Fregola with Peas, Ricotta, Pancetta and Mint

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Live long and prosper!

Have you ever wondered what keeps us young? I am approaching a milestone birthday and when I hear the number I just shake my head and say “That cannot be me!”

I still feel the same as I did before my children were born. I am wiser and a little less agile, but I am still that person. I still love music, nature, theater, photography, travel, cooking, family and laughter, as I always have. I can still skate, cycle, walk for miles and keep up with the rest of the family.

We all know that eating well and living an active lifestyle is important. I have also read that a glass of red wine now and again is good for you. So is dark chocolate. All of these facts were proven through research. Researchers spend countless hours studying the affects of lifestyle and diet so we can understand what we need to do to live long and healthy lives.

It really makes me wonder if we know it all when I hear about places like the island of Sardinia. On this wonderful rustic island there are more than 10 times as many people living to over 100 years old, as there are in the U.S. and Canada.

Sardinia is a region of Italy located in the Mediterranean off the west coast of Italy’s mainland. In spite of its prime location, Sardinia remains a culturally isolated place where the locals live a rural lifestyle of hunting, fishing and farming.

Many researchers have visited Sardinia hoping to unlock the secrets of their longevity, while falling in love with the island, the food and the people. The locals enjoy a Mediterranean diet, paired with wine, friends and family. What more could you want?

Fregola (also known as Fregula) is ancient pasta from the island of Sardinia. It resembles Israeli Couscous but has a slightly chewy, almost nutty taste. I recommend using it in soups and salads and mixing it with vegetables for a tasty pasta dinner. It can be purchased in many specialty stores in North America such as Whole Foods and McEwan’s.

This recipe was adapted from the one on the Bon Appetit website. The flavours are well balanced and the ricotta and mint add a freshness to the pasta. I would definitely make this again.

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Fregola With Peas, Ricotta, Pancetta and Mint

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups fregola
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 ounces pancetta cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups low sodium chicken stock
Salt and Pepper
1 cup frozen peas or freshly shelled peas
3 sprigs fresh mint
4 oz. ricotta cheese

Directions:

Cook fregola in a large pot of boiling salted water 6-8 minutes. The pasta should be a little firm. Drain pasta, do not rinse.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add wine, bring to a simmer and cook until the liquid has reduced, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth and simmer. Add the fregola and cook, stirring often, until pasta is al dente and broth has thickened, about 5 minutes.

Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add the peas and cook, stirring often until peas are warmed through, about 2 minutes.

Serve topped with ricotta and fresh mint and drizzle with oil.

Recipe adapted from bonappetit.com

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Fresh Summer Salad of Cucumber, Fennel and Ricotta

What an eventful summer this has been!

I have been busy working on projects for my business including contributing to an article that will be featured in Resource Magazine’s fall issue on food photography. I have also been adding some lifestyle photography to my portfolio. I seems like the work has been non-stop and I am loving it!

The thing about being so busy is that I need to take some time to smell the flowers and enjoy the moments. After all, if we don’t take the time to look around us we lose our creativity and our sense of place.

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My favourite flowers for this time of year are sunflowers. These shots were taken a while ago in Prince Edward County. I happened upon a field of sunflowers one day, I pulled over and just started shooting. There was a massive sea of yellow shining in the sun and the sight of it all was glorious!

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When I am busy I have trouble finding fresh ideas for my blog. When I need a shot of inspiration I read one of Nigel Slater’s books. Nigel is a talented British food writer and cook who has a way of making a simple dish come together like a symphony. I only discovered his work in the past year and I love it. The interesting thing about his style of cooking is that he says recipes are only guidelines and one should make them to their own liking, adding and subtracting ingredients as they wish.

I did not change this recipe as I wanted to taste the fresh, vibrant flavours of the avocado and fennel with the cucumber. I also love ricotta cheese when it is fresh and light. I enjoyed it as a main course for lunch but it would also be a fresh side dish at dinner.

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Cucumber, Fennel and Ricotta Salad

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. sunflower oil
2 few drops balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3-4 sprigs fresh dill
1 English cucumber
1 avocado
1 small bulb fennel
¼ cup ricotta cheese
sprouted seeds

Directions:

For the Dressing:

Pour the lemon juice in a small bowl and add salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil and sunflower oil. Add the balsamic vinegar and dill. Taste to check the balance. It should be fresh but not sharp. Add more vinegar if necessary.

The salad:

Peel half a cucumber and remove the seeds with a spoon and cut into thick slices. Halve and finely slice the fennel bulb.

Peel and thickly slice the avocado and fold all of the ingredients into the dressing. Refrigerate for half and hour.

Sprinkle with tufts of sprouted beans.

Transfer to a serving dish and top with a large spoonful of the ricotta cheese.

Recipe from Eat by Nigel Slater

Tomato, Ricotta and Lemon Tarts

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I walked home from work tonight. It is about 5 km from my office to my apartment so I frequently walk home to get exercise. I love the feeling of solitude that walking gives me. I have time to sort out my thoughts, to make plans and to work through creative ideas. I also have time to get in touch with nature as I walk through parks.

Tonight, as I walked I could not help but feel the splendor of the summer’s evening. There was a slight breeze blowing and the air smelled so sweet. Even though there was traffic and cyclists and runners passing by, I still felt a calmness in the air. I thought about how long we waited for this summer to come. I wanted to grab hold of that feeling and that moment and not let it go. But we cannot capture those precious moments in time. We can only try to record them in our memories and hope they will come again.

That is one of the reasons that I love photography. Every shot records a moment, a feeling, a person, a place, an event or even a sensation or taste. When I look back at photos of trips or events I remember what that day felt like. I recall what was happening and who was there and what we did. It is like the photo triggers the place in my memory where I stored that moment.

I hope that when we share our photographs with others, they are able to feel some of those moments with us.

I also hope that when we share recipes that we love, others will try them and enjoy the flavours that we enjoyed. I am a huge fan of tomatoes and ricotta cheese so when I saw this recipe in the Donna Hay Magazine, I had to make it. The recipe is quite simple and made a delicious lunch for my daughter and I. The ricotta and lemon filling offer a great balance to the fresh cherry tomatoes. The tarts are great served with a side salad or on their own.

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Tomato, Ricotta and Lemon Tarts

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

500 g ricotta cheese
1 tbsp. finely grated lemon rind
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp. finely chopped chives
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
8 sheets filo (phyllo) pastry
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place the ricotta, lemon, parsley, chive, 1/4 cup parmesan, egg, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix to combine.

Place 1 sheet of pastry on a board, brush with olive oil and top with a second sheet pf pastry. Repeat with remaining pastry sheets.

Lightly grease an 8 x 11 inch baking dish.

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Cut the stack of filo pastry in half lengthways and into thirds crossways to make 6 squares. Divide the ricotta mixture by spooning 1/6 into each of the pastry squares. Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan cheese.

Place the tarts in the baking dish, lifting the edges to fit snugly. Brush the pastry with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

Serve each tart with tomatoes and a sprig of parsley.

Recipe from Donna Hay Magazine- Issue 73 Feb/Mar 2014

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Ricotta Frittata

The further we get into winter the more I crave sunshine, sailing and summer salads.  I have been making some dishes with the seasonal ingredients that are available at my local markets which is helping me to continue on this journey of eating healthier and living well.

Sundays present a different kind of challenge. That is the day when I like to relax, write and spend quality time with family and friends.  On days like this I need to be inspired with new and delicious recipes. Without inspiration I will snack and munch my way through the day with an endless stream of sugary carbs.

This Ricotta Frittata makes a lovely Sunday brunch or lunch. The texture is light and fluffy with little clouds of ricotta cheese floating across the eggs. Sprinkle with fresh chives and you have a tasty treat to start your day.

Ricotta Frittata

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

3 tbsp. olive oil
6 eggs
½ c. onions, finely chopped
3 tbsp. olive oil
¾ c. ricotta cheese
3 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp. fresh chives, chopped
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions
Coat the bottom of a large ovenproof skillet with the olive oil. Add the onions, and salt and pepper to taste and sauté over medium heat until the onions are translucent, 5 to 7 minutes.

In a bowl combine the eggs, ricotta, and Parmesan and stir until smooth.

Add the egg mixture to the sautéed onions and stir. Sprinkle with chives. Cook the frittata on the stovetop until the eggs start to set, then transfer the skillet to the oven.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until firm.

Turn the frittata out of the pan onto a large serving plate. Drizzle with olive oil if desired and serve immediately.

Original Recipe from Epicurious.com