A summer crisp

Sunday, September 4, 2016

I was inspired to bake this nectarine crisp after reading Ruth Reichl's My Kitchen Year. (If you haven't read it yet, do yourself a favour and pick it up. It's excellent as both a cookbook and a journal of the former editor of Gourmet magazine's first year after the magazine shut down.)

She described visiting the farmers' market in September, picking up "the last lonely nectarines, rosy but hard as rocks," and baking them into a galette. Before reading that, I had no idea you could bake unripe fruit into a dessert; of course I had to try it out. At my local market, I stopped at the bin of nectarines (which were indeed rosy but hard as rocks). I baked mine into a crisp rather than a galette: served with ice cream, it was a perfect dessert for the last fleeting days of summer. 


Nectarine crisp
(inspired by My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl)
Note: this would also be lovely made with peaches

Ingredients

4 unripe nectarines (5 if they're small)
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon

3/4 cup flour
6 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp white sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
6 Tbsp cold butter

Slice the nectarines (you should have about 3 cups). Toss them with 2 Tbsp flour and 1/2 cup sugar. Squeeze in the lemon juice and give it a stir. Let them sit and macerate for at least 45 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare the crisp topping by combining 3/4 cup flour, brown sugar and 3 Tbsp white sugar until thoroughly mixed. Add cinnamon and salt. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Set aside.

When the nectarines are done macerating, pour them into a small buttered casserole dish. Top with crisp topping and pat gently into place. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Serve warm with ice cream.




September's coming soon

Sunday, August 28, 2016

"Nightswimming,
Remembering that night
September's coming soon
I'm pining for the moon
And what if there were two
Side by side in orbit
Around the fairest sun?
The bright tide forever drawn
Could not describe nightswimming"

- from "Nightswimming," by REM

September is indeed coming soon, and I was looking for one last entree recipe this week that would be perfect for summer's end. I wanted to make a pasta dish that featured the zucchini and corn that are at their best right now. And I found exactly that, with pesto, bacon and grated parmesan to give it a bold flavour.

I scaled down the pasta from the original a little because I wanted the vegetables to shine, and they did. This recipe makes a large batch, but it's also perfect for next-day lunch leftovers, served at room temperature.



Zucchini, Corn and Pesto Fusilli

Adapted from Epicurious
Note: recipe could be halved

Ingredients

6 bacon slices
3 cups dry fusilli (or similar pasta)
3 ears of corn, kernels cut from cob
2 medium zucchini, coarsely chopped (1/2" pieces)
1 container (approximately 7 ounces) basil pesto
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions

Cook bacon in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, turning occasionally, until crisp. Drain on paper towels; discard drippings from skillet.

Meanwhile, cook fusilli in a pasta pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta-cooking water, then add vegetables to pasta in pot. Cook, partially covered, for 2-3 minutes (the water will stop boiling, and that's okay). Drain.

Add pasta with vegetables to skillet, along with pesto and 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water and toss. Season with salt and moisten with additional cooking water if necessary.

Top with crumbled bacon and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve warm (although room temperature leftovers the next day are also superb).



No dress rehearsal

Sunday, August 21, 2016

"First thing we'd climb a tree and maybe then we'd talk
Or sit silently and listen to our thoughts
With illusions of someday casting a golden light
No dress rehearsal, this is our life"

- from "Ahead by a Century," by The Tragically Hip

Lately when I read the news, I'm reminded of how many things disunite us. The headlines are full of "us and them" stories, and tales in which we see the worst of humanity. So it's a reason to celebrate when something happens that pulls us together.

Last night was the final concert of The Tragically Hip, one of the most beloved Canadian bands ever. Their lead singer, Gord Downie, is often called the poet laureate of our country. When Downie announced earlier this year that he had inoperable brain cancer, and this summer's tour would be their last, we mourned this band that told us so many stories about ourselves.

The Hip has been together for over 30 years. They sing about uniquely Canadian people and events - Bill Barilko, Hugh MacLennan, David Milgaard, the FLQ kidnapping. They unite people across the country, rural and urban, and across generations. On our first wedding anniversary, Andrew and I danced to "Boots or Hearts" at a work event; now our youngest daughter performs a brilliant air vocal of the same song.

Last night our national broadcaster, the CBC, aired the show commercial-free on TV, radio, and via streaming. Andrew and I watched from our back yard; many others saw it in public squares or at pool parties - or at a viewing party at the Rio Olympics.

At a time when many things tear us apart, it was a privilege to be one of millions of Canadians paying tribute to someone who unites us.

"It was in Bobcaygeon
I saw the constellations
Reveal themselves, one star at a time"

- from "Bobcaygeon," by The Tragically Hip



Raspberry Chocolate Tart
(adapted from Epicurious)

Crust

1 1/2 cups chocolate water cookie crumbs
6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp sugar

Filling

1 1/2 pints (3 cups) fresh raspberries
1/4 cup sugar (first amount)
2 Tbsp water
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese
1/2 chilled heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar (second amount)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Topping

1 pint (2 cups) fresh raspberries
1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam

Preparation:

For crust, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine cookie crumbs, melted butter and sugar until evenly moistened. Press mixture onto bottom and up sides of 9-inch diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Bake until set, about 10 minutes. Cool completely on rack..

For the filling, combine raspberries, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 Tbsp water and lemon juice in processor and puree until smooth. Pour puree through strainer set over medium bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; discard seeds in strainer. Combine mascarpone, heavy whipping cream, vanilla and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in another bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until mixture is thick and smooth. Stir in raspberry puree and spread filling evenly in cooled chocolate crust. Cover and refrigerate tart overnight.

Arrange fresh raspberries in concentric circles atop tart. Stir raspberry preserves in heavy small saucepan over medium-low heat until melted to form glaze. Brush glaze over fresh raspberries. Refrigerate tart at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.


Remove tart pan sides, place tart on platter, and cut into slices and serve.



Toronto in the summer

Sunday, August 7, 2016








A sunny day, a delicious picnic lunch, a beautiful skyline, a family walk, a father-daughter game of catch. And most of all, the girls on break from their camp jobs, for a rare summer day at home. Just a few of the things that made last Monday such a special day. (Apparently you are never too old to visit the ice cream truck, and that is a good thing.)

These peach bars would be a fabulous addition to any picnic, whether it's down by the lake or in your own backyard. What I love about this recipe is that it makes a small but delicious batch - just enough to enjoy for a few meals without feeling guilty. These bars are truly a portable slice of summer!


Peach Pie bars
(adapted from Dessert for Two)

Ingredients
3 small slightly underripe peaches (note: just ripe is fine too)
1 Tbsp Scotch whiskey
1 Tbsp brown sugar
7 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp cornstarch

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line a 9" x 5" loaf pan with parchment paper.
Peel the peaches and slice them into 1/4" thick slices. Place them in a bowl and pour the whiskey and brown sugar on top. Let soak while you make the crust.
To make the crust, combine the butter, sugar, flour and cinnamon in a bowl. Place 1/4 cup of the dough aside, then press the rest in the bottom of the loaf pan. Pack it firmly and evenly.
Stir the cornstarch into the peach mixture, then pour the mixture over the crust. Crumble the remaining dough on top.
Bake 35 - 40 minutes, until fragrant and golden brown. Let squares cool completely before cutting.
Makes 8 bars.


Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Pasta Salad

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Every summer brings a new favourite salad recipe for me, and this is the 2016 winner. Full of my favourite ingredients (arugula! goat cheese! roasted beets!) it's one I've enjoyed several times already this summer. Whether I serve it as a salad entree on a warm evening, or take to work for a healthy lunch, it's a terrific addition to my regular rotation!


Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Pasta Salad

(inspired by Half Baked Harvest and Barefoot Contessa)

Vinaigrette
1/4 cup olive oil
4 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Beets
6 golden beets
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
juice of half an orange

Salad
2 1/2 cups dry rotini or other short pasta
6 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled
2 small zucchini (preferably one green and one yellow), halved lengthwise and sliced into thin half moons
2 ears corn, or 1 1/2 cups frozen corn
2 cups arugula, lightly packed

Combine the vinaigrette ingredients and store in the fridge until ready to use.

For the beets, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the tops and roots of the beets and peel them with a vegetable peeler. Cut the beets in 8 segments, and toss with olive oil and salt. Roast for 40 minutes, turning once or twice with a spatula to ensure they're evenly cooked. Remove from oven and toss immediately with balsamic vinegar and orange juice.

For the salad, prepare rotini according to package directions.

If using ears of corn, boil for 1-2 minutes then remove corn from ears. If using frozen corn, boil for 1 minute.

Crumble the goat cheese in a large bowl, and add the hot pasta. Add vinaigrette and combine until the goat cheese has melted. Add zucchini, corn and arugula. Add beets on top, and serve warm or at room temperature

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)

Crumbles
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

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

Raspberries
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.