Sunday, January 22, 2017

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

- Carl Sandburg, "Fog"

It was a foggy drive today as I went to visit my youngest at university. She and I cooked together, making food for a friend whose brother died this week.

"I don't know what to say when somebody dies, Mom."
"Neither do I, honey."

We take food, and say how sorry we are, and hope they know how much we care.

Pasta and Chicken with Mascarpone

Inspired by Italian Food Forever 

1 cup mascarpone cheese at room temperature
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
a few grinds of black pepper
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut into 1/2” dice
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3 cups baby spinach
2 cups dry penne
salt (for pasta water)
1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds

Combine the mascarpone, zest, lemon juice and pepper in a bowl, and whisk to combine. Bring a pasta pot of salted water to boil.

While waiting for the water, heat the oil in a skillet, and cook the chicken until it is cooked through and just beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and spinach, and cook another minute or two, until spinach is wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook the pasta until al denteDrain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

Return the pasta to the pot, and set over medium heat. Stir in the mascarpone and lemon mixture, the chicken mixture,  and sun-dried tomatoes. Loosen the sauce with 1/4 cup of the water and toss the ingredients together until everything is combined, adding a little additional pasta water if needed.

Serve immediately, topped with toasted sliced almonds.

A new year

Sunday, January 8, 2017
Sintra, Portugal - May 2016
We're a week into the New Year, but I want to write about one of my favourite year-end traditions. Andrew, the girls and I always go out to dinner between Christmas and New Year's, and spend the meal taking turns talking about our favourite memories of the past year.

2016 was a year many people were glad to see the end of, so we really appreciated remembering the wonderful experiences we had, either individually or as a family. While some of them were big (a family trip to Portugal, and a 25th wedding anniversary trip to Argentina), most of the things we remembered were smaller: a picnic lunch by Lake Ontario, a Thanksgiving weekend hike with my mom, going to church together on Christmas day. We had so much to be grateful for, we were still sharing memories when it was time to go.

Evora, Portugal - May 2016

Iguazu Falls, Argentina - September 2016
As always, it was a great way to end a year. And a good way to start this year is to prepare food that's both delicious and healthy. Susie Middleton is my cookbook hero - her recipes make vegetables the star, and I can always count on them being full of flavour. If this is a taste of what 2017 will be like, it's going to be an awesome year.

Gingery Sweet Potato and Apple Saute
(adapted slightly from Fast, Fresh and Green by Susie Middleton)

1 tsp cider vinegar
2 tsp chicken broth
1 Tbsp unsalted butter (first amount)
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (first amount)
2 3/4 cups sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2" dice (about 1 1/2 medium sweet potatoes)
1 small yellow onion cut into 1/2" dice
1 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp olive oil (second amount)
1 Golden Delicious apple cut into 1/2" dice
2 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1/2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp roughly chopped toasted sliced almonds

Combine the cider vinegar and broth in a small bowl and set aside.

In a 10" saute pan or skillet, melt 1 Tbsp butter with 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add sweet potatoes, onion, and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and lightly browned, and the sweet potatoes have turned bright orange and are starting to brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

Add 1 Tbsp olive oil and the diced apple. Turn the heat down to medium low, and stir frequently until sweet potatoes are tender, and the apple and onion are browned, 8 to 12 minutes.

Add ginger and stir for about 30 seconds to incorporate. Remove the pan from the heat, clear a small spot in the pan, and add the vinegar-broth mixture and remaining 1/2 Tbsp butter. Stir well immediately to incorporate the butter. Transfer to plates and garnish with toasted almonds.