Good things to eat

Posts tagged ‘Pasta’

Dinner at La Buca

After our Oregon journey to the beach at Lincoln City and our adventures in Woodburn, the Chef and I finally made it to Portland.

Now I’ve said this before on other trips through these parts, but I have to remind you that Portland is a serious food town! ( Check out last time we were through here)

The worst thing is trying to narrow it down as to where to go!  It can be quite overwhelming.

We decided to check out the East side again, because we had such luck last time.  And because it is more neighbourhood like, it is easier to park!

We headed towards East Burnside Road and parked on one of the side streets.  There was such a selection of places that we kept walking back and forth trying to decide.   We finally agreed on La Buca because it looked very inviting and had an outdoor patio.

La Buca Portland

It always makes me SO happy to be able to eat outside!  I was very used to that coming from Montreal where we would persevere patios from April to October just so we could say we were eating outside!  But I find that living in Victoria, there isn’t quite as much of that.  So I like to take advantage whenever I can!

We started with a nice little order of Bruschetta Pomodoro and some wine that came in a regular little juice glass.  I love wine like that, like you are over at someone’s Nona’s house.

It was fresh and delicious.

Then we split the salad of  romaine lettuce, with apple, walnuts and creamy gorgonzola dressing.  

And home made bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping.

Also fresh and wonderful.

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Then the Chef ordered pollo marsala: chicken medallions sautéed with mushrooms in a marsala wine sauce, served with mashed potatoes.

Chicken Marsala

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And I went for the abituale: penne tossed with spicy italian sausage in a parmesan & roasted garlic tomato cream sauce.  I love spicy Italian sausage and just can’t resist it!

Pasta with spicy sausage

I couldn’t have been happier!

There isn’t too much I can think of that is better than sittin on a warm patio as the sun goes down, with your best person, eatin some pasta and sausage and drinkin wine out of a juice glass!!  That’s LIVIN!!

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And then, that temptress of a waitress enticed us to try the Tiramisu: a dessert of espresso dipped italian lady fingers layered with mascarpone and belgian chocolate!  By then we were giddy with delight so how could we resist!

Tiramisu

The real kicker in all this?  Just last week, at home in Victoria, we had a comparable, if not slightly inferior Italian meal at a local hot spot that cost us THREE times what this cost!!   Have I mentioned there is no sales tax in Oregon??

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After dinner we took a little stroll around the neigbourhood  ( mostly to let the food settle a little before we tried to stuff our bellies back in the car!)  and we found this lovely Art Deco style Coca Cola bottling plant!

Coca Cola plant

Cheesy Eggy Pie

I think I might be watching too many episodes of “Top Chef” on the food network, because I am getting very good at just putting something together out of whatever happens to be around!!

For those of you who have never seen the show, Chefs are often given a few random ingredients and are expected to make something editable out of it.

I’d say my cheesy Eggy Pie might qualify!

So here is what is in mine, but as is always my motto, what ever you happen to have around will do!

  • 1 medium onion finely sliced
  • 1 bell pepper sliced ( any colour or combo)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced.

Toss these into a frying pan with a slosh of oil and saute till wilted.   Then add them to a casserole dish.   Then I added:

  • a large handful of chopped spinach
  • asparagus chopped in 1 inch bits ( fresh or left over cooked)
  • 2 green onions chopped

Toss in with the peppers.   Chopped tomato  or zucchini would go fine too.

Then add some cooked pasta.  I used rotini, but any short hearty pasta will do.  If you are going to use noodles, I would break them in half before cooking.

Toss all that together.   Feel free to add some chopped fresh or dried herbs like oregano or parsley.

Then, you will mix up some egg with cream or milk like you are going to make something like a bread pudding.   Add a few shots of hot sauce if you like, or paprika.

Then pour this mixture all over the pasta and vegetables.   It shouldn’t be swimming but enough to maybe fill up the sides half way.

Then sprinkle with your favorite cheese and bung it in the oven at about 350 degrees for about 20 minutes to half hour.

You will know it is ready when you take it out and shake it a little and there is no liquid moving around and the cheese is melted nicely.

Spoon it up and serve with a little green salad and you have a quick Summer supper!

Cheesy Eggy Pie

Pulled Chicken Pasta

A few weeks back I gave you a recipe for “Pulled Chicken Tacos“.  

This has turned into one of our favorite things to eat lately.  It is easy and flavourful and great in summer.

But as much as I could eat tacos several times a week, sometimes it is nice to change it up a little.   Or maybe you just don’t have the rest of the fixins to go with the tacos?  Whatever the case, here is something to do with your left over “pulled chicken” if for any strange reason you actually have any!

Pulled Chicken Pasta

Cook up a pot of your favorite spaghetti.

Meanwhile, heat up the left over pulled chicken.  If it is too dry for what ever reason, add some salsa or tomato sauce, crushed tomato or even just a bit of water till it is “sauce” like.

Top your spaghetti with it.

That simple and SO good. 

I have a feeling we will be eating this…….a LOT.

Tuesday night type pasta

Are you ever on your way home from work or whatever and just can’t bear to stop at the store because you are tired or don’t want to deal with all the people in way?

You come home and are determined to “make do” with whatever you can find in the pantry?

Well here is a suggestion.

I took out the large skillet, chopped up an onion and tossed it in.  I realize I really do cook with a lot of onions, but there is nothing wrong with that, they are very good for the blood!

What next?

I dug in the fridge for a bit…….

Okay, I got it.  Here we go:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 5-6 cremini mushrooms sliced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper ( seeded and sliced in slightly larger than usual bits)

Stir those up till they are well acquainted then add:

  • 1 or more tbsp poultry spice ( or just plain dried sage)
  • 1 can rinsed white kidney or pinto beans

Stir those in well.

Then I added some of my  “Pulled Chicken”  left over from taco night.    But if you didn’t just happen to have that, you could add a can of tuna or just leave it completely vegetarian / vegan.

Meanwhile, boil up a pot of your favorite pasta.  Tonight I used linguini……cause that’swhat I had.

Once the pasta is done, toss it in with the veg and beans.  Make sure you save a bit of the pasta water and add that too, just to help make it a little saucy.

Toss those and then add some salt and pepper.

Then I added, which is totally up to you, some lemon zest and the juice of said lemon just to zinger up a little!

Had I had any baby spinach or arugula, I would have totally added a bit of that just before serving too….but I didn’t.

Plate it up and add some parma cheese…….if that’s your thing.

Does the trick for a Tuesday night!

And on a further note, it makes a great lunch for work the next day!  Eat at room temperature with a squirt or two of lemon just before you eat it!

Sesame chicken and asparagus pasta

Here is another quick mid-week easy dinner for you!

Here’s what you will need:

  • skinless boneless chicken in bite size bits
  • asparagus cut into 1 inch bits
  • pasta of your choice ( rotini or penne work best for this)

For the sauce:

  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch fresh ginger
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp soy or Bragg sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil ( or other neutral oil)
  • 2 tbsp tahini ( sesame paste)
  • 1 tbsp of maple syrup or agave syrup
  • 1 tsp crushed chili ( more if you like)
  • 1/4 cup of water or stock

Then I whizzed it up in the mini hand blender.  If you don’t have a blender make sure you mince the garlic and ginger SUPER fine!

So boil the water for the pasta.

In a large skillet saute the chicken parts in a bit of oil. 

Saute chicken

Cook thoroughly, because this is the only time it is being cooked.   Once the chicken is done add the asparagus and about 1/4 of the sauce, just enough to coat the chicken and asparagus and help steam it a bit.  Put on the lid.

Meanwhile, boil and drain the pasta.

Then toss pasta into pan with chicken and asparagus and the rest of the sauce.  Toss well and let it all heat up nicely.

Serve immediately topped with toasted sesame seeds and some chopped green onion if you have it.

Sesame chicken and asparagus pasta

My Valentines

I know that many of you have expressed envy over the fact that I have a Chef around the house.

And although there are MANY perks to this, there are also a few hazards, like the high risk to your waistline and the fact that there ALWAYS seems to be a lot of dishes!

But on this past Valentines Day this year, I was once again treated to a lovely meal!

Actually it started with a very nice breakfast, simple but effective.

Eggs, cooked inside slices of red pepper that looked very much like heart shapes, on toast, with a bit of cheese.  I couldn’t have been happier!

Heart shaped eggs

Who knows what I had for lunch?  Probably nothing, knowing I would be coming home to a feast.  And a feast it was.

For weeks I have been nagging the Chef to try out something I saw on someone else’s blog.  The other blogger had taken goat cheese, rolled it into balls, breaded them and then deep fried them and then tossed them in hot sauce.  Exactly like you might do with chicken wings!

The Chef, not liking to be outdone, took it up a notch!

Instead of just goat cheese, he used shredded chicken and blue cheese!  So these balls were even closer to a chicken wing!   But then we just dipped ours in hot sauce instead of having them completely covered in them.   

Very tasty! 

Chicken & blue cheese balls

Then we moved on to the “Party Snack Sampler”.  I am a big fan of party snacks so to start with a few to whet my whistle, was very nice.

Tapenade topped goat cheese, hummus and pita. 

And my favorite little Spanakopita!

Spanikopita

Next was a simple salad of bundles of baby greens wrapped in finely sliced cucumber with a nice sun-dried tomato and balsamic dressing.

Then the main event.  asparagus filled ravioli on a mound of puree of sweet roasted butternut squash, topped with brown butter and freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Asparagus ravioli with butternut squash and brown butter

Finally, for dessert, the triple header chocolate delight!!

Home made chocolate pudding, topped with grated chocolate infused whipped cream and a shard of Lindt 70% dark chocolate bar!  

Chocolate Triple Header

Doesn’t get much better than THAT!

I am a lucky girl.

Looking for Johnny in Santa Rosa

After our long day down the Oregon Coast we ended up in Eureka California.

It was a shame that it got dark so early because we had to drive through the Redwood forest but weren’t able to see too much.

The plan for Eureka was to check out a joint called Porter Street BBQ.  There are apparently more than one location but regrettably by the time we rolled into town it was too late and the location we found was closed.  We were tired and hungry and so we ended up at Denny’s.

Much like the hotel breakfast buffet, don’t be so quick to turn your nose up at the thought of the venerable chain, the place is clean, the food reliable, oh yeah and it was OPEN!!  But to be honest, I don’t even really remember what I ate.  A chicken and avocado sandwich perhaps?   Whatever it was, it did the trick and I was refreshed enough to be on our way.

The goal for the next day was to visit the restaurant of a celebrity Chef.

It would all depend on which route we took.

If we took the route through the Napa Valley California, the plan was to stop at Food Networks celebrity Chef Michael Chiarello’s  Bottega Restaurant.

Michael Chiarello has long been a staple on the food channels with his “easy  Napa entertaining” style cooking show, but more recently was one of the finalists “The Next Iron Chef”.

The other route would take us through Santa Rosa California, where we would have TWO choices of restaurants  from another Food Network celebrity Chef Guy Fieri, host of “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives”  and “Guy’s Big Bite”.

We had to choose between Guy’s restaurants in Santa Rosa,  Johnny Garlic’s and Tex Wasabi but they are both quite different in style.  What to do?

But first we had to drive a long a part of the highway called The Avenue of Giants where the trees are super tall.

Here is a glimpse, but believe me, the picture can’t capture just how crazy tall these trees are!!

Avenue of Giants

A choice had to be made so we went with Santa Rosa and decided on Johnny Garlic’s.   Mostly because it was the easiest to get to, just off the highway.

To be honest, it is in a sort of strip mall with a Sizzler across the street.  I was kind of surprised at the “averageness” of the location.  But this was Guy’s first restaurant opened 13 years ago before he was a celebrity Chef, so you have to start somewhere.

Equally average was the interior and decor.  I’m not sure what I was expecting but the inside was as “strip mall” as the outside.

But we were greeted promptly and led to our seat and the host was very keen to know if we had been before and when we said we hadn’t he went into his spiel about the history of the place and Guy himself.  But it was in a genuine way, not like he was paid to say it, but rather he was quite proud of letting us know.  And we appreciated that.

The waitress was extremely knowledgable and confident and didn’t make us feel like she was just some student making some cash in between classes, she was very professional and steered us through the extensive menu.

What to eat?  What to eat?

We started with a drink, I had their famous lemonade and the Chef had the ice tea.  Very refreshing and neither too sweet nor too tart.  And then the waitress brought some wonderful bread with olive oil and balsamic for dipping.  We gobbled it down because it was so good, but were smart enough to refuse and second helping because we would spoil our lunch!

Then we started by splitting  a full portion of the:  

Sonoma Salad

 Sonoma Salad

Spring Mix, Dried Cranberries, Honey Almonds, Stella Blue Cheese Crumbles + House Balsamic Dressing

Then the Chef ordered the:

French Pig Pizza

Brie, Pancetta, Green Apples, Leeks + Extra Virgin Olive Oil

French Pig Pizza

And then I had the lunch special which was a half order of:

Cajun Chicken Penne

 Blackened Chicken Breast, Sun Dried Tomatoes + Creamy Parmesan Sauce

Cajun chicken pasta and Sonoma salad

And some more of the Sonoma Salad cause it was so good!  The Cajun Chicken pasta is a signature dish that has been a favorite at Johnny Garlic’s since it opened.

I can see why.  It was delish!!

Obviously we didn’t have any room for dessert at this point and we still had a full afternoon of driving to stay awake for!

I’d say if you happen to be in the neighbourhood, whether you are a Guy Fieri or not, it was a very good lunch.  So there.

Dinner in Portland

If you are into food and know anything about Portland Oregon, you KNOW that it is a huge foodie town!  They take all things food very seriously, so I’m not even gonna TRY and cover all that goes on here in one sitting.  I suggest you do your own research and pay Portland a visit and take yourself on an eating tour!

Click here to start your own search

Somewhere around Olympia Washington, Highway 101 meets up with the I-5 and heads South all the way to California.  So a few hours after our lunch break in Sheldon Washington, we crossed the over the Oregon border and found ourselves in Portland.

I had tried to do a little research before our departure so we would at least have a few choices or at least an area to look in for sometime to eat.  I think there is nothing worse on a road trip than when you roll into town, weary from the road and starving and THEN have to try to find somewhere to eat!

It can go either way, sometimes you luck out and find a gem while other times you end up eating the first thing you find which isn’t always good!

I narrowed it down to an area called Burnside.

( click here to check out some of the restaurants ). 

 A friend had suggested a place called “The Screen Door” that is famous for the favorite dish of chicken and waffles.  But then I noticed that there are all kinds of great places all up and down East Burnside Street. 

So after cruising up a down a couple of times, checking them all out visually, judging for atmosphere and crowedness, we ended up choosing a place called “East Burn“.  If you click on the google map and take the inside virtual tour you will see the super groovy hanging basket chairs on a pedestal in the window, that’s were we sat!  I remember some hipster neighbour having some of those when I was a kid.  I loved them then and loved sitting in one at East Burn.  They are surprisingly comfortable and you can swing around and look at the rest of the restaurant while you wait for your food!  It was great!

We weren’t totally starving because we had had our late lunch, so we decided to split a few of the appetizers.

We ordered the Tuscani White Bean Spread that comes with a wonderful peasant bread toast. 

The Potato Pancakes with bourbon apple chutney and scallion sour cream.

The roasted beet with organic chevre, candied pecans and micro greens salad.

These three items were just beautiful but we decided we could fit in a little more.  So we ordered the pasta special and split that too.

It was a very satisfying meal and very comfortable atmosphere but we were tired from our day on the road and wanted to get going.

We didn’t seem to see our waiter anywhere.  And then there seemed to be some sort of commotion in the adjacent “Tap Room” which we didn’t check out but have reason to believe is a bar in the lower level.

Suddenly we saw our waiter run by with a big pipe wrench of some kind and then heard some more commotion.  We saw a number of staff with varying looks of concern seem to disappear downstairs and then there seemed to be some banging noises.

We just sat back and swung in our hanging chairs until our waiter appeared.  He seemed kind of flustered and very apologetic.  Seems someone had accidentally locked themselves in the downstairs bathroom and couldn’t get out!

When we got our bill he had removed our drinks.  I guess to make up for the wait? 

We really had no complaints at all but were very appreciative of the gesture.

And did I mention that there is no sales tax in Oregon?  Even on restaurants!

So it turned out to be not only a delicious experience but also a very reasonable one.

Two for two!

East Burn Restaurant Portland Oregon

Mini meat loaf with broccoli pesto pasta

I like the thought of broccoli pesto.  Good way to hide vegetables!  I’m all about that!

Pretty much make it like any other pesto only instead replacing the basil or “green item” with broccoli.

Here’s what I had and whizzed it up in the food processor:

  • 3 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • florets of one small broccoli head
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 goat cheese ( you could also use parmesan)

Mix well till it is almost a paste and then transfer to a sauce pan and heat.

Broccoli pesto

Meanwhile make the pasta of your choice.  And when it is cooked to your desired tenderness, drain and toss it in the “pesto sauce”.

But before you do any of this, assuming you want the whole meal deal, you will need to get your meat loaf in the oven!

I just got this great “mini loaf” pan.  It makes very cute items.

Make up a batch of your favorite meat loaf recipe and instead of putting it in one big loaf pan, fill up one of these and it make nice little personal loafs.

One tip I have for the meat loaf here.  I had some left over “chili con carne” from the other night so I tossed it in the mix.  That was great because it replaced where you might put….say….ketchup or whatever like that.  Kept them moist, added great flavour and the beans added fibre.

I was pleased how it turned out.

Mini meatloaf

Once the loaves are cooked and the pasta and pesto are heated through, you are ready to serve.  Very easy meal and you have your protein, starch and vegetables in a jiffy!

Mini meat loaf with broccoli pesto pasta

Creamy chicken and sausage pasta

Sometimes the BEST meals come from “cleaning out your fridge”!

That’s pretty much what this dish was all about.

I still had some left over sausage and peppers from the other night and it seems we always have some left over cooked chicken kickin around so that was the base for how this dish evolved.

I started with a hot deep skillet and then added:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • one large onion ( of your choice) coarsely sliced or chopped
  • 4 -5 gloves fresh chopped garlic

Let those cook up awhile and get to know each other.  Then add:

  • left over sausage and peppers
  • left over cooked chicken ( cubed up)
  • any other interesting left overs  ( I had about a 1/4 of caramelized onions for some reason)

Heat those through so that everything is nice and warm then add:

  • about a cup of heavy cream 

Now if you are a non-dairy type you could add crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce of some sort at this point and go in that direction.  But then we couldn’t very well call it “creamy chicken and sausage pasta” anymore.  So if you want that on your conscience so be it!

Heat until the cream is almost coming to a boil, turn it down a little and let it “reduce” by about half.

Then add in some of your other favorite flavours.  I added:

  • some poultry seasoning
  • some thyme
  • some oregano
  • some smokie paprika

keep stirring and then add some cheese if you wish.  Again, I was just cleaning out the fridge and found a partly used pack of pepper corn Boursin cheese which I added and a reasonable chunk of blue cheese to give it extra zing.

Once that was all melted down and everything was super creamy I added a few handfuls of washed baby spinach, just to give it some extra colour and nutrition count.

Then it was ready.

In goes your favorite cooked pasta, toss it up and there is no time you have a yummy yummy creamy pasta dish!

Top with a little fresh grated parmesan cheese if you have it and away you go.

Creamy pasta with chicken and sausage

Another quick pasta dish

I’ll admit it, pasta is my “go to” dish.

It is fast, comforting and rarely can you put something on it that doesn’t taste good!  And IF by chance you mess it up and it isn’t good, you can usually always fix it with cheese!!

I, like a lot people in “experimental years” was a vegetarian for a while.  I hadn’t been to nutrition school yet and didn’t have all the facts to make an informed decision about why exactly I was doing it.  Nor was I doing it properly, because you can’t just “not eat meat” and assume that you have a healthy diet.

This is a particular problem with teenage folk who find out about vegetarianism, think it’s cool and then eat nothing but french fries!  I knew this girl back in the day who was a vegetarian, and a dancer so was always watching her weight and all she would eat was one vegetarian take out pizza a day, every day.  In fact, she had various loyalty awards that she received from the pizza chain because she ordered from the same place every day, commemorative mugs and such!!

But the point of this story is that, when I stopped being a vegetarian and went back to eating meat, the one thing I couldn’t get enough of was sausage!!   To this day I do LOVE a good sausage!  But now that I know better, I try to get good quality sausages with fresh ingredients and from a reputable vendor.

See, healthy eating doesn’t have to be boring, you just need to take a little responsibility for what you are putting in your body.

So back to the easy pasta dish.  This is one of my favorites that I crave and make quite often.

Start by boiling the water for the pasta of your choice.

Then in a large skillet and amounts will vary depending on how much you are making, add:

  • Some nice sausages

Brown on all sides and then add a little water or stock to the bottom of the pan and put the lid on tightly.  This will sort of steam them and make sure they are actually cooked.   Meanwhile chop up:

  • 1 large onion into big slices
  • 1 – 2 peppers of  your choice also into slices

Take the lid off the skillet and toss these in with the sausage.   By now the sausages will have cooked up a bit and will be fairly firm.

I take them out one at a time and slice them, slightly on the bias, into bite size bits and then put them back in the pan.  Make sure you don’t lose any of the sausage juice, be sure and pour it back in then pan if there is any.   Repeat until all the sausages are in pieces and keep tossing every thing around.

At this point I usually add a bit of herbs or spices like some oregano and chili flakes  ( if the sausages aren’t already hot!) and a few cloves of fresh chopped garlic.

Then when the sausages are no longer pink inside and the onions and peppers are soft I add “some” jarred tomato sauce.  When I say “some” I mean just a bit, not the whole jar as though you are making spaghetti sauce!  Just enough to coat the stuff in the pan but it should NOT be swimming!

Sausage and peppers

Let this cook together for a little while longer while you boil your pasta.  Then you can either add the pasta directly to the sausages, if there is room, and mix thoroughly or just top the pasta with the sausages and pepper sauce, which ever is easiest or the most impressive presentation if you are entertaining.

Pasta with sausage and peppers

Top with a bit of cheese……..if you are so inclined!

Another quick pasta dish – grape tomatoes and spinach

Grape tomatoes

This dish makes me feel good.

Here we go.  Turn on the oven to 350 degrees.  Get out your trusty baking sheet with parchment paper.

Meanwhile, in a bowl toss a bunch of grape tomatoes.  They come in those boxes with the holes.  Rinse them right in that box.  Then in the bowl with them pop in a few cloves of garlic with the skin off.  In this case I put them in whole, but you could cut them down a bit if you like but it isn’t necessary.

Drizzle with some olive oil, bit of salt and pepper and then toss them all together and then pour out onto your baking sheet.

Bake them in the oven till they wilt up like raison.  This makes them very very sweet.

Then boil up a pot of your favorite pasta and then drain.

Back in the bowl that you tossed the tomatoes in, add some chopped spinach and the roasted tomatoes and the hot drained pasta.  Toss them quickly.  The heat from the tomatoes and the pasta will wilt down the spinach.

Then add a bit more olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar and you are ready to go.

At this point you have a lovely Vegan dish.  You can sprinkle with some nice Parma cheese and you still have a nice Vegetarian dish.

But tonight, I used this as a side dish with a nice baked chicken breast and some lentil salad.

It is so good to have options!

Another quick easy pasta dish

It’s Wednesday, I’m hungry but tired and rushed.  What to have for dinner?

Chermoula sauce to the rescue again!!

This is so super easy.

Boil up some of your favorite pasta, glutton free it that’s your thing.

Meanwhile in a large bowl add:

  •  your left over chermoula sauce ( at least 1/2 cup)
  • one avocado cubed
  • 1 cup of baby arugula

When the pasta is ready, drain well, add to the large bowl with the other items and toss well.  Once that is all well mixed, toss in 1/2 cup of toasted walnuts and toss it up some more.

Transfer to serving bowls and you have a quick easy pasta supper!

This dish is so quick and easy, I don’t even have a picture!

Quick pasta supper

Ever have those nights when you come home and don’t really feel like getting into a whole “making dinner” type scenario, or you’re home alone and just need something fast?   Well this might help.

This dish is actually one of my favorites because it’s so easy and helps clean up left overs or things that need used in the fridge.

Start by cooking up a pot of your favorite, or what’s available pasta.  I find the most satisfying for this dish is something like a rigatoni, penne or rotini

Drain the pasta and let sit in the colander.

In the same pot that you cooked the pasta in, add:

  •  1 – 2 tbsp olive oil
  •  1 – 2 minced cloves of garlic
  •  cooked chicken breast per person chopped into bite size bits

              or you could use some cooked sausage, or shrimp or whatever other left over you might have.   OR you     could add nice chunks of Portobello mushrooms as the vegetarian option.

Once all of those have heated, add the pasta back in, turn off the heat and mix the pasta till it is nice and coated.  Then transfer the whole pot to a large serving bowl.

Then top with:

Pasta toppings

Tonight I used:

  • 1 half of a ripe avocado cut in cubes
  • 1/2 toasted walnut pieces

Then

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • fresh ground salt and pepper to taste

Toss that all up and then the last thing to add is:

  • 1/2 cup lightly chopped arugula ( but you could use spinach or parsley) whatever you have
  • And an optional grating or two of parmesan cheese.

Than there you have it.  Quick simple pasta supper.

Use your imagination and use whatever works for you.  This dish can be different every time!

Rigatoni with chicken, walnuts, avocado, arugula and lemon

The old favorites

There certainly have been a lot of changes in Montreal since my last visit.

Between all the good ol places that are now gone and the slew of new places that have appeared, I guess it’s just not my city anymore.

Luckily there were a few of the truly old favorites left.  Places that have been there as long as I can remember.

One such comforting place as  Rotissierie Italienne on St. Catherine Street West.

Rotissierie Italienne

This was always a great place to get a cheap, hardy, comforting meal that would satisfy.  And on a cold snowy night with a glass of red wine, there was no better place to be.  Very glad to see it is still there and has passed the test of time.

Another place I was happy to see was still there, in spite of itself, is a place called Calories Restaurant further West on St. Catherine Street.

Calories Restaurant

I say in spite of itself because it has managed to endure through years of diet fads that have come and gone.  And as a delectable dessert establishment, there never seems to have been the “all cake all the time” diet just as yet.  Going to Calories was always a guilty late night pleasure.

Then if you wanted to turn it around and get a hit of healthy, then Le Commensal Restaurant is your place!

Le Commensal Restaurant

Le Commensal is a vegetarian buffet that can be rivaled by few.  They have a few locations ( including in Toronto) but this one was always my favorite.  Perched high above St. Catherine Street, there was nothing better than scoring a window seat and watching the world go by while loading up on delicious fortifying fare!!

In fact, back when I used to work in the movie business, on one particular show, we had the highly acclaimed actor Sidney Poitier in the cast.  Rumor has it that he was such a fan of Le Commensal that he would insist his driver take him directly there from the airport before even checking in at the hotel!  So if you like good vegetarian food, you might want to check this one out!

Now this last place, is a legendary Montreal eatery.  Schwartz’s Deli home of the famous Montreal Smoked Meat!

Schwartz’s Deli

This picture was taken at 3:00 in the afternoon on a Saturday and there is still a big line up!

As a former Montrealer I am almost embarrassed to say that I have never been to Schwartz’s!  I know, I know, but I was just never into the line ups and then being crammed inside and yelled at just for a sandwich.  Especially when there were several, much less abusive, perfectly delightful other establishments where one might procure the equally traditional Montreal smoked meat.

But this is the one that is in all of the tourist brochures, so knock yourself out!

Pasta party part II

I’ve rested up a bit and am ready to tell you about the second half of the dinner menu.

This next dish is the result of the previous descriptions.  Here we have the beet linguini in the toasted parmesan basket!  Two birds with one stone so to speak.   And then topped with a roasted celeriac cream sauce.  The vibrant red colour of the beet juice did end up leaching out of the pasta a bit but still managed to keep an interesting colour.

Beet linguini in toasted parma basket with roasted celeriac cream sauce

I was pleased with the texture of the pasta.  I wasn’t sure if it would be gummy after the ordeal of stuffing it through the juicer!  But it actually had a very satisfying feel in the mouth.

With our next course we again took a break from the pasta and went to the “Secondo” or a meat course.  This was tender medalions of lamb topped with goat cheese on a bed of shaved asperagus with a light pesto drizzle and toasted pin nuts. 

Medallions of lamb with goat cheese and shaved asperagus with pesto drizzle

We were approaching delerium by this point.  Even though we did our very best to pace ourselves and as you can see it was reasonable portions, we were really getting full.  But we soldiered on, for the good of the cause.  What was the cause again?

Back to the pasta, this was our last savory course.  This was a succulent  cannelloni stuffed with chicken and mascarpone and baked in a tangy sundried tomato cream sauce.

Unfortunately the picture of this one didn’t turn out at all.  I’d like to blame the camera, but I suspect it had something to do with too much wine.

This was a tastey dish but I have to admit that at this point I was a bit too full to completely enjoy it at the time but it was wonderful reheated yesterday, the bonus round!

By the time we reached dessert I thought I would have to hand out pillows so we could all have a little lie down but we couldn’t up give now!

The dessert was an ice cream scoop of tiramisu with shaved chocolate, strawberry colis and eatable flower peddles that we just “happended” to have.

Tiramisu with shaved chocolate, strawberry coulis and flower peddles

It was actually nice and light and not too sweet and just the perfect last morcel to a splenid meal.

Did you know the purpose of dessert is to signal the brain that the meal has ended so that digestion may begin?  Like that was going to help us at this point!!

Can you really make pasta with a juicer?

We are having some people in for a home-made pasta party next week.  We have one of those metal pasta makers, the kind you clamp on to your table and crank the dough through till it’s flat enough.  But I’m not allowed to use it, so today I decided to try my own thing.

I have one of those fancy Omega  juicers, the kind you can make all sorts of things with, one of which is apparently pasta.  It comes with a bunch of different nozzles that go on the front where the pulp normally comes out.  I’ve been wanting to try the pasta feature forever.

I thought if I were going to all this trouble, why not make it impressive?  So I thought I’d make beet flavoured pasta.

First I needed beets.  I used the juicer in the normal way and juiced three small beets.  Then I put the juice in a small sauce pan and reduced it down till it was almost syrupy.  My resident Chef told me to do that instead of just using the straight juice, otherwise the pasta will just come out pink instead of red.

Meanwhile, I made the pasta dough in the KitchenAid  mix master.  It was a multiple appliance day! 

Having never made pasta dough before, I used the recipe found on this website:

 

Only when the recipe calls for water, I used the reduced beet  juice instead.

Once the dough was ready, then came the fun part.  Might I just say for the record, that I highly recommend this part as two person operation.  I did it alone, but it took a lot of maneuvering and a lot of time.

It helps if you put a bit of flour in and around the feeder of the juicer before you start shoving the dough in.  Roll the dough into a nice sausage shape, a little thinner than the opening of the feeder.  Start the juicer and slowly lower the dough into the feeder.  Once it reaches the auger it will start to be pulled in, but eventually you will have to help it with the plunger.

This is where it gets all crazy and you need an extra set of hands.  You are squashing the dough in on top and then the noodles  start  coming out the front.  I found I had to keep stopping and starting so that I could cut off the lengths of pasta and lay them out.  They were coming out four strands at a time and if you aren’t fast they will stick together.  If this happens and you can’t gently pull them apart, no worries, just shove them back in the feeder for another go round.

It took me a couple of goes to get the hang of it, but once you do, it will be fine.  The problem was what to do with the noodles once they came out of the machine.  My only thought was from all those movies I’ve seen set in Italian kitchens where they “dry” the pasta.  I put some tea towels on the back of my kitchen chairs and voila!  Pasta driers!

drying pasta

More drying pasta

 Clean up wasn’t that fun.  Keep in mind that there will be a nice chunk of dough still left in the machine.  This can be rescued and used for something if you wanted to. 
 
Washing up the juicer parts was a little challenging but that oversized toothbrush that came in the  box finally came in handy.
 
Once the pasta is dry, I pictured rolling it up into those birds nest type things you see the “fresh” pasta at the grocery store in.  But once it was dry it seemed to crack easily so instead I had to find a container that I could lay it in length wise.
 

Pasta ready to cook

 
Ideally you want to use it right away, but mine will have to keep a day or two.
 
I’ll let you know how it turns out!
  
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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