Well hi there! Long time, no see!!! But don’t blame yourself. It’s 100% my fault. You see, I had to finish the last semester of MY LIFE!!!!! That’s right folks, I’m creeping ever slowly toward the finish line of the he!l that has been my life for nearly 2 years now. I already have my grades back and I’ve passed all of my classes with flying colours! (Not that I was all that worried once I had written the exams).
On the same day as my last exam, I was also scheduled to write a French exam that I have to pass in order to be able to practice in Montreal. Unlike my school exams, where I walked out knowing I had passed, parts of this exam are a bit of a coin toss. I hadn’t had much sleep in the three days prior to this exam (because I was studying for my other exams). By the afternoon of the 3rd day, my brain had very nearly flatlined and my French speaking skills pretty much flew out the window. I actually asked, “Ou est la salle de toilettes?” at one point…The correct question being “Ou est la salle de bain?” OR “Ou est la toilette?” Sigh. I’m getting too old for this staying-up-till-2am-waking-up-at-6am student-life sh*t.
Thankfully, I only need 60% to pass each component and only have to repeat the components I fail, if any. So, between failing a school exam and this one, the consequences of failing this one were far far less. I therefore triaged my studying away from the French exam, so really, if I fail, it’s my fault. I’m not worried about passing if I had to write it again when my faculties are all up to snuff. It’s mostly the utterly ridiculous hassle of registering for the exam that I wouldn’t be looking forward to.
I’m sure this won’t come as any kind of surprise, but this government office seems to function in a pre-digital age bubble. They don’t use the phone (because like all government offices, no one answers it), and they barely use email. Instead, they conduct the majority of their business via post. (Whaaaa???)
I’m sure I’ll be fine though. I’m just being highly critical of myself. Per usual.
Now that I’ve finished classes, I just have to do a group research project before the end of August, as well as one final internship for the months of September and October. Then, ready or not, as of October 27th at 5 PM, I will be a full-blown licensed physiotherapist in Quebec!! Whoop whoop! Get ready world. Imma comin’!
Now, while I’ve long-since come to terms with the horrid reality of having to do yet another research project to complete my degree (I had to write a thesis for each of my bachelor’s and first master’s programs), this one is at least done as a group. I also got assigned to a super laid back project design, which means that I can do 90% of my part of the project on my couch or in my back yard at home. I’m also working with some pretty awesome ladies. Maybe it won’t be so bad…
Speaking of back yards, I’ve decided to take on yet ANOTHER project (I really don’t know how to have free time). You see, with with end of classes, I will actually have weekends this summer! Woot woot! And, given that I’m completely incapable of getting work done at my desk (I tend to end up on Netflix), and I can’t afford spending $$$ every day at a cafe getting work done, I figure I could invest in dressing up my back yard a bit (that’s gotta be cheaper than hanging out in a cafe for hours at a time several days a week, right?).
For the past two years, my back yard has essentially looked like…well…a crack den’s greenspace; cigarette butts everywhere from the oh-so-charming slack-jawed yokels living upstairs, formerly white cheapo plastic lawn chairs scattered here and there, and several plastic planters laying askew everywhere with nothing but dirt in them. It’s a little embarrassing. I’ve legit had 3 people (besides the BF and immediate family) over to my place since I moved in; and it’s partly due to the ghetto-ness of my yard. Sigh.
So…despite the fact that I’ve got a terrible track record with keeping green things alive, I’m going to channel whatever genes I’ve inherited from my Gramma, who was the MASTER gardener, to dress up my backyard. That way, I can host parties over the summer, lounge about working on my research project, and…if things go well, take many many foodos out there. (Don’t worry, I’ll keep you guys in the loop with Before and After shots).
I’ve been so excited about the project that I spent a good portion of this past Sunday looking up plants that would do well in my yard, and designing what is going to go where. A good portion of what I’m gonna grow will be edible of course. As I mentioned above, my Gramma was the master gardener. She had tomatoes, two kinds of pears, apples (even if they were only good for apple sauce), two different kinds of raspberries, apricots, Saskatoon berries, corn, carrots, salad leaves, herbs, quinces, the list goes on.
Soooo many summer and early fall weekends of my childhood were spent helping her picking the food from her garden and then enjoying it over dinner. Naturally, THAT’S the tradition I want to keep alive. Flowers are beautiful of course, but not nearly as practical, and let’s be honest here, I know nothing about flowers. I know A LOT about food.
One thing that I hope to grow in my garden is some rhubarb. You see, one of my fondest memories of my Gramma’s was sitting on her back porch with the bro, a bowl of sugar between us, and massive stalks of rhubarb in our fists. We would dip the ends of the rhubarb in the sugar and munch away. It was delicious! And really, what kid forgets the times they’re handed a bowl of sugar and told to go nuts?!
The other thing I did last weekend was actually scope out the plants that are readily available for me to buy! Jean Talon has switched to their summer market format in the past couple of weeks, and the garden vendors are slowly showing up week by week. So far, I’m thinking of having peppers, tomatoes, rhubarb, potatoes and cucumbers as well as lavender, chamomile, and herbs like basil, mint, cilantro, parsley and thyme! I may also toss in a strawberry plant or two!
One plant that I came across that looked super cute and kinda pretty was an eggplant plant. Thinking of having peppers and eggplants of my own made me think of this Paleo-ish Pasta Puttanesca recipe, so naturally, that’s what I cooked up for this week’s post!
I spent YEARS trying to create the perfect Puttanesca recipe. I fell in love with Puttanesca when I lived in Boston. My friend, Ashley, and I would go to the Daily Catch in the North End, stand in line across from Mike’s Pastry and wait, as patiently as possible, for our turn to sit in the kitchen while classic Bostonian Italians cooked our dinner around us and served it up hot in the frying pan. I would always get the Puttanesca on Squid Ink Pasta with Calamari Meatballs on top. (The Calimari meatballs are actually from their appetizer menu, but I would always ask them to toss them in with my pasta. It was pure magic!).
To some, squid ink pasta may seem utterly revolting (I’m actually on your side, generally speaking), but I’m telling you, it added another element of earthiness to the already earthy flavours of the black olives, capers, peppers, red onion and anchovies in the Puttanesca sauce. It was just delicious. (Also, for the record, anchovies are revolting too; except in Puttanesca sauce).
Given the earthiness provided by the squid ink pasta, I’m actually stunned that it took me years, numerous recipes, and several attempts to tweak each of them before I realized that the earthiness that was missing from each of them was the squid ink! Lightbulb moment!
I immediately ordered me some squid ink, and tried it in the recipe that I had been tweaking, and OH. MY. GOD! It was so freakin’ good. It was everything I had been searching for in the years since I moved back to TO.
So really… what I’m trying to say is that the secret ingredient to this sauce is the squid ink. Would you be terrified or excited to learn that you can buy it wicked cheap from Amazon.ca? Well you can. And you should!
Now…as if my gloriously umami-ey Puttanesca recipe couldn’t be improved, I recently dared to try it one night with roasted eggplant, peppers and tomatoes. C’était vraiment magnifique folks!
So…grab your baking pans (you’ll need ’em today) and let’s get to it eh?
Paleo-ish Pasta Puttanesca
Healthy and deliciously rich and earthy (and complete with a secret ingredient), this is seriously THE BEST Pasta Puttanesca you’ll ever taste!
- Prep Time: 30 mins
- Cook Time: 60 mins
- Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- Yield: 6-8 servings
- 1.6 tomatoes (1/3 cherry, 2/3 Roma/plum tomatoes)
- 5 tbsp tomato paste
- 5 tbsp olive oil (plus more for roastin’ and the sauce) (OR coconut oil if you’re Paleo)
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 tsps oregano
- 1 tbsp sugar (or agave syrup)
- 1 eggplant
- 1 medium red onion, sliced
- 1 red pepper, sliced
- 1 green pepper, sliced
- 85 g tin/jar of anchovies, chopped
- 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
- 1/2 cup black olives, halved and pitted
- 1/3 cup capers
- 1/2 package Squid Ink (i.e. ~ 1/4 tsp)
- Spaghetti-like pasta (I use King Soba Buckwheat and Sweet Potato noodles which are, blissfully, Paleo!!!)
- Garnish: roasted cherry tomatoes, chopped fresh basil and (vegan) Parmesan (if you’re into that kinda thing – i.e. not Paleo)
- Protein Option: 3 Italian sausages, cooked, and sliced.
| Veggie Roasting |
- Preheat the oven to 400° F and line a couple of baking trays with parchment paper.
- Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and put them in one bowl.
- Cut the plum tomatoes in quarters and put them in a second, larger bowl.
- In a third bowl, combine the tomato paste, 5 tbsp olive oil, oregano, garlic and sugar. Split the mixture between the two bowls and toss until tomatoes are evenly coated.
- Put the cherry tomatoes on one pan (or on half of one pan) and the plum tomatoes on the other baking sheet (or the other half of the baking sheet). Save the bowls.
- Roast for 25-30 mins. Once roasted, let tomatoes cool and put back in their original bowls for later. Wash the baking sheets for the eggplant rounds coming up.
- While the tomatoes are roasting, slice the eggplant into 1 cm thick rounds. Place rounds on paper towel on your counter or on another baking sheet. Sprinkle salt on the eggplant rounds, and let rest for 10 mins. Little brown droplets will appear on the eggplant rounds (this is normal!).
- Flip the eggplant rounds over and sprinkle the other side with salt. Let rest for 10 mins.
- Quickly rinse the salt and brown liquid drops off the eggplant rounds, and arrange in a single layer on the baking sheets.
- Using a brush (or paper towel if you don’t have a pastry brush), coat the eggplant rounds in a thin layer of olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Repeat for the other side of the eggplant rounds.
- Roast for 30 mins, flipping all rounds over at the 15 minute mark.
- Once roasted and cooled, chop the eggplant rounds into quarters-ish.
| Sauce Makin’ |
- Heat ~2 tbsp olive oil in a cast iron skillet or frying pan over medium heat.
- Sweat red onion and pepper slices until translucent.
- Add the chopped anchovies and chili flakes, and cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Purée the roasted plum tomatoes in a blender until sauce-like.
- Add tomato purée to the skillet. Stir to combine.
- Add the capers, olives and squid ink. Stir to combine.
- If you’re adding sausages to the recipe, toss ’em in now! Stir to combine.
- Serve over your cooked noodles. Garnish with fresh basil and the roasted cherry tomatoes. Add (vegan) parmesan if it suits you/your diet.
- Inspired by: http://www.thebrickkitchen.com/2016/01/roasted-tomato-eggplant-pasta-puttanesca/
- You may be wondering why you have to go through the process of salting and rinsing the eggplant rounds. Did you know that eggplant naturally has nicotine in it? (Cool eh?) Have you ever had eggplant that just has this weird bitterness to it? That was because it wasn’t de-nicotined prior to cooking it! If you put salt on the eggplant and let it sit for a bit, the nicotine is extracted in little brown droplets that you can wash it off, leaving deliciously mellow eggplant flavour in your foods! If you don’t believe me, taste some of the brown droplets before you wash them off…
- Now, as I mentioned, squid ink (though possibly revolting in most occasions) is what MAKES this recipe. Unfortunately, it’s not the easiest ingredient to find. But, like practically everything else, you can buy it wicked cheap from Amazon.ca! AND what you don’t use in the recipe can be frozen for, like, ever. Win!
- Also, like I mentioned in my Tomeato post WAY back when, King Soba makes Buckwheat and Sweet potato noodles as well as 100% Buckwheat noodles which are 100% Paleo! Woot woot! So, if that’s your jam, I highly recommend getting yourself some of these noodles (personally, I prefer the taste of the buckwheat and sweet potato ones). I usually find them at health food stores like the place that has almost everything at the St. Lawrence Market in TO or Aliments Merci at Jean Talon Market. Otherwise, if you’re not Paleo, pick whatever spaghetti-ish shaped pasta you got and cook it up!
And that’s that for today folks! I promise that now I’m done classes, there won’t be another month-long hiatus between posts. I already have the next post foodographed! Just have to write it up when I get back from my short road trip Albany! I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that I’m using my vacation to volunteer for the CrossFit East Regionals as a medic! (I really don’t know how to have free time, or a vacation, for that matter). So excited!!!
In the mean time, enjoy this Paleo-ish Pasta Puttanesca guys! So so good!