dimanche 24 août 2008

Penne and Peppers

I found a brightly coloured multi pack of peppers at the Auchan supermarket in Luxembourg and decided to give them a try in 
this quick and easy pasta dish.
The recipe can be varied by:
Replacing penne with fusilli (farfalle or bowtie) pasta.
Replacing fresh peppers with roasted peppers
Using different coloured peppers
Adding tomatoes
Adding parsley or chile peppers

In future, I will stick with regular red, yellow and green peppers. These exotically coloured ones lacked in flavour and texture for this dish.

Penne with a Trio of Peppers
Serves 4

400 g (14 oz) penne
30 mL (2 Tbsp) olive oil
1 red or yellow onion, sliced in strips
1 each red, green and yellow peppers, seeded and cut in strips*
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Cook penne in a large pot of boiling water for 8-10 minutes or until al dente. Drain.
While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; add onion, garlic and peppers and sauté for 10 minutes or until tender.
Add pasta to the peppers and stir to mix. Season with salt and pepper; sprinkle with Parmesan and serve immediately.

* Peppers can be grilled, peeled and seeded prior to slicing and adding to the onions. This will give the dish a slightly smoky flavour and the peppers will be easier to digest.

dimanche 17 août 2008

Red & Green Tomato Salsa

When I was about 8 years old we lived in Liverpool, Nova Scotia in a large house with a barn and gardens. In the summer we picked raspberries from a patch in our yard – we would go out with empty apple juice cans tied with string around our necks. We ate our fill of raspberries. My mother made jars and jars of raspberry jam with the bounty of the wonderful red berries.
At the end of the summer we had vines of green tomatoes. No one expected green tomatoes. After waiting to see if they would ripen to red, my father decided that they must have been a green variety rather than red ones that did not ripen. Undaunted, Dad harvested them and made Green Tomato Chutney. We had no recipe for it so he did what Dads do and improvised. I can’t say that I remember what it was like just that he made it.
Fried Green Tomatoes came to our attention in the wonderful movie of the same name. It is a southern US specialty that came about from the abundance of tomatoes and the need to pick some tomatoes early to prune the vines. In the southern US green tomatoes are available through out the summer, in the northern US and Canada they tend to be late ripening tomatoes left on the vine at the end of the summer and not a culinary treat.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in Ouistreham and saw green tomatoes at the Marché. I bought a few to give them a try. Green tomatoes have a firmer texture more like young green peppers and a tarter taste than fresh ripe red tomatoes.
The green tomatoes reminded me of tomatillos, a green fruit covered with a husk used in Mexican cuisine. They are of the tomato family although not the same thing as green unripe tomatoes. I thought I would combine the red and green tomatoes to make a salsa that took advantage of the differences.

Red & Green Tomato Salsa
Makes 500 mL (2 cups)

1 chile, roasted, seeded and peeled, finely chopped*
2 medium ripe red tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
2 medium green tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
15 mL (1 Tbsp) freshly squeezed limejuice
15 mL (1 Tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Fleur de sel and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir to mix. Let stand 30 minutes for flavours to blend. Taste and adjust seasoning as required.

*Amount of chile to use will vary depending on the type and heat of the chile and how hot you like the salsa.

dimanche 10 août 2008

Summer Borscht

The high natural sugar content (higher even that carrots and corn) has placed beets in the forbidden category for many diets. However, upon further study, it seems that these earthy, good for you tasting beets are really good for you AND your diet as they can help cleanse toxins from the kidneys, gall bladder and liver. This is in addition to their potassium, vitamins A and C, magnesium, riboflavin, iron, copper, calcium and zinc content. Beets are a good source of fibre and contain antioxidant properties. The diet angle is that an overtaxed liver can cause a person to gain weight, especially around the middle, so anything you can do to assist your liver with the elimination of the toxins will help with losing weight. It is recommended to drink three to eight ounces of fresh beet juice each day. Maximum benefit is derived from drinking it in the morning, mixed with other milder tasting juices such as carrot, cucumber, celery, lemon or apple juices combined with freshly juiced ginger root.

My first introduction to borscht or beet soup was at Ratner’s Deli in Manhattan about 25 years ago. I am not sure that I tried it there but it made an impression on me so I bought their cookbook and made it myself. There are two versions of the borscht - one for summer and a heartier one for winter. I make the summer version and have tasted a winter version made by one of my friends.
Take care when working with beets as the juice can stain your hands, clothes, countertops, etc.

Summer Borscht
Serves 6-8

6 medium beets
500 mL (2 cups) chicken stock
30 mL (2 Tbsp) sherry or red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
30-45 mL (2-3 Tbsp) dill pickle juice
60 mL (1/4 cup) sugar, or to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
Crème fraiche or sour cream
Several sprigs of fresh dill, chopped

Rinse beets and cut stems approximately 8-10 cm (3-4”) from beet. Place beets in a deep pot, cover with water, bring to a boil then reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 50 minutes, or until beets are tender.
Remove beets and set aside to cool. Reserve approximately 1-1/2 litre (6 cups) of cooking liquid. Peel beets and dice into bite-size pieces.
Return beets and beet broth to the pan; heat over medium low heat. Add chicken stock, vinegar, lemon juice and dill pickle juice, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir until sugar has dissolved and borscht is heated through. Serve warm or cooled to room temperature, garnished with a dollop of sour cream and chopped dill.