Thursday, October 18, 2012

Spaghetti alla carbonara

Pasta is my comfort food.  It makes me happy when I'm feeling sad, calm when I'm feeling stressed, and always hits the spot when I'm meandering through the fridge searching for that late night snack. Hot, cold, or 2 days old - the stuff never tastes bad!  One of my all-time favourites since I was little has been 'spaghetti all carbonara'. Eggs and bacon, in pasta. It's like breakfast pasta (if something exists that's more exciting than this, absolutely let me know). I've been trying to find the perfect recipe and I think Nigella Lawson has really brought out a winner.  She manages a perfect balance between English and Italian cuisine - parmesan cheese and pancetta paired with whole eggs and a little bit of cream. You can find the full recipe here, its from her cookbook "Feast". (Which, by the way, is pretty damn amazing if you are struggling with an upcoming dinner event). 

What you need

  • 500 g spaghetti
  • 275 g pancetta
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 60 ml white wine (dry)
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 50 g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 60 ml double cream (I used half and half)
  • 1 sprinkle of nutmeg
Fresh pancetta, with the rind off.
Dice the pancetta into small cubes.
Using a pan that will fit the pasta later, cook the pancetta on low heat with a bit of minced garlic.
Cook until the pancetta is crispy, not crunchy.
Add the wine, let it bubble away the alcohol for a few minutes, then take the pan off the heat.
Mix eggs, cream, cheese, and pepper in a bowl. don't overbeat the eggs - just lightly stir them.
Cook the pasta al dente. Remove about 1 cup of pasta water. Put the other pan, the one with the pancetta, on the heat and add the drained pasta, tossing well to coat with the syrupy bacon mixture. Add some of the pasta water to lubricate if needed.
Take the pan off the heat (again), and ad the eggs and cheese mixture, tossing everything to mix. Grind over some pepper, grate over some nutmeg, and dig in.
What's your favourite pasta? If you don't have more pasta.

Happy Thursday!


Monday, October 15, 2012

Universal grill

Interior of universal grill. taken from their website

As a firm advocate of breakfast, nothing excites me more than Sunday brunch with good friends. Yesterday I had the delight of trying a new spot - Universal Grill, at 1071 Shaw Street in Toronto.  Even though it only seats about 35-40, the wait was less than 30 minutes - which is huge for anyone that knows the typical toronto brunch scene.  It's not your 'less than $10 greasy spoon', BUT the food is, well...not greasy, and your tummy leaves (very) happily satisfied. I had the house cured salmon and eggs on toast and it was PERFECT. Sometimes smoked salmon leaves a real fishy taste in your mouth, but these lox were succulently sweet and not overpowering.
Cappuccino to start
Special - Scrambled Eggies: house cured salmon on an omlette, with spuds and toast ($13) (Mine!)
Omelette of the day ($11)
Huevos Rancheros ($12)
Be sure to check out the "Specials" Chalkboard behind the counter, that's where I found my heavenly entree. Or, if you're a huge nerd like me, you can look up the Specials on their website which they update daily (extra points).  Oh, also! Do you like mussels and Tuesdays? Every Tuesday the price you pay for mussels is the same as the time you order (5:00 PM = $5, etc.). 

Soo.. if you're bored of the same old sunday grub and want a new hidden gem to try, head to Universal Grill. If you aren't looking for it, you'll probably miss it.  Right on the corner of Shaw and Dupont, keep your eyes open for the bright blue building (or the awesome patio if it's summer).

Happy Monday!


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Prosciutto wrapped figs with gorgonzola

I have recently become a fig addict. I say recently because for the vast majority of my 24-year existence, I avoided this fruit like the plague. My family loves them, my grandparents grow them, and I have done everything in my power to stay as far away from them as humanly possible. It started in Grade 2 - I tried my first Fig Newton, spit the whole thing out, and vowed to never eat anything fig-related for the rest of my life. It took me up until about 2 weeks ago to fully accept that Fig Newtons (yuck) are very, very, far from what an actual fresh fig tastes like. I was in Italy, and my friends were picking them off the trees in the orchard.  Something inside me said "go on, give it another try!" I did, and it was love at first fig. 

This appetizer is simple, fast, and perfect for a pre-lunch/dinner soirree. Not too filling, and not too messy. The salty prosciutto and gorgonzola pairs perfectly with the sweetness from the fig, and once the whole package is lightly roasted, all the flavours blend together creating a smorgasbord of deliciousness.  I made these badboys as starters for our family Thanksgiving lunch and they were a hit. Although... cheese wrapped in meat? How can you really go wrong here...

What you need
  • 12 fresh figs, trimmed of any hard stem
  • 1/4 pound gorgonzola cheese, cut into 12 pieces
  • 12 slices prosciutto
  • Honey or balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
Score the inside of the fig, creating a little pocket for the cheese.
Stuff a piece of cheese into the slit of each fig, then wrap with a piece of prosciutto.  They look nicer without the toothpick, but if you don't have a long enough piece of meat it's difficult to keep it all wrapped up.
Broil at 450°F for about 4-8 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Do not overcook.
Serve on a platter with a few sprigs of rosemary, and drizzle with either a bit of honey or aged balsamic vinegar.
That's it, that's all! Easy peasy. 

Happy Saturday!


P.S After a long hiatus of school, work, weddings, and some vacation time (!), I am making a conscious effort not to ignore my little blog when life gets hectic. See you soon =)
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