cooking in the caboose – balsamic fig and prosciutto pasta

Have I mentioned how much we are really loving our kitchen? Oh, probably just a few times. It may be small, but it’s got some serious equipment and the galley-style layout is easy to work in. Our Fisher-Paykel range is not the AGA Companion that I longed for, but we aren’t rolling in piles of money (yet), so it was the next best option, and is also pretty sweet.

Today I wanted to share one of our favourite pasta recipes, inspired about four years ago by a big, juicy bag of figs I acquired when I was a landscaper. The property owner had these figs coming out of her ears via her large fig tree, so I happily took a few off her hands. They were so ripe, they weren’t actually all that edible on their own, and were more of a sauce. The light went off in my little head and I tried to figure out what would be an interesting way to use these saucy little girls. The result: a fig-balsamic sauce on pasta, with broiled prosciutto.

Paired with a French off-dry rose. Unfortunately I’ve recycled the bottle and can’t remember what it was.

Scott and I tend to morph recipes each time we make them, so if you want to try this I encourage you to try your own variation. Also, my measurements are approximate so don’t worry about being too close to the mark. Serves 2 hungry adults, or 4 dieting.

250 g pasta of your choice (we used 6 bundles of Tagliatelle this time)
6 ripe figs, cut into quarters
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp water
3 Tbsp brown sugar
pinch sea salt

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 shallot, thinly sliced
small green pepper, sliced
handful of pitted black olives
1 Tbsp capers
75 g italian prosciutto, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp asiago or parmesan cheese, coarsely grated
1 Tbsp fresh basil, coarsely chopped
fresh ground black pepper to taste


1. Put water on to boil for pasta. Chop up/ prepare your ingredients.

2. In a small sauce pan, combine figs, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar and sea salt. Heat on med-low temperature until figs start to break down and sauce starts to thicken. I smush the figs a bit with my spoon as I’m stirring. Stir often. About 10 minutes later you should have a softly bubbling sauce. If it seems to thick, just add a bit more balsamic and/or water and heath through. Cover and turn off the burner.

3. Lay prosciutto slices on a broiling pan and turn on your oven’s broiler.

4. When your pasta water comes to a boil, add salt and pasta.

5. In medium frying pan or sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic and fry for a minute or two until they soften and are fragrant.

6. Put your prosciutto in the broiler and keep an eye on it as it only takes a couple of minutes to get crispy!

7. Back to your shallots and garlic Рadd the green pepper, olives and capers. Saut̩ for another 2 minutes, and then add your fig sauce. Turn down the heat to low and stir until everything is combined and heated through.

8.Your prosciutto should be ready by now as well. Take it out, let it cool off for a minute, then transfer to your cutting board and chop it up coarsely.

9. Your pasta is probably done now too – drain it, divide onto plates, then pour on your sauce/veggies, top with prosciutto, cheese, basil and pepper. Enjoy!


settling in

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a month since we moved in. Time flies when you’re having fun as they say. It’s been so amazing living in our pint-sized house so far. It’s so bright, new and cozy. We feel so lucky to be in here. The first couple of days, we felt like we were staying in someone else’s beautiful new place and would have to leave soon! It’s feeling much more like our own now, with our personal touches around the house. I thought I’d give a virtual tour of what we’ve done with the place. Look for captions in the slideshow for descriptions. Friends who have visited have told us we’ve done a great job balancing modern and traditional design and created a cozy, liveable place. I think I have to agree with that! Thank you, Smallworks, for helping us design such a beautiful new home.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So, what’s next? Well, we’re waiting on our custom adjustable coffee/dining table, which is being designed and built by a talented friend of ours, Dave Myers. We look forward to sharing the final product with you!

In the meantime, one of the things we’ve been enjoying most is using our new fancy kitchen. One of our favourite websites to get recipe ideas from these days is Gojee. It sources out some of the best food blogs around the internet and organizes them in an attractive, easy to use website and smart phone application.

Tonight’s meal makes use of our garden kale: Shrimp Quesadillas with Kale. Yum! Click the image to visit the recipe. Until next time!

what’s going on here?!

Ok, it’s been a while since our last post – for good reason. There just hasn’t been a whole lot going on! At least, not on our end. Smallworks has been busy getting things organized, and the City permits were taking a little longer than usual. The permit delay has held things back about a month, but now things are as good as ready. Tomorrow we sign the contract and work starts next week. Exciting! I’m itching to see things start.. even if it does mean the yard, side of the house and front yard are going to be thrashed for a few weeks.

What have we been up to in the meantime? Practicing how to live on a pint-sized budget, that’s what. Now that we’re all grown-up and paying for a house, we can’t be quite as care free with funds. No more impromptu visits to the local pub. Really this just means we’re cooking at home more, which isn’t a bad thing at all. I can’t wait to be using our  new kitchen for it, though! We’ve been enjoying rediscovering our cookbooks and I’ve recently found a useful and innovative recipe search tool: You should check it out, it’s fun.

Ok I cooked with these a couple of months ago, but they're just so pretty and in the spirit of cooking with fresh local food, which we are trying to do more of again these days.

Last week we met with Kate and Jake of Smallworks to go over our design/construction choices and of course, the all important budget. No surprise, we were over our budget. We expected as much, since we’re doing a lot of customization and built-in mill work to use the space as best we can. After a bit of slashing/downgrading on things we were willing to part with, we’ve settled on a very livable little home that still has some excellent features and is built and finished with quality products. We’re coming in at around 25% less than the average cost of a comparable sized west side Vancouver apartment, and we’ll have a balcony, garage, garden, heaps of storage and personalized interior. We’re pretty darn lucky.

The one item that was the hardest to downgrade on was the roof. We really wanted the 50 year plastic slate product that looks really unique and beautiful, is made from recycled materials and lasts ‘forever’, but the difference between it and a 30 year asphalt roof is almost $5,000, which is about the same price as our custom built in storage couch/dining bench. We still get a decent roof and get to keep our very practical couch corner. In 30 years perhaps we can afford to replace the roof with something better – but I’d rather not think about being a 60 year old woman yet, thanks.

I’m not hesitating to give price ranges on here because I find it far too common for other bloggers to shy away from sharing costs. As a reader I wish more people would share pricing as it’s really helpful for getting an idea of how much one can expect to budget for a project or product. I am only writing the approximate prices however, so as not to lead anyone to believe something is a set price – especially when it comes to custom mill work. In any case I hope it’s helpful to those of you considering building your own little (or big) house.

Let the countdown begin! Things should be a lot more active on here very soon.