Friday, June 30, 2017

Orecchiette with cherry tomatoes and baby spinach

Pasta is fun. It comes in so many different shapes. Tonight I used a pasta called orecchiette or little ear. It's a shape that originated in Southern Italy. Mini penne would also be a good choice. The trick is to use a pasta shape that allows the successful blending into the pasta of other ingredients. I find this is very hard to do when using spaghetti. The added vegetables tend to separate from the long strands of pasta.

Ingredients (2 servings)

10 oz. cherry tomatoes
2 garlic cloves (crushed)
1 small, minced garlic clove
3 Tbsp olive oil 
150gr orecchiette
1 cup of packed, baby spinach
2 oz. grated Parmesan
A sprinkle of dried, crushed, hot pepper 
Salt, fresh ground pepper

Cooking details

Set ample water for the pasta on the stove set to high. While the water is heating, gently fry two crushed garlic cloves over medium heat in 3 Tbsp of olive oil. Let the cloves sizzle gently for ten minutes but don't let them burn. At the end of ten minutes, remove the crushed cloves and add the minced garlic. Again, do not burn. Thirty seconds may be all the time needed for the minced garlic to start turning a light, golden brown. Add the cherry tomatoes and continue frying over medium heat with occasional stirring.

At this point the pot of water should be at a rolling boil, add the orecchiette. Keep stirring the tomatoes now and then and, if the tomatoes should start to shrivel, turn the heat to low. When the pasta is done al dente, remove a cup of pasta water, pour off the remaining water and add the pasta to the deep pan with the tomatoes. Stir all and then fold the baby spinach into the mix. Add as much of the retained pasta water as necessary and serve as soon as the small spinach leaves have wilted.

At the table, sprinkle on the grated Parmesan, add a twist or two of grated, fresh pepper plus a pinch or two of dried, crushed, hot pepper. Salt if necessary. Oh, I forgot to mention the red wine. Something Italian and dry goes very nicely but I cheated and served a Jackson Triggs red wine from a box. I am, after all, on a budget.

After thought: My wife and I chatted briefly about my dinner time creation. We both agreed that sprinkling a little Italian seasoning, from Club House or McCormick, over the tomatoes while simmering would add a little extra punch of flavour.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

$5 U.S. a month is worth it to subscribe to NYT Cooking.

I made this cod with sweet peppers and olives following a NYT Cooking recipe. Excellent.

The following is taken from, and edited from, the New York Times website.

The New York Times has done it. The newspaper erected a paywall around many of the recipes, collections and features offered on its Cooking website. Readers are being asked to pay for a subscription in order to access the Cooking site.

Here's the scoop: subscribers to The Times have access to Cooking. Those who are not subscribers to the newspaper will receive a free, 28-day trial subscription to Cooking, at the end of which they will be asked to subscribe. A subscription to Cooking costs $5 a month.

The newspaper posted this change in policy saying:

"It is a core belief of The New York Times that we produce journalism good enough that people are willing to pay for it. That journalism includes our recipes and instruction here on Cooking, and the digital features we use to support them on all your devices . . . "

The newspaper went on to explain that it did not make the decision to charge for access to Cooking without a lot of thought. Giving readers access to the very best recipes in the world, along with the ability to save and organize them, and to use them on whatever device they wanted to, with accompanying instruction to make them delicious, every time, is expensive. It would be great to be able to continue to provide all that for free forever but that is simply not possible.

Times writers travel ceaselessly, cook every day and test recipes relentlessly. Photographs are taken and videos made to help readers make cooking, and planning, and shopping for meals easier, more enjoyable, and yes, even fun.

Paid subscriptions will help the New York Times to continue to do just that.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Experimenting with a white sauce that's low in saturated fat

All my heart doctors, and I have a slew, agree on one thing: keep saturated fat to a minimum. Fats, like olive oil, are not a worry. But saturated fats are another matter all together. In other words, watch that butter.

If you don't believe me, I'm not surprised. Lots of people don't. And that includes friends and relatives. They all quote articles like the one that ran in the local paper. It proclaimed that saturated fat was not bad for you. It was wrong.

Please read: Setting the record straight: It’s best to swap out saturated fats for healthier fats. You will discover that a new advisory from the American Heart Association (AHA) concluded that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats will lower the incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

So tonight I decided to try and make a white sauce for my penne that did not rely on cream. I used four ounces of one percent milk and thickened the sauce with 50gr of chopped cauliflower, 1 Tbsp of instant potato flakes, and one minced garlic clove.

First, I quickly browned the garlic in some hot olive oil. This took but 30 seconds. I added the previously microwaved chopped cauliflower and stirred. After a couple of minutes, I added the milk and kept stirring with the heat set to low. I added the instant potato flakes and kept stirring. The sauce was soon thick enough for my purposes. I set the sauce aside in the still warm pot.

I put 150gr of penne in some fast boiling water and while the penne was cooking I heated some olive oil in a deep frying pan. With the oil hot, I added 7 ounces (200gr) of asparagus. The spears were cut into 3/4 inch long pieces. The asparagus was done just about the same time as the penne.

I put the cooked penne into the deep pan with the pan-grilled asparagus, added the warm white sauce, some salt and pepper, sprinkled on a little grated Parmesan and about a Tbsp of basil chopped into long, thin strips. I tossed all until everything was well mixed.

At the table I added some dried red pepper flakes but this is optional. My wife liked the dinner just as served, unless you count the extra grated Parmesan she added. If she were making a change, she said, it would be to add some chopped nuts, possibly pistachios.

This recipe is all my own. If it interests you, try it. But the reason I'm posting this is to encourage readers to strike out on their own. Set some goals and try to meet them. My goal was to serve a filling dinner for two that was not too high in points, my wife goes to Weight Watchers, and that contained very little saturated fat, while delivering lots of flavour.

I think I was successful. My wife agrees.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Even my wife has been liking the fish I cook

My wife likes to say she hates fish. She doesn't. She doesn't realize it but she doesn't hate fish. She hates poorly handled fish. Fish, as a rule, should not taste fishy. If it does, there is a problem.

I got a large bag of frozen sole containing more than two dozen small filets. Each serving works out to about $1.30 for two filets. This is affordable even for a senior.

Would you like to try it? Here's a link to the New York Times recipe I used: Sole Meuniere.

Note: My wife had some basil growing in her garden. I couldn't resist and at the table I sprinkled fresh chopped basil liberally on each serving. It looks a little messy but it tasted just fine.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Getting Kids to Eat

I am always on the lookout for recipes that I think would appeal to my granddaughters. The kids can be damn picky. Tonight I came across a penne with roasted cherry tomatoes recipe on the New York Times Cooking site. I think I might be able to sell this one to my little girls.

What makes this recipe so appealing is that it contains only seven ingredients: penne, cherry tomatoes, bread crumbs, olive oil, pecorino romano cheese or Parmesan, salt and pepper. Note: No spices and no herbs. This is a plus when cooking for kids.

Personally, I have a hate on for pasta with an abundance of sauce. This recipe does not call for any sauce at all. None. Just the fresh flavour of roasted cherry tomatoes and the clean flavour of pasta. This sounds good to me and I think it may also sound good to Fiona and Isla. I'll find out next week.

Another link to a fine New York Times recipe

I'm in a rut. I cook too much pasta.

I like pasta. My wife likes pasta. Pasta is both easy to make and exceedingly malleable. It can be the base of a fine vegetarian dinner one night and the base of a complex meat dish another evening. That said, it is still pasta.

I decided to force myself to make something without pasta. I went with a garlicky chicken with lemon-anchovy sauce recipe on the New York Times Cooking site. Click on the link to discover all the details.

And what did I serve with my chicken? Uh, rice. A pasta replacement.