| Friends with food: How to impress your roommates

With so many of us coming to university straight from the nest where our darling parents cook every meal or order us Chinese food with care, it’s a wonder that any of us survive our first week in the kitchen. We want to help you make that other room in your apartment – you know, the one with the fridge – somewhere you want to be. Food is more than nourishment, it’s a creative process, so enjoy it.

Our column will help you figure out the specifics: how to cook it, how much it costs, how long it takes, how difficult it is to make, and who to cook it for. We’ll include a few tips and tricks, as well as some suggestions for variations and complementary dishes. These can help you make a meat dish vegetarian, or a cookie go vegan. Don’t forget to check mcgilldaily.com for extra recipes, suggested sides, photos, and other fun stuff. Plus, on special holidays we plan to include a few dishes to help you host that perfect festive dinner party!

We want to help you, beloved Daily readers, get a kick out of making and sharing food with friends. Besides, this is what we do, and we have a lot of happy friends, so why not share the secret with you?

What: Gay Pasta – combat homophobia everywhere and infuse your kitchen and life with a sense of gaiety and fun.

How much it’ll cost: about $15

Why: Because it’s impressive, fresh, cheap, and feeds six with leftovers!

It’s September, you just moved in with your super-sweet, awesome, new roommates. Impress them with this easy, fresh pasta recipe that you can whip up in less than 30 minutes – watch out Rachel Ray. Make this on “roommate night” and knock their socks off with an $11 bottle of red wine (eight dollars makes you look cheap).

This is the perfect time of year to make this recipe using all fresh ingredients. Gay Pasta also makes great leftovers, so impress your roommates even more by sending them to school with a bag lunch, but draw the line somewhere and remember to label a Tupperware for yourself.

And in case you were wondering about the name, it’s called ‘Gay Pasta’ because it is pretty and festive, and because a sequin-prone relative calls it that.

Gay Pasta

900g pasta shapes (rottini, fusilli, bow-tie, shell, or if you’re trying to prove that you’re funny as well, try to find penis pasta) – $2 for a bag

2 C whole milk mozzarella cut into 2 cm cubes (don’t get the cheapest kind, but there’s no need to splurge on the fancy kind in water) – keep it under $10

2/3-1 C olive oil (add more if pasta is too dry) – buy this in bulk, you will use it often

1 large bunch of fresh basil, minced (this has to be fresh – check out the tips and tricks below for more info on economizing and mincing greens) $3 for a plant at Jean Talon, $3.50 at Metro

2 C chopped tomatoes (they’re amazing and in season right now, buy local) go to the market, and get a million for next-to-nothing, or shell out about $3 at the grocery store

Salt to taste (start with 1 tsp and then taste it!) – why don’t you already have salt?

Boil a large pot of water and make the pasta according to the directions on the bag. I blame your parents for not teaching you how to make pasta if you have a problem with this; get one of those university survival guides they sell at the bookstore.

While the pasta is cooking, cube the cheese, dice the tomatoes, mince the basil, and throw it all in a bowl. When the pasta is cooked and drained, dump it on top of these fresh ingredients. Add olive oil and toss together. Salt to taste and serve. Bon appetit!

Buying fresh on a budget:

A basil plant gives about three times the basil for the same price as the bagged flakes, and you can’t get any fresher. For this recipe about three stems worth of leaves will do, and you can really see and taste the difference from the dried stuff. Don’t worry about taking care of the plant, just water it once or twice a week. Spoiler alert: as soon as the chill comes we’ll teach you how to make pesto with the rest of the plant.

Tomatoes are in season these days, so it’s the perfect time to buy local and support the Quebec farming community.

Chopping, dicing and mincing made easy:

Chopping is an umbrella term: cut the tomatoes into large bite-sized pieces. Cubing is a little bigger than dicing, each piece of cheese should be about two centimetres squared. Chopping greens can be a bit tricky if you don’t know what to do: take a bundle of basil and loosely roll it (we know a few of you are good at rolling greens) then slice thinly using a sharp knife.

Suggestions and additions:

We’re leaving the options open because telling you what to do would boring. You could serve this with a green salad, throw on some grilled chicken, or if you don’t like wine, grab whatever beer is on sale.


In the future, extra recipes complementing those found in the Friends with food column will appear on the Friends with food blog on mcgilldaily.com. For now, we’re making them available right here. This week’s online supplement – Balsamic vinaigrette and a de-vegeterianized Gay Pasta.

Part 1: extra recipes & sides

Here is a simple salad dressing that can accompany any dish. It can be used to make a particularly tasty salad to accompany ‘Gay Pasta’.

Basic Balsamic Vinaigrette:

2 parts Olive Oil (for example 6 tbsp)

1 part Balsamic Vinegar (3 tbsp – Balsamic Vinegar is another one of those staples that you should always have in your kitchen)

a dash of rosemary (you could also use oregano and basil, or just one of them; a simple green spice will do wonders)

1 or 2 cloves of finely minced garlic (or you can throw in a dash or two of powdered garlic, which dissolves better in the liquid, but isn’t as fragrant)

½ tsp of Dijon Mustard (you can really use any mustard that isn’t the bright yellow kind. Dijon is the best option, and if you buy a small jar to only use in dressings then you’ll probably need just the one jar for the year) – This addition brings your plain oil and vinegar mixture to the level of a legitimate salad dressing!

Make sure to chop your garlic as finely as possible so that it can mix with the dressing to its utmost ability. This is why powdered garlic can be used as a substitute, but to the purists out there only fresh garlic will do.

Mix all the ingredients together in a glass or small jar. If you use a glass then whip everything together with a fork. Make sure that the mustard dissolves. If you have a jar then tightly seal the lid and shake the jar up and down while dancing around your kitchen! We figure that all you McGill students have far too many jars taking up room on your shelves, and although you sometimes look silly carrying your coffee in them, they are PERFECT for mixing salad dressing!

You don’t have to dress your salad (and let the tomato blush?); each person can dress their own portion to taste and then you can save the leftover dressing for another day. This also keeps the leftover salad from getting soggy, making another handy- tupperwared lunch. We love leftovers.

All the ingredients that we listed are ones that you should have in your kitchen. Whenever you are in a fix for a potluck dish or lunch for school, simply whip together this dressing and throw it over some vegetables et VOILA!

You can also make a lot of this dressing and keep it in a container in your fridge for whenever. A friend of ours likes to keep her dressing in a former gin bottle.

Some ideas for veggies to make a delightful salad out of:

1 head of lettuce (romaine, iceberg, whatever), chopped or torn

you can throw in some spinach, or maybe a bag of mixed spring greens, one of Olivia’s favorites!

1 red pepper chopped into bite-size pieces

1 cucumber or ½ English cucumber sliced, and then quartered

4 mushrooms, sliced

1 tomato chopped into bite-size pieces

a handful of nuts (walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, you name it)

½ C of chopped cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, goat’s cheese, etc.)

½ avocado cut into 2 cm squared cubes

You can include as many or as few of these ingredients as you want. Add any of your other favorite veggies, or even throw in some fruit – a sliced apple can be delicious! A hardboiled egg or a cup of chickpeas can go in for some added protein.

Salad can be a main dish or a side depending on how elaborate you make it. Try experimenting with combinations to create your ideal salad!

Part 2: variations on this week’s recipe:

De-vegetarianizing Gay Pasta: grilled chicken

While ideally you do this on the BBQ or on a cast-iron pan with grill marks, we know that we don’t have the fanciest kitchen supplies, so a simple Teflon pan will do.

Buy some boneless, skinless chicken breast. Fry it on the pan until it goes white and is generally cooked through. Take it off the heat and slice it into small pieces. Here’s where the spices come in: for Gay Pasta throw on some dried basil, oregano and olive oil. Put it back on the heat and make sure that all the pieces are juicy and cooked, and spices are absorbed. Add the chicken pieces into the tomato, basil cheese mixture before you add the pasta, to make this dish more carnivore friendly.