September 2017: Mangiamo bene in Settembre (We Eat Well in September)

 

Mangiamo Bene! Prosciutto di Parma, Mortadella and figs, homemade salmon pate and bagna cauda, just a few of the dishes we enjoyed on our “Italian Night”

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.

Sweet and Special Delivery with love from Sabina, Casperia, Italy

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.

Bagna Cauda (right) at Osteria Savio Volpe : my inspiration

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 also Food52  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.

My version of Bagna Cauda: All the goodness in a Huge bowl – Fresh in season vegetables purchased at the Farmers Market

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.

Kneading, pulling, rolling and now ready to cook!

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.

Peas, mint, sweet gorgonzola and pistachio “Pesto” with Stringozzi – Ricotta cheese can also be used for this pasta sauce.

Notes:

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.

Some of my go-to shopping places for Italian foods/ingredients in Vancouver: Cioffi’s, Bianca Maria (2469 E. Hastings, Vancouver), Les Amis Du Fromage and Oyama Sausage Co. 

 

 

 

 

 

March 2017 : Baci Baci Italia e Giappone (Kiss Kiss Italy and Japan)

Udon in Tomato Nduja Miso Broth with pea shoots, napa cabbage, spinach and pickled Shallots Homemade!
Deconstructed Afternoon Tea at Wild Sweets: “an affair to remember”

I revisited Wild Sweets with my dear foodie friends one Sunday afternoon for their “Cocoa Bean to Chocolate Afternoon Tea”, their 13-course afternoon tea is a very unique and “hands on” affair. All courses came “deconstructed” with detailed explanation presented by Mr. Dominique, each item includes a cocoa bean to chocolate element, all served with a chocolate tea infusion.  Their take on this old tradition is very refreshing and modern filled with wonderful surprises, I felt I was taken “back in time” to secondary school days experimenting in the science lab.     We had the most wonderful 2 hours assembling and styling the delicate treats, it is definitely an “affair” to remember.

Thank you very much to Dominique and Cindy and their staff for this wonderful learning experience!

Booking for this event is available online through their website:

http://dcduby.com/

chocolate cream…chocolate dream..

Epic Italian Cooking Night : Nduja!!!

My dear friend James now resides in Casperia, Italy and  comes back to Canada to visit his family twice a year. Whenever he is in town,  we always get together to cook an Epic Italian Dinner at my home.  We always have the best time preparing all the dishes together for our friends, I hope in the near future someday I will be cooking with James, a truly wonderful teacher, in Italy..

James always introduce a tasty and authentic Italian element to our dinners: I rarely use already processed sauce or paste, however I am willing to make an exception for James!  And here comes “Nduja”: a spicy cured pork salumi spread originally from Calabria, Italy.

This is the bottled version found at Bianca Maria on East Hastings…You can purchase the sausage form from Oyama Sausage at Granville Island
When using nduja, a little goes a long way, the smell and taste reminded me a little of chorizo sausage (without the distinctive smell). We used it as the base for the sauce, cooked together with a little olive oil, white wine and minced garlic; then we steamed the clams in the sauce, finished off with grated lemon zest.  Toss in “al dente” spaghetti (nduja is already salty so be light handed with salt when boiling pasta) and Voila!   The flavors melted together and lifted the pasta dish to a different level, and the sauce tasted even better on the next day.

James was such a sweetie and got rid of all the clam shells!

The bottled version is available at Bianca Maria, a quaint Italian food store on East Hastings; the sausage version is available at Oyama Sausage in Granville Island; give it a try and tell me which version do you like better?

Always cook with love and thoughtfulness, and eat with your love ones (quote Peter Ciuffa “pastaboy”)

Spaghetti with Fresh clams cooked in Nduja, white wine, lemon zest, and garlic !

Baked sea bass with romano beans cooked in San Marzano tomatoes and nduja; with pea sprouts salsa verde (modified recipe from Great British Chefs)
Beautiful sea bass from Brian’s wonderful Seafood City at Granville Island, nduja sausage from Oyama Sauage and Co., romano beans from Granville Island Market.

http://www.seafoodcitygi.com/

http://oyamasausage.ca/

“Little Happiness Starts Here” : Baker and Table (6414 Fraser Street, Vancouver, BC) 

I checked out the sweet and rustic Baker and Table bakery cafe at East 48th Avenue and Fraser, it was wonderful to meet the owner Ms. Hitomi who provided really wonderful and friendly service.

I really enjoyed the organic chicken with cashew pesto sandwich and the cheesecake for dessert; I also purchased the tasty white bread (whipping cream incorporated) which was “pillowy” soft, I used to make thick toast at home for breakfast.   She does accept special cake orders,  I returned the next day and purchased a delicious strawberry shortcake and enjoyed it with my friends on our Epic Italian Dinner Gathering. Follow them on Instagram and Facebook for menu information and updates.

http://www.bakerandtablecafe.com/

Herbal tea and organic chicken cashew pesto sandwich; it was their one month anniversary and they were giving away thank you treats to customers (OO)

Half Loaf from Baker and Table on Fraser: Thick Toast!!

I can have this cheesecake anytime
Baci Baci Kissa Tanto in Chinatown: Memorable Dinner and Superb Service

One rainy Thursday night after a long and hectic day at work, we decided to head to Chinatown and got in to Kissa Tanto (it was around 8 pm) without any reservations!

The experience left us speechless:  the dishes (our favorite was the lasagna of the day (picture shown) were filled with interesting elements of Japanese and Italian flavors, a combination which I personally enjoyed a lot.

The service (I believe our server’s name name is Celina) was very attentive and superb.  Love their retro decor and ambiance: Kissa Tanto, thank you for a memorable dining experience.

Reservations recommended or walk in early.

http://www.kissatanto.com/

Mocktail on a “school” night

Lasagne del Giorno: Sake Kasu Pork Ragu….Packed with interesting layers of flavor, never had a light “sake-flavored” lasagna and it works..I actually created a similar sauce served with penne pasta at home…
 

December 2016: Heart..Passion..Patience and Gratitude

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From my heart to yours…..Thank you (OO)
Reflections in Deep Frosty December… Words to Live By: Heart, Passion, Patience and Gratitude….

Wish you all a wonderful, healthy and prosperous 2017!

Catch me on December 28th Wednesday morning 1030 am Sharp on Fairchild Radio 1470 Deborah Moore’s program; we will be chatting about food and much more!

It’s all about Heart…..

From Instagram to Kitslano : MaknMing (1629 Yew Street, Vancouver, BC )

This is perhaps one of the highly anticipated restaurant openings in 2016: Chefs Makoto Ono and Amanda Cheng (previously from Gastown’s Pidgin) has opened their new restaurant “MaknMing”, a Japanese French fusion restaurant earlier this month. I must admit I was a fan already (because of a creative kohlrabi dan dan noodle dish at Pidgin), and I had the pleasure to meet them earlier because of Instagram and Seafood City (that is another lovely story)!   We dined at their cosy eatery two weeks ago, enjoyed some delicious foods which they have cooked their hearts out and their crew provided us with impeccable service.  I simply love their tagline “#smallteambighearts!  Congratulations again Chefs for your opening, look forward to my next visit!

Check out their restaurant (open for dinner only, reservations accepted, check their website and follow their Instagram account (same name) for updates..

https://www.maknming.com/

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My favourite dish: Dungeness Crab Miso Noodle
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The Non-drinker enjoying this Gin & Tonic: this drink is easily my 2016 favourite cocktail
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First Bite teaser: Carrot “tartare” with house made rice cracker
 

And Passion…..

Last Saturday I literally had chocolate for breakfast when I visited Dominique and Cindy Duby’s Wild Sweets Atelier Store in Richmond (by Steveston Hwy)!  The chocolates were so delicious and Mr. Duby was providing us with information on their products, I was blown away by their professional knowledge and certainly can feel their passion…We bought their “tea cake’ (a modern version of a fruit cake) for Christmas Dinner Dessert and everyone enjoyed it so much!   I was thrilled to know they also have tastings and afternoon events available for booking online and I am already coordinating with my food pals to pay a visit in the New Year.    Great to meet you both Dominique and Cindy, look forward to learning much more about chocolates and cocoa!

Wild Sweets (#2145 – 12191 Hammersmith Way, Richmond, BC)

http://dcduby.com/

https://www.visitrichmondbc.com/listing/wild-sweets-by-dominique-%26-cindy-duby/628/

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Crispy Orange Cherry Tea Cake – taste like a traditional fruit cake with a crunchy texture
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a sneak peek…before we devoured this delicious dessert..

And a little Patience goes a long way in anything we do….and always cook with Love

Last month (See my November posting) I made a very traditional Japanese dish “Tai meshi (snapper rice); earlier this month I decided to tackle ramen and a different fish dish..Another challenge working on my focus and dedication to my craft, honing skills and building my patience..

A long time ago an old Japanese friend taught me how to make the Japanese braised chashu (pork) using pork shoulder butt (less fattening), ginger, leek, green onion, soy, mirin and sake.  I marinade (soy/ginger/leek/green onion/sake) the pork shoulder over night; next day sauteed more leeks and ginger, add marinade to katsuobushi dashi (bonito flakes/kombu) to create the braising liquid, seared the pork shoulder and slowly “braised” (lading braising liquid over meat and flipping sides)

 

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Homemade Shoyu Ramen: I made the Ramen Eggs, Japanese braised Chashu (pork), bone broth and shoyu tare (for seasoning); I used Chinese thin noodles (Shanghai style from T & T Supermarket)
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Clean bones in the pot with daikon, leek, carrot and pork shank ; cleaning, brushing, plus 3 hours of simmering and skimming: Patience is virtue
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Cooking up a storm through the snow storm – you can see the milky clean soup!
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Panko crusted sea bream fillet with spinach and cauliflower, asparagus and shiitake fried “rice” with ginger soy sauce (which I created also for my hubby’s lamb chop dish
And for Christmas…I made a sockeye salmon pate (steamed salmon in lemon and a little sake, flaked and mixed with combination of Greek yogurt and Ojai lemonaise (1:1), grated lemon zest, chopped dill (don’t over do it as it can be overpowering), lemon juice, season to taste with black pepper and orange and lime sea salt as seasoning (Vancouver Island Salt Co – non-flavoured sea salt works also, I just happened to have this in my pantry!).  I also made fresh cranberry sauce (fresh cranberries (1 bag) with blood orange juice and zest (1 big or 3 small blood orange), Cointreau (orange liquer) and brandy, lemon juice and zest, cinnamon stick, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar (a drizzle) and sea salt (I also used the orange and lime flavoured salt, regular works) –  remember to fold in the zest almost towards the end of cooking process, and always adjust the seasoning accordingly.

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Santa is Drooling!

And Gratitude Always ….Thank you to everyone… from my heart to yours..

That’s a wrap for 2016 – see you in the New Year (OO)

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Whether it’s sharing fun times and wonderful food….
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Or Keeping me in your thoughts – a date,  a phone call, message or thoughtful gifts (Picture: the fabulous macarons from Indulge With Mimi – thanks Deb M)…

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Or sharing a new experience together….(picture at Cirque Du Soleil’s Toruk )
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Or working together and give back to the community… (Thanks UGM and the other wonderful volunteers and my regular team mates)
 

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And Thank you to Ms. Deborah Moore for having me on your program …3 years and counting.. ..