Saturday, 25 May 2013

Cubanelle Pepper Pesto

I recently took a trip to the grocery store with the intent to buy some things that I just cannot remember at this moment. However, I did come across these lovely peppers that I have never tried before. It just screamed pesto, to me.

They were cubanelle peppers which is a variety of sweet (mild) peppers, similar in taste and texture to bell peppers. However, its walls are slightly thinner than the bell peppers which makes for faster cooking. I roasted these peppers in the toaster over for a short time, then made the pesto, and tossed it with some pasta. Pasta is definitely one of my favourite ways to eat pesto.
I also used some basil in this pesto, but not enough to overpower the peppers. Using little is important since basil has a very strong flavour while these peppers are quite mild.

Sweet Pepper (Cubanelle/Bell) Pesto


  • Two large Peppers (about 250g in total)
  • 1 C. loosely packed Basil
  • 2 medium-large cloves Garlic
  • 1/8 C. favourite Nut, toasted (optional)
  • 1 oz. Parmesan Cheese
  • Sea Salt and Black Pepper, to taste
  • Olive Oil
  1. Roast the pepper on medium heat in the oven until soft and slightly charred.
  2. Remove stems and seeds of the peppers and slice into a couple of pieces.
  3. In a food processor or blender (I used the Magic Bullet), pulse garlic with a few drops of oil until it is a fine paste.
  4. Add peppers, basil, nuts, a little salt and pepper, and parmesan. Drizzle olive oil as you blend mixture into a smooth paste/sauce. 
  5. Adjust seasonings to taste.

I used this pesto in a light but tasty pasta dish. I sauteed some polish sausage slices in a little butter, added some farfalle and the pesto, and topped it off with some tiny feta cubes. If serving the pesto with feta, remember it's a salty cheese, so use salt sparingly in the pesto.

It was quite good. Light and clean tasting, but still filling.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Homemade Ricotta

A good friend of mine celebrated her birthday this month. Sometimes shopping for people or deciding what to give them as a present, is quite difficult. But everyone eats. And almost everyone finds great joy out of doing just that. Acknowledging that fact as well as my love for food, the only appropriate thing to do was cook her a meal. She has had a slight craving for Baked Ziti recently. I have never eaten nor made that dish before, but I decided to try for her anyway. I also baked a carrot cake with coconut cream cheese frosting and some shortbread cookies. I'll talk about those later on.
For the Ziti, since I had an exam, I made it shortcut. I used a canned tomato sauce, a few fresh herbs, some mushrooms and three types of cheeses (New Zealand cheddar which is most common in Trinidad, Parmesan and Ricotta). However, I did make the ricotta from scratch... sort of a personal touch.
It's actually surprising how simple it is to make ricotta. It's obviously not the sheep's milk whey type of ricotta, but it tastes great, and it's not full of chemicals or preservatives. It's a whole milk homemade variety using cow's milk. Traditional ricotta uses the leftover whey from making other cheeses. However, this type uses the actual curds gathered and the whey is leftover.

Homemade (Whole Milk) Ricotta


  • 1 Liter (32oz./4 cups) Milk
  • 2 Tbsp Distilled White Vinegar/Lime Juice
  • (optional) 1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 1 Tsp. Salt
  1. In a medium pot/saucepan, heat the milk (and heavy cream, if using) on medium low heat, stirring occasionally to avoid scalding the milk. If the milk scalds, the ricotta would have a burnt smell that isn't very pleasant.
  2. JUST before the boil, remove milk from heat and stir in salt. It is important to heat the milk enough so that it curdles properly but not too much that it scalds. It's not as complicated as it sounds. However, if you want to be exact and use a thermometer, 180ยบ F is about what you're looking for.
  3. Allow to sit for 10 minutes to an hour. 
  4. Line a colander/strainer with cheesecloth or some fine-meshed cloth and remove curds from liquid with a slotted spoon. Leave the liquids to drain for 30-minutes up to a few hours, depending on how dry you want it. To speed up the process and to get a firmer cheese, gently squeeze the liquid occasionally. 
  5. Store cheese in the refrigerator and use within the week. 

Hopefully she enjoyed the meal, and I'll definitely be making some more soon to make homemade ravioli. This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled depending on how much cheese you need/want. 

Monday, 13 May 2013

Trinidad Callaloo

One great thing about living in Trinidad and Tobago is the fabulous local foods. From "Doubles" to "Pelau" and everything in-between, you are bound to adore at least some of it. There are quite a lot of foods from Trinidad and other Caribbean islands that I absolutely love, and others I pretty much can't stand. However, my taste has evolved over the years and continues to evolve.

One dish that I thoroughly enjoy within recent years is "Callaloo". Callaloo is basically a type of soup (though it is not often considered so, locally) that is mainly comprised of "dasheen bush" or taro leaves, ochroes or okra, seasoning, and in some cases, coconut milk. It is more traditionally made with coconut milk, but many prefer it without this ingredient. Sometimes it is also made with seafood or salted meats (such as pig tails) to add a different level of flavour. (I prefer the plain.)

I am almost ashamed to announce that though I have consumed so many different callaloos, I am yet to make my own. It was somewhat an intimidating thing for me. In fact, I am quite nervous about preparing a lot of local dishes, particularly because of the high expectations I have for these dishes. Callaloo is actually not difficult to make however, so don't punk out like me.

Here's a video tutorial via Caribbean Pot which is a site I really like. The author features lots of great recipes from the Caribbean islands including that of Trinidad and Jamaica. He offers video tutorials on YouTube as well as written recipes on his website. Check him out!

Callaloo is often served over white rice or with casserole dishes such as macaroni pie, corn pie or coo-coo. (I'll write more about those later.) However, I prefer a big bowl with just a spoon and maybe a little pepper! While callaloo is not aesthetically appealing, your taste buds will surely not be disappointed. So try making your own, if you haven't already - it's healthy, easy and delectable!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Rocky Roads

Cooking isn't always perfect. Sometimes it's really terrible. Sometimes bad things happen to good people! That last part was probably a little dramatic but I've always been quite critical (of myself), and when mistakes happen, my emotions (about the mistake) tend to spiral out of control, sometimes.

While making pies recently, I had a little leftover dough and decided to use it to make a jam tart. However, I did not take the time to properly seal the dough and a lot of the jam spilled out. It was pretty much a disaster. As you can see, the jam caramelized quite a bit. However, there was still a bit of jam in the pie and without the mess around it, it was not bad at all. I did attempt to look on the bright side for this particular situation. The jam inside was also exposed to the heat (since it wasn't sealed) and the texture changed completely. It had a chewier, taffy-like texture that I actually quite liked. I'll probably be paying more attention to these fine details next time, even if it's just a by-the-way dish.

It's difficult when we make mistakes. It does not necessarily have to be with regard to food, any mistake, some of us struggle, more than others, to regain our courage to continue. It's extremely demotivating and feelings of failure sometimes overwhelm us. I think I used to have a hard time dealing with mistakes of any kind. However, I have been learning to change that mindset, and react differently to mistakes. It happens. It's inevitable. I'm trying this new thing where I learn from my mistakes and try again until I get it right. I think that's pretty great...

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Afternoon Tea

4pm always seems like such a wonderful time to have tea. It really is the perfect time of day. After work, time to relax and unwind. Why not? And nothing's better than a cup of tea to make you feel at ease.
Felt a bit snackish recently and bought a little treat from The Happy Gourmet at Valpark Shopping Plaza. It's a new gourmet store in the East (FINALLY!), that's well stocked and quite reasonable. I bought my snacks and had the leftovers next day with some tea.
I don't have the time for making homemade treats these days since exams are near. Tea is also great during studying or when you're on a break and just need to ease your mind.