“Borscht” Pasta (AKA Deconstructed Borscht with Beet Noodles)

'Borscht' Pasta

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: medium
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Ingredients

  • 1 large beet, peeled and spiralized into noodles
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsps butter or olive oil
  • 1/4 cup broth (vegetable or chicken)
  • 15 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped (or 1 tsp dried dill)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • sour cream, for garnish (optional)

Directions

Heat the butter or oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until the garlic is fragrant and is starting to brown. Add the tomatoes, and stir, cooking until the tomato skins blister and split. Next, add the beet noodles, stirring to coat the noodles with the butter/oil. Add the broth and cover the pan to allow the noodles to steam for about 5-8 minutes or until they become tender. Uncover and cook, stirring regularly, until the liquid is almost completely gone. Add the dill and stir. Serve with a dollop of sour cream, if desired.

And now for the details…

Beet noodles. No, not beet-infused pasta, but actual noodles made out of beets. You’re probably already familiar with zucchini or carrot noodles by spiralizing the vegetables, but how about spiralizing beets? The inspiration for this dish came while I was grocery shopping. The grocery store had beet noodles already prepped for sale and my first thought was “what the heck would you do with beet noodles?”

Well… my brain wouldn’t let it go and I felt the need to figure out what I would do with beet noodles. The earthy flavour of beets is quite pungent, so just throwing them in with any old dish as a pasta replacement would heavily change the flavour of meal. Besides, that beety flavour is so tasty, was there a way to highlight it and make the beet noodles the star of the dish? And then it came to me: a borscht-inspired “pasta” dish.

In order to minimize the mess at home, since I’d never tried spiralizing beets, I chose to use a golden beet instead of a purple/red beet. I can only imagine what the kitchen would have looked like after trying to do this with the deeply coloured purple/red beet. Dark red stains everywhere, it would heavily resemble the scene of a murder. So let’s avoid that and go with the golden beet, shall we? Same great flavour. Less mess. *cheesy smile and thumbs up*

When choosing a beet, try to pick one that’s a little on the larger side, between the size of a tennis ball and softball. In order to spiralize, we need to peel the beet first. Don’t worry about peeling off the bottom of the beet, that’s going to be anchored into the end of our spiralizer. The mistake I made here was to spiralize the whole beet without cutting the noodles as I went. This resulted in looooooooooong Rapunzel-like strands of beet noodles that were a little challenging to work with. I would suggest giving them a little snip with food scissors every 8″-12″/20-30cm as you spiralize to form reasonable-length noodles.

Next, we start cooking! Heat the butter or oil in a large pan/skillet over medium heat. Add your minced garlic and stir until the garlic becomes fragrant (is there a smell much better than garlic cooking in butter?) and add the tomatoes. Cook the tomatoes, stirring regularly, until the skin on the tomatoes blisters and splits open.

Add the beet noodles into the pan. Stir them well so they become coated with the garlicky butter/oil. I found the easiest way to do this was to use some tongs to pick up the noodles and shift them around the pan. Add the broth to the pan, and cover the pan, allowing the beet noodles to cook and soften. This will take about 5-8 minutes.

Finally, uncover the pan, and sprinkle with the dill, stirring well. If there is still quite a bit of liquid in the pan, keep stirring and cooking until most of the liquid has been absorbed/cooked off. Finally, transfer to a serving dish and serve with sour cream!

Happy eating.

Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy-medium
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Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsps butter
  • 2 Tbsps flour
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup broth (vegetable, chicken, or beef)
  • 1 1/4 cup pumpkin purée (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 115g/4oz cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup parmesan, grated
  • 2 cups dry macaroni
  • salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup roasted hazelnuts, chopped loosely

Directions


Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add the flour, and whisk to fully mix. Add the garlic, and continue to whisk until the garlic has turned fragrant and the flour as just started to turn golden brown. Add the milk in 1/2 cup portions at a time, whisking completely before adding the next amount. Add the milk until a cream sauce has formed, but not too thin. Cook until the sauce is thick enough to stick to the back of a wooden spoon. Whisk in the pumpkin, nutmeg and cinnamon, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the cream cheese and parmesan and stir until cheeses are completely melted and mixed into the sauce. Set a pot of heavily salted water to boiling. Cook the macaroni according to instructions. Drain the macaroni, then add to the pan with the sauce and mix well. Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle with hazelnuts. Serve.

And now for the details…

This dish could almost be viewed as an adult take on classic Mac and Cheese. Or, if you’re trying to hide fruits/veggies from your kids (or other members of your household… I do know some adults who aren’t fans of veg lol), you could tell them this is Mac and Cheese and not tell them about the pumpkin 😛 Although, if you are going to try and pull one over on your kids, be aware that the texture is a little less smooth than a typical Mac and Cheese because of the addition of the pumpkin, not to mention the addition of spices!

I came up with this recipe after I’d opened a large tin of pumpkin purée to bake muffins for my in-laws, then had a bunch of extra purée on my hands. I didn’t want to do more baking, so I figured, why not do a savoury take on pumpkin, and use it for a pasta sauce instead?

The cinnamon and nutmeg are subdued and delicate in the sauce, just a small addition to bring a teaser of pumpkin spice flavours. Then the addition of the cheeses brings this dish well into the savoury realm. The hazelnuts add a nice texture contrast, and I love their flavour up against the pumpkin cheesiness.

We are going to start out by making a béchamel, or white sauce. Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat. As soon as the butter has melted, whisk the flour into the butter, and add the garlic. We are going to cook this, whisking constantly, until the garlic has become fragrant and the flour/butter has just started to turn a golden brown.

Next we will be adding the milk. We add the milk in small spurts, about 1/2 cup at a time, and whisking the milk in. The whisk is very important here! This will be hard if you try to using a different stirring utensil. The first couple of additions might worry you a bit. It will be very thick at first, almost paste-like. Fret not! Keep adding the milk a little bit at a time, whisking to fully mix each time, and soon you will have a nice, creamy sauce. Stop at about 2 cups, and see if you need to add any more. If the sauce is quite thick (think yogurt consistency), then you need to add some more milk. If it is closer to about syrup consistency, you’ve got it about right. We are going to cook the sauce for a bit longer after we’ve added all the milk, about 3-5 minutes, or until the sauce coats the back of a wooden spoon. A good way to test it? Drop your wooden spoon in the sauce, then pull it out and run a finger along the back of the spoon. If the line you’ve drawn with your finger stays in place without the sauce running back through it, your white sauce is done cooking. Turn the temperature down to medium-low.

Now is about a good time to get your macaroni a-cookin’. Boil some heavily-salted water, add the macaroni, turn down the heat on the pot to medium, and cook according to the pasta package instructions.

As the pasta cooks, let’s get our sauce finished up. Add the pumpkin purée, nutmeg, cinnamon, cheeses, and broth. When adding cream cheese to a sauce, it’s fastest to break it up into small-dish pieces so that it with melt a little easier. Allow the sauce to heat up until the cream cheese is fully melted and the sauce just starts to bubble. By now, your macaroni should be almost done cooking. Steal 1/4 cup of pasta water and add it to the sauce before draining the pasta, mixing the water in. This is going to help the sauce stick a bit easier to the pasta.

Drain your pasta, then add it right into the pan with the sauce. Stir well until every piece of macaroni is fully coated. Do one final taste test here and add salt and pepper to taste. We waited until the last minute for this, since the pasta water, broth, and cheese will have added salty elements, and it’s best to wait until all those are melded before adding any more salt.

Pour everything into your serving dish of choice, and then sprinkle the pasta with the toasted hazelnuts, and serve.

Happy eating.

Radicchio-usly Easy Salad (with Bleu Cheese and Dijon Dressing)

Radicchio-usly Easy Salad w/Bleu Cheese and Dijon Dressing

  • Servings: 1 meal, 2 sides
  • Difficulty: EASY
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Ingredients

  • 1/2 head radicchio, core removed and cut into small ribbons
  • 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsps olive oil
  • salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 2-3 oz. creamy bleu cheese, like Saint Agur
  • 1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

Directions

Place the dijon and vinegar in the bottom of the salad’s serving bowl. Whisk with a fork until fully blended. Continue whisking as you pour the olive oil into the mix. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add radicchio to the bowl and toss with the dressing until coated. Pull the bleu cheese apart with finger into bite-sized pieced and sprinkle over salad. Sprinkle with walnuts. Serve.

And now for the details…

Oh MAN I love this salad. It comes together so quick and easy, I’m almost ashamed to share it. Almost. But it is also one of my favourite salads, so combine the ease of preparation with the satisfying tastiness of this salad, and it would be an absolute shame not to share it.

This salad was inspired by a similar salad we had in Paris at the Bouillon Chartier. Theirs uses endives, but… endives are expensive! The bitter flavour from the endives is mimicked here with the radicchio instead. Mix that bitterness with the salty, creaminess of the bleu cheese, the tang of the dijon dressing, and the crunch of the walnuts, and it is a match made in heaven.

Radicchio can be very bitter. It’s often roasted or grilled to soften the bitterness, or only added sparingly along with other greens for salads. In this case, though, we are embracing and celebrating that bitter flavour in it’s full glory, and pairing it with the other ingredients to provide nice contrasts of flavours and textures.

Without further ado, let’s make this salad! We are going to make everything in the same bowl out of which we will be serving/eating. This is the glorious part about this salad, it comes together so quickly and doesn’t dirty many dishes. It is one of my favourite lunches right now, since I can throw it together quickly, which is something important right now while I am working from home and need something in a hurry.

Start by placing the mustard and vinegar into the bowl, and whisking it with a fork (the same fork you plan on eating with? Why of course!) until the two are fully mixed together.

Next slowly pour the olive oil in with the vinegar and mustard, whisking as you pour, until the dressing is fully mixed and a homogeneous mix. Add salt and pepper to your preferred taste, and mix well.

Cut the core out of the radicchio and discard, then cut the radicchio into small bite-sized ribbons. Add the cut radicchio to the bowl, and toss with the dressing until the radicchio is evenly coated.

Tear the bleu cheese into bite-sized chunks and add them to the salad. This is not a place to be skimpy; use nice, big pieces, and make sure the salad is rife with cheese! Finally, loosely crumbled the toasted walnuts over the salad, and then it’s time to eat!

Happy eating.