Saturday, April 27, 2013

Little Ears

The LCBO puts out a magazine about every 2 months called Food & Drink. People go ga-ga for it. It's full of great ideas, new gadgets & products as well as food and drink recipes. Some rave about the recipes, but most of the time I've found them long and involved and the end result isn't worth the effort. But, occasionally, I'll try one that isn't overly time consuming and is quite tasty. 

This particular dish has no weird or expensive ingredients that you would buy and never use again. Pretty much everything you need is in your kitchen already. And it's ready in about 30 minutes. Even better! The pasta used is orecchiette, which translated, means little ears. It's a smaller sized pasta, which makes it easy to eat, and the cupped shape traps and holds sauces and bits of the other ingredients in your recipe. 

The recipe called for pancetta, which I just left out, and the results were still delicious. I grated some Parmigiano-Reggiano and sprinkled it on top and that gave a bit of a salty bite. I also used fresh basil instead of dried. Fresh basil is so wonderful. I just love it! I chopped it and added it to the pan along with the spinach. Served with some fresh, bakery made olive bread, this made a filling meal that I will definitely be making again. 

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced into thin strips
1 small carrot, finely diced
½ lb orecchiette, penne or fusilli
2 cups grape tomatoes, 1 pint, cut in half if large
1 can (540 mL) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried basil or sage leaves
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp chili flakes
A couple of handfuls baby spinach
Grated Romano or Parmesan

1. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and carrot, stirring until it softens, 3 to 5 minutes. 
2. Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package directions. Add tomatoes, chickpeas, garlic, basil, salt and chili flakes to pan. Sauté just until tomatoes begin to soften, 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Scoop out about ¼ cup (50 mL) pasta water and reserve. Drain pasta. Add pasta to pan along with spinach and a couple of tablespoons (25 mL) pasta water. Stir, adding a little more pasta water if you like things a bit saucier. Stir until hot and spinach is wilted. Serve sprinkled with grated cheese.
Serves 3 to 4

(If you want the recipe with the pancetta included, you can find it here.)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Honey Lemon Beets

Spring is almost here and if you're like me, you can't wait until farmer's markets open, roadside stands appear and grocery stores start selling local produce. Through the winter, we rely a lot on root vegetables that are hardy and can hang around to nourish us until the warm temperatures arrive. One superstar that doesn't get enough recognition is the beet or beet root as it's sometimes called. 

Among one of the sweetest of all vegetables, the beautiful dark purpley red bulb can be stored in a cool dark place for up to a couple of weeks. The leafy green stems can also be eaten and baby beet leaves are common in mesclun mixes. Beets are very healthy and provide you with lots of vitamin C and potassium and a decent amount of iron. Beets are also rich in complex B vitamins including folate.  

We've all had pickled beets, which I absolutely love, but these little nuggets are so versatile, they need to come out of the pickle jar! Salads, soups, raw, cooked, these babies can do it all. I made a delicious side dish using a recipe I found in Canadian Living magazine. These were a big hit and will be in regular rotation at our table. 

Honey Lemon Beets

2 pounds of small beets
1 tbsp. margarine
1 onion, sliced
2 tbsp. liquid honey (can substitute agave syrup to keep it vegan)
2 tbsp. lemon juice
 ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
¼  tsp. salt
¼  tsp. pepper

In large pot of boiling salted water, cover and cook beets for about 40 minutes or until tender. Drain and let cool slightly; slip off skins. Cut in half; cut into wedges.

Meanwhile, in large nonstick skillet, melt margarine over medium heat; cook onion, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes or until tender. Stir in honey, lemon juice, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Add beets; cook, stirring to coat, for 5 minutes or until glazed.