Pasta Masta!

I’ve only been back in Montreal for three days and already I find myself invited to a mid-week party, in honour of Tim, a fellow Peter Pan who at 44 is even more of a refugee from geezerdom than I am. Regardless, the theme for this pot-luck was “Italian”, so I opted for a recipe that I had read but never tried. It’s a pasta recipe, but not very traditionally Italian, given its use of whole-wheat pasta, smoked salmon, cilantro, and feta cheese.

I wanted to try it out, and post-vacation I felt brazen enought to do so in public. It was a great success. Therefore, I present, in non-traditional style, the recipe, as follows:

Boil a load of whole-wheat spaghetti. When it is done, reduce the heat, dump the pasta in a strainer, oil it, and return the empty pot to the burner. Add an inch of heavy (35%) cream, and let it heat up but not boil. In the meantime, warm (in a sauce pan or the microwave) some whiskey or brandy–about 2/3 as much as the cream warming in the pot.

When both are warm, tip the liquor into the cream and stir in a measure of chili powder (roughly one teaspoon per cup of cream/liquor).

Fold in a handful of roughly chopped smoked salmon. After a moment, roll in the pasta, and stir to coat. Take a minute or two to reduce the liquid and thoroughly coat the pasta. Then tip the whole lot into a warmed pasta bowl and cover with a generous handful of crumbled feta cheese and a bunch of choppped cilantro. Toss, and scratch some black pepper across the top.

Serve immediately, or keep for up to 20 minutes in a warm oven.

Heat

We’re in the middle of one of the worst heat waves in history. From the Atlantic coast to the prairies we’re baking under 30°C+ temperatures. Toronto has declared an emergency. On the West Island of Montreal the water is so low they’re afraid they won’t have enough to put out a house fire, should one erupt.

Under the circumstances, there was only one thing I could do… Make paella! What the heck, it’s hot in Spain, so the idea of turning my kitchen into a raging inferno by cooking my favorite rice dish didn’t phase me at all. Actually, strictly speaking, what I made was arroz con la fruta del mar, since it wasn’t made in the tradition of paella, which is to make it outdoors in a proper paella pan over an open fire.

Whatever! It was awesome! I began by making the sofrito, which is a mush of onion, garlic, and tomato sautéed long and slow, then I threw in the rice and some saffron, and let it fry for a few minutes. Then I added the liquid, which was chicken stock, water, and clam juice. I let it simmer on the stovetop for about fifteen minutes, then I added some calamari, large shrimp, and cut-up sole fillet, and popped it in a hot oven to finish. Instead of using a paella pan, which I don’t have, I used The Forty Pounder, my massive 12-inch cast iron skillet that I’ve been seasoning for going on ten years now. It works well for this dish, as it lets the rice get a bit crispy and caramelized without burning, which in paella talk is called the socarrat.

Mmmmmmm…

If my digital camera were not in the repair shop, I surely would have taken a picture. Instead, I’ll show you a couple of pictures from other recent meals…

yummy!
Black bean burritos on a rice pilaf, with a side salad.

delicioso!
Blork’s secret recipe baked breaded chicken on a black bean and corn salsa with lemon-scented steamed broccoli.

Once I get my camera back I may start photographing my dinners as a regular feature!