Pasta with Wild Leeks, Mushrooms and Arugula


A few weeks ago I was back in Toronto visiting my Mom. We visited my best friends cottage, we spent an absorbanant amount of money on Quebec cheese, and we walked around the city. It was a wonderful trip, and a much needed bought of relaxation.

An old friend of mine, Andrew, came over and we made dinner and hung out with my mom and her boyfriend, John. When we left the house to go grab a drink down the street we both turned to each other and said, almost at the exact same time “I hope I’m that when I’m a real grown up”.

Don’t get me wrong, they have their hardships like everyone else, obviously, but there is something wonderful about the way they live. My mom walks to work everyday, John plugs away at his PhD in the study, (as one of her friends put it to me “leave it to your mother to find a 60 year old student!) they live in this beautiful house, and eat gorgeous food. They seem to live really great lives.

My mom is also a fabulous cook, so when I visit most of our time is either spent in her wonderful neighbourhood shopping for ingredients or in the kitchen. We spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

My mom cooks tons of vegetables. Tons. It’s one of the most wonderful things about the way she cooks actually. She is teeny tiny, and eats lots of cheese and pasta and delicious things, but she also eats more veggies that probably anyone else I know. There is always a salad with dinner, but beyond that, she just puts more vegetables in everything. Almost anything cooked gets a bag of arugula, or spinach, or pea shoots wilted into it.

This is a great example of that for me. Just a simple pasta of sauteed ramps, and mushrooms, with a handful of parm and a sprinkling of parsley, thyme and basil. And then a huge bag of arugula wilted into it. Don’t get me wrong, I wilt greens into my pastas all the time, but she just adds so much more than I normally would. And it results in something wonderful, something sharp and bit bitter, but mostly just more flavourful.


1 box Pasta

1 bunch Ramps, or Wild Leeks, or Traditional leeks, cleaned and sliced on a bias

2 cloves Garlic, minced

3 cups Cremini Mushrooms, sliced thinly

1/2 cup Freshly Grated Parmesan, or Grano Padano

8 cups Baby Arugula

1/4 cup Parsley, chopped

3 tbsp Basil, chopped

2 tbsp Thyme, chopped.

Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously and cook the pasta to the directions on the box. Strain.

Meanwhile, on medium high heat warm up a good glug of olive oil.

Sautee the leaks for about 3 minutes. Add in the mushrooms and cook until starting to caramelize, about another 5 minutes.

Clear a small spot in the middle of the pan and add in another splash of olive oil.

Cook garlic for about a minute until it is fragrant but not browning.

Mix in the leeks and the mushrooms.

Add in the pasta, herbs, and cheese and then toss in the arugula so that it starts to wilt but isn’t soggy. Season liberally with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately.  

Pancetta and Leek Quiche

It was Jazz Festival in Vancouver last week, a weekend where every venue puts on shows ranging from Mexican folk music to old proper quartets and everyone in between shows up, and while admittedly most of the more senior people in this play at expensive sold out shows, slews of people play at the outdoor stages. Every year a couple friends of ours who live near one of these outdoor venues throw a big party and we eat too much breakfast and then spend the day in the beer garden and listen to great music. It is one of my favourite days of the year.

And this year was no exception, the only difference was that after several drinks I decided that everyone should come over to brunch the next day which was, shall we say, a questionable decision.

I love having people over for brunch, as one friend put it “it’s breakfast you don’t have to wake up early for” and I would like to add it’s breakfast you can drink champagne with and not feel guilty. So I hauled my butt out of bed and made quiche.

I think people get scared of quiche, the pastry the baking, but really, you eat it at room temperature, so while you have to get up a little earlier to put it together, it means you don’t have to cook at all when people arrive, which is a trade off I’m more than happy to give. This is also a very special quiche recipe, one that is smoother than smooth and not overwhelmingly eggy.

I served this with heaps of roasted potatoes and a big salad, and I think everyone was very happy, even me, once I had a glass of bubbly in my hands!

Leek and Pancetta Quiche.

This recipe is adapted from the Tartine Bakery cookbook, and is special for 2 reasons- it has a tiny amount of flour in it which helps it from cracking, and it uses creme fraiche, which gives it a bit of a tang. Because I made several of these this weekend and my grocery store only had one small container of it, I substituted half yoghurt in, and this worked beautifully)


This pastry works very simply. You keep big pieces of butter in the dough and chill it. When the cold butter goes into the hot oven it produces steam, and thats what gives you the flakey layers. So, it’s very important not to cut the butter too small or to overwork the dough.

2 cups AP Flour

1 cup Butter, very cold, cubed

1 tsp Salt

A small cup of ice water


5 Eggs

3 tbsp Flour

1 cup Creme Fraiche

1 cup Whole Milk

1 tbsp finely chopped thyme

1 tsp Salt

3 Large Leeks, sliced

200g Pancetta

Put the butter into a bowl with the flour and the salt, and with your hands break apart the butter into lima bean sized pieces.

Add the a couple tablespoons of butter and stir, then add a couple more until it just follows a fork around the bowl as you stir.

Now push it flat and fold it in half, and repeat until the dough starts to come together but it is still soft. If it starts to feel firm stop right away. Wrap it up and put in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375F

Roll out the dough and fit it into a 12 inch tart pan, a 10 inch pie pan, or even a 10 inch cake pan.

Take a piece of parchment paper and cut it into a circle an inch wider than your tart. Press it into the top of your pastry and pour some beans or rice into it. This will prevent your beautiful pastry from rising too much.

Bake it for about 20 minutes, and then take out the beans and parchment paper and bake it for another 10, until the whole thing is a nice light brown color.

Turn the oven down to 325F


While all this is going on slice up your leeks and pancetta and start cooking them over medium low heat. They will get soft, loose their liquid and then start to caramelize. This will take about 20 minutes.

In a large bowl mix together one of the eggs with the flour. Stir until there are no bumps, a couple of minutes. Add in the other eggs one by one, scraping the sides to make sure no flour is sticking.

Mix the milk and the creme fraiche together with a whisk until smooth and add that to the egg mix. Season with the salt, pepper and thyme.

Once the tart shell is out, fill it with the leeks and pancetta mixture. Pour the egg mix on top until the tart is very full.

Bake until the center has just firmed up, about 30 minutes.

Allow to cool before eating.