Travel rekindles culinary spark

 In Opinion

The Avalon kitchen and B&B have been closed for a while as we have been away on vacation for almost six weeks, since the beginning of April. We have never taken such a long time off before, but a holiday was long overdue and we enjoyed ourselves very much.  

We visited Malta first, and then France, staying in Giverny for a week (where Claude Monet’s gardens were a sight to behold), then 10 days in Paris, where spring had sprung everywhere. We saw so many beautiful spring trees, bushes and plants displaying a riot of bright colours of pink, red, purple, yellow and orange – in particular the peonies and rhododendrons. Stephen is now researching what we might be successful in growing in our garden zone 5 at the B&B.

The last week of our stay was spent in Benoistville, Normandy, where both Stephen and I took a one -week cooking course at the Wilde Kitchen. Our instructor was Sinéad Wilde, an Irish dynamo in the kitchen, who has lived in France since 1993 with her Belgian born husband Philippe. What a wonderful week it was, providing inspiration and rejuvenating my creative culinary spark. Trips to the local French markets in Bricquebec and Les Pieux, visiting an organic cidrerie where we learned all about cider and Calvados making, cooking and sampling delicious meals together afterwards – what could be better?  

We are now back home (and to reality), trying to slowly wean ourselves off so much butter and cream in our daily diet, as well as those irresistible French pastries which tempt you everywhere you go!  Over the next while, I will share some of the recipes, stories and things I have learned. In the meantime, we are really looking forward to the first Creemore Farmers’ Market this Saturday and hope to see all of you there.  

This week’s recipe provides a burst of colour and taste – it is a relatively easy pasta dish that can be eaten as a main course or as a side dish.  As we move well into the 2018 spring season, this pasta dish is really good if you add green asparagus cut into 2 inch pieces.  Garlic scapes are also delicious. Basically, you can use whatever vegetables you like and whatever fresh herbs you have on hand in the kitchen. And if you love garlic, this recipe is definitely for you!  

Feedback is good and I would love to hear from you. Just e-mail me at

Until next time, eat well, live well…

Garlic pasta with herbs and julienned vegetables

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 to 3 tablespoons (depending on how brave you are) fresh minced garlic

1 red pepper

1 green pepper

2 medium carrots

2 stalks celery

1 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped

1/3 cup fresh herbs, chopped – rosemary, thyme, oregano and chives are favourites

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1/2 cup 35% cream

454 grams dry pasta – penne and small shells are favourites but you can use any type

½ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Clean and prep the red pepper, green pepper, carrots and celery. Cut these vegetables into very thin strips – julienne style. If you are adding asparagus or garlic scapes, cut them into 2 inch pieces. In large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta al dente (tender but firm). Drain well reserving ¼ cup of the pasta water, and return the pasta to the pot to keep warm.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the butter and oil in large skillet over medium heat; add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in julienned vegetables and cook for 3-5 minutes (only until veggies have started to soften). Reduce heat to medium-low, add half of your chopped parsley, fresh herb mixture, salt, pepper and 35% cream; stir into garlic veggie mix. Simmer for a few minutes until cream starts to thicken and then remove skillet from heat. 

Add reserved water to your pasta pot and stir into pasta (this will loosen up the pasta and prevent it from sticking together).  Then place pasta in large pasta bowl. Carefully pour veggie mixture over top of pasta, sprinkle with fresh grated Parmesan cheese and remaining chopped parsley; serve immediately. Serves 4 as a main course, and 6 to 8 as a side dish.

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