Fregola with Peas and Bacon

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My blogger friend Stefan, of the blog Stefan Gourmet, has been help and inspiration to me for years. And I even got the chance to meet him in person, so I feel a special connection with him.

He’s an expert cook, loves to experiment, and he was my original resource for cooking sous vide. His greatest passion is Italian cuisine. He vacations often in Italy, where he gets inspiration from street food to Michelin-starred restaurant meals. His stories of driving back to Holland with carloads of Italian wines are legendary.

When Stefan wrote a post about fregola, also spelled fregula, I had never heard of it, and knew I had to try it.

Fregola is a spherical pasta from Sardinia, that looks like couscous, but what makes it different from both is that it’s toasted. So what you get when it’s cooked is a sturdy, flavorsome pasta. Some say it’s toothsome.

In any case, I ordered a little cookbook a while back, called The Sunday Night Book, by Rosie Sykes, published in 2017.

A quote on Amazon.com: Make Sunday night the best evening of the week, by perfecting the last, lazy meal of the weekend. Most of us want to forget that back-to-school feeling by kicking off our shoes and hunkering down with a soul-soaring supper – one that can be eaten with friends at the table, with book in hand by the fire, or in front of the TV.

It’s an adorable little book, and I love the concept behind it, even though I need no help conjuring up meals any day of the week.

I especially love these words by the author: As the weekend winds down into non-existence, many of us begin to contemplate the impending horrors that Monday morning will bring. But this is a choice, a social construct dictated by empty streets, empty pubs, and closed curtains. You could resign yourself to yet another humdrum Sunday evening supper, but you could just as easily embrace the moment as an opportunity to create something that’s not only comforting, but also uplifting.

In this book I discovered a fregola recipe, and was eager to make it.

Fregola with Bacon and Peas
serves 2

1 cup fregola
3/4 cup frozen peas
1 1/2 tablespoons light olive oil
2 ounces smoked streaky bacon
1 banana shallot, finely sliced
100 ml white wine
400 ml chicken stock
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
3 sprigs mint leaves, finely chopped
Salt and black pepper

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the fregola for half its cooking time, about 8 minutes, adding the peas for the last 2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water, then set aside.


Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. If your bacon has the rind still on, remove and reserve. Using scissors, snip the bacon into 1/2″ pieces directly into the hot oil – adding any reserved rind for extra flavour – then let it sizzle and give off its fat. Once the bacon is cooked and a bit crispy, lift out with a slotted spoon and set aside; discard the rinds or give them to the birds.

Add the shallot to the residual fat in the pan and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes, or until soft, stirring so it doesn’t catch too much colour.

(As you can see, I cooked the bacon gently, then added the sliced shallots to it.)

Stir in the fregola and peas, then pour in the white wine. Once the wine has evaporated, add the stock. Bring to a simmer and cook until the fregola is just cooked, about another 6 minutes.

(Oops I mixed the wine and broth together.)


Return the bacon to the pan, then add the butter and all but a tablespoon of both the parmesan and the mint.

Stir over a low heat for a couple of minutes, then cover and remove from the heat. Let it sit for another minute before spooning into bowls.

Scatter over the remaining parmesan and mint, then inhale – this is super-delicious!

I think this is my new favorite kind of pasta!

Summer Sea Bass

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I actually went to the store to purchase salmon, because I promised Stefan, from the blog Stefan Gourmet, that I would sous vide salmon. I’ve used my beloved sous vide demi for a variety of meats, but never fish. When I met Stefan in person, he made me promise I’d try salmon.

But, they had no salmon. Not really surprising. I kind of live in the middle of nowhere. We’re landlocked here, so seafood is always a challenging purchase. But I also remember going to the store in this town many years ago with two different grocery lists. If I was having company, I planned two different menus, because most likely a significant ingredient was not available. Like, green beans or cilantro. Or pork.

Fortunately, grocery shopping has improved from those days, but honestly, I shouldn’t have high expectations from the seafood department.

So, no salmon. But I spotted a beautiful filet of sea bass. I always remember Julia Child suggesting that you ask the guy who works seafood who doesn’t really care about seafood fish monger to smell the fish you want to buy, to make sure that it is fresh. Great advice, but I’ve never been brave enough to do this. Fortunately the bass smelled really good when I got a piece of the filet home.

It’s a truly beautiful white fish. I got Stefan’s recommendation for sous vide’ing the filet. After all, he is the King of Sous Vide. Water temperature 118 degrees Farenheit, for 20 minutes. One end of the filet was quite thick, otherwise 10-15 minutes will do it.

It’s quite simple. You set the temperature, vacuum seal the fish, and watch the time.

Afterwards, pat the fish filet with paper towels.

bass77

Meanwhile, make a topping for the fish. This really isn’t a salsa, or even Southwestern, in my mind, mostly because I didn’t use hot sauce or chile peppers. To me, I wanted the flavors of summer to shine with the sea bass.

I mixed together purple onion, avocado, freshly cooked corn, tomatoes, and cilantro. Plus a squeeze of lime. Simple. Mango or peach would have worked with the other ingredients, but I hadn’t planned ahead when I purchased the sea bass. Stir the ingredients well and set aside.

To prepare the fish to serve, only a slight bit or searing is necessary, since the sous vide does the cooking. The searing just adds a little color. You can sear as much as you wish; I went for a modest sear.

I love fish cooked in butter, but because of the summer-inspired topping, I decided on olive oil. Simply add about 2 tablespoons of oil to a skillet and turn on the heat to its maximum. You might want to turn on your ventilation system as well.

Add the fish, which I cut into four pieces to make things easier, to the skillet. Stefan suggested only searing on the skin side, but I did both. The fish flesh was very firm, so I knew it wouldn’t fall apart from being flipped over in the skillet.

Serve the sea bass immediately along with the summer-inspired topping.

I paired the meal with a Tecate, which is one of my favorite beers. A crisp Riesling or Pinot Blanc would be wonderful as well.

As you can see, the fish is glistening. It’s perfectly cooked – tender and moist.

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This was so successful and impressive. I will definitely use my sous vide machine for more fish experiments. After all, we must eat!!!

Blogger Visit

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On March 1st, just a few weeks ago, I drove to Dallas, Texas, for a special occasion. My Dutch blogger friend Stefan, from Stefan Gourmet, was visiting our mutual blogger friend Richard, from REM Cooks. For me, it was barely 24 hours, but it’s a visit I will never forget.

Of course, there was fabulous food and wine, and non-stop conversation, but the camaraderie was genuine and lively. It was really special meeting these two other bloggers, both of whom I’ve been following since I began blogging myself about 1 1/2 years ago. There were just so many questions to ask each other, and so many food-related issues to discuss. In fact, I’m not sure if I’ve ever talked food so much before – especially with two men!

After dealing with unsuspected traffic, I reached Richard’s beautiful home by 5 PM, and finally got to meet Stefan and his husband Kees, pronounced case, as well as Richard, who is the larger-than-life Texan you expect him to be. The infamous “Baby Lady,” otherwise known by her real name, Elia, or Richard’s wife, was at a grocery store when I arrived.

Immediately wine was poured and food prep got under way. It was actually a nice break for me to just observe and talk shop. Later, when Elia got back with more groceries, she helped Richard primarily in the kitchen. I was actually amazed that Richard could talk and cook at the same time, although he did go through a few batches of over-blackened jalapenos! (As we all have!)

Elia crisping small, corn  tortillas to use as taco shells

Elia crisping small, corn tortillas to use as taco shells

If any of you aren’t aware, Richard’s specialties in the kitchen are Mexican and Southwestern cuisines. He had originally wanted to become a chef as a young man, but had been persuaded otherwise by his father. So Richard is a lawyer by day, and gourmet chef the rest of the time.

Richard is a huge chile pepper afficionado, and is well known in blogger circles as single handedly changing the course of food history in Ireland and Holland! He sent chile pepper care packages to Stefan and also Conor Bofin, who lives in Dublin. You can read about the “chile challenge” here on Stefan’s blog. It still makes me laugh out loud when I think of Irish Conor and Dutch Stefan opening up the box containing 7 varieties of chile peppers, plus some other chile pepper goodies, having probably never seen anything like them at their local markets before!

Kees, Elia, and Stefan

Kees, Elia, and Stefan

One highlight for me during my visit was witnessing the use of a serious Aga stove. I’ve only seen the ones with the flat tops, but this guy has 8 burners and 4 ovens.

Seasoned corn on the cob roasting under the broiler

Seasoned corn on the cob roasting under the broiler

The dinner Richard planned for that evening was involved, not surprisingly, and there were many elements required.

Blending the roasted tomatillos and chile peppers for a chili verde sauce

Blending the roasted tomatillos and chile peppers for a chili verde sauce

I meant to take a little notepad with me on this visit, knowing I would want to write everything down, but I managed to forget it. It’s embarrassing to not have everything documented, and not remember the name of every single element that was prepared that evening, but I can tell you that it was all spectacular.

A lesson on removing pin bones from salmon

A lesson on removing pin bones from salmon

Both salmon, swordfish, and tuna were prepared for the meal. The swordfish is being seasoned with Richard’s famous ancho chile rub.

Spicing up the swordfish

Spicing up the tuna

I could tell that Richard and his wife cook together, because they had a real natural rhythm.

Richard, Stefan, Elia

Richard, Stefan, Elia

Richard, with some help from Stefan and Elia, prepared a prickly pear mixture for the dessert sorbet. Stefan, a true gentleman, was willing to help in any way, including refilling my wine glass.

Squeezing limes

Squeezing limes

Elia peeled the prickly pears, and told me that it’s easy to hurt your hands from the cactus needles that remain in the skins, so I let the expert do the prep work!

On the way to becoming sorbet

On the way to becoming sorbet

And then it was dinner! Here is the dinner menu:

The first course was a salmon ceviche, and a mini taco trio – fresh bigeye tuna (sushi style) with avocado cream and lime pickled red onions; ancho crusted, seared swordfish with avocado cream and pico de gallo; and shrimp tacos al mojo de ajo (with garlic salsa).

So fresh and colorful

So fresh and colorful

I can honestly say that I’ve never seen these little metal contraptions that held up the tacos. What will they think of next?!!!
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And then, a second course, was Duck carnitas (carnitas de pato) with radishes, avocado cream, pico de gallo and lime pickled red onions.

This was exceptionally good

This was exceptionally good

Dessert was red prickly pear fruit sorbet, or Sorbete de tuna rona. It never got photographed by myself, and I can probably blame too much wine on that. It was served with champagne, and I can tell you that it was delicious and refreshing.

Me, Stefan, Kees

Me, Stefan, Kees

The next morning was spent on more food-related conversations, and then Richard and Elia put out a fabulous cheese platter and poured Sauterne. Unfortunately it started sleeting outside, so I had to bid my goodbyes and leaver sooner than anticipated.

But all-in-all it was a delightful visit, and I feel very blessed to have been allowed in to these two families. Maybe one day we can all meet up again!