February 27, 2013

Kale, chorizo, and white bean stew

First of all, I'm pleased to announce the winner of the Italian cookbook giveaway is Valentinigirl, the gnocchi lover! Congratulations Valentinigirl :-)

Stay tuned everyone because I've got some VERY exciting giveaways coming your way very soon... In the meantime, thanks so much to everyone who entered and shared their favourite Italian foods with me, I had a great time reading all your comments! My own favourite Italian recipe is rabbit stew with marsala (coniglio al marsala), which was one of my most unforgettable meals in Tuscany. Basically, you put a whole skinned rabbit in a crock pot, pour an entire bottle of marsala over it, and let it soak for 24 hours. You then stew it up with bacon, tomatoes, celery, and herbs. I recreated the dish a few years ago for a New Year's dinner and it shot me through a portal right back to Tuscany, though my dinner guests were mildly freaked out by the whole rabbit and the fact you could see his dear little head (teeth and all) poking out from the stew. Oops. In my defense, I grew up in rural Quebec with a mom who, though she was a gentle soul, regularly trapped and skinned wild rabbits without batting an eyelash. So I sometimes forget that seeing an animal head staring back at you from the depths of a juicy stew may not be the most appetizing thing to many people.

So I have another kind of stew to share with you today. A much simpler one that takes mere moments to prepare and is hearty and warming for chilly days. 
This is one of my go-to recipes in the winter months. And since February is my least favourite month of the year, I always try to fill it with delicious comfort foods otherwise I tend to despair that spring will ever come. Especially this year, given my most unpleasant experience ever at US customs last week, one which threw a serious wrench in my winter plans and left me feeling like the wait for spring this year will be longer than ever before. Let's just say cross-border romance is not always an easy thing when grumpy customs officers are involved. Now onwards with comfort stew and the fact that March is just around the corner.

KALE, CHORIZO, AND WHITE BEAN STEW

3 or 4 chorizo sausages
1 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch of kale, finely chopped (about 3 cups)
2 cups tomato sauce
2 cup water
1 to 2 cups cooked white beans
1 tsp smoked paprika
Salt to taste

Chop chorizo sausages into bite-sized pieces and cook in a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat for about 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Add the shredded kale and cook for about 2 minutes or until wilted. Add 2 cups of your favourite tomato sauce, 2 cups of water, your cooked white beans, and the smoked paprika. Salt to taste. Simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with grated parmesan and warm bread.

February 12, 2013

Buckwheat Shortbread Hearts Dipped in Chocolate and Sesame

I have to admit I am not much of a Valentine's Day person. But this year I'm just a little bit excited because I get to be reunited with my sweetheart who I haven't seen in 6 long never-ending weeks. Yesterday, he was on the road all day, making his way here, and I made these cookies while I waited for him.

Those of you who know me know that I'm more than a little obsessed with all things buckwheat. Buckwheat makes a dark blue-ish grey flour that has a sandy texture, and a distinct taste that I can only describe as well, buckwheat-ey. I suppose one could say it tastes nutty. I just think it tastes like the earth. And I love it. I grew up on buckwheat crepes and buckwheat groat (aka kasha) casseroles. Yup. Hippy parents.

Buckwheat is gluten-free which makes it an attractive grain these days, though it is technically not a grain but a seed. It is extremely nutritious and has numerous health properties, being lower on the glycemic scale than most grains, and high in important minerals and flavonoids that protect again cell damage and inflammation.

For a long time, crepes were the only thing I would make with buckwheat flour, which is on the heavy side and can behave in strange and mysterious ways. It is definitely a flour with limitations. For instance, don't ever try to make bread with it, it just won't work, or if it does, I need to know your recipe! Lately, I've tried making shortbread with buckwheat, experimenting with both sweet and savoury kinds. These cookies I'm sharing with you today are all the more buckwheat-ey because they are sweetened with buckwheat honey: a uniquely dark honey that has a robust flavour. It's fairly easy to find in most health food stores. Cut into hearts, dipped in dark bittersweet chocolate and sprinkled with sesame seeds, these shortbread make a deliciously healthy Valentine's treat. 

Happy love day everyone! Don't forget that later this week, I'll be announcing the winner of the Italian cookbook giveaway, so don't forget to enter to win on my last blog entry.





SESAME CHOCOLATE BUCKWHEAT SHORTBREAD

3/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour)
2 tbsp. buckwheat honey
1/2 cup butter (I used salted)

4 oz. of dark, high quality chocolate
1/4 cup sesame seeds

Mix all ingredients together until you have soft dough that you shape into a ball and flatten. Roll out on a floured surface and cut into shapes. Bake in a 350 oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool on a rack. Once fully cooled, dip half of each cookie in the melted chocolate, sprinkle with sesame seeds and cool on a piece of parchment paper until the chocolate has hardened.


February 09, 2013

Lidia's Favorite Recipes book giveaway!

I'm so excited to have my first book giveaway, courtesy of Knopf Books. So if any of you would like to win a copy of Lidia's Favorite Recipes (published 2012), all you need to do is leave a comment below telling me what's your favourite Italian food. I'll draw a name at random and announce the winner next week.

In her latest book, Lidia Bastianich, one of America's most beloved chefs, shares her own favourite recipes and also those that her fans have most enjoyed over the years. This book is a fabulous collection of classic Italian comfort foods, and I'm sure we could all use a little comfort food these days, especially up here in the snowstormy north. I plan to make Lidia's Egg Battered Zucchini Roll-Ups which are filled with capers and her Lamb Stew with Olives which makes my mouth water every time I look at the photo. But today, I opted for her Rice and Zucchini Crostata (page 17), substituting leeks for the zucchini and whole wheat flour for the crust. The ricotta-rice filling was rich and creamy and the olive oil-based crust rustic and flavourful. It all made me yearn for Italy. 

Right now I'm home visiting my family in Nova Scotia and with all this snow, we're pretty much housebound, which I have to confess is one of my favourite things about winter. With the wind howling outside, it's a perfect day for a slow snowy walk, sitting in front of the fire for hours, and catching up on some knitting and cooking. 



Before I go, I wanted to share with you my friend's mom's idea for using up those tiny pesky balls of scrap wool that most knitters have plenty of and don't know what to do with. You put together all the scrap wool into one long strand and using large knitting needles (size 10 or so) you simply knit a basic rectangle. You'll have a thick colourful rug in no time to grace your front door.


Stay warm out there folks, and don't forget to leave a comment below for your chance to win this lovely book of traditional Italian recipes.