Raspberry, cream and crumbles

Sunday, July 24, 2016
This amazing dessert is my new favourite. It lets the perfection of summer fruit shine, and just dresses it up a little with brown sugar whipping cream and delectable crumbles. It couldn't be easier, either - it literally takes ten or fifteen minutes to make all the components. Even better, the recipe makes extra whipping cream and crumbles so you can enjoy it over several meals. (The whipping cream is stabilized by the addition of creme fraiche or sour cream, so it will keep in the fridge for a few days.)

If you love fruit desserts but don't want to spend a lot of time in a hot kitchen making them, this recipe will be the best addition to your repertoire this summer!

Raspberries and Cream with Graham Crumbles
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves
1/2 tsp kosher salt (or 1/4 tsp table salt)
1/4 cup whole wheat or graham flour
1/2 cup plus 2-3 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1/2 cup heavy or whipping cream
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp creme fraiche or sour cream
1/4 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

2 pints or about 4 cups

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place melted butter in a large bowl. Stir in brown sugar and honey. Add baking powder, cinnamon, cloves and salt, and stir to combine. Add whole wheat flour, stir again, then add 1/2 cup all-purpose flour. Stir until all flour is incorporated and mixture forms large and small crumbles. If needed, add 2-3 extra Tbsp flour to achieve this.

Spread crumbs on baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, then stir them around so they bake evenly. Bake another 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Let cool in pan on rack. Crumbs will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for at least a week.

Using a clean bowl and whisk, whip cream and brown sugar until it hold soft peaks. Whisk in creme fraiche or sour cream and vanilla. Keep chilled until needed.

Fill a small dish a little over halfway with raspberries, generously dollop on whipped cream and top with a couple tablespoons of graham crumbs.

Classic potato salad

Sunday, July 10, 2016

I don't normally make mayonnaise-based potato salads, but I made an exception for this wonderful variation. The richness of the mayonnaise is cut by creme fraiche, and the combination of coriander, lemon, and cider vinegar give it a delicious piquant flavour. With the generous addition of hard-boiled eggs, the salad represents the best of two picnic favourites. I'm a big fan of cookbook author Susie Middleton, who has never steered me wrong with a recipe, and this classic potato salad is yet another winner.

Make this for the next picnic or potluck dinner you're invited to - and hope it isn't all gone before you fill your plate!

Classic Potato Salad
(from Fresh from the Farm by Susie Middleton)

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4” pieces
kosher salt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup crème fraiche or sour cream
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp cider vinegar
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
3/4 tsp ground coriander
Freshly ground black pepper
3 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and sliced
2 long ribs celery, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (3/4 cup)
1/2 cup diced onion
2 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbsp sliced fresh chives

Put the potatoes and 2 tsp salt in a large saucepan and cover with plenty of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until just tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain carefully in a colander, rinse briefly with cool water, and spread on a clean dishtowel to cool to room temperature.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, crème fraiche, cider vinegar, lemon juice, lemon zest, ground coriander, a pinch of salt, and several grinds of black pepper. Add the cooled potatoes, eggs, celery, onions, most of the parsley, and most of the chives. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp salt over all. Gently mix everything together until well combined, breaking the eggs apart as you mix. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with remaining parsley and chives. Serve right away or refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

A plum assignment

Sunday, July 3, 2016

"I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold"

- William Carlos Williams, "This is Just To Say"

I'm very grateful that nobody ate the plums that were on the counter, which I was saving to bake with. Especially grateful because I've never baked with plums before, and this recipe made a convert out of me. The jammy filling is delicious and sweet, and makes a perfect foil for the crisp base and topping. Now the only question is this: can I justify saving one of these for breakfast?

Plum Oatmeal Bars
(adapted from Canadian Living)

Makes about 20 bars

3 1/2 cups chopped firm ripe red or black plums (about 5)
3/4 cup sugar (first amount)
1 Tbsp grated orange zest
1/3 cup orange juice
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 cups quick-cooking (not instant) rolled oats
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar (second amount)
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup cold butter, cubed


In saucepan, bring plums, 3/4 cup sugar, orange zest and orange juice to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until plums are tender and beginning to break down, about 12 minutes.

Whisk cornstarch with 2 Tbsp water; stir into plum mixture. Bring to boil, then cook, stirring, until thickened, about 1 minute. Scrape into bowl; place plastic wrap directly on surface. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. (Can make up to 24 hours in advance.)

While plum mixture is chilling, in large bowl whisk together oats, flour, brown sugar, 1/4 cup white sugar, and salt. Using pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Firmly press half the oat mixture into bottom of parchment-paper lined 9" x 9" cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees until golden, about 20 minutes. Remove and let cool in pan for 5 minutes.

Spread plum mixture over crust. Gently press remaining oat mixture into small clumps and sprinkle over plum mixture. Bake at 350 degrees until topping is golden, 40-45 minutes. Let cool completely on board, then chill before cutting. Cut into 20 bars.

Springtime asparagus

Sunday, June 19, 2016

"Spring drew on ... and a greenness grew over these brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps."
- Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

Here in Toronto, today feels like the middle of summer. But technically, it's the last full day of spring. So if I'm going to post my favourite new asparagus recipe, now's the time.

If you want to keep things super-easy for a weeknight meal, the asparagus is wonderful on its own, simply roasted in the spice marinade. The citrus dressing, yogurt and avocado dress it up beautifully for guests, or a leisurely weekend meal.

(By the way, you might think it's impossible to have "too much" asparagus. If you looked inside my fridge, however, you might think again. Apparently, I'll be happily roasting asparagus well into the summer.)

Spiced Roasted Asparagus with Avocado and Yogurt
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

For the asparagus

1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp kosher salt
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil (first amount)
2 pounds thin-to-medium asparagus, ends trimmed

To finish

2 Tbsp olive oil (second amount)
2 Tbsp orange juice
2 Tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 large firm-ripe avocados, cut in thin slices
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Cover 2 baking sheets with foil.

Combine first 7 ingredients in a small bowl. Lay asparagus on baking sheets and drizzle with marinade, rolling until completely covered. Roast for 10 minutes, then flip and roast for another ten minutes until just tender.

Meanwhile, combine 2 Tbsp olive oil, orange juice and lemon juice in a small dish.

When asparagus is done, scatter with avocado slices, then drizzle with citrus dressing. Dollop yogurt over the top and sprinkle with seeds.

Tahini Roasted Cauliflower

Sunday, June 12, 2016

"And so, with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer."
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

A short post today - we've just dropped the girls off for another summer working at camp. My oldest will be one of the directors, while my youngest will be leading the L.I.T. program. They're both thrilled (and a little nervous) about the step up in responsibility. I'm excited for them, and know they'll rise to the challenge.

Earlier in the week, my oldest graduated from the University of Toronto with high distinction. And the week before that, my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. We have much to be grateful for and, yes, life does feel like it's beginning over again with the summer.

Tahini Roasted Cauliflower
(from Playing with Flour)

1/3 cup tahini
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 - 3/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp drained capers
6 cups cauliflower florets (from one medium size cauliflower)
Half a lemon
2/3 Tbsp chopped fresh parley
1/4 tsp kosher salt

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk tahini, olive oil and red pepper flakes together. Gently whisk in the capers. Add cauliflower and toss well to coat. Arrange cauliflower in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes, stirring about halfway through.

Remove pan from oven. Immediately squeeze juice of half a lemon over top. Sprinkle with salt and parsley. Transfer to a serving platter and serve.

The grad with mom and dad

June 1, 1991

Sugar-free desserts

Sunday, June 5, 2016
"Better a witty fool than a foolish wit."
- Feste in Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare

Finding a sugar-free dessert that tastes delicious can sometimes feel like a fool's errand. I'm usually dubious about that kind of thing - I'd honestly rather eat an apple than a dessert that sacrifices flavour to make health claims.

That's why I was intrigued by Baking with Less Sugar, by Joanne Chang. If anyone could succeed, it would be the owner of Boston's Flour Bakery, who set the bar with her delicious baked goods in two previous cookbooks. There were so many great recipes, it was hard to choose where to start, but I picked a winner with this fruit-studded fool. It's sweetened with an apple juice concentrate reduction, and we didn't miss the sugar one bit. Low-fat it is not, but if you want to cut back on sugar without giving up flavour, it's a perfect way to start.

If this is fool's paradise, I want in.

Berry Cream Cheese Fool
Baking with Less Sugar, Joanne Chang

One 12 ounce can frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup creme fraiche
2 cups heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp kosher salt
4 cups mixed berries

In a small saucepan, bring the apple juice concentrate to a boil over medium-high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the juice reduces to 3/4 cup. To check whether it's reduced enough, occasionally pour the juice into a measuring cup; if it it's more than 3/4 cup pour it back into the saucepan to simmer until sufficiently reduced. Remove from heat and cool in the fridge until cold to the touch.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip together the cream cheese and 1/2 cup of the apple juice concentrate (discard the rest) for 2-3 minutes, or until the mixture is light and fluffy, scraping the bowl occasionally to incorporate the cream cheese equally. Add creme fraiche and whip together to combine. Slowly drizzle in the cream and beat, still on medium speed, for 1 to 2 minutes more, or until the cream thickens and combines with the cream cheese mixture. Whisk in the vanilla and salt.

Fold the berries into the cream cheese mixture, shaving a few spoonfuls of berries to garnish the tops. Portion into bowls or glasses and top with a generous spoonful of berries. Serve immediately, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to two hours.

Groceries: The sequel

Sunday, May 29, 2016

You may remember that a few weeks ago I wrote about the challenges of sending a non-shopping spouse to get groceries.

It happened again, and those of you who know Andrew won't be surprised to see what he brought home:

I guess if it's good enough for Jose Bautista, it's good enough for us.

(Apologies to my friends from Texas. I hope we can still be friends.)

Apparently I'm as predicable as my husband, though, because as soon as I saw those Golden Grahams in our cupboard, I knew what I was going to do with them. The last time I visited Aunt Barbara in California, she made a batch of these delicious and completely addictive treats. With three ingredients and about ten minutes in total to make them, they couldn't be easier.

Even Jose Bautista would flip for a recipe like this.

Aunt Barbara's Golden Graham treats

1 cup white chocolate chips
2 cups Golden Grahams
1/2 cup unsalted peanuts

Line a 9" x 13" pan or cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Melt the white chocolate chips, either on a stove over a double-boiler or in the microwave, heating for no more than 30 seconds at a time and stirring after each time.

Once the chocolate has melted, add Golden Grahams and peanuts. Stir well until completely mixed. Spread out on parchment paper-lined pan and set in the fridge until mixture has completely cooled. Break into pieces and store in the fridge or at room temperature.