When Italian home-cooked meal pictures start popping up frequently on my Instagram ; this means my dear old friend James is back in town for a visit; we always cook together wonderful rustic Italian dishes, and share with our group of friends, now aptly named Italian Supper Club.
Two evenings of fun and laughter with our friends; wonderful food and great company, Grazie everyone (OO)
Here are some of our highlights:
Antipasti (Mortadella, Parma di prosciutto, Grilled eggplant all from Cioffi’s),
Piave Mezzano Cheese (from Les Amis Du Fromage on East Hastings, a cow’s milk cheese)
Blood Orange, Fennel and Olive Salad (Slice thinly and layered, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt)
This is honestly the best artichoke dish I’ve ever had, and peeling artichokes is not as difficult as we imagine !!
Lemon and dill Brill sole (Fresh brill sole (bone in), lemon, olive oil, fresh dill – fish from Seafood City in Granville Island)
Groceries for Dinner II:
What is that can? Salted Anchovies (Available at Cioffi’s and Bosa Foods)…ready to be transformed..
Anchovies in Sabina olive oil, garlic and red chili pepper flakes , served with French Butter and crusted bread – heavenly! Thanks to my hubby and buddy James, they did most of the cleaning – salted anchovies cleaned in white wine vinegar, de-boned (removing the tail and dorsal) and layered in sealed glass container with extra virgin olive oil (we used the Sabina DOP from Italy, you need an excellent quality oil), a little red pepper chili flakes and garlic slices)
Roast Pork Belly (Coarse salt, sage, rosemary and five peppercorn): despite the initial mix up with the temperature (Celsius and Fahrenheit Difference LOL), the roast pork belly was very succulent and skin was thin and crispy.
Pasta Ceci (Chickpeas cooked with sofrito (onion, celery and carrots) and Gnocchi Sardi Pasta) – (dried chickpeas were used – soaked overnight)
Over the Labour Day long weekend, I spent a wonderful Sunday evening with my pal James, hosting a group of our friends together at my home to our famous “Italian Night”.
For the past three years I always look forward to March and September when my dear friend James returns from Italy to Canada for a short visit; we have a semi-annual standing ” Italian cooking date”, a tradition which has a very special place in my heart.
Cooking and sharing with family and friends is the most beautiful way to celebrate relationships and bring people together.
That night we talked, we laughed, we cooked, we learnt and we shared; the memories we created together are priceless…
To my friends who joined us this time (you know who you are), it was great seeing you all and catch up, Grazie! And to our dear friends who missed the gathering this time (you also know who you are), we missed you.
To my dear friend and teacher James, I look forward to our next “date” in March, hope to continue this wonderful tradition for many years to come and one day we will be able to cook together in Italy…Alla Prossima…xxxooo
Remember the most important ingredients you will need to create a beautiful meal….Patience + Love + Kindness + Gratitude
Bagna Cauda: an aromatic “hot bath” for fresh vegetables and bread
Have you ever had Bagna Cauda? It is a dish originally from Piedmont, Italy.
Fresh market vegetables, both cooked and raw, are dipped into a flavourful warm sauce, made of anchovies, olive oil, garlic and butter, enjoyed with scrumptious chunks of bread; this makes a wonderful sharing and wine-pairing dish for any dinner gathering, particularly during Fall Harvest Season.
I’ve only had this dish in restaurants twice here in Vancouver, once a few years ago enjoyed a Japanese “miso” version at Rajio (Izakaya on West 10th Avenue in beautiful Vancouver), and most recently a beautiful rendition at Osteria Savio Volpe.
It sounds very good already right? The even better part, it is not difficult to make.
The key to make a beautiful bagna cauda is having the freshest ingredients and you are already halfway there; the rest involves a lot of meticulous cleaning and chopping! Oh one more thing… a fondue pot will be handy to keep the sauce warm. I actually didn’t have the pot, so I just heated up the sauce right before dinner starts so it was ready to go when we were ready to eat!
I have roughly based the sauce recipe on Epicurious; for my version I have reduced the quantity of the butter and anchovies (trying to be more health conscious by reducing the fat and salt intake). Once you type in “Bagna Cauda”, you will be able to find many different versions for this classic Italian recipe (see alsoFood52 detailed write-up on its background and recipe).
Ingredients for dipping sauce: 1/2 cup – 3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature), 6 – 8 cloves of garlic (chopped), 8 – 10 anchovies fillets.
Preparation: Blend the anchovies, garlic and olive oil in the blender until smooth.
Pour mixture into a medium saucepan and over medium low heat, cook the sauce for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cook until the garlic becomes fragrant, you must pay lots of attention garlic burns easily, you don’t want to brown it. Before removing from the heat, stir in the butter until blended nicely.
Taste and season with pepper (if you like) and sea salt (if necessary, remember anchovies are quite salty).
Serve raw or cooked vegetables and bread; I prepared a tray of fresh vegetables (picture below) purchased from the farmer’s market: a selection of beans, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, cauliflower and peppers.
Stringozzi with Peas, Pistachios and mint sauce
We put all our friends hard at work this time making Stringozzi together!
Stringozzi is an Italian “peasant” pasta, the shape of the noodles resemble shoelaces; all you need is water and some finest Italian “00” flour (we used “Caputo 00 flour” – see Saveur’s magazine article)
The noodle making process involves everyone’s participation; our “pasta master” James mixed the flour and water and we help a little to knead the dough. The dough is then put in the refrigerator to rest (wrapped in plastic wrap tightly, rest for about 30 minutes to an hour). We then take turns pulling the dough until it smooth (this is the most physically demanding part) and you can feel the “elasticity”. When the dough is ready, we cut into small pieces and divided it amongst our group to “roll” out the pasta by hand. We have to sprinkle a little flour on the noodles when we gather them together to keep them from sticking together. The noodles are actually quite delicate and a bit chewy, my friends said they resemble a little like ‘handmade’ udon.
Prepare a large pot of salted boiling water to cook the pasta, the noodles actually cook quickly (just a few minutes) and you have to stir a little while cooking. Do not “crowd” the pot by putting too much noodles all at once.
When the noodles are cooked 3/4s of the way through, transfer to the large pan already filled with the sauce of your choice, toss gently together and let the noodles to finish cooking through. Please DO NOT toss out the pasta water, you will need to use it to adjust the thickness of the sauce.
My friend James created a “pesto” sauce – a mixture of sweet gorgonzola, peas (we used frozen), basil and pistachios, all blended together smoothly in the food processor. The sauce was transferred and cooked in a very large pan, use the pasta water to adjust the thickness of the sauce, when pasta was almost ready toss them into the pan and mix well, let the noodles cook through.
In the past we have created Stringozzi all’amatriciana (click to see recipe on Serious Eats – Tomatoes (preferred San Marzano), guanciale, red pepper flakes, wine and pecorino romano cheese ) which is one of my all time favourite.
Unfortunately I don’t have a specific quantity for this pasta recipe; I came across a general recipe which is very similar to what we have created on this blog: Madonnadelpiatto
If you are ever interested in learning how to make pasta, my dear Italian friend Peter (Pastaboy) is a wonderful teacher, click on his name for more details.
Here are the snapshots of what I have been cooking at home this past month! Recipes coming very soon.
For the time being you can find my other updates and pictures with description posted on Instagram (@mygoldenapron).
I would also love to hear your feedback so feel free to send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or drop me a line through Instagram (OO).
Picture above: Sake Kasu Miso Sable Fish with Mixed vegetable (burdock, turnip leaves, lotus root and broccoli) rice: the dried burdock, turnip and lotus root are from Japan, I found them at a local Japanese store).
Nduja spaghetti Bolognese (with basil sausage from Oyama sausage and Co) : Remember Nduja, the spicy sausage spread ? I added to my Bolognese recipe to spice things up a bit !
When Japanese meets Italian: Roast shio koji organic chicken, cauliflower broccoli penne pasta in lemon parsley herb drizzle, garnish with crispy kale bits and lemon zest. It is very easy to make the herb drizzle: chives, parsley, lemon juice, grated lemon zest, extra virgin olive oil, drizzle of honey and pinch of sea salt.
Pan fried spot prawn with Thai red curry (store-bought paste, added fish sauce, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves) served with lentil quinoa turmeric rice: since spot prawn season is over, you can substitute with other prawns/shrimp available for this dish).
Faux Unagi Donburi (Rice bowl): Orange roughy turned into unagi; baked and glazed with homemade unagi sauce, scrambled dashi egg with green onions, on a bed of turmeric (just a touch) fresh peas and carrot rice, garnish with crispy kale bits (my current favourite garnish in place of seaweed)
Disclaimer: All ingredients are non-sponsored purchased at some of my preferred vendors in Vancouver, BC. Pictures are my own and dishes are my creations based on what I have learned through cooking classes, reading cookbooks and research.
Fall is always my favourite season; I am always excited and grateful to welcome the harvest season and get busy in my kitchen!
This September is all about Italian food at our household:
Italian Home cooking with my friends James (househistorian) and Peter (Pastaboy), sharing the joys and love for Italian cuisine: Whenever my friend James return to Vancouver, we always have a standing appointment to cook together for our good friends.
Here is the composite photo showing our dinner. Top row left; deep-fried cauliflower, fresh, handmade orecchiette pasta, bruschetta with Sabina DOP extra virgin olive oil from Casperia.
Second row left to right: Insalata caprese with local heirloom tomatoes and bufala mozzarella. Orecchiette (handmade small ear pasta) with fava beans, peas, Gorgonzola (sweet) and half and half cream pureed and topped with crispy guanciale (smoked pork cheek), baked sockeye salmon (local!) with lemon and capers.
Bottom row Left to Right: An amazing bottle of Spanish wine, Spaghetti all’Amatriciana (remembering the earthquake in Amatrice), getting ready to make pasta dough with flour and water!
My trusting go to places for my supplies in Vancouver: Cioffis 4142 East Hastings, Bianca Maria 2469 East Hastings, Gourmet Warehouse 1340 East Hastings)
We love pies: Gabi and Jules Handmade pies and baked goods in Port Moody
The newest artisan baked shop and cafe opened weeks ago in Port Moody; we were crazy and drove Port Moody one rainy Saturday morning, and the verdict? It was well worth the long drive from Vancouver! We had the apple blueberry pie: flaky buttery crust with generous fillings, the sweetness was perfect! I had the scrumptious cheese scone and my crazy husband had the peach cobbler muffin,
Their website is still under construction, they have great pictures on Instagram (@gabiandjules).
Tasting and Book Signing event at Gourmet Warehouse: Lidia Bastianich
The great Italian born American chef, Ms. Lidia Bastianich visited Vancouver this month… I was absolutely thrilled to meet her in person, she is absolutely lovely…completely starstruck..
I got her autographed cookbook (included in ticket purchase), a picture taken and spoke with her for a few minutes about Italian cooking. Tremendous thank you to staff and event crew at Gourmet Warehouse for hosting the wonderful event.
I will be very occupied this winter and I look forward to sharing all new cooking tips, techniques and recipes with everyone.
We all love having pastas for dinner, the sauces are usually easy to make, the ingredients are simple and easy to purchase, my focus is always on using fresh in season and local ingredients.
Broccoli pine nut pesto with gluten-free fusilli (Gogo Quinoa), Spaghetti and Zoodles (Zucchini noodles) all’amatriciana (San Marzano Canned tomatoes, guanciale (smoked pork cheek), garlic and Pecorino romano). I substituted the half the spaghetti with zoodles (love my spiralizer).
Some upcoming Events in Vancouver:
September 29th – Sake Festival (consumer tasting in the evening), check website for information.