Stained Glass Lasagna

Stained Glass Lasagna

  • Recipe(s): Open stained-glass lasagna with roasted squash (page 99)
  • Prep: Moderate
  • Taste: Good

On June 15, 2014 we made yet another lasagna recipe that resembles nothing of a traditional lasagna…well at least what I feel is a traditional lasagna. If you read my previous blog posting you’ll know what I’m talking about. To me, traditional lasagna conjures up an image of noodles, meat sauce and cheese, layered nicely in a pan and baked in the oven. There could be vegetables, such as mushrooms, peppers and onions, added to the meat sauce and a small layer of ricotta may also be included, but for the most part it is very simple. Is it me who has a weird view of what a traditional lasagna is?

Anyway, while this, to me, resembled nothing of a traditional lasagna, it was still pretty fun to make and tasted good in the end.

The prep for this recipe is a solid moderate. Not only do you have to make fresh pasta, which takes time, but you have the added step of creating the stained-glass, which, while laborious, was the coolest thing to do. To make the stained glass you have to roll your pasta out nice and thin and then put your herbs (we used sage, parsley and fennel tops) on one half and fold it over. You then put this back through your pasta roller to create the stained-glass looking pasta. It’s a really cool looking piece of pasta and would definitely impress friends at a dinner party.

In addition to making the pasta above, you also have to roast a squash. This isn’t particularly hard but it does take some time. The nice part about this recipe is that you are asked to keep the skin on the squash. Ninety percent of the time I would remove the skin from the squash before I cook it but in this case it wasn’t required. In hindsight, I think I would’ve removed the skin because it’s a bit difficult to mash up, which is what you have to do with the squash once it is cooked.

So, in the end, the dish was good. I really liked the cooked pasta and had we just served the stained-glass pasta with a nice brown butter sauce I think it would have been an excellent meal. It was nice and herby, which you would expect from the assortment of herbs used, and also perfectly cooked. It was nice and tender and not chewy, which I find you get with some store bought lasagna noodles. I was not too fussed with the squash. Like I mentioned before, it was difficult to mash the skins up with the rest of the flesh. If we were to make this again we’d definitely remove the skins.

All in all it was an good dish. It definitely looked better than it tasted. I would surely make these noodles again but serve them in a different manner. I don’t think I would use them for a traditional lasagna because the whole point is to see the noodles. Perhaps you could make them into ravioli and serve them with some wild mushrooms and a cream sauce? That actually sounds delicious, I’ll try it and let you all know how it turns out.


Fantastic Fish Lasagna

  • Recipe(s): Fantastic fish lasagna (page 78)
  • Prep: Moderate
  • Taste: Good

So…. life’s been busy lately. It’s been so long since I posted that I can’t quite remember what to do!

Anyway, we ate a lot more fish than is typical for us during our challenge of completing every recipe from Jamie Oliver’s ‘Cook with Jamie…’ There were a tonne of fish recipes in the book. Most of them were quite good but this one, which we made on November 8, 2014, fell a bit short. Perhaps it was because we were expecting it to be similar to a traditional lasagna. SPOILER ALERT…this is not a traditional lasagna.

The prep on this recipe is moderate, due primarily to the time requirement. The thing with this prep is, it’s not the typical things that take the time, such as chopping, peeling, slicing, etc. but rather your time is spent frying, adding, subtracting, simmering. You definitely have to ‘watch the pot’ on this one to ensure you don’t miss a stage or burn something beyond recognition. Once you have made it through all of the steps you can sit back and let it cook in the oven for about an hour or so.

Before I get into how the final dish tasted there are a few things I should point out:

  1. Rasher = A thin slice of bacon
  2. Definitely use a block of Parmesan rather than the pre-grated variety

The reason I point this out is because both can have a pretty big impact on the flavour of the dish. For example, a thicker cut of bacon will not cook down as much, meaning it will not render as much of the nice fat in the dish.

Anyway, the final dish was ok/good. Firstly, you really need to get over the fact that it is not a lasagna, in fact it is nothing like a traditional lasagna. To me, it was more like a fish pie, or something like that. Secondly, make sure you use a block of parmesan. We used the dried, pre-grated variety, because we had it in our fridge, and it just didn’t work that well. I know that parmesan is not generally used in a traditional lasagna, however, as it was the only cheese used in this recipe I feel that a fresh variety would have added more zip and provided a bit of creaminess. The one thing I did like about this recipe was the shrimp. I purchased them fresh from Granville Island – boy were they good. Unfortunately, they weren’t good enough to elevate the dish to the next level.

We would probably not make this again, mainly due to the payoff between the time required and the finished product.

Squid in the Summer

  • Recipe(s): Super squid linguine (page 71)
  • Prep: Moderate
  • Taste: Very Good

The intro to this recipe in the books says that it is a perfect recipe to have in the summer with a large glass of Spanish wine. Well, on July 12, 2014 (in the middle of summer) we made this dish for a group of friends. I can’t necessarily say that we were drinking Spanish wine but wherever it was from it was very well paired with this dish!

My partner prepped most of the recipe, which is something she’s really quite a pro at – earlier in the day she chopped the parsley and chili, zested the lemon, and got the garlic ready to go into the press etc., after which she placed everything into their own airtight containers and put them in the fridge to be used later. Organization is her thing, if you can’t tell. Anyway, I had picked up the squid and pasta the day before, from Granville Island of course, and prepped it in the afternoon, after coming home from completing the Triple Crown. Why did we do everything ahead of time? Because we would rather have a drink with friends outside in the hot sunshine than be stuck in the kitchen prepping dinner! Anyway, prepping everything ahead of time makes the prep seem light but it is still moderate as there is quite a bit to do ahead of time.

Everyone that was at dinner rated this dish very good and I concurred. It was a very, very tasty dish, which was really made by the fresh pasta. I picked up the pasta from Dusa, at the Granville Island Market. It makes a meal sooooooo much better when fresh pasta is used. It is just that much lighter and not as stodgy as a store bought pasta. To me it actually allows the other ingredients to stand out more because you are not tasting that starchy taste you get from the packaged variety. The chili added with the garlic and lemon zest added a nice zing to the dish and the glass of white wine (the one added to the dish and not the one in my hand) added a nice perfume. There was just the right amount of squid included in the dish, which was cooked to perfection. It was nice and tender, which I was happy about. I was afraid of over-cooking it, which would have made it quite rubbery.

The sign that everyone else liked it was the fact that there was nothing left in the end. It was devoured!

We would definitely make this dish again, perhaps next summer, with another glass (or 5) of wine.

Two More Gnocchi Recipes

Two More Gnocchi Recipes

  • Recipe(s): Gnocchi with mushrooms and sage (page 114) & Gnocchi with braised oxtail (page 117)
  • Prep: Easy & Easy
  • Taste: Ok & Good

One thing that, ‘Cook with Jamie..,’ has is an abundance of gnocchi recipes. In addition to the recipe that shows you how to make a basic gnocchi from scratch, there are 4 other recipes that we made this past year as part of our challenge. This blog will cover 2 of the 4, with the others already covered in other posts.

With Mushrooms and Sage
We completed this recipe on April 16, 2014 and it was fairly easy to prep. We didn’t make the gnocchi on this occasion, which greatly reduced the prep time. Aside from chopping a few herbs, your mushrooms, some garlic and a chili pepper (don’t touch your eyes after) all you need to do is heat up some stock. Well, I suppose you also have to boil your gnocchi but that really takes no time at all.

We thought this version was ok. The sage seemed overly dominant in this dish, which is probably because it was uncooked. Nowhere in the recipe does it tell you to fry it or anything but then the last line says to ‘serve with crispy sage leaves.’ Had we read the recipe in full before putting it all together we would have noticed this and this could have possibly altered the flavour of the dish. As it was, the sage took away from the earthiness that you get from the mushrooms, which was unfortunate. We also found that there was too much gnocchi for the number of mushrooms.

I would probably try this dish again, making sure to fry the sage leaves and either add more mushrooms or less gnocchi.

With Braised Oxtail
Made on July 10, 2014, this version of gnocchi was much better than the previous version with mushrooms and sage. As with the recipe above, we also used store bought gnocchi on this occasion. The difference is that we bought it fresh from Whole Foods, which is the way to go if you don’t have time to make a fresh batch yourself. I would say always make it fresh if you can though, as it is still better than the fresh store bought variety.

Anyway, this recipe essentially requires you to make an oxtail stew, which definitely makes this a lengthy dish to complete but one which can be left unattended for quite a while. What I mean by this is that once you have everything in the pot you just let it cook. What I actually did was prep everything the night before and put it in the slow cooker. The next morning, before I left for work, I pulled the slow cooker pot out of the fridge, put the timer on the slow cooker, turned it to low and let it go. This was ingenious. The oxtail was done just before my partner and I get home from work. All we had to do when we got home was cook the gnocchi quickly and we were ready to eat!

Speaking of eating, the finished dish was good. It had a very intense flavour, which is typical of oxtail. If you have never cooked this cut of meat before I would definitely try it sometime. Combined with the richness of the oxtail meat you also get a tonne of flavour from juniper berries (think gin), white wine, leeks, carrots, onion, etc. You can tell this is really just like a stew. The gnocchi that we bought was the perfect vehicle for getting the stew into our bellies!

Cooking the majority of this dish in the slow cooker definitely helped but we may not make this again due to the time commitment involved. Perhaps in the future we may make this on a rainy weekend, which we all know will happen in Vancouver!

Lovely Duck Pasta

  • Recipe(s): Gorgeous slow-cooked duck pasta (page 81)
  • Prep: Moderate
  • Taste:

This entry is part 1 of a 2-part series that chronicles our foray into the world of cooking duck.

On October 26, 2014, we made a lovely slow-cooked duck pasta, which was completely different from the other duck recipe, which we made for friends, way back on July 5, 2014.

The prep for the pasta recipe was definitely on the high end of moderate. There are a lot of different ingredients, each of which seemed like it needed to be prepped in one way or another. My partner did the lions share of the prep, which she started in the morning so that it was all ready to go when we wanted to start making the meal. It was like when you watch a cooking show on TV and the hosts have all their ingredients ready to go in different bowls. No wonder if looks like it doesn’t take them too long to make the recipe! In hindsight, she said she would have used the Kitchen Ninja, which would reduce the prep time substantially. All I had to prep was the duck itself, which required a rub down of olive oil, salt and pepper, and stuffing an orange (quartered) into it. You could say I got off easy this time.

I was also tasked with the second part of the duck prep, which required me to tear the meat off the bone and shred it into the sweet and sour sauce. Now, in the book it says you can do this after 15 minutes of the duck coming out of the oven. I beg to differ with that statement. It may be because I am an analyst and have dainty hands but that duck was in the oven for 2 hours at 350 C. After ‘cooling’ for 15 minutes it was still scalding hot! With a bit of ingenuity (using neoprene oven mitts) I was able to get all the meat off of the bone and into the sauce.

This dish was solidly good. The duck itself was cooked perfectly. The meat was nice and tender and the skin was crispy. I actually didn’t put any of the skin in the finished dish but I did take a few bites when I pulled it off the meat! I found the sauce to be very similar to the Agro Dolce sauce that was used in one of the chicken recipes we completed a few months ago. It was definitely tasty and rich. I didn’t find it as sour as expected. The orange flavour definitely stood out but added more of a sweetness than it did sour. In fact, most of the ingredients added sweetness. Perhaps in the future adding more vinegar at the end would counteract some of the sweetness that is brought with the orange, cinnamon, and sultanas, not to mention the red wine that has been reduced.

My partner thought that the dish could use more salt. We didn’t use any chicken stock in the cooking process, which the recipe does say can be used, because we found the sauce to have too much liquid already. I think that adding a little less red wine and topping it up with some chicken stock would have been sufficient. Perhaps, if we were to make this again, we would do that, however, due to the prep/cooking time being at least 3 hours we may not make this again. We would, however, consider making just the pasta portion without the duck. This part of the recipe is much quicker to make and I think with a little tweaking here and there, would make a lovely vegetarian dish. The recipe was big enough that we had leftovers (our favourite) and on the second day I think it tasted even better. It seemed like the sauce had more time to develop. All in all, a good dish!

Not Spaghetti and Meatballs

  • Recipe(s):Pappardelle with a ragu of tiny meatballs (page 92)
  • Prep: Moderate
  • Taste: Good

Back on August 26, 2014 we made another of the pasta recipes from the book. Pastas are one of my favourites for two reasons; 1) They are almost always tasty and 2) they always seem to make the most glorious left-overs. This recipe did not disappoint.

To say this is your Mom or Dad’s spaghetti and meatballs would be a lie. For one, spaghetti noodles are not used and secondly, I have never seen my Mom or Dad, or anyone for that matter, make meatballs as small as the ones required for this recipe. You are asked to make them the size of marbles. That is a lot of meatball making! For this reason the prep is moderate. I choose to roll my meatballs the size of fairly large marbles rather than the tiny marbles you normally see.

Aside from the rolling of the meatballs the rest of the prep is very easy, as long as you have all of the ingredients handy. Unfortunately we forgot to pick up fresh basil so I had to run down to Urban Fare in Olympic Village to grab some before I could finish the prep.

The meatballs themselves were very good. I personally thought that my own meatball recipe, while basic, was pretty good. Typically I would included; onion, garlic, basil, fresh parsley, egg, breadcrumbs and maybe some chilli. When I saw this recipe included parmesan cheese, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon zest I said to myself, ‘this will be interesting.’ Boy was I right, but it was a good interesting. The cinnamon and nutmeg added a kind of holiday sweetness to the meatball and the parmesan added a sharp saltiness, which mellowed out the garlic and lemon. It was probably one of the best meatballs I’ve had.

The sauce was also good. This was the second time I have used the basil stocks in a recipe and again I thought why do I never do this on my own. The have just as much flavour as the basil leaf but with a crunchy texture – lovely. The rest of the ingredients added some heat (red pepper) and some acidity (red wine vinegar) that is typical of many italian sauces.

The recipe calls for far too much pasta compared to the amount of meatballs and sauce. Personally I like my meatball to pasta ratio to be pretty high. This recipe, as it was, fell a bit low on that scale. In the future I would make this again but with less pasta. It was still a good dish though and would rate midway on the flavour to effort scale.

Squid ink Pasta….I don’t know about this?

Squid ink Pasta….I don’t know about this?

  • Recipe(s):Black angel tagliarini (page 95)
  • Prep: Easy
  • Taste: Good

Last night (July 30, 2014) we decided to bite the bullet and make the squid ink pasta dish. I had been hesitant to make this dish because I was unsure what the squid ink would taste like. It honestly doesn’t look that appetizing. Boy was I wrong. It was a classic example of me judging a book by its cover. Even after all my parents taught me…

This is a super easy dish to prep. Actually, let me qualify that for a moment. It is super easy to prep when you purchase the pasta instead of making it fresh. I did just this. To be honest, in my multiple trips to the seafood shop or Granville Island, I had never come across squid ink. I had, however, found the pre-made pasta during one of these trips, so decided to go and pick some up for the meal. So, this dish was easy to prep.

Do be careful to not over cook the scallops. It would be such a waste! I’m always extra careful when using fresh scallops, partly because a rubbery scallop is not nice and they are expensive!

The pasta didn’t taste anything like we thought it would. I envisioned a dish with a tonne of fishy taste, expecting the actual pasta to emit some of this flavour. In actuality, the pasta itself tasted the exact same as regular pasta. The squid ink added nothing in terms of taste. It did however add a cool look to the dish.

The heavy hitters of this dish were the scallops (when are they not?). They were cooked perfectly and tasted wonderful. There is nothing better than a fresh scallop, cooked just right, with butter, white wine and a touch of lemon. In fact, most shell fish tastes amazing with this combination. The addition of the red chilli was interesting. I added two chillies and, to be honest, could have added a third. There was a nice amount of heat but it could have used a bit more. All in all it was a well balanced dish. The squid ink pasta was more of a novelty than an addition to the dish but, don’t they say half the taste is in the presentation? It definitely looked different.

I would rank this mid way on the flavour to effort scale. It was very easy to put together but could have used a bit more on the flavour side. Perhaps a few more scallops, less pasta or an additional red pepper but all in all it was a solid dish. I would probably make this again by substituting the squid ink pasta with regular, fresh pasta.