Italian Culinary Adventure
- September 25th, 2019
- By Dale Dolson and Rob McGregor
Last summer took us away on a six week holiday on our boat with a very loose itinerary, lots of time to rest and lots of opportunities to see new places. The only stipulation was that we would end up in Kincardine, Ontario, where we had grown up. You see, once every 10 years this lakeshore community holds an Old Boys and Girls Reunion, where anyone who has any connection to the town at all, is invited back for a week long party. Our goal was to see as many old friends as possible, and put the word out on Facebook that we would be docked in the harbour for a week. Our boat was a busy place and we were so pleased to see relatives and friends dating back to our high school and college years, which I almost hate to say was over forty years ago.
The concept sounded great at the time. But in reality, we were confronted with the task of getting together socially with people we had not really spent time with in years. What would that be like? What would they be like? What would their activities, interests and opinions be? How do we keep such an evening light, fun, and enjoyable? Lots of questions. No answers!
But then, our bar fridge full of Cowbell beer seemed to provide the solution. There is nothing better than an evening with Cowbell and it only raises the standard when you start experimenting and cooking with these fine brews. That was it. Cowbell was our hook for this reunion evening. Our friends jumped all over the invitation, especially with the mention of beer. So, our culinary experience this month is inspired by time spent with some great old friends and an Italian-influenced dinner cooked with our very own Cowbell craft beer.
One may think that Italian cuisine, with its big bold flavours, has not much room for beer (other than a tasty accompaniment for pizza). But we believe that everything is made better with beer, if chosen well and handled properly. In this case, I made my own recipe for marinara sauce with the infusion of a can of Shindig Huron County Lager. The recipe as you will see below, has many ingredients involved with a long simmer. I didn’t want a real “beery” flavour, just a nice round fullness. I also made a vinaigrette with our very own Doc Perdue’s West Coast Red Ale. Because of its citrus finish, it marries well with the fresh lemon in the recipe and that “beery” bitterness gave all the salad vegetables a wonderful taste.
This recipe is definitely one to try as you’ll see it can work on any salad. Our menu for the evening was simple but classic. We started with my own version of bruschetta as an hors d’oeuvre. We then partook of a loaf of fresh focaccia bread made with Shindig - a recipe coming in our next culinary adventure, and a Panzanella salad using crusted bread and other choice garden vegetables. Our main course was a truly scrumptious Chicken Parmesan and fettuccine, with that wonderful Shindig marinara sauce and three bold melted cheeses. For dessert, a twist on the classic Tiramisu. Everyone was happy. We even had room for freshly made Amaretto truffles.
The night was a success...with no dead spots in the conversation. Lots of fun was had by all! Our friends were the same great people they were forty years ago and it was a pleasure to see them all again. Thanks Rob, Ann, Janice and Wade! We all agreed that we wouldn’t wait another forty years to get together. And if Cowbell is involved we could do it all over again next week!
So try these recipes below on your friends and family. Believe us when we say “a little bit of Cowbell makes even the most awkward of situations a whole lot better!”
Doc Perdue’s Bobcat Italian Vinaigrette
1/2 cup of olive oil
1 1/2 cups of Doc Perdue’s Bobcat West Coast Red Ale
2 roasted red peppers skinned, peeled and blended
The zest of 1 lemon
The juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsps. sugar
1 Tbsp. ketchup
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1/2 Tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. mustard powder
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup Italian spice blend or 1/2 dried basil, and 1/2 dried oregano
1/2 Tsp. flaked red pepper or to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste.
Whisk together and refrigerate.
Shindig Marinara Sauce
2 tubs of cherry tomatoes halved
6 cloves of crushed fresh garlic
1 diced onion
1 Tsp. salt
1/2 Tsp. pepper
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh basil, or 1/8 cup dried basil
Place all of the above in a baking dish, splash with olive oil and roast in the oven at 375 for 1 hour.
In a sauce pot, saute...
1 diced onion
1 diced red pepper, green pepper, and yellow pepper
3 diced stalks of celery
12 mushrooms diced
Add in a 16 oz. can of Shindig Huron County Lager, a 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, 2 small cans tomato paste, 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar, the oven-roasted tomatoes and simmer to desired thickness. Season to taste with your favourite Italian spices - basil, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, rosemary and thyme. Browned beef can be added to the recipe to make a meat sauce.
Serve over your favourite pasta or Italian specialty, ours being Chicken Parmesan and enjoy!