Archive | March, 2012

A Creamy Spinach and Mushroom Pasta

27 Mar

Whole wheat penne in a creamy spinach and mushroom sauce.

  • 100 grams whole wheat penne (can easily substitute with any type of short pasta), cook as instructed and also save some (1 cup should be sufficient) of the hot pasta water
  • 250g baby spinach, cut chiffonade style
  • 2 portobello mushrooms cut into bit-size pieces (any type of mushroom would work too)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 to 2 cups of skim milk
  • 2 tbsps flour
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and pepper
  • 1 large egg

Two Portobello mushrooms and baby spinach.

Heat a sauce pan on high. Once hot, add in olive oil and garlic. When the garlic begins to brown, add in the flour. Cook the flour for 20 to 30 seconds, then gradually add in 1 cup of milk while stirring continuously.

Garlic, flour, olive oil and milk simmering to make base of sauce.

When the sauce begins to thicken, add in the spinach. If the mixture appears dry, add in a little more milk. Mix well and turn down heat to medium.

Spinach in a creamy milk sauce.

Add in the portobello mushrooms. Mix well. Season generously with salt and pepper.  Add in the parmesan cheese.

Creamy spinach and mushroom sauce.

Once the mushrooms are soft, add in the pasta. Combine well.

Creamy spinach and mushroom sauce with penne.

In a large bowl, beat the egg. While beating, gradually add in a few spoonfuls of the hot pasta water to increase the temperature of the egg without scrambling it. Add enough water such that the egg is hot to the touch. This is known as tempering. It is important to continuously whisk the egg while the water is gradually being added, otherwise the egg may scramble.

Remove the pasta and sauce from the direct heat. Add in the warm beaten egg. Combine well. Add more grated parmesan if deserved. Serve immediately.

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Chicken with Mushrooms and White Wine

20 Mar

Chicken thighs and drumsticks braised in a white wine with mushrooms and onions.

  • 4 to 6 chicken thighs or drumsticks
  • about 1 cup of flour (amount depends on the number of chicken pieces)
  • sea salt and pepper
  • 1 cup of white wine*
  • 10 to 15 cremini mushrooms, washed and halved
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, mined
  • 2 sprigs of fresh oregano, remove leaves from stem, discard stem
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter

Onions, fresh oregano, garlic and cremini mushrooms.

Chicken after it's been seared and browned.

Thoroughly season the chicken with salt and pepper. Coat each piece of chicken with flour. Heat a pot on high heat. Add in oil first, then chicken. Brown the chicken so that the skin is crispy and golden. Remove  chicken from pot.  To the same pot, add in butter, garlic and onions. Cook until the onions are soft.  Add in the mushrooms and oregano. Sprinkle a light dusting of salt and pepper. Give everything a good stir and then add in the white wine.  Once the liquids in the pot begin to bubble, add in the chicken and any juices that may of collected. Cook covered for 30 to 35 minutes depending on the amount of chicken. Garnish with additional oregano leaves right before serving.  Serve with plain brown rice and/or salad.

Here's how the dish looks after 30 minutes of cooking.

*For the white wine, I used Generation Seven which is a blend of Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraminer. It is from Canada and retails for $13.95 (CDN).  I sampled this wine at a wine tasting earlier this year and really liked it.

Wine Tasting: A follow up

13 Mar

I attended another lively wine tasting with host Rose Vogt (the first wine tasting can be found here). The theme at the second wine tasting was a comparison of old world versus new world wines. In particular, Pinot Grigio versus Malbec wines.

20 Bees, Pinot Grigio, $11.95

The following white wines, all Pinot Grigio, were sampled first (year, alcohol, sugar* and price):

  1. 20 Bees, 2011, 11.7%, 1, $11.95
  2. Eastdell Estates, 2010, 10.3%, 1, $12.95
  3. Muri Gies, 2010, 13.2%, extra dry, $18.95
  4. Tommasi Le Rosee, 12%, 1, $14.95

Rigal Les Terrassess, Malbec, $12.95

The following red wines, all Malbec variety, were sampled after the Pinot Grigio.

  1. Rigal Les Terrasess, 2009, 13%, 1, $12.95
  2. Georges Vigourous Antisto Tradition, 2008, 14%, dry, $17.95
  3. Fuzion Alto Reserve, 2010, 14%, 1, $9.95
  4. Graffigna Cent Res, 2010, 13.5%, 1, $12.95

Rose is also an avid cook. She made fresh vibrant shrimp and spinach salads with homemade vinaigrette  to pair with the Pinot Grigio as well as beautiful lamb and mushroom skewers for the Malbec wines. Pinot Grigio often goes well with seafood or a creamy pasta. Pinot Grigio is also suggested as a before-dinner wine. Many of the Malbec wines are often ideal accompaniments to barbecued meats or roasted vegetables.

A shrimp and spinach salad with plump tomatoes, red onions and sesame.

Lamb skewer with mushrooms and red onion.

The evening was capped off with a sinfully sweet Port by Taylor Fladgate.  This was the first time I had ever tried port. It had a rich golden brown colour and tasted like sweet liquid gold. The Port was a lovely treat and a great way to end the wine tasting.

Taylor's Fladgate Port wine, product of Portugal, 20% alcohol, $36.95.

Some additional tips and tidbits I learned from Rose:

  • Port is a fortified wine.
  • Some young wines can be purchased and then aged in the bottle for several years. This is a money saver as wine makers charge extra for aged wines.
  • A bottle of wine that smells like wet sock has gone bad and can usually be returned to the store of purchase.

As always, a big thank you to Rose for her time, sharing of wine knowledge and scrumptious food.

*Sweet is the flavour of sugar in wine; dry is the opposite of sweet. Extra dry lies somewhere between sweet and dry. A rating of 2 is more sweet than a rating of 1.

Waldorf Salad with Cranberries

6 Mar

Lillian's Waldorf salad with cranberries.

A guest post by Lillian who created her own unique version of the classic Waldorf salad.

  •  1/4 red onion — finally chopped and seasoned with coarse sea salt
  • 1 head of romaine lettuce — washed and chopped
  • 2 slices of multigrain bread — toasted and cut in quarters
  • 1 small apple — any kind — cut into small cubes (about 1 cm cubes)
  • 1/3 finely chopped red (or yellow) pepper
  • 1/3 long English cucumber — sliced
  • 1  fresh lemon — squeezed for dressing
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin hard pressed olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper — amount to your liking
  • 2 tablespoons of light Miracle Whip
  • 1 tablespoon of (unsweetened) dried cranberries
  •  2 tablespoons of chopped walnuts

In a large bowl, place salted onions and squeeze mixture with (clean) hands. This will have a marinating effect on the onions and will remove the strong taste from them as well as allow all the flavours of the salad to meld. Add lettuce, apples and cranberries. Then add lemon juice, olive oil, ground black pepper and Miracle Whip.  Toss everything together and then fold in walnuts, red/yellow pepper and cucumber slices. Arrange the toast around the rim of the bowl (see photo). Enjoy!

Note: No extra salt should be required. Can substitute with red/green butter lettuce

Thank you to Lillian for taking the time for sharing her Waldorf salad creation.