Posted in Products

Product Review: Aurora Brand™ Giardiniera

Aurora Giardiniera 1

Giardiniera is an Italian mixed pickle that I have been long been meaning to try making for myself, but which, alas, remains one of the many projects still on my to-do-someday list. The version you see here is a product of the United States made available in Canada by Aurora Importing and Distributing. This company lists quite a wide range of products on their Website, and I have often purchased their Anchovy Paste in a tube.

The basic Giardiniera consists of a melange of cut vegetables that are first brined and then pickled in a seasoned oil and vinegar mix. Sometimes the vegetables are cut quite large and the result is consumed as ‘bite-size’ pickles, and in other cases, as here, the pieces are quite fine and the product is more of a relish used as a condiment on things like sandwiches, or burgers, and so forth.

Olive tends to the olive oil of choice but, here, soybean oil is used. The mix contains sweet peppers, carrots, cauliflower, celery and gherkins (which is a pretty common sort of blend), but hot peppers are included in many versions. The ingredients merely list ‘spices’ for the seasoning, but it does add (a bit ominously) ‘MAY CONTAIN: Mustard’.

This particular product is very well brined and the first impression of is a definite, but not unpleasant saltiness. The vinegar is used fairly lightly, and the original taste of the vegetables is still ‘somewhat’ apparent, but what I found curious is that there is actually a rather sharp bite here that suggests hot peppers were used, if only sparingly. Perhaps this is the mustard they warned as about…

Anyway, I quite liked this and, after the initial taste test, I used it as a jazzy condiment on a vegetarian pizza, and also on a series of sandwiches. The one sort of ‘failing’ here is that the colors are a bit muted and not as vibrant as would more likely be the case in a homemade, short pickle version. In less than two weeks from the date of writing this, I shall be in Ottawa and may well try a different brand or two from one of the excellent Italian food shops there…. I will report 😊

Posted in Notable Nosh

Octopus on Black Risotto

PFW Grilled Octopus

This little dish I had at Play, Food & Wine in Ottawa a while ago was listed on the men as: Grilled Octopus with Black Rice Risotto, Saffron Mayo and Cipollini. Now, I love octopus and order it often when I see it, but in this case, I probably wouldn’t have bothered writing a post about it except for the interesting accompaniment of black rice.

The octopus itself was, sad to say, not quite up to this establishment’s usual high standard; It was, to be honest, at less than peak freshness and it had been overcooked to the point that the texture had suffered.

The Saffron Mayo, which appears as the yellow blobs in the above picture, tasted quite nice when taken alone but the flavor was so delicate that it got completely lost as an accompaniment to everything else. The Cipollini, which are a bit hard to see in the picture, were very nice, but I am not entirely sure what they were. Cipollini is a generic Italian name for small onions, but it also refers to the bulb of a particular sort of hyacinth that is also eaten in some Mediterranean cuisines. In any event, what I was served in this dish was lightly pickled and it lent a nice tangy counterpoint to the other flavors.

It was the rice, though, that stole the show for me, not the least because it is the first time I have ever tasted this black variety. It was served, ostensibly, as a Risotto, but it was quite dry and much closer to the way I cook Risotto rather than the creamy, nearly soupy, consistency it generally has. The grains were very small and short, being almost spherical, and the flavor was lovely with a rich nuttiness over a faintly earthy backdrop. The texture was also very pleasant and had a chewy quality to it that you don’t commonly get in most rice varieties. The appearance is a bit alarming, perhaps, but I thought it made a very nice bed for the rather disappointing octopus…

Posted in Recipes

Pasta Salsa Cruda

Pasta Salsa Cruda 1

‘Salsa Cruda’, in Italian cookery, is simply a term that means ‘raw sauce’. As such, in can, in theory, be composed of just about anything, but the basic version is usually a blend of chopped tomatoes in olive oil with garlic and basil. You can of course, jazz it up with whatever herbs or raw vegetables you like and, for today’s recipe, I have used several additional ingredients beyond the basic.

Mostly, a salsa cruda is used as a pasta sauce, as I have done here, but it could also be prepared as a topping for Bruschetta, a side for cold cuts or raw vegetables, or even as a ‘relish’ to use in sandwiches… Continue reading “Pasta Salsa Cruda”

Posted in Recipes

Pasta Ratatouille

Ratatouille Spaghetti

Today’s post is just a little dish I created using some of my home-made Ratatouille. It isn’t a particularly original idea, but the Ratatouille recipe is my own and the combination here works very nicely.

Just cook pasta as you normally would, reserving a little of the pasta water when you drain, and then sauté the pasta with a splash of oil before adding good ‘dollop’ of Ratatouille and a bit of the pasta cooking water. As the water cooks down a bit, you can form a really nice sauce. This version I made was very tasty with some Parmesan cheese added on serving, but a bit more of the Ratatouille would have been better 😊

Posted in Recipes

Pasta Vitello Puttanesca

Pasta Vitello Verde 1

I purchased some nice thin veal cutlets in my local store just the other day and one of the uses I planned was for a pasta dish something like a Puttanesca (but with veal added). I only had green olives, rather than the black sort I usually use, and I also happened to have some nice fresh Basil that I thought might make a nice addition. Altogether, my creation departs quite a bit from most Puttanesca recipes, but it is close enough, I think, that the name still applies … Continue reading “Pasta Vitello Puttanesca”

Posted in Recipes

Ratatouille with Pancetta Wrapped Prawns

Ratatouille with Pancetta Wrapped Prawns

This is the third recipe I have presented using  my home-made Ratatouille as a focal point. Her, the Ratatouille is served warmed, rather than at room temperature, as a ‘bed’ for some large shrimp wrapped in Pancetta. Bacon could also be used, but the pancetta is more delicate and goes nicely with the shrimp. As a single Antipasto, a bit of buttered fresh bread, or oil-drizzled grilled bread would be a great accompaniment…  Some lemon slices on the side would be nice too.

Posted in Recipes

Pesto Piccante

Pesto Piccante 1

As I had some nice fresh Basil on hand, I wanted to put together a Pesto, primarily for use as a pasta sauce. I also wanted to do something a little different than the usual Genoese style with garlic and pine-nuts and I decided to use green olives and green Jalapeno for a tangier, spicier result. The name I came up with, Pesto Piccante, has, it turns out already been used before and , when  I searched the name on line I found  some (mainly commercial) productions that are tomato based, and look very much to me like Italian variations of Salsa.

Well, screw it … I am going to use the name anyway … Continue reading “Pesto Piccante”

Posted in Recipes

Ratatouille Bruschetta

Ratatouille Bruschetta

Today, I am illustrating a use for home-made Ratatouille that is a something of an Italian-Provencal fusion. Quite simply, it is little more than the delicious Provencal relish piled atop Italian Bruschetta.

Usually, Bruschetta is drizzled with olive oil (and it can be delicious with nothing more than this other than ‘scrubbing’ the grilled bread with a piece of raw garlic). Here, though, after grilling my slices of Baguette style bread in a ridged grill pan, I spread them with butter and it allowed it to melt before adding the Ratatouille. This made for a lovely snack and would also be a terrific Antipasto as part of a larger meal…

Posted in Experiments

Broccoli Rabe with Sausage and Peppers

Broccoli Rabe with Sausage and Peppers 1

A while ago, I saw a picture of a vegetable dish comprised of Broccoli Rabe sauteed with red pepper and garlic that looked interesting and I mentally filed away the idea for latter use. Later, when I was researching Broccoli Rabe for my post of two days ago, I saw a note in the Wikipedia entry for Rapini (by which name the vegetable is also known) which mentioned that it is sometimes sauteed with garlic and chili and then served with sausages in a sandwich. Today’s dish is a vaguely Italian preparation inspired by both of the above…

To make today’s dish, I first baked some sausage (Hot or Sweet Italian ones would be great but I just used some Bratwurst I happened to have on hand), and then I sliced them after letting them cool.  Then I sauteed a little minced onion in my Homemade Garlic Oil and added some blanched Broccoli Rabe. The sausage slices came next and, once heated through, I put in some slices of my own Spicy Pickled Bell Pepper. Finally, I rounded out everything with just little tomato sauce and served it all hot with some grated Parmesan. This was a great lunch…