Tag Archives: cheese

Cacio e Pepe: Simple, Quick and Delicious

26 Oct

cacio e pepe pepper cheese spaghetti

It’s a strange thing, this food blogging life. If you’re like us, you start out wanting to create some recipes and share food adventures through your blog. Eventually, you start to gain a bit of a following, and those followers start commenting about how they like your recipes, and enjoy reading your blog. And that excites you and pushes you to create even better recipes, and share more food adventures. But then, life happens—work, family, social commitments and, yes, laziness—and you can’t find the time to dream up great recipes to share with readers, and those readers start to move along (though a lot of you have stuck with us through the silence, and we really appreciate it).

Of course, a blog post doesn’t have to be long to be interesting, and a recipe doesn’t have to be complicated to be delicious. So with that in mind, here’s a quick look at a pasta dish that I’ve enjoyed for years, but for some reason had never made myself until recently: cacio e pepe.

This dish is incredibly simple, and almost insultingly so when you’re paying $12 for it in a restaurant (and yet I’m often guilty of doing just that when I see it on a menu). It’s pasta, pepper, pecorino cheese, and nothing else. Think of it as Italian KD—the nutritional value is minimal, but the flavours are comforting. There are really only two rules here—you must start with whole peppercorns, and you must use freshly grated cheese.

Here’s how you do it:

Boil a pot of water for the pasta. When the water is boiling, add a whole bunch of salt. You always want to add a good amount of salt to pasta water, but that’s especially true for cacio e pepe, since salty noodles add to the flavour of the finished dish. Throw in a package of spaghetti and let it cook to al dente. When the pasta is finished cooking, reserve about a half cup of pasta water and drain the noodles.

While the noodles are boiling, grind a tablespoon of peppercorns (or more if you like heat!). Even better, break them up with a mortar and pestle, which will crack the peppercorns into irregular sizes.

Next, grate a cup of pecorino romano cheese. (You want to finely grate the cheese for this, since a coarser grate can clump when you put together the final dish). You could use parmesan in a pinch, but the salty, earthy bite from the sheep’s milk-based pecorino really makes cacio e pepe what it is. Mix the pepper and cheese together in the same bowl.

Put the drained noodles back into the pasta pot, and toss with a handful of the pepper-cheese mixture. Add in a couple tablespoons of the pasta water (which will help the pepper and cheese stick, and the starch it retains from boiling the noodles will add creaminess to the sauce), and toss pasta with the rest of the pepper and cheese.

Serve as a side dish with meat, as a main with a salad… or on its own, nutritional value be damned.

cacio e pepe pasta pepper cheese spaghetti

Win Passes to the First Great Canadian Cheese Festival!

1 May

cheese_lovers_tasting

In a country where agriculture and food production are so central to our identity, it’s no surprise that Canada is home to some amazing cheese producers. Those of us in southern Ontario have easy access to some of the best of Canadian cheese, from Ontario producers such as Fifth Town, Best Baa, Thunder Oak and Monteforte. But the provinces to the east and west of us are also home to some great cheeses, from the likes of Bothwell in Manitoba and  La Fromagerie du Presbytère in Quebec, whose Louis D’or was named Grand Champion at the 2011 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix.

While we’ve always had a wide array of great cheeses, we haven’t had an event focused solely on Canada’s artisan cheesemakers and their products – until now. The first Great Canadian Cheese Festival will take place June 4-5, 2011 in Picton, Ont. The festival is the brainchild of journalist, blogger and cheese lover Georgs Kolesnikovs (whose comments you might remember from our recent post celebrating Grilled Cheese Month).

Georgs Kolesnikovs
Great Canadian Cheese Festival founder Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs and his team have put together a great fesitval lineup, and they’ve given us a pair of passes to give away the Cheese Fair and Artisan Food Market taking place June 5 in Picton as part of the festival. If you’d like to win, keep reading to find out how.

First, back to that great lineup. Here’s a look at what the Great Canadian Cheese Festival has planned:

  • Those who are in Picton on the Friday before the festival, June 3, canjoin a cheese tour to see the process of cheesemaking in action, from seeing the cows produce the milk to the tasting the finished product.
  • A schedule of cheese-focused educational seminars and tutored cheese tastings is the focus on Saturday, June 4.
  • That evening, the Cooks & Curds Cheese Gala will feature great chefs from across Canada – including Toronto’s Jamie Kennedy, Anthony Rose from the Drake Hotel, Craig Flinn of Chives Canadian Bistro in Nova Scotia and Michael Blackie of Ottawa’s National Arts Centre – who will each cook dishes featuring Canadian cheese. Canadian wineries and breweries will be on hand to pour their products as well.
  • Sunday, June 5 is the Cheese Fair and Artisan Food Market, where a growing list of Canadian cheesemakers and artisan food producers will be sampling their products, and a variety of wineries and breweries will again be providing drink samples.

Each event on the Great Canadian Cheese Festival’s schedule is separately ticketed. Click here if you’d like to purchase tickets to any of the events mentioned above.

If you’d like to win two passes to the Cheese Fair and Artisan Food Market from Communal Table, here’s what you need to do:

  1. To enter, leave a comment on this post telling us what your favorite cheese is.
  2. For a bonus entry, visit Communal Table’s Facebook page, click LIKE, and then leave a comment on our wall letting us know you’d like to win the passes. NOTE: You MUST enter by leaving a comment on this post first before taking advantage of the bonus entry.

Entries will be accepted until midnight next Saturday, May 7, and we’ll announce a winner on Sunday, May 8. Good luck!

Photos courtesy of The Great Canadian Cheese Festival and Georgs Kolesnikovs.

Tasting Prince Edward County

7 Oct

Taste PEC

One great thing about living in southern Ontario is how close we are to so many food-producing regions. It’s nice to be able to get out of the city for a couple days and go somewhere that allows you to visit with and appreciate some of the people responsible for bringing produce, meats, cheeses and wine to our tables. Prince Edward County has been on our must-visit list for this reason, and we finally got a chance to check out the County recently.

The ninth annual Taste! A Celebration of Regional Cuisine festival was the catalyst for our visit, and though we managed to see and do a ton over the three days we spent in PEC – some of which we’ll cover in future posts – Taste! was a great way to begin our journey through the County. The event featured approximately 60 area restaurants and wineries sampling their wares at Picton’s Crystal Palace. And while it wasn’t cheap to properly eat our way through the event ($25/person for admission, including 5 sampling tickets; $1 per additional sample ticket, with most food and wine samples averaging 3 or 4 tickets each), it was definitely worth it to connect with the chefs and producers, and see and taste the passion they have in the local ingredients.

Here are some of the things that stood out for us at Taste!

Fifth Town Cheese at Taste PEC

Fifth Town Cheese was sampling a selection of their great cheeses, as well as a pumpkin chevre tart – a perfect fall flavour combo.

East and Main Bistro at Taste PEC

East and Main Bistro – whose chef, Lili Sullivan, and her husband, chef Michael Sullivan, are Toronto transports – featured mini tourtieres. I’m a sucker for great pastry crust, and this one was delicious.

Buddha Dog at Taste PEC

Picton’s Buddha Dog (which has a location in Collingwood and is a fixture at Toronto’s Brickworks farmers market) with their special Taste! creation, a lamb dog topped with Fifth Town Cheese feta and tzatziki.

Waupoos Winery Gazebo Restaurant at Taste PEC

The team from The Gazebo Restaurant at Waupoos Winery prepares their southwest-style pulled chicken on corn and scallion pancake. This was one of our favorite dishes at Taste!

Waring House and Barley Days Brewery at Taste PEC

The Waring House was serving Barley Days beer-glazed pulled pork sliders. Naturally, we decided to pair ours with glasses of Barley Days Brewery’s County India Pale Ale and Wind & Sail Dark Ale.

Angeline's Inn at Taste PEC

Angeline’s Restaurant and Inn was serving pork-apple-calvados ‘pockets’, which were delicious – so delicious, in fact, that we forgot to take a picture before we ate. When we went back to the booth later to try to get a photo of the food, it was all gone. But we thought their booth design stood out, so I’ve included a photo.

Copper Kettle Chocolate at Taste PEC

This is a small sample of the truffles, barks and ‘shots’ (chocolate filled with local wines) being served by Copper Kettle Chocolate Company. After a couple hours of eating and drinking, I only managed to sample a couple of their shots, but it was enough to convince me to pay Copper Kettle a visit next time we’re in the County.

Taste! A Celebration of Regional Cuisine continues to grow, this year adding a week of programming and related dinners leading up to the main event. Prince Edward County is full of great restaurants, food shops and wineries, and as we found out, it’s worth driving around and checking out as much as possible over the span of several days. But if you only have one day Taste! is a great overview of all the County offers.

Taste! 2010 Prince Edward County

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