Fire Fighting in Canada

Features Health and wellness Hot topics
Recipe Rescue: January 2014

There are occasions in every household and fire hall when stepping into the kitchen to prepare a meal seems like a burden – a mundane daily task filled with questions such as: What should I make?

January 7, 2014
By Patrick Mathieu


There are occasions in every household and fire hall when stepping into the kitchen to prepare a meal seems like a burden – a mundane daily task filled with questions such as: What should I make? What can I make? And what do I even feel like making? It is usually during these times of doubt that we break down and search for takeout menus. The solution to the burning question “What do I make for dinner?” is easy: keep it simple! It is time to find the simple quality
ingredients hiding in the pantry, freezer and refrigerator just waiting for their time to shine. 

During the winter months when fresh options have dwindled, it is the pantry that needs to be stocked with nutritious and healthy options in order to cook at home. Here is my Top 10 list of items that are must-haves in the kitchen. These ingredients have excellent shelf lives, are inexpensive and all have the ability to transform a regular meal into an extraordinary dish.

  • Garlic: A wonderful super food that not only inhibits infection but also is so versatile that it is found in almost every type of cuisine.
  • Canned tomatoes: Tomatoes are the exception to the rule that the fresher it is, the healthier it is. Your body absorbs more of the antioxidant lycopene from cooked tomatoes than it does from fresh ones. 
  • Stocks and broths: Nothing beats homemade soups during the winter months. Any time you think about using water for cooking, substitute stock to maximize the flavour.
  • Whole wheat pasta/rice and grains: A nutritious and satisfying meal is never far off when you have a good base. These items can be used as a side or a main dish, and topped with an endless array of options.
  • Baby clams and canned tuna: Baby clams make a great gourmet addition to sauces and casseroles. Tuna is not just for sandwiches; it provides a start for winter comfort food in tuna melts or breaded tuna patties.
  • Dried herbs and spices: Spices such as ginger, paprika, turmeric and garam masala are rich antioxidants and are great for your heart. They transform bland ingredients into flavour bombs!  
  • Nuts: When it comes to nutrition, nuts such as almonds (high in calcium, magnesium and fibre), walnuts (packed with omega-3 fatty acids), pecans (full of vitamins B6 and E), and pine nuts (one of the best sources of protein in the nut family) rank at the top of the list.
  • Mustards: I love the flavourful mustards such as Dijon. Try brushing mustard on your favourite meat/fish before cooking.
  • Olives: Besides being a source of healthy fats, olives have an intense flavour that goes a long way.
  • Frozen berries: While fresh berries have a better taste, even frozen ones are antioxidant powerhouses. Use berries in smoothies, pancakes and muffins; as salad toppers; in sauces and reductions and, of course, for dessert!

By stocking up your kitchen with these nutritious, quality ingredients you will look like a hero at home and in the fire hall by saving time, money, your health and your sanity! The decision about what to make for dinner will soon become simple and you will never sacrifice presentation and great taste. Try these recipes that include my favourite kitchen staples.


Linguine with spicy red clam sauce  

Linguine with spicy red clam sauce


  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 pound linguine
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ tsp dried oregano leaves
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 6 garlic cloves, slivered
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 2 14-ounce cans baby clams, in juice
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest, for garnish
  • Grated pecorino cheese, for garnish
  • Fresh parsley, chopped for garnish


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then add the pasta and cook until al dente.
  2. While the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce: Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat, then add the olive oil. Add the crushed red pepper flakes, oregano, thyme and garlic, and cook for one minute, then add the onion. Raise the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, for three to four minutes, until the onion begins to soften. Add the wine and cook until almost all the liquid is evaporated. Stir in the clams with their juice and the tomatoes, and cook, keeping a gentle simmer for about 10 minutes. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste if needed.
  3. Drain the linguine, return it to the pot and add the sauce. Garnish with the pecorino, parsley and a little lemon zest. Enjoy!

Pancetta and rosemary Yukon Gold flatbread  

Pancetta and rosemary Yukon Gold flatbread


  • 4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, left unpeeled and cut into ½-inch-thick rounds
  • 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • Smoked sea salt
  • 6 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, diced
  • ¼ cup uncooked cornmeal
  • 1 eight-ounce ball prepared
  • pizza dough, at room temperature
  • ½ cup roasted garlic paste
  • 1 ½ cups grated Gruyère cheese
  • ¼ cup Niçoise olives, drained and pitted
  • Leaves from two sprigs fresh rosemary
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Brush the sliced potatoes with two tablespoons of the oil and season with the smoked sea salt. Place on a parchment-lined baking tray in the oven. Cook for 20 minutes, turning them once. Reserve for topping.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a heavy sauté pan over medium-high heat. Fry the pancetta, stirring until crisp. Reserve for topping.
  4. Sprinkle your work surface with the cornmeal. Place the dough in the middle of the surface. You can roll out the dough with a rolling pin, stretch it out with your hands or press it out from the centre against the work surface. Ideally, you want a 12-inch, organically shaped piece of dough, preferably rectangular and about ¼-inch thick. Brush both sides generously with the remaining olive oil. Bake for about 10 minutes, just until the dough starts to turn golden brown. Remove from the oven.
  5. Spread the entire surface of the dough with the garlic paste and sprinkle with half of the cheese. Cover with the potato slices, placing them edge to edge. Sprinkle with the pancetta and the remaining cheese. Artfully arrange the olives and rosemary over the top. Finish baking the flatbread for another 10 minutes. Remove the pizza from the oven and season with salt and pepper. Slice and serve immediately. Enjoy with an ice-cold beer!

Patrick Mathieu is a 13-year veteran of Waterloo Fire Rescue,
where he is acting captain. He has won several cooking competitions and
has helped raise thousands of dollars for charities by auctioning
gourmet dinners at the fire hall. Contact him at

Print this page


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *