as I am, add a little less. Raw garlic is more pungent than the pan roasted garlic. Roasting mellows the strong garlic flavour.

Toss in a teaspoon of grated lemon zest, a tablespoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice and add the reserved pasta water. Stir over medium heat until the water has almost completely cooked away.

Finally, add a quarter cup of chopped fresh basil, an ounce of grated Parmesan and 2 ounces of pan roasted pine nuts. Salt and pepper to taste. Have extra grated Parmesan available at the table.

Ingredient list - serves two

  • 150g  dried pasta. I favour pennine (small penne).
  • 1 Tbsp plus one and a half tsp of minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp good quality virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • 2 ounces grated Parmesan
  • 2 ounces roasted pine nuts
  • salt and fresh, grated pepper

If you don't feel like basil and pine nuts with your pasta, add something else. For instance, when the minced garlic is golden, stir in a half teaspoon of coarsely ground fennel seed along with the red pepper flakes before setting aside. Then, when the pasta is al dente, drain and add 8 ounces of coarsely chopped artichoke hearts in place of the basil. I'm partial to the artichoke hearts packed in water and bottled not canned. Finally, add two ounces of chopped, roasted hazelnuts and stir over medium-high heat until the pasta water has disappeared.

Try thinking of other variations on this garlicky pasta theme. I have tried substituting four ounces of pitted, black olives and adding these along with the garlic and Parmesan to the drained pasta. I also add two ounces of chopped, pan-roasted walnuts for a bit of crunch.

How would you make this garlicky pasta theme your own? Any ideas?

For a vegetable with this pasta dinner, I'm partial to asparagus but I'm sure there options here, as well.