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Pasta Puttanesca by the numbers - authentic Italian cooking series · Friday September 3, 2021 by colin newell

Pasta Puttanesca by the numbers

I was raised on Spaghetti and meat balls. Tomatoes are my blood. Decades on, I take the greatest delight in genuine Italian cooking. My mama was raised in an Italian-Canadian enclave in Montreal and she knew her stuff. Here in the 21st Century, I have expanded on my childhood knowledge by digging deeper into the cuisine.

Click on the photo for some screen filling action!

Enter pasta Puttanseca. It is a simple dish with a storied past. I’ll let my readers draw their own conclusions as to the myth versus the reality – but on dreary days, this is one of our go-to recipes for a quick and satisfying meal with the minimum of fuss, quick preparation with ready ingredients… made better by the addition of my incredible sourdough focaccia bread


1/8 c. extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, smashed
4 anchovy fillets, chopped
1 (14-oz.) diced fire roasted tomatoes
1/4 c. kalamata olives, pitted
1/8 c. capers
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt
Serving for 2 of boxed spaghetti or bucatini
Chopped parsley, for garnish
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving


Heat oil in a large skillet or pot over medium heat.
Add garlic and cook until fragrant – about 1 minute.
Add anchovies and cook until fragrant, another minute.
Add tomatoes, olives, capers, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water (heaping tablespoon of kosher salt to water) to a boil.
Add spaghetti and cook according to package directions, until al dente; drain. Toss spaghetti in sauce.

Sprinkle with parsley and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Serve with a fat glass of Red wine and my incredible Focaccia bread – You’ll thank me later.

Colin Newell is a Victoria resident and coffee expert exploring the powers of the internet since 1996 – his treatise on caffeine has cured many a case of insomnia over the years…


Winter Storm Muffin re-mix - healthy fibre muffins · Wednesday September 1, 2021 by colin newell

I have been doing most of my own baking since I was 12 years of age – And although I do not have a cookbooks worth of experience, I have come up with a few good things.

These are a Daylight Saving Time classic to get you over the shock of the time change, get your train out of the station on time (I have no idea what that really means!) or keep you happy, healthy (and by design) more regular than sunrise.

One recipe that I have been making for over a decade is my Winter Storm muffin recipe – and I do reference it quite a lot on my blog as it has evolved some – so here is the remix:

The Dry – mix in a large bowl

2 Cups Whole Wheat flour
2 Cups All-purpose Flour (I often sub out the White flour for 4 whole wheat – yes, it’s healthier)
1 Cup Each; Rolled oats, Corn meal and (oat or wheat) bran – sub in Muesli if you have it.
(A variation for me is using 3 cups of All-Bran for a classic Bran muffin or a sugar free granola mixture)
1/2 to 1 Cup dark brown sugar (I now use 1/2 cup Demerara sugar and/or 1/8th of a cup of black strap molasses for intensity)
1.5 Tbsp Baking Soda
1 Tbsp Magic Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp Kosher or Sea Salt
1/2 – 1 Tbsp Organic Saigon Cinnamon
1/2 whole fresh ground nutmeg

The Wet Mix

3/4 Cup unsweetened Apple Sauce
1/4 Cup Canola Oil
3 Eggs
1 Tbsp Organic Vanilla
2 Cups Almond milk OR 2 Cups Goat’s milk OR Yoghurt
Almond milk (sugar free) is a healthy alternative to cow’s milk
and if you like an interesting flavour consider some organic Goat’s milk – great for the lactose intolerant among us.

Add Wet to Dry Mix – Do not over-mix.
I use a Kitchen-aid mixer. Stress on the over-mixing. You do not want to work the gluten in the flour in any way.

Add from 2 to 4 cups of the fruit of your choice – I use finely chopped mango, or apple, or fresh Turkish figs, blueberries, rhubarb or anything in the way of frozen fruit medleys – the sky is the limit. If the fruit falls from the sky, even better.

Another option is 1/2 cup of chopped nuts (any kind) in lieu of single cups of fruit.
A couple of times the mix seemed a little dry after the liquid was added.
Solution: Add a shot glass (2 fluid ounces) of your favourite juice; Orange, Cranberry, Lemon – whatever you have.

Pam spray 2-3 Muffin tins (I use a 12 and a 6)

Use an Ice Cream scoop for loading up the muffin tins – paper definitely not needed!

Bake for 24 minutes in a 375 degree oven or a few moments less in a 350 degree convection oven.– check for degree of done with a toothpick.
Poke the muffins. If the picks come out clean, you are good to go.

Let cool in pans for about 2-3 minutes and then air dry on cooling grid for 10 minutes. Makes about 18-20 freezer ready muffins. Ziploc freezer bags are suggested for long term storage. And by long-term I mean 2 weeks because these muffins don’t hang around!

Colin Newell has been a Victoria resident and food writer for over 25 years – His website has kept readers wide awake since 1995.
Winter Storm Re-Mix Muffins


We interview Jed Grieve of Cook Culture · Saturday July 24, 2021 by colin newell

Talking food culture with Jed Grieve

or download the audio here – Jed-Grieve-Cook-Culture.mp3

Jed Grieve - Cook Culture

Owner and creator of Cook Culture, Jed Grieve talks and gestures as if powered by some underground green energy power-plant. Which is to say, he is tireless, passionate and largely unstoppable. A strong advocate for conscious and responsible living, Jed feels that we all need to think and act based on the needs of the greater good, the planet and its fragile eco-system and mindfully act as an advocate and ambassador for our Planet Earth.

It’s a fine line to walk as a successful food culture businessperson and educator. One could have any random set of priorities on the road to financial freedom. The desire for quick profit without a thought of truth or consequences might be one such random set. But for Jed, well, he is more thought and consequences first as a top priority. And this means: “I could sell finite life products indefinitely in an ever broadening circle and that would suit the average business person for a lifetime… But, I’d rather supply you with a product or knowledge that will serve you for a lifetime.”

As you wander the Cook Culture stores in Victoria and Vancouver, you are immediately impressed with the longevity-forward approach, embracing the culture and passion of the West Coast multi-cultural food scene, and the education potential of their in store kitchens.

The knife selection, as one example, establishes clearly, that you are not buying a product until the next better product comes along… or until this product wears out. No. You are beginning a relationship with a kitchen utensil that may be with you for life. And this philosophy does fly in the face of the “endless growth – endless consumption” model of buy for a year and toss into the landfill!

Jed talks buoyantly about the joys of cooking pans. Hey, let’s face it. We all use pans in our kitchens. In the 20th and 21st Century, non-stick pans have been miracle kitchen conveniences – but not without a huge environmental and health consequence. In short, and in Jed’s words, “Cooking pans for life!…” Ok, that is more a celebratory phrase, but you get the point.

Need to know more? Jed’s YouTube channel is a testament to the sustainable approaches and choices that you are free to make – in your life and the life of your family.
His short videos are fun, informative and at times sobering.


American Falernum and the continuing rise of artisanal spirits · Friday May 29, 2020 by colin newell

California Falernum

A long, long time ago (before COVID19) Andrea and I sat at Don the Beachcomber, the legendary Kona, Hawaii bar at The Royal Kona Resort off of Alii Drive.

Between sips of Mai Tai and savoury nibbles out of a bucket of shrimp, we were regaled by a passionate and knowledgeable bartender on the subject of Tiki drinks.

I quickly learned about the finer points of what makes a great Orgeat syrup (the simple roasted almond syrup that gives the Mai Tai its nutty and warming bite) and a Falernum – the sweet, spicy and mysterious building block for the classic cocktail called the “Corn n’ Oil.”

This discovery of warming spice, citrus and roast nut infusions of simple syrups started me on a journey that has led me to a home bar that has dozens of bottles of aromatic bitters and exotic syrups.

Martin Geijer (pronounced “yay-er”) of San Francisco, California’s Geijer Spirits, walked me through a master-class of 21st Century artisanal spirits. “I have a family history of Swedish spirit making that goes back four generations,” and continues, “My grandmother had a still in her backyard for making moonshine!”

Martin’s Swedish Gran also created a beloved seasonal liqueur known as Glögg that was popular around Christmas for its “warming properties.” Glögg has found its way into numerous cocktails in the west. But first, some backstory!

​Glögg liqueur is based on a 19th Century Swedish family recipe. Spice notes include cardamom, cloves and cinnamon, while hints of almond and bitter orange harmonize to create a flavour profile recognizable from the beach bars of Trinidad, Tobago and Jamaica. These profiles form the foundation of many “Tiki” drinks.
Martin Geijer reminds us of the importance of family history, the integrity and purity of recipes handed lovingly through time and the importance of being mindful of their origins while being playful or, dare I say, whimsical about re-interpretation.

Martin could have rested on the initial success of his Glögg, but he listened to his friends and industry insiders and challenged the boundaries that exist between simple bar syrups and classic aperitif and digestif liqueurs.

California Falernum is a superb example of this re-thinking process. Take a classic warm-spice infused syrup and supercharge it with a finely crafted California-interpretation of a proprietary Jamaican rum. So finessed are the warming notes of allspice with hints of lime, so delicate a bouquet, that the California Falernum stands alone and proudly in a brandy glass or snifter. Don’t be afraid to mix it into your favorite Tiki recipes or cook up your own signature drinks.

Lesson learned: Liqueur, aromatic bitters and syrup selections have a long and colourful history that warrant study.

Our recipe: The classic Southern cocktail, the “Corn n’ oil”.

2 ounces Blackstrap rum (preferably Cruzan)
1/2 ounce California Falernum
1/2 ounce lime juice
3 dashes Angostura bitters

Shaken or stirred, it’s best served in your best vintage rocks glass on a single large ice cube.

Garnish with a lime wedge.

We declared after the first sip: “Well hello Stranger!”

Don’t take my word for it – you can track down some of this good stuff at Vision Wine and Spirits

The Audio Interview

Download – California-FALERNUM-final-cut-2020.mp3

Colin Newell is a resident of Victoria B.C. Canada and has been writing about food, coffee and cocktail culture for over 25 years.


Fresh Fig and Blueberry Bars in the Springtime · Saturday April 18, 2020 by colin newell

Fresh Fig Dessert Squares - with Blueberries!

We had some fresh figs gifted to us a Christmas time – they were fresh frozen and in the freezer. It was time.
These are, arguably, amongst the tastiest fruit squares that we have ever made. By themselves, with just the fresh figs, they are mighty tasty – by adding the antioxidant rich blueberries, they get a bit of balance and unlike date squares, they are less “instantly filling…” and you can eat more than one at a time!


For the crust
1/2 cup butter softened
1/4 sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour

For the filling
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cup fresh figs chopped
1 cup dried blueberries

For the topping
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons cold butter
1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Spray 9-inch square pan with cooking spray.

In small bowl, beat 1/2 cup butter, 1/4 cup granulated sugar and the vanilla with electric mixer until well blended.
On low speed, beat in 1 cup flour until soft dough forms.
Press dough in bottom of pan and bake 10 to 15 minutes or until center is set.

Meanwhile, in 2-quart saucepan, cook filling ingredients over medium-high heat 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until figs are tender and most of liquid is absorbed. Blueberries will get rehydrated.

Spread over crust.

In small bowl, mix 1/4 cup flour, the brown sugar and 3 tablespoons butter, using pastry blender or fork, until crumbly.
Stir in oats and pecans.

Sprinkle over filling.

Bake 20 minutes or until edges are bubbly and topping is light golden brown. Cool completely, about 1 hour. For bars, cut into 4 rows by 4 rows

Colin Newell is a Victoria resident and talker on the subject of coffee, cocktail and food culture. He created the website some 25 years ago and still loves that hot frisky beverage.