There is a phenomenon in Quebec and the Maritimes known as Cora (or Cora's in English). Cora Tsouflidou who was born in Caplan, Quebec, a little village in the Gaspe peninsula, is the founder. She was a single mother who was looking for a way to support herself that would allow her to have time with her kids when they came home from school. So she started a breakfast/lunch restaurant. That was more than 20 years ago and today these restaurants are big in the east, especially Quebec.
The food is always fresh, the menu variety huge, and most everything I've tried has been delicious. Lots of fresh fruit that is actually very tasty. Today I had the western crepe omelette (an omelette rolled inside a crepe). It is absolutely an indulgence, because it's topped with hollandaise sauce (on the side is my preference). Served with toast and fresh fruit. In a word – delish!
Hubby had the "10 Star Omelette", which has everything from spinach to weiners in it. It appeals to his east coast sensibilities. I wish I had my camera with me (it was still awaiting a battery), but this shot from Cora's website will have to do. The food is so beautifully presented it's more like art on a plate. And oh the taste!
From my perspective, a visit to Cora's should be on any tourist's must-see/must-taste list, right up there with Hopewell Rocks and the Confederation Bridge, so any visitors we get will be taken to Cora's for brunch.
So, what' was cooking today? Well, it was the first meal with meat since I started blogging on January 4, 2010, and I felt pretty excited – Pasta with Walnut Pesto, Sausage, and Broccoli Rabe. I think it's the only meat recipe from Oprah's Superfoods list. I'd never made my own pesto, and never tried broccoli rabe (aka rapini) before.
This recipe is relatively simple to prepare. I started with the pesto sauce, increasing the garlic (of course), but otherwise made it to the recipe below. Then I put the water on to boil for the pasta while I prepared the sausage and rabe. I didn't use any oil when cooking the sausage, and there wasn't any left over drippings from the sausage. I also wouldn't use any more oil when cooking the broccoli rabe, water to steam is all that's really necessary.
I used whole grain rotini instead of rigatoni (scoring superpoints for whole grains!) and dutifully tossed it with the pesto. Then I plated it, added the broccoli rabe and sausage mixture, topped it with ricotta and chopped walnuts.
Pretty appetizing, non?
Well, what I have to say about this recipe is that it's very good, but very bitter. At first I thought it was the walnut pesto (I find walnuts quite bitter), but then I tasted a broccoli rabe stalk, and 'Holy bitter greens Batman!' Hubby is way more sensitive to bitter tastes even than me, so had to put sugar (Splenda) on it. I could eat it, but it reminded me of those surprising bits you get in an Italian spring greens salad (the red radicchio). Otherwise, it was delicious, especially with a glass of red wine. It made the wine taste absolutely sweet.
About broccoli rabe
According to Wiki, broccoli rabe is "a common vegetable in Sicilian, Galician, Chinese, Italian, and Portuguese cuisine... The flavor of rapini has been described as nutty, bitter, pungent, and "an acquired taste". The Italian cultivar is similar to, but much more bitter than the Chinese. The Chinese cultivar is of a lighter green color, not at all bitter or pungent, and more tender. Rapini is a source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as potassium, calcium, and iron."
So I totally 'get' why it's a Superfood.
I'm actually glad I didn't research broccoli rabe before tasting it. I probably would have switched it for something else. But that's not what this blog is about, is it? It's about trying new things. And now that I've tried it... I will make this again, but will sub out the broccoi rabe for some other dark leafy green, perhaps kale (although I haven't tried that either, Wiki does not mention the word bitter). Or else I'd try the Chinese variety if I could find it because I was very pleased that it's like having broccoli and greens in one dish.
Again, there is a lot of fat in this recipe, so I'd only use it in the pesto. I wouldn't bother having the pasta separate from the rabe/sausage mixture. I'd toss it all together, even tossing in the ricotta. That's what we're going to do with the leftovers tomorrow. Poor hubby, but he said he would eat it again tomorrow...
Ricotta was a big surprise as well. I always thought of it as a richer cottage cheese (I truly detest cottage cheese), but it's much more like a very low fat version of marscapone cheese – almost sweet and very smooth. I might even try to make my annual Christmas Tiramisu with it next year. It has about 1/4 the fat of marscapone.
This make 4 very generous servings, maybe even 6 smaller servings, especially when served with an appetizer. I had originally intended to make an arugula salad with figs and shallot dressing to go with it, but I'm glad I didn't. There was plenty of veggies with the broccoli rabe.
I wonder how this recipe would be with a fresh tomato and basil sauce rather than pesto? I think that would be incredibly tasty with the ricotta mixed in. Mmmmm...
Walnut Pesto, Sausage, and Broccoli Rabe
(this is the way I would make it next time)
Serves 4 (generously)
1/2 cup walnuts
2 cups basil leaves, loosely packed
2 cloves garlic
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1 lb whole grain rotini
1 lb sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
1 bunch broccoli rabe, tough stem ends trimmed and coarsely chopped (or 1 bunch kale)
1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese
Preheat oven to 300°F. Spread walnuts on a baking tray, and toast until golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Cool completely.
Combine 1/4 cup nuts, basil, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process and, while motor is running, drizzle in 1/2 cup olive oil to form pesto; set aside. Chop rest of nuts, and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; cook rotini until tender. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet at medium temperature. When hot, add sausage and cook, breaking up meat, until brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer meat to a small bowl, and leave 1 tablespoon fat in pan.
Return skillet to heat. Add broccoli rabe; cook until it starts to wilt, about 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup water, cover skillet, reduce heat to medium, stirring occasionally, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon pepper; return sausage to pan to heat through.
Toss cooked pasta with pesto, then sausage, broccoli rabe and ricotta cheese. Serve topped with chopped walnuts.
So, did anyone out catch the pun in my title?
Healthy eating everyone!