Oh, Canada...

The last few meals we've had have been good, but nothing to write home about (and in the case of this blog, that's to be taken quite literally).  But, when I used mushrooms last night, it reminded me of some pretty good pasta I had a few weeks ago to celebrate the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. I usually try to make food that reflects the culture of the host city/country.  I did a lot of research, found Nanaimo Bars (fantastic... see second recipe), and also kept reading about wild mushrooms. So, I made this!

Linguini with Mushroom Cream Sauce
Adapted from Food Network

1 pound whole-wheat or whole-grain linguini
1 1/2 pounds mixed mushrooms - shiitake, crimini, any that catch your eye at market
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, eyeball it
2 leeks
3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup cream
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Romano, for topping

Heat water to a boil for the pasta, salt water, drop in pasta and cook to al dente.

Wipe mushrooms clean with damp towel. Remove woody stems. Thinly slice the mushrooms.

Heat a large deep skillet with extra-virgin olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until deeply golden and tender, 10 minutes.

While mushrooms cook, halve the leeks lengthwise. Cut off a couple of inches from tough tops. Trim off root end. Thinly slice the leek then vigorously wash in a large bowl of cold water, separating all the layers to free of grit. Let leeks sit a few minutes then lift out of the water and dry on kitchen towel.

Add leeks to mushrooms along with garlic and season with salt, pepper and fresh thyme. Cook 3 to 4 minutes more then add wine, reduce half a minute then stir in cream and heat through. Toss pasta with mushrooms and adjust seasoning. Top with grated cheese at the table.

Serves 4

Nanaimo Bars
From The Joy of Baking

Bottom Layer
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa (I use Dutch-processed)
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup coconut (either sweetened or unsweetened)
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped (opt)

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 - 3 tablespoons milk or cream
2 tablespoons vanilla pudding powder
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar (confectioners or icing) sugar

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Butter (or use a cooking spray) a 9 x 9 inch (23 x 23 cm) pan.

BOTTOM LAYER: In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Stir in the sugar and cocoa powder and then gradually whisk in the beaten egg. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens (1 - 2 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract, graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and chopped nuts. Press the mixture evenly into the prepared pan. Cover and refrigerate until firm (about an hour).

FILLING: In your electric mixer cream the butter. Beat in the remaining ingredients. If the mixture is too thick to spread, add a little more milk. Spread the filling over the bottom layer, cover, and refrigerate until firm (about 30 minutes).

TOP LAYER: In a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter. Spread over the filling and refrigerate.

TO SERVE: To prevent the chocolate from cracking, using a sharp knife, bring the squares to room temperature before cutting.

Makes about 24 squares

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