Vietnamese – Italian Fusion

  • Recipe(s): The best stew with potato and arugula cushions (page 105)
  • Prep: Moderate
  • Taste: Good

We had quite a few fails during the year that we made every recipe from Jamie Oliver’s, ‘Cook with Jamie…’, however the one that I made on this occasion may have taken the cake.

To make a long story short I tried to take a shortcut and bought, what I thought were, fresh pasta sheets from Save on Foods. Needless to say, while they were ‘Fresh’, they were not pliable at all. I thought I’d be able to mold these sheets similar to the way you can mold fresh pasta dough. I knew right when I opened the package this would not be the case. Of course I’d already started the stew and didn’t have time to make fresh pasta dough, nor did I have all of the ingredients to make dough so I had to improvise…

I scoured the cupboards to find a suitable substitute. Low and behold on the top shelf I found some rice paper that I’d used to make spring rolls in the past. While it’s not even remotely close to pasta dough, it did serve the purpose required and allowed us to make the recipe in full.

So, as you can probably tell, the prep got off to a poor start. Aside from the original debacle of not having pasta dough, the rest of the prep wasn’t too hard. Do be prepared that this recipe will take some time to complete. I mean, you are making a stew and those who have made stew before know that going low and slow is the key. So it’s best to get the stew started, pour yourself a glass of red and sit back while it cooks away on the stove-top.

In addition to substituting rice paper for pasta dough we also substituted bison for veal. In hindsight, we probably should have used beef as we both found the bison was a touch too lean for this recipe. Because of its leanness, it seemed to dry out a lot faster than beef would, which was quite unfortunate. The sauce for the stew was nice and rich. It had the classic flavour that you would expect from a stew and was cooked to the perfect consistency.

Rice paper aside, I actually liked the stuffed dumplings that we made. They resembled more of a spring roll than anything. I guess you could call this meal an Italian/Asian Fusion? Maybe I’m onto something here. Anyway, the filling was very tasty. If you have read any of my other posts you know that I’m a fan of arugula. I really enjoy the peppery flavour that it adds as an ingredient – this, combined with nutmeg, butter, lemon zest and potato was delightful and something that I would definitely try again. I do wonder how it would have been in a nice fresh pasta blanket…

While it looked nothing like the picture from the cookbook, it still tasted good in the end. I would probably try making it again with the proper ingredients because I do think that it could be very good.

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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.

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.

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.