Monday, October 27, 2014

Warm Hummus and Goat Cheese Dip

I'm six weeks away from finishing my Master's degree in education (yay!) and have a big presentation to do on Reader Response Theory tomorrow.  It was no surprise, then, that there was no time to cook dinner!  Supper tonight was a quick but delicious four-ingredient warm hummus dip.  Served with pita triangles, this was ready in fifteen minutes and hit the spot.  If you've never eaten hummus warm before, now is the time to start!


1 1/2 cups garlic hummus
two rounds of goat cheese (chèvre)
3 cocktail tomatoes, diced
Fresh basil, chopped
Pita, to serve


1. Preheat oven to 35o degreed Fahrenheit.

2. In an oven-proof dish, place the two goat cheese slices on top of the hummus. Bake for 12 - 15 minutes or until warm throughout.

2. Remove the hummus from the oven and top with fresh, diced tomatoes and fresh basil.  Serve with pitas.  Enjoy!

Shopping Tips:

1. You can use your own hummus or a store bought one.  There are millions of recipes for how to make hummus on the internet.  If you are making your own, the key is to rub off the chickpea skins before pureeing them.

2. The goat cheese comes in a short log.  You can use herbed goat cheese or plain.  Slice two thick rounds for this dish.

3. If you have left over bruschetta topping, it's a great replacement for the fresh tomatoes.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Black Bean and Quinoa Enchiladas with Salsa Verde

If you've never had enchiladas before, they are remind me of a Mexican lasagne.  This is a vegetarian version, but could be "beefed" up with the addition of shredded roast chicken.

Enchiladas are great party food because you can divide the responsibilities between each person.  It is great date night food because it is low stress (I am writing this blog post while I am cooking it).  And it is great make ahead food because the quinoa and salsa verde (tomatillo sauce) can all be made ahead of time so that all you have to do is reheat, assemble, and broil when you are ready to eat.

If you have never had tomatillos before, you will really enjoy their bright tang and freshness.  The avocado sour cream and fresh tomatoes are optional but really complete the dish.

Serves 6.


1 1/4 cups quinoa, rinsed well
1 cup V8 juice
1 cup water

1 1/2 pounds tomatillos, about 15
1 serrano chile, cut in half and deseeded (or leave the seeds in if you want it spicy)
1/2 red onion, quartered

1/2 cup water
1 tsp honey
pinch of salt
one garlic clove
squeeze of lime juice
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro

15 ounces black beans, drained and rinsed
12 small corn tortilla shells
1 1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded and divided

1/2 very ripe avocado
1/2 cup light sour cream

1/2 cup fresh, diced tomatoes
fresh cilantro, to garnish


1. In a small saucepan, bring the V8 juice, water, and a pinch of salt to a boil.  Add the quinoa, cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes.  Set aside.

2. Remove the husks from the tomatillos.  Rinse and dry.  Place the tomatillos, serrano, and onion into an oiled baking dish. Broil on high heat for about 15 - 20 minutes, turning over halfway through cooking.  They will be brown and soft when done.

3. In a food processor, combine the cooked tomatillos, serrano, onion and juices with the water, honey, salt, garlic, lime juice, and cilantro.  Process until everything is combined.

4. Combine the quinoa with the black beans (and chicken if using).

5. Cover the tortillas with a damp kitchen towel and microwave for 30 to 60 seconds.  Fill each tortilla with the quinoa mixture and a tablespoon of the cheese, and place seam-side down in a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish.  * Place the tortillas in the baking dish and fill there.  Then, just turn them over.  If they break, it is because they are too cold.  Broil for 3 - 4 minutes.

6. Pour the tomatillo sauce over the enchiladas and top with the remaining cheese.  Broil for about 2 - 4 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown.

7. Blend the avocado and sour cream together in the food processor and serve on top of the enchiladas.  Top with the fresh tomatoes and cilantro, if desired.  Enjoy!

Shopping Tips:

1. Tomatillos are sold in most grocery stores.  I found them in two of the three grocery stores I visited.

2. Corn tortillas are sold fresh, so they will be in the refrigerated section, usually in the deli.  They are preferable because they add to the authentic flavour and don't get soggy as quickly as flour tortillas.  Use flour tortillas if you have to, though.

3. Serrano chiles look like large jalapeños.  They are green and milder than jalapeños, so even though you are using a whole one here, the dish will not be spicy unless you include the seeds.

Even if some of these ingredients are new to you, this dish is easy to throw together and the bright, fresh flavours are well worth the adventure.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Ancient Hand-Formed Pasta with Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta

I first learned to make pasta when I was in cooking school several years ago.  This recipe for hand-formed pasta is simple and does not require a pasta machine, so anyone can do it.  I seem to find myself unconsciously picturing an old nona with her dusty apron and gnarled fingers working away at the dough while I am making this.  Making fresh pasta takes a bit of time, but the kneading of the dough and the forming of the capunti are both very zen-like activities, so once you are in the groove, it's quite enjoyable.

Although this pasta can be frozen and cooked at a later time, a word of warning: Upon my return from cooking school, I phoned up a close friend and asked her if she wanted to get together for an evening of pasta-making.  Always up for a cooking adventure, she agreed.  Unfortunately, we set our sights a little too high and attempted to make two kinds of hand-formed pastas and two kinds of filled pastas.  We didn't end up finishing until nearly two in the morning, and I don't think she's made fresh pasta since!  Making one batch at a time, which serves four people, is definitely enough.  However, if you do want to make the pasta ahead of time so that you can just throw this together at the last minute, it can keep covered in the fridge for about 24 hours or frozen for even longer.


1 cup light spelt flour
1 cup semolina
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
warm water as needed (about 1/4 cup)

Approximately 40 fresh brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt, pepper

75 grams pancetta or bacon, cubed
1 small onion, sliced
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp lemon juice

fresh basil
freshly grated parmesan cheese


1. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, semolina, and salt.  Add the egg and oil and stir with a fork.  Add as much warm water as necessary to just bring the dough together into a ball.  It should not be tacky.

2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about ten minutes.  The dough should be shiny and smooth.

3. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for at least 45 minutes.

4. After the dough has rested, divide it into four pieces.  Working with one piece at a time, follow steps 5 to 8.

5. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough until it is about 1/4 inch thick. If you are using a pasta machine, just roll it on setting zero.

6. With a knife, cut the dough down the middle and trim the sides so that each piece is about three fingers wide.

7. Cut each strip into pieces about the width of a stick of gum, maybe slightly fatter.

8. Place your finger on the far side of the strip.  Push down as hard as you can with your fingers and pull the dough towards you while pressing against the counter allowing the dough to roll under your fingers.

* If for some reason it doesn't work, it's probably because you are not pushing hard enough or your strips are too narrow.

9. Place the rolled pasta onto a floured plate or baking sheet until you are ready to cook it.  If you are saving it for later, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

10.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

11. Trim the bottoms of the brussels sprouts and remove any loose leaves.  Cut into quarters, toss with the oil and place on two baking sheets. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for about 25 minutes, turning over halfway through cooking.  They will be soft, brown, and crispy when they are done.

12. In a large frying pan over medium heat, sauté the pancetta until it releases some of its fat.  Then, add the sliced onions, the garlic, and the red pepper flakes.  Continue to cook until the onions are caramelized and the pancetta is crispy.  

13. Add the capunti to a large pot of salted, boiling water and cook for three minutes.

14. Add the lemon juice to the onions and pancetta.  Toss in the roasted brussels sprouts and the cooked capunti along with a bit of the cooking water.

15. Finish with freshly grated parmesan cheese, pepper, and chopped basil.  Enjoy!

Shopping Tips:

1. Semolina is a kind of durum wheat and should be found in the flour section.  Buy semolina, not semolina flour.

2. Pancetta is an Italian bacon made of pork belly.  It might come in rounds that you have to cut into cubes, or it may be cubed already.  If you cannot find it, just use bacon.

If you want something saucier, you could add some cocktail tomatoes to the onions and pancetta at the same time that you add the capunti to the boiling water.