Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Pulse-Packed Chilli

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend Pulse Feast, the Canadian launch party for the International Year of Pulses. Confession: When I received my invitation for the event, I had no clue what the hell pulses were. In all honesty, in my quick scan of the invite, in the midst of the busy holiday season, I somehow got the impression that pulses had something to do with food trends. Though pulses aren't a word to describe food trends as a whole, they are actually a food trend for 2016 in itself. In fact, the United Nations declared 2016 to be the International Year of Pulses! So what the heck are pulses? 'Pulses are the edible seeds of plants in the legume family. Pulses grow in pods and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colours." Some pulses that you may be familiar with, and may already be apart of your diet are dry beans, dry broad beans,  dry peas, chickpeas, and lentils, as well as six other less popular varieties that I haven't mentioned. 

Though pulses may be considered a major food trend for 2016, the host of Canada's Pulse Feast, Chef Michael Smith, disputes that pulses aren't a trend at all, they're here to stay! Thanks to their versatility, sustainability, affordability, and vast health benefits, Chef Michael Smith believes that pulses will soon become apart of Canadians everyday diet. As a way of inspiring North Americans to eat more pulses the Pulse Pledge campaign was launched in conjunction with the International Year of Pulses kickoff. The Pulse Pledge is a 10-week campaign that encourages North Americans to commit to eating pulses at least once a week, each week for the 10-week period. The goal is  that the healthy habit of eating pulses on a regular basis will continue past the designated 10-weeks.

After taking my own Pulse Pledge at the Pulse Feast, I was inspired to make a hearty pulse-packed chilli that would allow me to get my pulse intake throughout the week as I continued to eat leftovers. I love this chilli recipe because it's super easy, is big on flavour, is incredibly satisfying, and will provide leftovers for the rest of the week. Though I like to simmer my chilli on the stove for at least an hour to let all of the flavours develop, this dish can easily be rushed and be on the table in less than an hour when short on time, sacrificing the flavour only minutely. Though canned pulses aren't the ideal thanks to their added sodium content, I often cook with canned beans and chickpeas because they're so incredibly convenient. Because this recipe is all about ease, I chose to use a canned bean and chickpea medley for my chilli. When purchasing canned pulses I try and look for ones that have reduced sodium or are from a brands healthy line (for instance President's Choice Blue Menu). To ensure that I can control the amount of sodium going into my chilli, I also make sure to rinse my canned beans and chickpeas very well and strain before adding them in. 

Give my Pulse-Packed Chilli a try this week and let me know how you enjoyed it on Twitter: @thisgingerrose. Also, be sure to take the Pulse Pledge yourself and commit yourself to eating pulses every single week for the next 10-weeks! 

Source: Pulses.org

Please adjust the spices based on your own heat tolerance. I can handle a lot of heat and usually use this as my base and add more heat if needed, though this may be quite spicy for some. 
** If you're in a hurry, you can simmer the chilli for as little as 30-minutes, though some flavour may be sacrificed. 

about 2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, small dice
4 stalks of celery, peeled, small dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 lb. lean ground beef
1 jar (680mL) strained tomatoes (no salt-added)
1 can (540mL) six-bean medley, well rinsed (I like President's Choice Blue Menu)
2 Tbsp. red pepper flakes*
1 chipotle in adobo sauce, minced + 2 Tbsp. adobo sauce*
1 Tbsp. chilli powder*
cheddar cheese, grated, for garnish (optional)
fresh cilantro, finely chopped, for garnish (optional)
sour cream, for garnish (optional)
salt, to taste

  1. In a a large pot set to medium heat, warm olive oil. Add onion and celery and sweat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant (about 30-seconds).
  2. Add ground beef and break up with a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through. 
  3. Add strained tomatoes, bean medley, red pepper flakes, chipotle, adobo sauce, and chilli powder. and stir to combine. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for at least an hour in order to impart the most flavour**. Taste and season as needed with salt and additional chilli powder. Serve immediately garnished with cheese, cilantro, and sour cream, or continue simmering on stove for up to 3-hours until ready to serve. Chilli may be kept in fridge for 3-4 days or up to 6-months in the freezer. 

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Monday, January 18, 2016

Orecchiette Pugliese

Being a quote-unquote "foodie" I like to have a lot of variety in the type of foods that I eat. I get bored quite easily with dishes and have been known to say that I have "overdosed" on a particular dish after having it one too many times within a short period of time. Despite my, let's call it "fickle" palate, when it comes to the food that I consume at work, it's all about routine and repetition. 

Pretty much every single time that I have a shift at the restaurant I will order myself a big ol' bowl of either Funghi Risotto or Orecchiette Pugliese. It may be the fact that there are only so many dishes that I can quickly wolf down at work while standing in a small corner of a hidden server station, without having to use more than one utensil, and that I can easily digest, or it may be because they're just so damn good that I have no problem eating them on a near-daily basis. I'd say it's likely a combination of all of the above, but the fact that our Funghi Risotto and Orecchiette Pugliese are just so knock-your-socks-off delicious certainly makes it easy to consume almost every day.

Although I look forward to going into work just for our risotto and orecchiette, and despite the fact that I already eat it way more times in a week than I care to admit, I still find myself craving both dishes on my days off at home. Being such a simple dish, I have tried to recreate the orecchiette from work several times at home, but each time something was slightly off. I would never follow a recipe, simply winging it with the ingredients that I knew were present in the dish, which always seemed to result in a dry, oily, and quite bland bowl of pasta. With such an incredibly simple dish, it's easy for things to go wrong. You really have to have the highest quality ingredients in order to get the optimal flavour, as well as be spot on in your execution and quantities of ingredients. 

Desperate for my homemade orecchiette to be just as fantastic as the one from work, I finally gave in and started working with the very same recipe we use at the restaurant. Though I was fortunate enough to get an exact copy of the specs that our chefs use in the kitchen, lucky for you our Executive Chef Doug Neigel's recipe for Mercatto's Orecchiette Pugliese was featured in the Toronto Cooks cookbook for you to enjoy! 

This is one of my all-time favourite pasta dishes thanks to its simplicity and perfect balance of flavours and textures. I love the way the rich and salty fennel sausage plays off of the bitter and crunchy rapini, and that bit of heat that lingers on the tongue from the razer-thin slices of fresh hot peppers. In my opinion its the Padano cheese that ties the whole dish together, which I both toss in and grate on top with reckless abandon (the chefs all know I always order my orecchiette with a request for "CHEESE CHEESE CHEESE" typed into the chit). 

Undercook Your Pasta - In order to achieve the best results with this dish I recommend undercooking your pasta, taking it out even before it reaches al dente. Remember that your pasta will continue to cook when you toss it together with the other ingredients, so ensuring that it's still fairly tough when taken out of the boiling water will save you in the end. 

Keep Your Rapini Crisp - Just like you don't want mushy noodles you also don't want mushy rapini. When boiling your rapini, you are literally dropping it into the heavily salted water, and then taking it straight out. Fifteen seconds in the boiling water and straight into an ice bath is all you need to get tender, yet still crunchy rapini. To reduce any chewiness in the rapini, I like to peel the stalks with a vegetable peeler to remove any of fibrous strands. 

Use The Best Sausage - I also recommend finding the absolute best fennel sausage you can get your hands on! It's the flavour of the sausage that will really permeate into the whole dish, giving it it's addictive flavour. Though the fennel sausage I buy at my local market isn't quite as good as  the one used in Mercatto's kitchen, I add in some extra fennel seed and dried chilli flakes to amp up the flavour. 

Season Every Step - Lastly, it's super important to season every step of the way in order to get that great hit of flavour when ready to serve. Season your pasta water well as well as the water to boil the rapini. Also, be sure to season your rapini and when you sauté it in the pan and, if needed, add additional seasoning to your sausage. This will all help to build the flavour naturally. 

Listening To:

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Food Court Presents Cooking By Hand

2015, the year I fell in love with food photography! Getting to work as a brand ambassador for Kraft Canada last year was an extraordinary experience for me in so many ways, though, more than anything the most important thing that it did for me was spark my interest in food photography. Having the responsibility of putting out fresh content and alluring photos each week for a year motivated me to learn more about the craft that I have always been so fascinated in, and continue practicing on a near-daily basis. 
Since my year-long stint with Kraft ended in September, I've had to find clever new ways of inspiring unique content and different foodie subjects for me to photograph. In the midst of the service industry holiday madness, with barely a moment to catch my breath, I was given the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes as the exclusive photographer for Food Court's latest pop-up event Cooking By Hand. Despite my extreme need to Netfix-and-chill at the time, I happily sacrificed my one night off to get the chance to take my still-foreign-in-my-hand camera out for a spin to capture someone else's foodie creations for a change. 
I had previously heard about Food Court through social media, as their striking progress and recipe development photos would pop up on my feed. I was completely taken by the attention to detail and care that was so obviously taken in creating these beautiful, handmade Italian classics-with-a-twist. It was truly a treat to get to literally go behind-the-scenes in the kitchen and capture all of the exciting action as each dish was thoughtfully executed and plated by Chef Jeffrey Bovis. Here's a little taste of my experience at Food Court Presents Cooking By Hand
Stay up-to-date with all of Food Court's upcoming events by following them on Instagram and Facebook

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