Monday, May 23, 2011

A taste of Summer: Shrimp, Cherry Tomato and Oregano Bucatini

As the weather is getting warmer, I've been craving light pasta dishes tossed with fresh ingredients and a mix of vibrant colours. This dish fits the bill pretty perfectly! I like using different types of pasta to spice up weeknight meals and the bucatini works beautifully in this one. It's a thicker cut than spaghetti with a nice bite and swirls wonderfully amongst the fresh cherry tomatoes, peas and shrimp. I also like finishing off these types of pasta dishes with a few simple steps: a little lemon juice (to brighten up all the flavours), some fresh herbs and a few creamy feta cubes. It's really the perfect spring or summer meal!

Shrimp, Cherry Tomato and Oregano Bucatini

Serves 2

Bucatini for 2
4 garlic cloves, thinly minced
12 shrimp, deveined and peeled
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup of frozen peas
1/4 cup of diced feta
2 tablespoons of heavy cream
4 sprigs of fresh oregano (leaves roughly torn)
1/2 lemon, juice and zest
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Add the peas to the pasta pot when there are 5 minutes of cooking time left.

While the pasta is cooking, place a pan on low heat and add a good drizzle of olive oil. Add the garlic and stir to coat. Add the shrimp with a good pinch of salt and pepper and cook until the shrimp just becomes pink and opaque. Remove from the heat and add the cherry tomatoes. Once the pasta and peas are cooked, drain and add to the pan with 2 teaspoons of pasta water and return to medium low heat. Season with salt and pepper. Add the lemon juice, zest, cream, feta and oregano.

Transfer to a serving platter adding a good drizzle of olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Cookbook Giveaway

I bring you a wonderful cookbook giveaway this week - Ancient Grains for Modern Meals.Loyal readers of this site know that I'm continuously experimenting with new ingredients in the kitchen. One of my latest ventures has been trying new recipes using different types of flour. From spelt, to whole wheat, to kamut - it's really changed the way I bake and has brought a myriad of textures to my baked goods.

When I was approached by Maria Speck about her Ancient Grain for Modern Meals cookbook, I knew this book would be right up my alley. It's full of wholesome and delicious recipes using whole grains and quick-cooking grains with fresh Mediterranean flavours. It will help you experiment with ingredients such as spelt, quinoa, farro and barley as well as polenta, buckwheat and millet. There are a lot of useful tips to master the art of cooking with grains and dozens of mouth-watering recipes to try. Some of the top ones on my list are Parmesan Polenta with Rosemary Oil Drizzle, Buckwheat-Feta Burgers with Tangy Parsely Sauce and Spelt Crust Pizza with Fennel, Prosciutto and Apples.

To win a copy of the book, leave a comment on this post or write a comment on Chocolate Shaving's facebook page. You can write a comment on both and your name will be entered in the contest twice. Just let me know what your experience cooking with grains is. The contest ends on May 19th, at midnight. The winner will be drawn at random and you must be a Canadian or American resident to enter. Good luck and I look forward to hearing from you!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Blue Cheese and Sweet Onion Scones

Scones always brings back oodles of good memories for me. There used to be a big Marks & Spencer grocery store in Paris when I was growing up. As I've mentioned here before, my mom and I would love to stop by there every once in a while and pick up scones with some thick double cream and jam. It was the perfect indulgence.

Savory scones are certainly less common, but they really are a wonderful treat as well. These come packed with sweet onion jam and chunks of blue cheese. It's quite a strong flavour combination, but I absolutely love it. The onion jam can, of course, be purchased at most gourmet stores from a jar, but preparing it at home makes it really special. It's not hard to make, it just takes a little time. The only thing to be prepared for is that the onions reduce incredibly so all the meticulous onion chopping job results in a pretty small quantity of jam, once cooked. It's a good idea to make a big batch of the jam - it's absolutely delicious on top of pizza (and then layered with figs and goat cheese), as it is spread on crusty baguette topped with roasted beef and roasted red peppers.

These scones are a nice afternoon treat when you're not in the mood for something sweet, and also work wonders as a complement to a cheese platter. And, really, what's not to like about a cheesy warm scone?

Blue Cheese and Sweet Onion Scones

Makes 16 hefty scones
Adapted from Good to the Grain

For the dry mix:
1 1/2 cups of graham flour
1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
2 tbl sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt

For the wet mix:
4 oz (one stick) of cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
4oz of good blue cheese, crumbled
1 cup of buttermilk
3/4 cup onion jam
1/4 cup honey

Move the two oven racks to the upper and lower third positions and preheat to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a nonstick silicone mat.

Find a ruler at least 9-inches long and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together all of the dry ingredients. If there are any bits left in the strainer, add to the sifted mixture.

Add the cubed, cold butter to the dry ingredients and using your hands or a pastry blender break down the butter until it breaks down into pieces as small as crumbs and as large as squashed peas. Stir the crumbled blue cheese into the mixture and refrigerate the bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, onion jam and honey. Take the bowl out of the refrigerator and add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Using a rubber spatula, gently combine the two until everything is incorporated and the dough looks wet but crumbly.

Generously flour a work surface and dump out the dough. Using your floured hands, gently move around the dough and knead until a soft ball can be formed. The dough should be dry enough that it doesn’t stick to the counter but wet enough that a knife will stick when cutting through it. Using your hands or a rolling pin, shape the dough into a 9 by 7-1/2 inch rectangle about 1-inch thick.

Using a knife or a bench scraper slice the rectangle first into 4 rectangles, then each rectangle into 4 rectangles yielding 16 2-1/4 by 2-inch scones. Place the scones on the two prepared baking sheets and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

Bake for 22-24 minutes, rotating the baking sheet 180 degrees around halfway through. The scones are finished baking when the tops are golden brown and the blue cheese starts to ooze out and starts to caramelize on the baking sheet.

At this point, the scones can be refrigerated for up to 2 days and baked just before serving. Or, you can freeze the formed dough for 2 hours on a baking sheet, then transfer to a freezer bag and refrigerate for up to 3 months.

Onion Jam
2 pounds of yellow onions, about 7 1/2 cups, sliced
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of Kosher salt (use less if you are using regular salt)
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar

Peel the onions and cut them in half. Slice them into 1/4 inch slices.
Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and heat until the oil is shimmering. Add the onions, salt and pepper and stir to coat the onions. Saute the onions for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The edges of the onions should begin to brown. Turn the flame to low, cover the pot and cook for another 20 minutes.

Uncover the pan, stir the onions and continue to cook for 1 hour. Make sure to stir often to make sure the onions do not burn. The onions are ready when the liquid has evaporated and the onions are dark, translucent and jammy. Stir in the vinegar and allow to cool. The onion jam will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks, or in the freezer for 1 month.
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