Friday, July 9, 2010

A healthier Carbonara Sauce?

So Thursday is my official yummy dinner night! After picking up another basket of veggies i made my meal plan...easy.  The basket this week had carrots with the green tops, purple romaine lettuce, green beans, yellow zucchini, another type of zucchini (to be discovered later) basil, italian parsley, and cucumbers.
This weeks produce was a little more basic so I just went with what I was in the mood for which was pasta. Recently my favorite and easiest pasta has been a carbonara. Not a lot of ingredients and by the time the water boils and the pasta cooks everything is ready to assemble. Here is the recipe for what I made this week, but feel free to sub in whatever fresh ingredients you have as long as you keep the basics intact you should be fine. Oh and the healthy part, I just figure since I am throwing in a bunch of vegetables to a pasta sauce that normally doesn't have any it makes it good for me right?! I also cut down the amount of egg yolks. My way of thinking is if all the ingredients are pure & fresh, i.e. no preservatives or things I can't pronounce, then I am one step to being a healthier human, I never said low fat just healthier!

Carbonara with Yellow Zucchini, Lima Beans & Fresh Peas

2 1/4" slices of Pancetta diced (bite size pieces)
1 Yellow Zucchini diced (bite size pieces)
Handful each of fresh Peas & fresh Lima beans ( I bought mine at the Atwater market and shelled them myself! You can taste the difference)
1 Garlic Flower if you have finely chopped
1.5 tbsp chopped fresh thyme (this brings all the flavour so use fresh)
2 egg yolks
200ml cream
4 handfuls of freshly grated parmesan
Salt & Pepper
365 G fussili Pasta or rigatoni

Bring salted water to a boil, add pasta and cook for time on package. Meantime over med/high heat saute pancetta until slightly brown, then remove from pan onto a paper towel. Add zucchini to pancetta oil and leave it in the pan for a few minutes without touching it so it can brown nicely, then toss it to brown all sides, takes about 5 mins total. Add  lima beans, peas, garlic flowers & thyme saute for 3 mins then remove pan from heat, add the pancetta back to pan. In a bowl mix the egg yolk, cream and parmesan together. Before the pasta is finished cooking reserve about a cup of the cooking liquid to add to the sauce later. Drain Pasta, toss directly in the pan with the veggies, stir it up a bit, and then add the egg mixture and toss all together right away, be sure to toss the pasta with the egg mixture quickly or you will make scrambled eggs! Adjust seasoning by adding salt & pepper if needed. If you find it isn't saucy enough add a bit of pasta water and sometimes a bit more parmesan is needed. Serve and enjoy!

The Veggie and Pancetta cane be a side dish for any meal

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Organic Vegetable Basket Inspires Dinner!

In my previous post I mentioned that I signed up for an organic basket program for the summer. It started this week and the picture above is from the first basket. All the vegetables are organic, more important to me is that they are fresh and local. They come from a farm in Franklin, Quebec which is just an hour out of the city. The program is 20 weeks long, so from now until mid November, there will be a basket available once a week. I foresee Thursdays being my new big dinner days! This week I didn't prepare a thing until I picked up the basket, then I went to the grocery store to get any missing ingredients. I think this is the best way to be inspired by your ingredients, instead of starting from a recipe. I gathered the ingredients and then said "what I can I cook from this?"

So for the contents of this weeks basket: Radishes which are bigger than golf balls!, Beets with greens intact, green onions, 1 zucchini, oak leaf lettuce, bok choy, thai basil, savory, garlic flowers & I exchanged cilantro for a huge napa cabbage. I was really pleased with the contents. There are a few items that I have never cooked with before but that is part of the adventure, plus it forces you to create new recipes!

So for dinner I made a garden fresh salad with honey/champagne vinaigrette & cabbage rolls.
 For the salad I used the oak leaves (new ingredient for me) they have a soft texture like a bibb lettuce but with a bit of a kick like arugula. I peeled and shaved a beet (if you slice a beet very thin it is enjoyable raw), green onions, radishes, & zucchini flowers (from my garden) I just tore them into the salad at the last minute. Ingredients not from my garden or the basket were goat cheese & tomatoes (next week hopefully). The recipe for the vinaigrette is at the bottom. The combination between the soft lettuce, crispy beets, smooth goat cheese and overall freshness of everything went really well with the sweet vinaigrette. When I tasted the vinaigrette on it's own it was very sweet from the honey, but it worked really with the earthiness from the beets and the tangy goat cheese.

For the cabbage rolls, I picked up a meatloaf mix (ground pork,veal,beef) at the grocery store and used some leftover tomato sauce that I had made earlier in the week. I sauteed onions, the zucchini and garlic (from my garden) together until softened, added the meat. I chopped up some of the Savory herb which I would say is like rosemary, sage & thyme got together. It is a very woodsy herb. I cooled the mixture added 1 egg whisked and 2 good handfuls of freshly grated parmesan. I blanched the large cabbage leaves in boiling water for 2-3 minutes until they were softened then drained and dried them. Then the assembly began. Put a little tomato sauce in the bottom of a baking dish so the rolls don't stick. Place a cabbage leaf on a board and add about 2 1/2 good spoonfuls of filling at about the middle of the leaf. Fold the bottom of the leaf up, tuck the sides in and roll to create a little package. Some of my leaves were broken it's not a big deal after-all cabbage rolls aren't exactly a gourmet meal! Place the rolls in the baking dish, top with tomato sauce and bake covered for 30 minutes  @ 350.  I topped them with a little more parmesan, they were pretty yummy and not as much of a pain to make as I thought they would be! They also reheat really well. 
Honey Vinaigrette

  • 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 5 tablespoons extra-light olive oil
  • Ground white pepper

Whisk together the first 3 ingredients and then slowly whisk in the oil so the dressing emulsifies. Add pepper to taste. 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Growing Dinner

Planting a vegetable garden is one of my favorite summer activities. The freshness and rewarding feeling you get from going out to literally pick and see what you will be cooking for dinner is unbelievable, and the veggies really do taste better!

This year we planted eggplant, zucchini, purple romaine, boston lettuce, cherry tomatoes, monte carlo tomatoes, jalapenos, green beans, butternut squash, pumpkin, heirloom tomatoes (courtesy of my aunt Jackie) and red & yellow beets. We always have raspberries, blueberries and Jerusalem artichokes which come back every year (perennials). But this year we had a few surprise veggies, green onions that I planted last year and never grew and Garlic!! I guess maybe they take a year to grow or maybe because they are bulbs they will come back every year. (fingers crossed) I also have a huge pot of herbs (Basil, oregano, thyme, mint, chives, arugula, and sage)

Everything is growing really well this year, I haven't bought lettuce in 2 weeks and now that the eggplant and zucchini has started I can cross that off my shopping list too! It amazes me every year that I spend 20-25 dollars to plant the garden and then don't go veggie shopping for months. That is the best investment return I have seen in a while.

The only thing that isn't growing is the beets, but this is the first year we have tried them and we planted them from seeds, which doesn't always work. The best advise that I have to people wanting to try a vegetable garden is go for it! I would suggest buying the plants already started instead of trying from seeds which is very difficult because our summer isn't long enough to allow everything to mature. For what it costs to try to grow veggies it is worth it even if you don't have complete success on every front. At the end of the season, you have saved money, eaten healthier (no chemicals) and you have the rewarding feeling of growing your own food despite the fact that you don't live on a farm. If anyone has there own garden stories please feel free to share them I would love to hear about other people's successes and failures!