Friday Night Favourites

For many of us Friday night signals the end of the weekly routine and a chance to do things differently than you’ve been doing all week. Maybe you’re going out for dinner, getting takeout and meeting friends for drinks, or ordering pizza for the family and watching movies. It’s all good, as you lessen the work responsibilities and focus a little on time for being with family and friends more intensely for a few days.

My husband and I both had very busy jobs and often worked long hours, so we looked forward to ordering pizza Friday nights and having a glass of wine as we tried to let go of the busy week and think about what we might do on the weekend. This routine worked really well for us for many years. A couple of years ago my work location changed and I was only 10 minutes from home. This shortened my commute considerably, so I was home earlier in the evening and found myself with more energy on Friday nights. This enabled me to return to thinking about planning favourite Friday night meals that my Mom used to make that were simple, delicious, quick, and different from what we were eating during the week. In a future blog post, I’ll feature a bunch of my Mom’s kid friendly Friday night favourites.

One of the things my Mom and Dad loved to eat on Friday nights was Vermicelli all ’aglio e olio often with anchovies. I would never eat it as a kid, but as an adult I have come to enjoy a similar dish – Linguine Vongole (Pasta with Clam sauce).  It’s a quick and easy recipe and tastes and looks fancy, so you can serve it for company too.  This is a great example of what I mean when I say simple at-home dishes can have a gourmet taste and feel.  You can use fresh clams for this too, but the canned baby clams are very good and easy to keep on hand to satisfy your craving for this classic Italian dish.

linguine with clams
Linguine con Vongole in Bianco

The recipe I use is from my favourite cookbook –  Recipes from Pasquale’s Kitchen, published in 1984 by Doubleday Canada.  I have a number of cookbooks that I enjoy very much, but this one got me into cooking in my early 20’s. Pasquale Carpino was a chef we used to watch on Tele Domenica on CFCF-TV in Montreal in the 80’s and 90’s. He was entertaining and seemed to really enjoy cooking, and was one of Canada’s first celebrity chefs.  He sang Italian Opera songs while he cooked, and his food looked delicious! I’m a big believer in the idea that when you cook with love and happiness the meal will always turn out well (or you’ll think of a way to recover it!). Here’s a picture of the book… … Continue reading

Tasty ‘Bookends’ to our Fun Family Easter Dinner…good food never goes out of style!

Easter is one of my favourite family holidays.  I enjoy it because it has close to the same festive atmosphere as Christmas, and allows you to focus on just being together and sharing good times and a good meal.  That’s probably because the Easter ‘season’ is much shorter than the Christmas season and it’s without work parties, neighbourhood parties, presents, baking, decorating, etc.  I do enjoy the Christmas prep and Christmas season, but I have to say, I love the simplicity of Easter and the fact that it takes place mostly in Spring weather. Everyone is cheerful and looking forward to brighter days, and there is a short window to get the family together for a festive time, but minus the big lead up…it’s a slower pace to a similar end goal.

When I was a kid, my very large extended family lived in close proximity and we were a party of over 20 people every Sunday, as well as Easter Sunday.  As kids, my siblings and I loved these fun family times with grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. As individual families grew and everyone’s life got more complicated maintaining these large gatherings that often was not possible, but the big family still connects for major events.  And, our smaller family of parents, siblings, nieces and nephews and grandchildren on both my side and my husband’s side of the family make our best efforts to connect for the holidays and regularly throughout the year. My husband and I love to host both our families whenever we can. For this year’s Easter dinner we hosted my husband’s family.  The question at this time for hosting is usually “Do we serve turkey or ham?”. We did go with turkey this time and tried to lighten up the side dishes with lighter, spring flavours such as grilled asparagus and roasted cauliflower. (In a future blog post, I’ll feature my Mom’s classic Italian Easter dinner, which is based on foods her Mom used to make at Easter…lots of eggs are involved in that!!)

As you may have read in my January 5, 2018 post, I always cook the turkey a day ahead, so we followed that plan for this dinner too.  It’s a lot of work no matter when you cook the turkey, but doing it a day ahead means you have time and energy to socialize with your guests on the day of your dinner.  And, if you follow the tips on my post, your turkey will be moist and tasty even when cooked a day ahead.

If you are reading this blog, you are likely a person who is interested in food and cooking, so like me, you probably have lots of food at every dinner you host and are just looking for a few tips and ideas to prompt your own creativity for meal preparation.  Even though we did a mostly traditional turkey dinner (turkey, stuffing, gravy), we lightened up the side dishes for spring with grilled asparagus, roasted cauliflower and baked mashed sweet potato with a drop of maple syrup to signal spring flavours.

The ‘bookends’ to our meal were our appetizer plate and a moist, delicious chocolate cake made by my sister-in-law, L.  Dessert is one course of the meal that I can always skip, but I can never resist L’s chocolate cakes! This time she decorated it with gourmet chocolate Easter eggs.  It was a big hit as usual!

Our appetizer plate was fresh with prosciutto, a delicious Chianti salami, sheep and goat’s milk firm cheese, asiago cheese, simple crackers along with multi-grain breadsticks, olives, grapes and dried apricots.  Often, we will roll the prosciutto around the breadsticks, but this time we left them on their own and un-fussy. Whenever we had family get-togethers in the 70’s and 80’s my parents would serve plates like this…they were always tasty and it’s quite amusing to see them being trendy again.  Call it a cold cut platter, call it a charcuterie board….no matter what you call it, good food never goes out of style! I hope you are enjoying some time with your family this spring. Leave a note and share details of your family’s spring festivities! Happy cooking…eat well and be well…