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. 

 

 

 

 

 

Fallin’ hard for “Lang Lang” Langley in the Fall

Beautiful Barn at Vista D'oro, Langley, BC
Beautiful Barn at Vista D’oro, Langley, BC

I have a feeling and I’m not concealing..Fall is the time for it..I open my eyes to see and let my heart discover…I have fallen…fallen hard for “lang lang” Langley in the Fall..

What is “Lang Lang”?  You’ll find out when you read to the end…

A beautiful Fall Day in Langley..self drive to a couple of locations recommended by Circle Farm Tour

Visited Vista O’Doro Farms and Winery (thanks to an earlier visit to Cafe Orso in Deep Cove I discover their fruit preserves)

http://www.vistadoro.com

http://www.circlefarmtour.com

http://www.the-preservatory.com

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Enjoyed a wonderful lunch at Bacchus Bistro at Domaine de Chaberton (our second visit to the winery and restaurant)…wonderful time with dear friends…

http://www.chabertonwinery.com

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a non-drinker visiting a winery…
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I had a spinach salad..and shared a pork rillette with brioche (picture not shown)…
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Visited the shop, walked the grounds for photos and enjoyed the fine weather..

Afterwards we went back to Fort Langley…(we were there back in May!)

http://www.cranberriesnaturally.com

http://www.tourism-langley.ca

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The Old and the New – Vintage Cars out and about
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Second visit to Cranberries Naturally this year! This time I picked up a bag of cranberry powder for smoothies 🙂
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Crossed the Jacob Haldi Bridge between Fort Langley and McMillan Island, home of Kwantlen First Nation
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Venturing out..we went into the Brae Island Regional Park…Along the Fraser River’s Bedford Channel

While back to our city life in Vancouver…

I went on a photo walk in downtown and gastown…enjoyed a virgin berry mojito at Mosaic Grill (Hyatt Regency) on the way…

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A storefront in gastown: It’s all about Love…

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Do you like Ramen? There’s another ramen ya in Vancouver: Tried Danbo Ramen (on West 4th Avenue in Kitslano); someone had extra noodles; we like the flavors.

http://www.ramendanbo.com

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Fukuoka style Ramen with Chashu; I added seaweed.

I just love walking to Granville Island…to shop and prepare for cooking and fun gatherings with family and friends on weekend..

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A quick stop to my favourite seafood place…picked up a snapper (and great cooking tips)…

http://www.seafoodcitygi.com

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Of course I have to take one home…

Had the day off on Thanksgiving (Thanks to my brother and sister-in-law’s invite!)…

Then I cooked up a storm for my friends..Broiled Snapper for my friend’s birthday dinner! Cover the snapper in coarse sea salt for 2 to 3 hours; wipe clean afterwards (do not rinse!). I lightly stuffed the fish with lemon slices, green onion and some ginger…Broil the fish in the oven for approximately 6 minutes on one side (it’s a 1.5 pounder), and 5 minutes on the other (thanks William for your great cooking tip)…Serve hot with oroshi (grated daikon) with yuzu ponzu and chopped onion.

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For another gathering with three lovely visitors, I made kabocha and edamame croquettes, I tried to replicate the dish I had at Kinome Japanese Kitchen (2511 West Broadway, Vancouver, BC) last month; ideas are everywhere and creative juices are flowing…

http://www.facebook.com/KinomeJapaneseKitchen

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Kabocha and Edamame croquettes, cooking method adapted from Just One Cookbook..They are baked, not fried!
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Beautiful purple tulips..I love all things purple bright and beautiful..

Thank you Seafood City : Not only did I get great fish and cooking tips always..

I am happy and thankful I have made new friends, met a chef (star struck and pretended to be cool)… and received an unexpected gift (Thanks Brian!)..King Sauce…found Betty King Sauce on Instagram and we had a few exchanges!

http://www.bettykingsauce.com

http://www.facebook.com/bettykingsauce

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Made myself a tomato-dashi broth udon noodle and had it with King Sauce..it’s wicked good!  Going to try it with hotpot very soon!

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Because of “Chef”, I found out there’s a new Japanese restaurant on Fraser…Masayoshi Sushi (4376 Fraser Street (at E. 28th), Vancouver, BC)..Remember a few months ago I talked about Fraser Street, this sushi bar is right in my favourite area (around E. King Edward).

We had their nigiri sushi (shima aji, scallop, hamachi, tai (snapper)), loved their kimpira gobo (burdock root, it’s a stroke of genius by adding almonds, hazelnuts), enjoyed their smoked salmon salad (see picture below)…Excellent service by Tomo-san, he was very attentive and informative. Reservations highly recommended (omakase must be booked 3 days in advance as they include seasonal ingredients for their cooked food).

http://www.facebook.com/masayoshisushi

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Smoked Salmon Salad with papaya, apple, a hint of shiso, egg yolk kimizu (egg yolk and vinegar)…

Good Reads: heated debates?

WHO Reports on “Meat is linked to higher cancer risk” 

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-fitness/health/five-questions-about-the-whos-cancer-causing-meat-announcement-answered/article26982884/

I have yet to see Lang Lang (ha!) in concert, I saw Chris Botti instead 

To End in a “high note” (pun intended)…

I know one is a world-renowned pianist and the other a pop/jazz trumpeter…thanks Mavis for your invitation to the Richmond General Hospital Benefit and Gala…it was definitely an eye opening experience.

IMG_9092 In life all things and encounters happen for a reason….Grateful and Thankful always…Whatever will be will be.

So What is “Lang Lang”? It’s “Bright/Happy” in Mandarin; “Pretty Pretty” in Cantonese (OO)