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Kitchen Hack: Toast your dried herbs and spices

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img_4761A few minutes in a hot dry pan can waken up ground spices and dried herbs to give any dish a more robust flavour. Be careful to stir the spices, so they don’t burn, and give them 2 or 3 minutes in the pan. When the fragrance has intensified to a pleasant level, add the rest of the ingredients. In this case, can of organic diced tomatoes with no salt added to make spaghetti and meatballs.

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Clam Linguine with Greenery

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Clam Linguine with Greenery by Kitchenette Finds

When days turn snowy we seem to reach for the foods that have comforted us in winters past. I’ve been making clam linguine from my grandmother’s recipe for the last couple of decades and it’s a favourite of my son and my best friend, two of the most important people in my life. While I want to feed and comfort them, I also feel the need to nourish them and keep them healthy. Over the years, I’ve tweaked frequently cooked dishes to be a bit healthier while still maintaining the textures and flavours that made them staples at our table.

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Lassette helping herself

I’m always trying to work more green vegetables into meals and one day when I was picking up supplies for Clam Linguine, I thought about how it’s the only time I like to use lots of parsley in a dish. Realizing that it was because the parsley absorbed all the other flavours, I wondered if kale wouldn’t just do the same thing. By quickly blanching the kale in the pasta water before adding it to the pan and reducing the amount of pasta, it added lots of vitamins and nutrients without taking anything away from a beloved dish.

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Detail of Clam Linguine with Greenery by Kitchenette Finds

When I tested the altered pasta dish on my son, he approved and ate about half of a bunch of kale! When I made a lunch date with my best gal where she wanted to make Clam Linguine together at her place, I figured it was a great chance to test out the changes on a “mature” palate. With a splash of Wayne Gretzky wine, I dished up the greener version of the recipe we’d been cooking together since high school and got our daily greens with a side of witty banter.

Recipe for Clam Linguine with Greenery

makes 2 very generous servings

Ingredients:

150 ml (5 oz) canned whole baby clams

2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly

5 Tablespoons fresh parsley, minced

1 bunch fresh kale

120ml (4 oz) dry white wine or broth

1 Tablespoon butter

5 Tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

1. Bring salted water to a boil. Wash and tear up kale into bite size pieces, discarding the spines.

2. Melt butter and olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium. Add sliced garlic and sauté until golden.

3. Blanch kale in boiling salted water for 1 minute. Add parsley, wine or broth, clam nectar (from the can) to the garlic pan and transfer kale with a slotted spoon from pot to pan

. Simmer for 5 minutes.

4. Add pasta to same pot of boiling water. Add clams to sauté pan and salt and pepper to taste then simmer for another 5 minutes.

5. Add pasta to saute pan with sauce and allow to sit with burner off until most of the sauce is absorbed.

6. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Do you have a treasured recipe that you’ve ‘greened’?

Clam Linguine with Greenery by Kitchenette Finds

Clam Linguine with Greenery by Kitchenette Finds

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Tomato Time

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Tomato TimeThe most common reaction, when I tell someone (who isn’t in the restaurant biz) that my husband is a chef, is a loud intake of breath, then an exclamation of “Aren’t you lucky!”, or some similar sentiment. I see the glint in their eyes as they picture me arriving home to a spotless kitchen filled with bubbling pots, a table set with fine china and my husband putting the finishing touches on an artistically arranged salad. I have to resist the urge to yell in their face, in my best Borat voice, “NOT!”

People, please. Stop for a moment and let reality sink in, like teeth sinking into a thick slab of warm fresh brioche. He works nights, minimum five, maximum seven. So, the most meals we will have together in a week is four (his metabolism can only handle two meals a day, plus snacks). Given that he slaves over a hot stove/cold cutting board for at least  twelve, but maybe more like sixteen, hours a day how many times do you think he’s woken up early and jumped out of bed just to create a multi-course rose-in-the-vase breakfast-in-bed for his loving wife? Approximately, no wait , PRECISELY, zero.

I’m not saying he NEVER cooks at home, I would classify it more as hardly ever. I’m not bitter about it. I accepted it a long time ago. Besides, I like cooking on the weekends, and of course we like to support our local restaurants. The upside is now that he’s added the owner slash to his “chef” title if I want to be fed by him I can mosey down and belly up. Of course, I still have to pay, no free rides, baby. But, when I play my cards right and bat my eyelashes fast enough I might get an extra course  or a sample of a new dish.

The point is, when he does fire up the tongs at home I try to kick back, relax and enjoy every moment. The smartest move I made this year was the charcoal grill I got him for his birthday, which led to a lovely summer of BBQ’ed deliciousness (I just had to supply the potato salad and the limeade). So, when he brought home a paper bag filled with Sun Gold tomatoes from Stoney Paradise Farms, I had visions of sweet tomato-y recipes dancing in my head. Sometimes when you have such a lovely ingredient to work with, especially at the tail end of the season, it is hard to commit to just one dish.

My dilemma was solved when the Executive Chef of the house took dinner by the reins and put his Junior Chef to work. I was demoted to photographer and documentarian. Since our boy-named-sous(chef) is a carboholic (he’s addicted to carbohol!), pasta was an easy choice. While I have a shelf with a varied selection of dried pastas, the boys decided to make some from scratch.

Now, there are not many things I enjoy watching more than an expert practice his craft, but I can say that watching said expert share his knowledge with the next generation definitely tops it. The big rough hands marked with scars and burns wearing a battered wedding band, guiding the cute little hands in kneading the pasta dough is on the top of my list for things that make me go *sigh*.

While Exec Chef demonstrated his wicked knife skills on the folded pasta dough, Jr. Chef ran out to our basil plant in the backyard for a fresh herbaceous touch for  the dish. The sauce was just the tomatoes with olive oil, butter, basil and some Parmigiano-Reggiano.

It’s the simple dishes that make the best use of extraordinary ingredients and it’s sharing the simple pleasures that make the best memories.

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