Rich, hearty meat sauce.

With the exception of a four-hour period last Friday during which I managed to score an excruciating, now-peeling sunburn from sitting on a patio during lunch, this part of the world has been slow to summer. Which is just as well, because I’ve recovered most of my appetite, and after Paris the taste I’m looking for is unctuous. Unctuous like long-roasted meat, and like the sauce around it, so rich with that slowly melted fat that coats your mouth and the inside of your belly, leaving you full and sleepy.

I went with Grace (and Claude, but that is a story for another time) to a restaurant in Paris called Bistroy Les Papilles where we were brought just such a dish. Three steaks of pork belly were served in a tomato sauce filled with navy beans, thyme, and fresh spring vegetables; the pork had been cooking long enough that most of the fat found itself in the sauce, so that the meal was deceptively rich. I succeeded in eating only a small plateful, though it was a satisfying plateful.

It’s not really possible during the week to cook a slab of pork belly until it melts down into and plumps several pounds of white beans, not when one has to go to a place of business and complete tasks each day – I do have a slow-cooker but it’s the kind that sets things on fire. It is possible to mimic that unctuousness on a weeknight at home; the secret is to use good-quality meat, a combination of pork fat and olive oil, and a cheaterly handful of minced mushrooms. Top with cheese.

This sauce is easy, but it’s not slimming. The point is comfort (as my point so often is), and this is one of those dishes you could serve to company some rainy night, even on the weekend. It’s layered, and tastes as though it cooked for much longer than it did. The cinnamon adds balance to the meatiness, so if you are unsure about it, just add a little bit and see what you think.

Meat sauce for pasta

(Serves eight.)

  • 6 strips bacon, chopped
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup celery, finely chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 lbs. good quality ground meat (I like a combination of beef and venison or pork, but you could use just beef if that’s what you have)
  • 1/2 lb. mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Brown bacon in a large pot over medium-high heat. Remove from pot to a plate lined with paper towel using a slotted spoon.

Add olive oil, followed by the onion, celery, and carrots. If the veggies are cooking too quickly, reduce heat to medium, and cook until soft and lightly golden, about ten minutes. Remove from pot to a plate using a slotted spoon. If you reduce the heat, put it back before the meat goes in.

Add meat, mushrooms, and garlic, breaking the meat up with a wooden spoon as it cooks. When meat has browned, add back vegetables and deglaze the pan with the wine. Add crushed tomatoes, oregano, pepper, basil, and cinnamon, and then beef stock. Stir to combine, and then taste. Depending on your bacon and stock, you may or may not need to add salt. Let simmer over medium-low heat for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Before serving, add parsley. Serve over pasta with additional parsley for garnish, and a sprinkling of cheese.

For us, this is enough for dinner and leftovers, and for a bit to put in the freezer for dinner another night. It is better the next day. And if you live nearby, you will need it tomorrow because it will still be raining. If you are a cat, the birds will tease you relentlessly as they hide in the branches of the tree just outside your window. Right now we all need our share of meat sauce.

Peanutty soba noodles with kale.

This past week, I have been inexplicably drawn to purple vegetables. I’ve bought turnips rimmed with a violet blush, potatoes dark as over-dyed denim, two kinds of purple yams, and that jewel-hued bunch of kale. Maybe it’s that purple suggests nutrients I’ve been lacking – it’s been a long winter of dark leafy greens and sweet potatoes and chickpeas – or maybe it’s that I am so very tired of winter and am ready to just get on with spring already. Maybe it’s that everything seems so grey and cold and apocalyptic right now, and purple suggests whimsy, a decadence we couldn’t afford if it came in any other form. Whatever the reason, if it’s purple it’s getting stuffed into my shopping bag.

You don’t have to use purple kale here; green would be perfectly lovely and probably more aesthetically pleasing – the purple with the soba and the peanut butter got a little lost. Purple desire aside, I was willing to overlook a sub-par presentation because this came together in under 15 minutes; the longest part was waiting for the water to boil. Perfect for this Meatless Monday, or anytime it feels like March or the end of the world.

Peanutty soba noodles with kale

(Serves four)

  • 2 tbsp. peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 block medium-firm tofu
  • 1/2 lb. soba noodles
  • 1/2 lb. chopped fresh kale
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (natural peanut butter is best because it’s runnier)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sriracha
  • 2 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts

In a large pan, over medium-high heat, heat oil and add onion, garlic, and ginger. Cook until fragrant, about two minutes.

Pat tofu dry with a kitchen towel and cut into cubes. Add to the pan, tossing occasionally.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add soba noodles, and cook for three minutes.

Meanwhile, combine peanut butter, soy sauce, sriracha, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and honey in a bowl. Mix well, taste, and adjust seasonings as needed.

After three minutes, add kale to the pot. Cook an additional three minutes, then drain. Rinse with cold water and drain again.

Add noodles and kale to onion mixture, and pour sauce over top. Toss with 1/2 cup of the fresh cilantro. Divide between four plates, and garnish with remaining cilantro and chopped peanuts.

This would also be good with chopped scallions and fresh bean sprouts. We might have had those things if I wasn’t only buying purple stuff.

Rapini and sausage with white beans and orecchiette

When we found out that Nick has diabetes, we were  lucky in that we were already eating mostly pretty well, most of the time, cheese and butter and cream aside, and that we didn’t have to make significant dietary changes. I threw out one stale half-bag of poor-quality elbow macaroni that I might have bought at Walmart that dark year I was an intern and had to have three roommates in a basement suite where the front door only kind of locked and where when it rained the water ran into the suite right over the electrical panel. We weren’t going to eat it anyway.

The only thing I really miss now that Nick is restricted is having pasta as a default – not being able to serve up a big plate of refined white carbs when I don’t feel like putting in a real effort, which can happen a couple of times a week, means adapting to a new kind of laziness. And the difference between pasta and something like, say risotto or sushi, which is also white and low on the glycemic index, is that pasta tends to last a couple of meals so you get that good blood-sugar spike a couple of days in a row. Fine for me, shakes and comas for him.

He can still have a small amount of pasta, of course. What he can have is likely what would be considered a normal portion size. And when you get down to comparing labels and noting the varying levels of carbohydrates, the rice pastas and whole-wheat pastas and gluten-free pastas are all similarly bad news carbohydrate-wise; a plate of the whole-wheat stuff is going to affect Captain Diabetes the same way that a plate of the delicious semolina stuff will.

So we adapted. Instead of a big plate of pasta, we have a big plate of stuff with pasta in it if there isn’t enough time to devise a huge and clever feast, or if the idea of opening a cupboard is too daunting to even consider. Here is one of those meals. It calls for blanching, which may qualify as a step that’s too daunting, but it’s really nothing. I promise.

Rapini and sausage with white beans and orecchiette

(Serves four.)

  • 1 lb. rapini, chopped
  • 1 cup uncooked orecchiette pasta
  • 1 lb. spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 19 oz. can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Drop chopped rapini in, and boil for two to three minutes until wilted and brightened in colour. Remove rapini from water, reserving liquid, and plunge into a large bowl of icy water. Set aside.

Return the pot to the heat and bring water back up to a boil.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Cook onions until translucent. Add garlic, then crumble sausage into the pan. Stir with a wooden spoon, breaking the meat up as you go. Add red pepper flakes and tomato paste and continue moving the meat around the pan.

When the water has come to a boil, add pasta and boil until al denté, about eight minutes.

Drain and then add rapini to the pan, stirring to coat in pan juices. As pasta finishes cooking, add beans and lemon zest and juice, then add pasta. Reserve some of the pasta water in case the pan becomes too dry.

Add parsley and cheese. Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve with additional cheese.

Yogurt cheese, smoked salmon, and canneloni.

Oh, this week! I don’t know where it’s gone, and I have two modes and two modes only these past seven days: frantic disorganization and head-bobbing lethargy, neither of which has proven to be particularly sustainable. My arthritis is flaring up again, this time with insistence, and Nick’s always talking about his diabetes, and I’m always telling him how much fibre is in things and we both feel 800-years-old.

Also, if the weird loop of incongruous music in my head is any indication, my internal DJ is totally high (when did that song from Aladdin get mashed up with The Beach Boys and why has either crossed my mind?), and I know we must have eaten something Monday and Tuesday, but I can’t figure out what it was. And the mountains are dark behind a scattered mist and the temperature has dropped and there are rumours of snow, even after I snapped photos of little white buds in a patch of dirt in front of a building around the corner just this past Saturday when we were running around having adventures in light jackets.


Anyway. I made yogurt cheese because the yogurt I like was on sale. (Given my current state of mind, that’s as good a transition as any.) I told you about yogurt cheese a long while back – it comes from this wonderful blog. At first it was a perfectly good spread for bagels, but now is so much more.

This would be best if you made it with hand-rolled sheets of fresh pasta. Second best is store-bought sheets of fresh pasta, which is what I used. Third would be those hard canneloni tubes you get in a box in the dry pasta aisle, but I have never been able to handle those without crushing them like so many taco shells. It’ll take about five sheets, each one cut in half so that it is roughly 4″x3″ (those Olivieri ones will work just fine).

And don’t just cheat and use ricotta. With the yogurt and the lemon and the salmon together, the filling is bright and flavourful. The night before you plan to make this, empty a large container of yogurt (750mL) into a strainer lined with cheesecloth. Tie up the edges, and hang it over the sink overnight (with a bowl underneath to catch  the whey, which is a fantastic addition to soups and bread). Instructions with photos are here. You’ll end up with a little over a cup, maybe a cup and a half, and it should be the consistency of crumbly cream cheese. Refrigerate the stuff until you’re ready to use it.

Smoked salmon canneloni with yogurt cheese

(Serves four.)

Pasta

  • 5 sheets fresh pasta, 8″x6″ (approximately)
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 leek, 1″ thick, white and light-green part only, chopped
  • 1 batch yogurt cheese (about 1 1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup smoked salmon, flaked and packed
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten

Sauce

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup light cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Melt butter in a pan over medium-high heat. When bubbling, add leek and garlic. Cook for one minute, until garlic is fragrant and leek has brightened in colour. Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, mush together yogurt cheese, smoked salmon, and lemon zest and juice. Use a fork – the best mushing is usually done with a fork. Pour buttery garlicky leeks into the bowl, and add parsley, salt, and pepper, stir, and taste. Adjust seasonings as needed. When you like what you’re tasting, stir in the egg. Set aside.

Ready pasta for rolling according to package instructions. For store-bought fresh pasta, you may need to soak it for a couple of minutes in cold water. Trim to about 4″x3″.

Bring light cream to just a simmer. Remove from heat. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic, and cook until translucent. Add crushed tomatoes. Once the tomatoes begin to burble and steam, reduce heat to medium and carefully stir in cream, slowly and in a steady stream, stirring until fully incorporated. Remove from heat.

Coat the bottom of a glass or enameled 9″x13″ baking dish with a thin layer of sauce.

Scoop 1/4 cup filling into the centre of each piece of pasta. Roll into loose cylinders, and place side by side into the pan. Once you have run out of room on the first layer, coat the tops with sauce, and continue laying rolls in a second layer. Coat the whole thing with remaining sauce, then cover with aluminum foil.

Bake covered for 35 minutes, then remove foil and cook uncovered for an additional 10 minutes. Serve sprinkled with fresh parsley.

I served the pasta over a bed of wilted chard, which turned out to be a nice way to balance the flavours of the dish, the earthiness of the greens tempering the acidity and smoke of the pasta. It would also go nicely with salad.

Chipotle macaroni and cheese.

I’ve been waiting for this day for awhile. It was too hot before, and I didn’t have buttermilk or I was down to just one shriveled chipotle pepper in the bottom of an improperly stored can at the back of the fridge. Or I was feeling self-conscious about my waistline, because I do that sometimes, and instead of joining a gym or sweating I abstain briefly from cheese.

But the stars have aligned, the sky’s clouded over, and I’m wearing lycra so that waistline issue isn’t at the forefront of my mind. And, we have all the things to make chipotle macaroni and cheese. If you’re looking for a healthy treat for this Meatless Monday, I suspect you’d be better off with Kraft, but it’s decadent, and it’s got good stuff in it so it’s not all butter fat and Cheddar.

It contains a lot of little bites of veggies; peppers, onions, and just a little tomato. You could add greens if you wanted to, or more peppers, or corn or beans, or cauliflower or broccoli, both of which are delicious, especially if you roast them first – anything you like, really. If I’m up to no good and want to make you do something for me, I might add bacon, but believe me when I say it doesn’t need it. It contains four cups of cheese.

So here you go. Possibly the world’s most decadent vegetarian recipe. Happy Meatless Monday. You may want to go for a run after this one.

Oh! I joined something called a Blog Carnival. It’s a Meatless Monday thing, and though I don’t yet know what it all means, and I don’t think there are corn dogs in it for me, it’s still sort of cool. Here it is. I’ll figure out the right way to do this soon enough. Anyway. On to the recipe!

Chipotle macaroni and cheese

(Serves four to six, probably with some leftover.)

  • 4 cups dried macaroni
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups chopped sweet or bell peppers (any colour you prefer – I had red and orange)
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 to 3 minced chipotle peppers (the kind that come in adobo sauce)
  • 1 to 2 minced jalapeño peppers
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. adobo sauce
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 cups buttermilk (ideally full-fat)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 cups grated cheese (such as a combination of sharp Cheddar and Monterrey Jack)
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes

Preheat your oven to 350°F, and grease a 9″x13″ pan.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Add peppers,onion, chipotles, jalapeños, and garlic. Saute until onions have turned translucent and peppers are bright.

Add macaroni to the boiling water, and boil six to eight minutes, until al denté.

Add adobo, then flour to veggies and stir to incorporate. Add pepper and cumin. Then add buttermilk and regular milk, and stir frequently until thickened.

Drain macaroni. Set aside. Add three cups of the cheese to the pot. Stir to combine. Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed.

Pour over drained macaroni, and add tomatoes. Stir well, and then pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until top is golden.

Serve hot! And don’t worry about the volume here. It looks like a lot. It IS a lot. But you can cut it into squares tomorrow and then fry it. Fried macaroni and cheese … best leftovers ever?

Scallion spaetzle: It’s like spring or summer or something.

We went camping this weekend, and our (triumphant) return to the city was marred by bickering and the west coast being unsure about getting around to summer already. Remember how completely not annoying I was in February? Yeah. June has been my payback.

We barely made our boat home, as we were in the last handful of cars onto the ferry from the island, which did little to ease my stress over returning home in time for a shower, healthy dinner, playtime with the cat, and an early bedtime, and Nick was behaving like a pimple under the underwear elastic of my life.

And so, with all of that and my crankypants apparently devoid of stretch fibres, it felt like a day for spaetzle, with bacon. And for frying meat in lard. In the spirit of optimism, the spaetzle is springy and green. It WILL be summer here soon. It has to be. I can barely stand the wait. In the meantime, and screw the consequences: comfort food. I never looked all that great in a bikini to begin with.

Scallion spaetzle

  • 2 bunches scallions (reserve 1/2 cup chopped)
  • 2 small cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 strips bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a blender or food processor, reduce the scallions and garlic to a green onion purée.

Beat eggs and milk and salt into the mix, then gradually add flour until a green paste/batter has formed.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. If you own a spaetzle-maker, I am impressed. If, like me, you do not, you can push the batter through the holes of a colander. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the batter in bits into the boiling water. Boil for two to three minutes, stirring to prevent clumping.

In the meantime, heat bacon in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. When bacon has cooked, remove it from the pan to drain, reserving about a tablespoon of the fat.

Return the pan to the heat and pour drained spaetzle in, and add the butter and reserved scallions, tossing to coat. Add bacon and pepper, and serve piping hot.

This makes for a delightful alternative to regular old pasta, and can easily be turned into a cold summer salad. It would be great with a squish of lemon, and some herbs. Comforting and relatively convenient. So you can focus on other things. Like your mood. And drinking.

Here’s that meatball recipe.

These are the meatballs that Tracy‘s vegetarian boyfriend ate, like, four of. They’re that good, they convert the herbivores. She asked me for the recipe – “they’re like my nonna’s!” she exclaimed – but I explained that there wasn’t one, you just use a little of this and a bit of that, you know?

And then Nick’s sister asked for the recipe, and Sooin did too, and they wanted to know if it was on this site, and I said no, it wasn’t, because it’s the kind of thing you just make. You need a recipe for these? I asked, and people nodded yes. I thought they were everyone’s meatballs. Apparently they are my meatballs, and they are delicious.

I’m a little bit biased though. I mentioned a little while ago that if you were bent on seducing me (and you hadn’t already fed me too much wine, which is my favourite), meatballs would get you most of the way there. I don’t know what it is about them; meatballs, in all their forms, make me sublimely happy. There are probably hundreds of ball jokes to be pulled from that statement, but I stand by it.

So anyway, some friends came for dinner tonight, and I decided that we would have spaghetti and meatballs, because it is one of my favourite things and I like to share it, and I wanted to write the recipe down at last. Really, I’m pretty sure that they’re everyone’s meatballs. There’s no secret to them. But in case they are special, or different, or if you’re looking to score, here’s the recipe.

The meatballs

  • 1 lb. lean ground beef (not extra-lean – please, not extra-lean)
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp. (rounded) fat (butter or bacon fat, or olive oil if you want)
  • 1 tbsp. (rounded) tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to 375°F.

Combine all of your ingredients in a large bowl. Squish it all together with your hands to ensure that crumbs and eggs are thoroughly combined. Don’t worry if the meat looks like it isn’t – it’s better to have the meat sort of separate, so that you can taste pork and beef distinctly. And you must use your hands. There is no other way.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Roll meat mixture into balls roughly an inch and a half in diameter. This recipe makes about two dozen – if you have many more, your balls are too small. (Snicker.) And the reverse is true too. Place balls on baking sheet.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

And here’s where it gets interesting.

If you’re just feeding you and another person, or maybe two smaller, miniature persons, then use a dozen, or fewer, and freeze the rest.

If you’re insane and for some reason always end up feeding tons of people even though you’re poor and hardly anyone ever invites you to their homes for dinner even though you’re very nice and don’t always guzzle the wine or step on the cat, cook them all, but double your sauce recipe and use the two-pound bag of spaghetti.

Because these are deceptively large, I would bet that no one will be able to eat more than three. Four is pushing it.

For sauce, there are lots of options. A sauce I am loving right now is tomato sauce with onion and butter from Deb at Smitten Kitchen. In the summer, I use my special slow-cooked tomato sauce, and it’s very nice then too. Tonight, I made a simple sauce of one onion and three cloves of garlic sweated in olive oil, two 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes, simmered for forty minutes, then salt, pepper, and basil stirred in right at the end. Keep it simple with the sauce – these are hearty meatballs, and they will be the star of the dish. Stew the meatballs in the sauce for about twenty minutes before serving; they’ll cut the acidity of the tomatoes, and they’ll warm up nicely all on their own.

There it is. See how easy? So easy. Really inexpensive. No reason not to make them for me. I’ll bring dessert. And wine. And soft slippers, because of the cat.

Turnip? Rutabaga? Whatever, just turn it into dinner.

Sunday was our first wedding anniversary. Time flies – that’s now two years of togetherness, though Nick says he’s sure it must have been longer. Nope. Two years, almost to the day, and one year of marriedness, and we spent our anniversary in much the same way we’ve spent most of our days – almost completely out of money more than a week before payday, in the rain, with some of our favourite people.

We went to The Glen at Maple Falls this weekend, which is somewhere near Mount Baker in Washington, and spent three rainy days with a few good friends. The food was fatty, the beer was cheap, and for some reason we all got a little too caught up in the figure skating championships on TV. I blame the cheap American dairy, which was delicious, for the glassy-eyed stupor that befell us all. I ate a pint of ice cream from the dairy on the way down. There must be something magical about American cattle, because we don’t have ice cream like that up here. Egg nog swirl? GENIUS. Maybe the grass is actually greener down south? Could be.

Anyway, last night was our anniversary, and I had intended to turn the turnip into something magical, but Paul’s car had a little bit of trouble on the way home, and, long story short, we ended up pushing it across the border. Canadians really are very nice, and we were grateful for our good-humoured border guard. And as we waited for the tow truck, and then Paul’s sister, and then the SkyTrain ride home, what was going to be an elaborate meal got shelved for an easy bit of soup instead. Until tonight.

Tonight. Chelsea came over, and then Paul, and then we celebrated appropriately – with butter and beer and wine and cheese and this little turnip thing that’s actually kind of a big deal.

I’m going to give you the recipe, but keep in mind that it makes a lot of pasta and I ended up freezing half. Double the sauce recipe if you’re feeding eight, and boil the full amount of gnocchi. If you make the full batch of pasta and you’re only feeding four, you’ll end up with too much to eat, even for lunches the next day.

You can freeze uncooked gnocchi for up to one month – you’ll certainly use it before that. Halve the recipe if you’ve got a smaller turnip (you’ll need a bit more flour because you can’t halve an egg, so adjust as needed), and keep the sauce the same.

Turnip gnocchi

  • 1 2 lb. turnip, peeled, cooked, and puréed
  • 2 tbsp. crème fraîche (bonus points if you made your own; if you’re without, you can use yogurt or sour cream)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1/2 cup for rolling and kneading, reserved

Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 head roasted garlic
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, chopped and toasted (there are more hazelnuts in the picture above than are listed here because I find I have to make more than I need because I’ll eat half of the nuts laid out for the recipe no matter what. You do what you have to do, you know?)
  • 2 tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. grated parmesan
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

I used a food processor, but that’s because it’s Monday night, and at 7:00 pm you just don’t have all day. You don’t have to – if you don’t, though, this might be a recipe better suited to a weekend when you have a bit more time.

Thoroughly combine turnip, crème fraîche, egg, and spices in a large bowl. Gradually stir in flour until dough is formed.

Sprinkle reserved flour on a large surface. Cut dough in half, and form each half into baseball-sized pieces. Roll each piece until it’s about one half-inch in diameter. Slice half-inch chunks, dropping slices onto a cookie sheet until you’re ready to drop the lot into a pot of boiling water. As mentioned, I only used half of this, and froze the rest. But that’s because I only ever have to feed four people.

Boil for eight to ten minutes, in salted water, until gnocchi rise to the top.

In a large pan, melt the butter, and add the uncooked garlic, until you can just smell the buttery garlickness, until the garlic is just slightly golden. Squish in your roasted garlic, and add your gnocchi. Toss to coat.

Let simmer for two to three minutes, then toss with sage and hazelnuts. Let sit for another minute. Grate a bit of cheese over top, and season to taste.

Grate a little bit more cheese over top and sprinkle a bit of nutmeg over before serving. This ends up being quite an inexpensive, very filling feast, one that’s redolent of autumn warmth, especially now that it’s starting to feel a lot like winter. Perfect for an anniversary, or even the day after, with your favourite person or a few of them. Just enough turnip, more than enough but not too much garlic, and butter. You don’t need anything more, except maybe a dollop of that crème fraîche and a little bit of good wine.

There’s no reason why you can’t make gnocchi with any starchy, earthy thing you have on hand, and there’s no reason why you can’t make your own adventure when stranded a couple of hours from home. Both are the kind of thing you’ll surely talk about for a long while afterward.

This is not a post about turkey, because I’m not talking about leftovers yet.

It’s been another busy busy weekend, and we’re just at the end of it now. If you’re not Canadian, you probably didn’t do Thanksgiving this weekend, but up here, we celebrate in October. I don’t quite know why, because I had my head on my desk for much of Canadian history, because there is only so much one can hear about fur traders, and a certain amount less is all that can be absorbed by the brain and then retained. And I wanted to tell you what you should do with all that leftover turkey, but, to be honest? It can wait a day. Too much turkey all at once is why no one eats turkey at all the whole rest of the year. So leave the leftovers for now. We can talk about them tomorrow, or even the next day – they’ll still be there.

So instead of making turkey hash, sandwiches, curries, and soup, make fettuccine. With bacon and garlic. And since we’re very near first frost, gobble up the last of those heirloom tomatoes – they won’t be on the grocery shelves long. I inherited a five-pound bag of green tomatoes from my mom this weekend, and I’ve got big plans for them – I’ll tell you all about green tomato soup this week, I promise, and you’ll love it. But in the meantime, the red ones (and the yellow and orange and pink and striped ones) will be gone soon, and you must enjoy them while they last.

Tomatoes: The last of the fresh red ones for the season.Slice your tomatoes, and drizzle them with a little bit of good olive oil, a bit of your favourite vinegar, some chopped herbs, whatever kind, and a bit of cheese. And then set it aside, because in eleven minutes the rest of the feast will be ready.

You’ve probably been cooking all weekend, or at the very least doing a lot of things this weekend that took up a lot of your time, so pick up a package of fresh pasta. Dried pasta will work fine too, but dinner won’t be ready for sixteen minutes then, and you’ll want that extra five minutes for sitting and sipping wine and enjoying the quiet. You’ll be hovering over the stove souping up those leftovers soon enough.

Fettuccine Kind-of-Alfredo

  • 1 package fresh fettuccine noodles (350g or 3/4 lb.)
  • 3 strips of bacon, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated aged Gouda (or other hard aged cheese)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

While your pasta water is on its way to boiling, fry up your slices of bacon over medium-high heat.

When they are crisp and brown, reduce to medium, and add the butter and the garlic. About this time, the water should be boiling – dump in your pasta, and boil for three minutes. Right before the pasta is done, add the cream to your buttery garlicky bacon, and let simmer until the pasta is to your liking.

Dump the pasta into the frying pan, and then add the cheeses. I find that tongs are most useful for mixing this all together – you want the cheese to be melty but not sticky, and you don’t want the noodles to feel dry. If this has happened, add more cream. Nothing bad ever happens if you add a little bit more cream.

Once coated, toss with fresh parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot, with a side of sliced tomatoes, and revel in the easiness of this. This weekend marks the beginning of the eating season, which often means a lot of large, complicated meals that, while delicious, are an awful lot of work. There’s a lot to be said for lazy, hearty pasta dishes during this time of year – they’re like lulls, and you should certainly enjoy them (with wine).

The long shot.Busy week though last one was, I hope to be able to tell you about a lot of lovely things this week. It may be soup week, because I’ve got a bit of zucchini and onion that’s itching to be made into this spicy Korean thing that will surely kill any cold that threatens you, and that green tomato business that I mentioned before. And the stew. You want a showstopper stew that’s not actually all that much work but tastes like you slow-cooked it for two days? Got it, in a pumpkin. And maybe something with turkey, though there’s a lot to be said for freezing the leftovers for a week or two. Or three. Maybe I’ll haul it out to celebrate American Thanksgiving in a month or so. It’ll be about time for it again then, yes? I think that sounds about right. But I’ll let you know if anything changes. And in the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving!

The close-up.

Drunken Spaghetti.

Too arthritic and whiny to invest all that much time in cooking, I wanted something flavourful and soothing that I could make and eat in under 20 minutes. I wanted to watch Good Eats, and then Iron Chef, and then Star Trek in my pajamas, and not have to move once the food was done. Solution? Drunken spaghetti. Flavourful, fast, and quite a lovely garnet colour. A pleasure for all the senses, the lazy sense included.

Different. Easy.This recipe grew out of David Rocco’s recipe of the same name. Only this one involves more wine, and is much improved by boiling the noodles in a portion of the wine. Use a cheap but drinkable wine, one you’re not hugely fond of but would drink if you had to. The effect you’re going for here is a winy taste, but the heat is going to kill a lot of what makes the wine distinctive. That’s the idea. Save the good wine for pairing with this dish.

You could use a dry white wine if you wanted to, or if that’s what you had left over. I bet that would be quite nice as well, with asparagus.

Drunken Spaghetti

(Serves four to six. Adapted from David Rocco)

  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • 3 cups of red wine (1 cup reserved)
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 anchovy fillets, chopped (you can omit these if you’d prefer it be vegetarian)
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. chopped capers
  • 2 tbsp. chili flakes
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Bring two cups of the wine and six cups of water to a boil in a large pasta pot. Add the spaghetti, and cook for seven to eight minutes. You want this to be al dente, and you are going to finish it in the frying pan so don’t worry if it’s got a bit of bite to it.

In a large frying pan, heat the oil, and add the anchovies, garlic, capers, and chili flakes. Sauté while the pasta cooks, five to seven minutes.

Once the pasta is about ready, drain it, and add your noodles to the frying pan. Pour in the remaining cup of wine, cooking until the wine has reduced and the spaghetti is done, another two to three minutes. Taste as you go to make sure you get the noodly doneness that you prefer.

Toss with parsley and cheese, and serve hot, with a dry, delicious red wine.Purple?

This is quite a good thing to make when you’re tired from too long a day. It’s easy, and you don’t need to do a lot to make it flavourful – it pretty much flavours itself. Literally. The wine does a fantastic job, and the salty bits and the cheese and the fresh parsley all add quite a lot without costing you much in the way of effort. From the time you set the pot on the stove to boil, it’s twenty minutes to cook, plate, and slip blissfully into your ass groove on the couch. Flavour aside, sometimes that’s the most important thing about a recipe.

Nice salt & pepper shakers.