A dobbernationLOVES sponsored post.
Valentines Day tends to give me panic attacks.
When one is a self proclaimed work-a-holic and perpetually single it’s not exactly the hallmark special occasion you eagerly anticipate. The past few years I’ve enjoyed the holiday by enjoying good food and drink with friends. Far better than anxiously eating alone while watching crippling films such as My Best Friends Wedding and Bridesmaids. I was thrilled this year to have the opportunity to cordially invite Chef Mark McEwan into my kitchen via his new cookbook Fabbrica.
One Monday morning in the middle of January a gift basket was delivered to my home featuring a fantastic assortment of Italian pantry staples to get me in the Valentines Day spirit. There is nothing more fun than the sound of that cellophane cracking as one unveils the spoils of a mystery gift basket! The contents were all sourced at McEwan a gourmet grocery located at the Shops at Don Mills and featured a few of my favourites: balsamico, evoo, Chefs very own pasta sauce, imported pesto and a few sweet treats worth craving.
I placed each of the items on my bed and quickly cracked the spine of my new cookbook. I was on the hunt for a comfort food recipe that would allow me to use a few of my new Italian staples. Chef Mark McEwan’s Fabbrica cookbook does a great job at detailing his passion for experimenting with top notch ingredients in the kitchen while sourcing fresh and local when possible. The book does a great job at breaking down the fundamentals of Italian cooking which include a section on sauces, risotto’s, fish dishes, pizza and pasta.
In the end I was most captivated by the recipe for Oven-Baked Tortiglioni with Meatballs (which graces page 119). I loved the fact that the meatballs featured raisons and pine nuts, fresh herbs and three large balls of mozzarella di bufala (my addiction). The flavour combinations intrigued me, I was ready to roll up my sleeves. I used the recipe as a loose guide and was sure to be practical by using ingredients already in my fridge as well as those provided in my gift basket.
Preparing the meatballs was a breeze. I made a few adjustments by replacing the pine nuts and basil with a few scoops of pesto. I also chopped up a few roasted hazelnuts to give a little crunch. I added half a minced onion to the sauce which I cooked on medium heat with a drizzle of McEwan’s very own EVOO. Once the meatballs had formed I slowly boiled each in a large pot filled with a jar of McEwan’s Roxy Tomato Sauce. While the balls bubbled, squeaked and steamed I sliced three mozzarella balls into cubes trying my very best to show a little restraint (I couldn’t stop snacking!)
I salted a pot of water and cooked a bag of rigatoni (sister to tortiglioni and already in my cupboard) which I tossed into the pot once el dente. In a large casserole dish I decorated the dish with white plops of creamy buffalo mozzarella. And there she was, into the oven as I poured two glasses of Angels Gate Cabernet Shiraz and waited for my darling guest to burst through the door.
Melly and I have known each other for ages. I can’t imagine any other way of enjoying Valentines Day as a single gay man then with one of my most darling girlfriends. As soon as she arrived we exchanged a kiss kiss. I grabbed our two glasses in the kitchen while she rifted through the pages of Fabbrica. Once the oven chimed I spooned two generous portions of our “Tortiglioni al Forno con Polpette,” and we clinked glasses in a cheers to good food and good company. “May we find love…”I certainly found it steaming on the end of my fork.
No Valentines Day is complete without a sweet finish. I was inspired by a jar of ‘Lucious Blackberry and Shiraz Chocolate Sauce” that I had received that morning and quickly put together an easy dessert. Melly brought a tub of Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream and half pint of raspberries. Into the bowl: two generous scoops of cold cream, a few berries dropped here and there, a generous sprinkle of roasted pistacchio and a leisurely drizzle of rich chocolate sauce. A perfect finish to an ever so lovely Valentines celebration courtesy of our honorary host, Chef McEwan.