Posted in Food Favorites, Freedom Friday

Our Meals

The other night my wife surprised me with a barbecue chicken meal. I say surprised because it was the first time she’d made it. It was delicious. No surprise there since she cooks pretty amazing things for me and the family. During the weekend, I return the favor by cooking the Saturday meal. My kids like it as does my wife.

My  garlic chicken and my wife's coleslaw
My garlic chicken and my wife’s coleslaw

Freedom Friday is not the same if I don’t talk about food in some form or another. Today makes no exception.

Some of my favorite meals my wife makes are the simple ones with lots of flavor. For instance, during those cold winter nights when the heat cuts in every two minutes and the snow piles high outside our front door, she’ll dedicate a good portion of her time making all sorts of soup. Squash soup, heavy on the hot pepper, is a regular treat for dinner. It lights up the palate and soothes the chills from the bitter wind blowing from the Arctic. Broccoli soup is another one of her specialties. I don’t know what she puts in it to get it so creamy, but I have to say it’s so good.

Although not a meal, my wife has taken to making batches of Greek Tzatziki sauce. It’s a yogurt-based sauce with bits of cucumber and lots of garlic in the mix. We use it to dip fries, chicken and pita bread in it. I can only describe the flavor as divine. The creamy richness of the sauce provides the meal a missing element of flavor that few sauces can compare. Simply outstanding.

My wife also cooks the traditional Italian dishes for our family. Pasta sauce and meatballs is a staple in our diet. Our typical Tuesday night meal consists of lots of pasta—penne, rigatoni, spaghetti, etc.—drenched with her homemade sauce and lots of spicy meat as part of the plate. She’ll add salad and vegetables as side dishes, but her salads are meals in themselves. Standard ingredients in her salads are sliced cucumbers, chunks of feta cheese and at times, Greek olives. I suppose you might call it a Greek salad with a little something to boot.

My Saturday meals can be anything. I’ve been on a curry kick lately, making everything from curry chicken to any meat with curry in there. I have a handful of ingredients I use on a regular basis to bring out the flavor of the meat in a wild and exciting way (coconut milk, curry, garlic, onion, salt, black and cayenne pepper).

I’ll sometimes make lamb as a special treat on a long weekend. I love my garlic, so I’ll mince garlic in the lamb, add olive oil, salt, pepper and Dijon mustard to give it an extra kick. I don’t want to brag—oh, why not—it’s one of the best dishes I enjoy making and eating with the family.

Lastly, the best part about our meals is sitting together as a family and talking about our day. Nothing quite beats that.

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What foods do you enjoy making or eating? Do you also have recipes you like having for special occasions?

Posted in Food Favorites, Freedom Friday

Food Photography

Taking pictures of food has become a hobby of mine. For a long time, I took the photos not knowing what to do with them until one day it’d dawned on me. I didn’t need to do anything with them. The photos of the food not only represent edibles, but of times gone by. A single image floods my mind of all the good times associated with those meals. Let’s have a look at some of those photos and of what they mean to me for Freedom Friday.

Mamma's Penne Pasta
Mamma’s Penne Pasta

My mom’s pasta is to die for. I don’t know how she makes the sauce, and believe me, my wife’s tried to replicate it, I’ve tried, yet to no avail, we have never been able to duplicate it from scratch. In its place, my wife has her own recipe, which I love with a passion, but it’s not mamma’s sauce. Don’t worry, my wife knows how I feel, it’s no secret. The point being, this photo of my mom’s penne pasta coated with her delicious sauce represents a typical Sunday meal at my parents place. Whenever I look at this picture, memories of all those good time family gatherings come back to me. Every so often, we also have the typical Sunday meal here at my house.

Curry chicken, corn, green beans and marinated eggplant
Curry chicken, corn, green beans and marinated eggplant

Every Saturday afternoon I cook something special for the family. It’s my time when I treat everyone to a culinary creation of my choosing. One of my favorite dishes I enjoy making is chicken. I think I’ve cooked chicken in every way possible, yet, I’m sure someone will say to me, “Have you tried it this way?” I’m sure of it. This photo has all the fall colors wrapped in a delicious assortment of vegetables and chicken. For anyone curious, those are marinate eggplants. I enjoy this photo because it reminds me of our Saturday family time together.

Sushi
Sushi

Sushi reminds me of special occasions, long weekends and my absolute love for Japanese food. For those who don’t know, I make my own sushi. It took a long time to understand how all the ingredients worked together, their names and their distinct flavors. Nowadays, it’s second nature making this stuff. This photo is of one of the long weekends here at Casa Flacco, and of how I spent my afternoon. Salmon, avocado, sticky rice, all wrapped with nori. The other dish I made with cucumber, sticky rice and nori. I love long weekends because of our sushi binges.

Salad
Salad

Nothing quite tops a good ol’ fashioned salad in my family. Salads remind me of summer and fall. We make our salads from the choicest, freshest ingredients. All of it organic and most of it comes from our backyard. This photo captures the essence of what our meals are like in the summer. Every day is salad day with olive oil, feta cheese, Greek olives and onions as extra ingredients. What this photo does not capture is the hard work involved with tilling the soil, watering, babying it every single day to allow it to bring forth an incredible bounty for all of us to enjoy.

Now do you see why I take photos of food?

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Are you one of those folks who also take photos of food? What is your favorite food to shoot?

Posted in Food Favorites, Freedom Friday

Salads

Summer’s almost over. I know, I know. Where are the fanfares to send the kids back to school? All joking aside though, what I’ll miss the most from the hottest season of the year are the salads. Some may say BBQ, which is cool and all, but for me, a fresh salad with assorted ingredients makes my summer. I’m going to give you a few quick tips about salad preparation for Freedom Friday, and I hope your next experience with the delectable greenery is a delicious one!

Our feta, onions, cucumber salad, Apr. 2013.
Our feta, onions, cucumber salad, Apr. 2013.

Living in one of the most agriculturally diverse provinces in Canada, Ontario, our backyard has gone through various transformations throughout the years. When I say our backyard, I mean Casa Flacco’s backyard, as in, behind-our-house backyard. This year, we have made the most ambitious attempt at farming yet. In past years, we’ve had a small strip of land by the side of a fence dedicated to vegetables and salads. This year we’ve increased the size of the original and added two more sections, each section separated by green space.

I don’t know what it is with our backyard. Somehow, whatever we plant turns into these gianormous jungles we attempt to tame but bless us with a bounty of crops we never had intentions of growing.

At the beginning of the season, my wife asks, “What do you think we should grow this year?”

I typically answer, while flipping the channels, “I don’t know. Tomatoes would be good. Cucumbers. Salads. We have to have salads. Definitely have to have salads.”

That’s how it starts. Next thing you know, near the middle of the season, our salads look like leaves from the Cretaceous Period. Our tomatoes look like pumpkins that need trucks to transport. And our zucchinis like, well, I’m not sure. Take a look at the photo.

Zucchini plant in our garden, Aug. 2009.
Zucchini plant in our garden, Aug. 2009.
Zucchini from our garden, Aug. 2009.
Zucchini from our garden, Aug. 2009.
Tomato from our garden, Sep. 2008.
Tomato from our garden, Sep. 2008.

Seriously, sometimes I feel as if our yard has radioactive soil. If you ever hear reports of a man climbing buildings in Toronto and spinning webs, you’ll know what happened to me. Anyway, talk about getting caught up in the moment, let’s get back to the point of this post—salads.

We grow radicchio and the regular garden-variety salad. The radicchio is my favorite because it’s easy to prepare and mouth-watering on its own.

Here’s what we do:

  • Cut the leaves from the garden, plopping them in a pot or bowl, dirt, grime, slugs and all—yes, slugs
  • Take it into the house, wash the leaves thoroughly, getting rid of the slugs—you didn’t think we’d eat those things, did you?
  • Add some olive oil and salt
  • Munchtime!

Radicchio is a naturally bitter salad. The salt accentuates the flavor along with the olive oil. Fresh from the garden is something special to savor in the summer. Can’t be beat.

Now, as for the long-leaf salad, which is oh, so sweet and crunchy to the taste buds, the washing prep is pretty much the same as the radicchio. So, I’ll just give you the recipe we have year-round.

Ingredients:

  • A generous amount of crumpled feta cheese
  • Half a sweet white onion chopped
  • 1 peeled and sliced cucumber
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Directions:

  • Make sure you wash and dry the leaves properly. Invest in a good salad strainer; it makes life so much easier. Besides, leaves will not come out all soggy. You want them to crunch.
  • Add in your ingredients except the feta and olive oil.
  • Before serving, add your olive oil, toss the salad, then add your feta on top otherwise the feta becomes mushy and disappears in the salad as a nice white coat over the leaves.

And there you have it. Casa Flacco’s two salad recipes I’m sure you’ll enjoy trying before the summer’s over.

Buon appetito!

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Do you have any salad recipes you’d like sharing? How about ingredients? What do you like putting in your salads?