Mushroom & Truffled Ricotta Pasta Salad

It’s been unseasonably warm here in Vancouver these past few weeks. I like it, but I have some concerns about what this weather means for us down the road. Anyways, a rant about global warming isn’t appropriate here, but what I thought would be good to share is a little pasta salad I threw together the other night when it was too hot to cook. Usually this happens in July so I was totally throw off my game in terms of ingredients for a no cook meal.

I’ve seen this mushroom pasta salad on the menu at Tractor, but haven’t ever gotten around to trying it, so I figured I’d just make my own version. My IGA is pretty limited in terms of fun pasta shapes so I settled on the most exotic thing I could find which turned out to be  orecchiette, you know the ones that look like little hats?  But penne rigate or any small tubular pasta would work well with this.  Cause let’s face it, it kinda all tastes the same (I know, I just made a thousand Italian Nonnas cry).

I went for a mix of shiitake and cremini mushrooms, but if you can get your hands on chanterelles or something more exotic go for it!  Saute the mushrooms in some butter and olive oil (I like to mix the two for flavour), and then after they release their liquid and start to brown I added a splash of white wine and seasoned with salt and pepper. Set the shrooms aside.

Use the best quality, full fat ricotta you can get for this. Add a couple tbsp of chopped herbs, whatever is in season is fine. I used mint, rosemary, oregano and basil (all from my new container garden thank you very much!) and to that I added some lemon zest.

Cook the pasta according to the directions and rinse it under cold water when it’s done to stop the cooking and cool it right down. Add the mushrooms, ricotta and a splash of good quality olive oil and then drizzle as much, or as little truffle oil over the top as you like.  Toss and serve at room temperature.

Although delicious the next day, this pasta salad looks its best when it’s fresh. The mushrooms tend to make the ricotta turn a brownish colour that isn’t super pleasing to the eyes after a night in the fridge.

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I served this up with a kale caesar to make it a meal and was pleased with the result. I’m sure you will be too!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. cooked pasta (small shapes or tubes)
  • 4 cups diced mushrooms, sauteed
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 tsp lemon juice + zest
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp white truffle oil

If you want a bit of a kick I feel like you could get away with adding some chili flakes to this, but if it’s terrible I take no responsibility.

Bon appetit!

 

Getting Spoiled at the Squeaky Bean

Back in December I had the privilege of being completely spoiled at the Squeaky Bean in Denver with four of my favourite girls in the world.  Our dear friend Steve is the Maitre d’ at The Bean invited us in for a five course dinner, complete with drink pairings.  The Culinary Rubdown as he called it, was a sampling of nine of the most amazing dishes I’ve ever had. Room for dessert? Unfortunately not after this meal, although I’m sure it too would have been outstanding.

The Bean seems to get a lot of press as one of the best new restaurants in Denver, and I can honestly say it’s worthy.  Their vibe is sort of early century classic with a modern twist. They have their own plot of land where they grow a lot of their own vegetables, and you can tell, they only use the highest quality ingredients.  The people who run this place are passionate about food and drink and they want nothing more than for you to have a fun experience with really damn good food.

It’s hard to pick just one favourite from all the wonderful things we were served, but I think in terms of creativity, the ‘One Potato, 2 Potato…’ was incredible.  It’s a sweet potato, filled with leek puree, sweet potato puree and creamy cheddar puree.  It’s served with a cold potato ‘ice cream’, braised pork belly and broccoli de ciccio.  I can’t say much more about it, because it’s one of things you have to experience for yourself.  Kind of like a roller coaster for your taste buds.

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For our first course we were also served a mix of roasted beets, with chard, basil pudding and whipped gouda with nut butter.  Now, as much as I loved the sweet potato, I have a soft spot for beets.  This dish was beautifully presented and perfectly balanced and was one of the standouts for me.

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After we finished our Aperol Spritz’s we got into the wine, and kept on eating.  For course number two we had pig rillettes, that were simple and delicious, and paired wonderfully with the prawn crackers.  I love rillettes and terrines, so this was a big hit for me.  We also had rabbit leg wrapped in cabbage with roasted cauliflower, crispy fried rabbit livers and a rabbit and mustard mousse.  Trying very hard not to think about the cute fluffy bunnies I was eating, I thoroughly enjoyed this dish, and although it’s probably not the first thing I would pick to order off a menu it was a great way to get myself out of my culinary comfort zone.

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For our third course, it was a stand alone dish.  A red kuri squash soup with warm milk broth.  Perfect for a cold December evening, it was slightly spicy and the cashew granola gave it a nice texture.  It was paired with a cocktail called The Benny Hill, a gin and chartreuse drink with muddled apple and limonata.  Although having a lot of great flavours the kuri squash isn’t too rich.  It’s the kind of dish you could eat pretty much any time.

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On to course number four, we were starting to get full, but when presented with two amazing dishes, you have to solidier on.  First I dug into chorizo and brussels.  It’s a poached egg nestled within brussels sprouts done various ways (roasted, sautéed etc.) and smoked Bilbao chorizo.  You could eat this for brunch, lunch or dinner and it would still be fantastic.  I personally love eggs, and I can never seem to poach mine quite right, so this dish was a highlight for me.  The spicy smoky flavour of the chorizo paired nicely with the earthyness of the brussels and just thinking about this one makes my mouth water.

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Thankfully no one at our table was vegetarian, but if you were opposed to meat, the mushroom and pine would have been for you.  A mix of matsutake mushrooms, sorrel’s and smoked maitake (also known as hen of the woods), this was a woodsy, earthy mix of mother nature’s best.  I can’t remember which mushrooms were wich, but there was one type that had a light bready texture, and something that was all crumbly like dirt (but of course it wasn’t).  This dish was very whimsical and if I hadn’t already been getting full I think I would have given it much more attention.  For our wine paring we had a Shenandoah Valley petite syrah from Virginia.

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Last but not least were the two meaty dishes.  Pot au pho and porchetta.  I hate to admit it, but I didn’t even attempt to tackle the porchetta because I was so full, but I did get into the pot au pho.  I can’t say no to short ribs, and the bone marrow tater tot was swoon worthy. So as I’m chowing down on what I thought was the short rib, I was informed that what I was eating was actually the braised tongue.  I’m not big into things like that, but this tongue was a home run.

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Having stuffed our selves silly, we opted for jello shots instead of dessert.  I know, jello shots sound pretty low brow, but these were anything but.  They serve one of my favourite cocktails, the Paloma, jello style.  It’s grapefruit and tequila and I just couldn’t say no.

So after trying pretty much everything on the menu at the Squeaky Bean, I can safely say it’s one of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to.  If only it wasn’t a time zone away I’d eat there every weekend.  Everything from the room, to the service, to the creativity and passion that goes into the food and drink makes this place just perfect.  It will truly give you a Rocky Mountain high!

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