June 28, 2010

rhuberry parfait

I am absolutely loving my CSA box - I've wanted to do this for years but there was always some excuse why it wasn't convenient (I was going to be away, I didn't have time to pick it up, my dog ate the application form - you get the picture).  This year was no different except I ignored the excuses and ordered the box.  Three weeks in and I'm in love!

Yes, there is the freshness of the produce and the fact that I haven't been to the grocery store in weeks,  but the real surprise is the creativity it's inspired in me.  It's like getting a surprise every week!  There is usually at least one fruit or vegetable in the box that I would not buy on a regular basis and, because the produce is seasonal, the same ingredient will appear for several weeks so I'm needing to find new and creative ways to use produce.  Love it!

Week 3 of CSA brought more delicious strawberries and rhubarb and, with my first strawberry pie under my belt, I wanted to try something different.  Keeping with my resolve to keep some semblance of balance in my life, I also wanted it to be guilt-free and a parfait seemed, well, parfait!

Inspired by Canoe's recipe for rhubarb compote I simply added halved strawberries towards the end of the cooking time and cut back a bit on the sugar.  Very quickly my kitchen was filled with the scent of fresh strawberry.

As the compote cooled I spooned nonfat Greek yogurt into dessert goblets and pondered the mystery of Greek yogurt.  Until very recently, nonfat Greek yogurt was extremely difficult to find in Toronto grocery stores.  Given the size of our Greek community I've often wondered why that might be and would be grateful to anyone who might be able to enlighten me!

Enter Liberté, with the recent addition of a 0% fat Greek yogurt to its lineup, and it's a cause for celebration.   Thick and tangy, it's a great base for guilt-free desserts.  It's finally starting to appear widely in supermarkets but often sold out.  If you can't find it and you're feeling indulgent, try their Méditerranée line; full fat and creamy, it gives ice cream some serious competition.

The tangy yogurt was a perfect pairing with the sweet-tart compote.  Can't wait to see what next week's CSA brings!

June 24, 2010

pasta in cream sauce with ham and spring peas

My CSA box last week included some gorgeous spring peas.  They were so sweet and delicious I was popping them like candy until I suddenly realized I'd eaten half the bag and figured I should share.  That's when the idea of making my mum's spring pasta with cream sauce, peas and ham came to me.  I've been really good with my diet lately and G has largely been deprived of pasta so I figured why not!

The dish is great with frozen peas but using fresh peas elevates it to the sublime.  Really, truly delicious.  So good I can't keep it to myself so I'm sharing it with all my friends from Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by Mansi of Fun & Food Cafe.

See you Friday at Mansi's roundup!

Pasta in cream sauce with ham and spring peas

Serves 4

500 gr medium to large tube pasta (I used paccheri but penne or rigatoni would be great)
125 ml (1/2 cup) cream (18% works nicely)
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
3 slices cooked ham, diced
1 tsp olive oil
salt to taste

Heat olive oil in a small skillet and saute ham until slightly golden around the edges.  Add cream and bring to a boil.  Turn down heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes until thickened slightly.  Add peas and simmer for 2 minutes.  The sauce will seem a bit thin but will thicken up when tossed with the pasta.

While sauce is cooking, cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and add to skillet with sauce and toss.  Serve immediately.

June 20, 2010

cindy crawford's strawberry pie

Originally published in Saveur, this recipe for strawberry rhubarb pie was made famous when it was highlighted on Oprah in a feature about Cindy Crawford, in my view 
the world's sexiest supermodel, past or present.   

But before I get to the pie, let's just talk about Cindy for a moment.  Is there a girl in the '80s or '90s who didn't want to be her?  Seriously, after watching her iconic Pepsi ad I spent hours in front of a mirror trying to coax my hair into those lovely tousled waves.  Wish I could say I was successful but in reality I just ended up looking like an escapee from the local sanitorium. 

And Cindy today - still looking great well into her 40s and after 2 kids.  After I saw this reprise of the classic Pepsi ad I was tempted for a moment to pull out my old Daisy Dukes but thankfully a stray glimpse of my rear end in the mirror instantly changed my mind.  Sigh.

But I digress - we are here to talk about pie, not my ever-expanding caboose.  

While I love Cindy, I wasn't convinced that she was a master pie maker extraordinaire but what actually intrigued me was the crust - it's made with oil instead of butter or shortening.  I had my doubts but ultimately the allure of a pie crust free of saturated and trans-fats won me over and when I received fresh strawberries and rhubarb in my CSA box last week I knew the time had come.

I was impressed when the crust came together in seconds but I feared for the worst when I realized how tough it was - it took so much elbow grease to get it into a rough circle for the bottom crust that I decided to go with a lattice top.

Worried I'd have to dump the whole thing in the garbage I put it in the oven and hoped for the best.   A couple of hours later I said a silent prayer as I cut into the pie in front of G and my parents and then stood silently as they took their first bite.

The crust was sturdy and the filling was wet but the combination was perfect - definitely a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.  Hell, it was scrumptious!

So thanks to Cindy and to Saveur, and to Ms Louise Piper, a home baker who won a blue ribbon in the 1997 Iowa State Fair with this pie.  You can find the recipe here.

June 18, 2010

presto pasta night #168 roundup

Update:  I seem to be having trouble with my email account this week and haven't been receiving all of your submissions.  If you don't see your post below, it's because I haven't received it so please send it to me again.  A thousand apologies and thank you for your patience!

I am absolutely thrilled to be hosting Presto Pasta Night again. Unfortunately I didn't get around to posting my own pasta dish this week but I'm sure no one will even notice because, as usual, everyone's contribution this week is spectacular!

Thank you Ruth for the opportunity to host this week and thank you everyone for participating in this week's roundup and making my turn at hosting so much fun! I hope to see you next week when Mansi of Fun and Food Cafe will be hosting.
And speaking of Ruth, she's made her mouth-watering and healthy Hottie Tottie Manicotti turned lasagna.  Whatever you call it, this dish looks delish!

Next up is Mary from Food Floozie who has amazed herself, and us, with her Spaghetti with Garlic Scapes.  I got some scapes in my CSA box this week and will definitely be trying this out.  Thanks for the inspiration Mary!

Girlichef features an "ode to couscous" on her blog this week with Grilled Eggplant, Couscous, Toasted Pine Nuts and Herbs.  This is poetry I can get into with no problem!

For all the new mums out there, Muneeba from An Edible Symphony has found a perfect antidote for those sleepless nights:  Penne in Gorgonzola Sauce, proving my theory that cheesy pasta makes everything better!

Haalo from Cook Almost Anything served up this "love it or hate it" Squid Ink Spaghetti with Anchovy Sauce and Pangrattato.  Me, I'm definitely in the "love it" camp!

Ching from Little Corner of Mine threw together this Stir Fried Macaroni with Broccoli and Tuna  to go with her baked fish on her "lazy" day.  If this is Ching on a lazy day I can't wait to see what she can come up with on a good one! 

Katie of Thyme for Cooking shared this gorgeous and seasonal Pasta with Ham, Spinach and Mascarpone and a great story about her disappearing dog.

Kristin over at Holy Cannoli Recipes made this Chicken and Sun-Dried Tomato Orzo when her parents came to visit.  It was a big hit, which is no surprise as it looks awesome!  And congratulations to Kristin for her Beautiful Blogger Award!

From Kits Chow we have a lovely noodle dish with the best name I've heard in a long time:  Spicy Mama Noodles, Yum Ma Ma.  You'll never look at instant noodles the same way again!

Kait of Pots and Plots decided to make her own convenience meal and this Fiesta Skillet Mac sure beats anything in my grocer's freezer!

My oh my, I love a good Spaghetti Pie and so does Chaya from Chaya's Comfy Cook Blog who shares her gluten-free version.  Looks delish!

Another pasta pie from Mangocheeks of Allotment 2 Kitchen who made a Mosaic Spinach and Pasta Pie as a treat for her hubby while she was away from home for a couple of days.  Her husband is a very lucky guy!

EJM of blog from our kitchen combined fresh black pepper noodles and fiddleheads for a lovely seasonal spring pasta.  I will definitely be trying this next time I make fresh pasta!

Michelle of Italian Mama Chef was inspired by David Rocco to make this Pasta con Ricotta.  His may have been made over an open fire in Italy but Michelle's version looks wonderful.

Continuing the ricotta theme, Nic at Lemon and Cheese made this awesome Asiago, Spinach, Artichoke and Ricotta Pasta.  Absolutely gorgeous!

Helen at Fuss Free Flavours whipped up this Tamari Pasta with Pak Choy with just four ingredients.  According to Helen it's also lovely cold.   A handful of healthy ingredients, delicious hot or cold - this is my kind of food!

And Daphne at More than Words made Roasted Pumpkin and Capsicum Pasta with Pinenuts.  Daphne is a big fan of roasted pumpkin and I can't say that I disagree.  Yum!

June 14, 2010

it's my turn again!

The last 2 weeks have been nonstop frantic with work and I haven't been doing much cooking or blogging.    But things are looking up, just in time for me to host this week's Presto Pasta Night!

For those of you who are new to Presto Pasta Nights, PPN is the brainchild of Ruth Daniels of Once Upon a Feast and each Friday night a different host posts a roundup of pasta dishes submitted by bloggers across the globe.   There are a few simple rules,  chief among them that the dish must include some sort of noodle.

You can  submit your dish by emailing me at sweetkitchen [at] rogers [dot] com with a copy to ruth [at] foreverykitchen [dot] com, including a photo and a link to your post, no later than Thursday evening.

Really, it's that simple.  So let your creative juices flow and see you on Friday for the roundup.

June 4, 2010

confetti salad

Let me start by telling you about my boss - she is one of those women who seem to do and have it all.  She is a top legal executive managing a large team of professionals, has 4 children, the social graces of an aristocrat, an impeccable wardrobe and nary a hair out of place.  Oh, and did I mention that she is also attractive, tall and slim?

Yes, there is much to envy about my boss.   So when we had our first potluck I secretly hoped that I might for once see a small chink in her perfect armour.  Instead, she brought this masterpiece and I seriously began to wonder if the woman had a single flaw - the incredible shortbread she baked last Christmas settled that question for good.

Well, they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I took a page from her recipe book and have been making this Rice and Vegetable Salad from The Silver Palate Cookbook ever since.   Full of aromatic ingredients - dill, parsley, currants, olives, shallot, green onion, peas and bell pepper - tossed with rice and a lovely vinaigrette, it simply bursts with flavour.  It's the perfect thing for a summer barbecue or a spring potluck.

P.S.  You can find the recipe here.   It makes a mountain of salad so, unless you are feeding an army, you might want to cut the recipe in half as it only keeps a couple of days in the fridge.