Tag Archives: gluten-free

Spicy Sausage and Leek Pasta

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Verdict: an incredible, low maintenance pasta sauce with vibrant tomatoes, spicy Italian sausage, infused with fennel. One of my favourite recipes of all time.

In the late 90s, the first Western dish to appear on our immigrant table was spaghetti with meat sauce, about ten years after moving to Canada. My mom was the talented cook in the family with a flair for noodle dishes. She made Vietnamese beef noodle soup with the most flavourful and fragrant broth, twenty variations of vermicelli dishes, and the most incredible and awe-inspiring wonton noodle soup. To everyone’s surprise and delight, it was my dad who introduced pasta into our household. His recipe was simple: oil, onions, garlic, ground beef and canned tomato sauce; we kids could never get enough.

IMG_8477Leeks, garlic and carrots cooked in olive oil.

Since then, I’ve learned different recipes and techniques to create a great tomato sauce. First, it was the addition of sugar to decrease the acidity of the tomatoes. Years later, I ditched the canned tomato sauce and started using whole canned tomatoes. Through the internet, I read whispers of another secret ingredient: grated carrots for Mario Batali’s classic tomato sauce. His recipe was great! The grated carrots replaced the need for sugar and yielded an interesting addition to my pasta sauce repertoire.

IMG_3209Italian sausage infused with fennel and chilies.

Around the time I discovered the Batali recipe, I came across Jaime Oliver’s Bloke Pasta,  which uses chilis and fennel seeds to spice up a lemony sausage pasta dish. I decided to combine the two recipes and haven’t looked back. For a simple, delicious, and unique pasta dish, the recipe presented here is perfection. It is the recipe I will use to introduce pasta to my future children.

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There are so many reasons why I keep going back to this wonderful sauce: it is so fresh, hearty and spicy, with the unique combination of tomatoes, sausage, and fennel. This sauce is great on pasta (linguine and rotini are my favourite) or try it over rice for a lighter, gluten free alternative, perfect for summertime dinners.

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Balsamic Foil Packed Chicken

Balsamic Foil Packed Chicken

Verdict: This recipe creates chicken that is extremely moist and bursting with the complex flavours of the sweet soya sauce and balsamic vinegar. An easy and elegant weeknight dinner.

This original recipe came together from my sister’s obsession with balsamic glazed asparagus and our obsession with the Singaporean instant fried noodles brand called Mi Goreng. These instant noodles make the perfect late night snack and with a little bit of effort, the perfect quick dinner. In an effort to make these instant noodles healthier (we know, it’s a stretch), we investigated what goes into real Singaporean noodles and how best to incorporate fresh vegetables into the dish. It turns out, the secret ingredient is sweet soya sauce. It is sweeter than regular soya sauce and significantly thicker, like a reduced balsamic vinegar, with some varieties mirroring the viscosity and appearance of molasses.

Shallots and garlic Shallots, the sweet cousin of onions.

I decided to use sweet soya sauce to create a recipe for balsamic glazed chicken. The foil packets cooking method ensures the chicken will be cooked to tender perfection.

Sweating shallots and garlic in butter Cooking the shallots and garlic over low heat until they’re soft and translucent.

This is the kind of dish that immediately makes it into your cooking rotation. The flavours are complex and full bodied, the chicken tender and moist. The shallots and sweet soya sauce impart sweetness, while the twang from balsamic vinegar keeps the sweetness from being overpowering. The sauce is so incredible on rice, this will be your new chicken and rice dish standard.

Balsamic chicken with rice and asparagus

The toughest ingredient to find will be the sweet soya sauce, found at Asian supermarkets or the ethnic aisle of your grocery store. We’ve tried three to four different brands and found the Lee Kum Kee Sweet Soy Sauce to be the best performer: mellow kind of sweetness with right consistency: thicker than regular soya sauce but not as thick as honey or molasses. Regardless of the brand you find, please ensure you use sweet soya sauce. I’ve tried this with regular soya sauce and the flavour combination simply did not work; the resulting sauce was too tart.

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Momofuku Steak Ssäm (Lettuce Wraps)

Steak ssam lettuce wrap

Verdict: This was an incredible dish, like nothing I have ever cooked or tasted. The preparation was easy and the flavour combinations of apple juice marinated beef, ginger, scallions and kimchi cannot be beat.

When I saw this recipe on Serious Eats, I knew I had to try it, like walking by  a house with a pie cooling on an open window sill or walking pass a shoe store in the middle of winter and seeing soft leather boots.

Apple juice marinated flank steak Magical scallion-ginger mixture

Although I have yet to experience the award winning Momofuku restaurants, I had a feeling that any recipe from David Chang (owner and chef) would produce incredible results. Apple juice in a marinade? That would be a first! A dish that requires kimchi, the tangy and spicy Korean pickled cabbage? Hot white rice? Sweet and savoury grilled steak? All wrapped in a crunchy lettuce leaf? I don’t think I could ask for more in a recipe.

Flank steak with new friends

I have never eaten anything like this before, so incredible and novel, it encourages you to swear out in delight. The recipe produces a complex and inviting mixture of flavours and textures: the sweet steak, spicy kimchi, and the sherry infused ginger-scallion mixture, alongside the soft rice and crunchy lettuce. I loved the sweetness imparted by the apple juice with the mellow but savoury umami flavour of the soya sauce and sesame oil.

Steak ssam lettuce wrapped

The taste combination was so delicious, we couldn’t stop thinking about this meal for weeks. We could be brushing our teeth or walking into work, innocent and mundane activities, when the memory of this taste experience would assault us. It would stop us in our tracks and cause our mouths to salivate instantly.

Prepare this dish. You and your guests will not regret nor forget it.

Flank steak with kimchi, rice and scallion-ginger

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Green Thai Curry – Chicken with Broccoli

Thai green curry.

Verdict: This is the only recipe you will ever need for Thai curry. Once you are comfortable with how to prepare the dish, there are unlimited combinations of curry, meat and veggie to try.

Hey everyone! For my first post, I wanted to share a recipe we turn to often. We used it a lot when I first moved to Calgary from Vancouver in March 2010. It encompasses the elements that I love about home cooking: simple, hearty and healthy. Under time pressure I’ve been able to make this, from start to finish, in 20 minutes flat.

Growing up, I learned to associate food with spending quality time with loved ones. Regardless of how busy things got, our family always tried to have dinner together. When I first moved to Calgary (marking my first time living away), I tried to recreate that tradition with Sunday “family dinners” with my new roommates.  I’ll admit, I was also trying to woo them into thinking I was a worthy roommate. I would later need their adoration to get away with listening to music too loudly – at all hours.

Among the meals we cooked on Sunday nights, I remember the Thai curries the most vividly. The sweet and spicy curry paste, the fragrance of simmering coconut milk, the fresh cooked rice.  My roommates, who weren’t crazy about cooking, asked for lessons on how to make this dish and soon after, not a month went by without one of us making Thai curry. At first, we went crazy with the ingredients. Being health conscious, we used to overload the curry with as many different vegetables as we could. Over time, I’ve learned that the curry really shines when you have one meat item and a maximum of four vegetables.

Thai green curry ingredients.

We’ve made many different Thai curries over the years and I find the green curry with chicken and broccoli the easiest and most approachable. You’ll only need to stray from your regular grocery shopping routine for the Thai curry pastes, coconut milk and fish sauce which can be found in the International (Asian/Indian) aisle in most grocery stores. I’ve yet to find kaffir lime leaves in Calgary though. To get started, I recommend buying the red and green curry pastes first. They last over a year in the fridge and make for a quick weeknight dinner.

Note that the following recipe is a basic guide for making Thai curries. In the future, you’ll see many more permutations of this recipe as we always have a few jars of Thai curry pastes in the fridge. If you make this only once, you’ll be surprised how quick and delicious it is to make home made curries. If you’re like us, you may love making homemade Thai curries so much, you lose interest in restaurant varieties completely.

Pot full of curry.

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