Had I presented this salad to Mr. Langley, my former culinary school instructor, I would have miserably failed the assignment. His mantra of “Balance, in colour, texture, size and shape” plays in the soundtrack of my memories, right before Stacy and Clinton’s“Colour, texture, pattern and shine!” (Anyone else mourning the end of WNTW, as much as me?) This all yellow salad would not have pleased him. Thankfully, I’m not in Culinary School anymore and I just cook to please myself. This sunny summer salad pleased my daughter and I greatly!
We were rummaging around in the kitchen trying to figure out what to make for lunch last week. I suggested our usual standby; tomato, watermelon and feta salad but we had no watermelon. We did have some gorgeous ripe nectarines, with wildly blushing skin and flesh reminiscent of goldenrods. They got chopped up, along side some tiny sun gold tomatoes and some mini yellow pear tomatoes. Of course I sautéed some corn (fresh corn goes into every salad I make in the summer!) We diced up some feta cheese and chopped up some fresh basil and mint for brightness.The sweet crunch of the sautéed corn played so well next to the creamy salty tang of the feta. Mildly acidic tomatoes balanced the lushly sweet nectarines. Harmony in every bite, despite the monochromatic ingredients. I think if we blindfolded Mr. Langley and gave him a taste, he would give this salad an A+.
I intended to blog about peach raspberry sorbet this week but somehow, here I am telling you all about Almond Joysicles. It all started with a little culinary challenge. We were having 12 friends up to the cottage for the weekend and I was in charge of Friday night dinner and dessert. (Everyone is assigned a different meal). Most of these friends keep strictly kosher and since I was making Miami Ribs, dessert had to be dairy free.
I must confess that I am always thrown off balance when challenged to bake dairy free desserts. I don’t like to use butter or milk substitutes so I took the fresh fruit sorbet route. I settled on a tangy lemon sorbet and a peach-raspberry combo. While surfing for inspiration, I came across an article on seriouseats.com titled, “How to make Great Vegan Ice Cream”. Vegan Ice cream?? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Ordinarily, my visceral reaction to the word vegan causes me to recoil.
But, as I read through the article and recipe, I discovered that it did not contain any ersatz dairy products, but utilized instead, the dynamic duo of coconut milk and coconut cream. With this double coconut whammy, this ice cream would be high in fat, which means lots of flavour.
I whipped up a batch of this along with the peach raspberry and the lemon. Most requested flavour and winner by a long shot was the coconut sorbet. If this is vegan, sign me up!I was telling my daughter about these and she suggested I freeze them in Popsicle molds. As I whipped up second batch, I upped the fun factor, and mixed in some chopped salted almonds, toasted coconut and bittersweet chocolate chunks. Outstanding! Then, my girlfriend Marla, who is one of the most intelligent people I know, suggested, dipping them in melted bittersweet chocolate. I know… brilliant, right?
When Mother Nature shows up at the farmers market flaunting her peaches (and beans), you don’t mess around too much with perfection like this. Keep it simple!I have made this salad four times already this summer. The first time I made it, it was part of a celebratory dinner* for 12. (Big football game victory – Go RedBlacks!!) Luckily I had a wonderful sous chef with me in the kitchen that day; my niece Samantha was visiting. We have collaborated in the kitchen before, on a 6 braid challah, so I knew I had some exceptional assistance.
As the afternoon wore on and we continued our prep, I noticed the level of blanched beans in the colander was diminishing. My niece could not stop eating them. She told me that her beans never tasted like this, and asked what I had done? I explained that they were fresh from the farmer’s field and I that I had heavily salted the cooking water. (almost 1/4 cup Kosher salt for a big pot of water). This seasons the beans perfectly and they do not taste “salty”.
Sautéing the peaches in a bit of vegetable oil for just a few minutes really enhances their natural sweetness. The pickled onions add a welcome piquant note. This is a beautiful fresh summer salad.
This started out as a post about some simple “Nutty Crunch Cookies” that were featured in the March 2014 issue of Bon Appetit Magazine, in their “Fast, Easy, Fresh Weeknight Favourites” column. I think that there is no better way to end a meal than with a cookie, so I am always on the hunt for new cookie ideas. I filed it away and got on with more important stuff like the actual eating of cookies.
It all started with my taking some photography classes with a talented food photographer. He encouraged me to start thinking less like a cook and more like a food stylist. I interpreted that to mean I needed to go shopping. A few trips to Target, HomeSense and Zone, and I had filled a baker’s rack with some lovely new props. One of my favourite finds was this adorable cookie press set.I knew I had to use them to make those Nutty Crunch Cookies. As I was styling a “Milk and Cookies” shot, I kept staring at the “waffle” design on these cookies, thinking that they would be quite fantastic with a scoop of ice cream sandwiched between them. The Haagen Dazs Dulce de Leche Ice Cream sitting in my freezer called out to me.One of my favourite childhood memories is going to the CNE (The “Ex”) with my older sister and our Auntie Susie. After going on all the rides and playing all the games with us, we would head to the Food Building for Tiny Tom Doughnuts, Candy Apples and Ice cream Waffles. We used to beg for the treats before the rides, but Auntie Susie, wise beyond her years, knew that ice cream waffles prior to a wild and crazy ride on The Scrambler would not end well.
When my kids were little I would sometimes make them waffles and ice cream for dinner. Dinner and dessert all in one! I was a very efficient mother. Steaming hot crunchy waffles, wrapped around a cold scoop of ice cream is one of life’s perfect food combinations. While these cookies are not real “waffles”, the combo of the nutty crunch from hazelnut and almond cookies and the swirled caramel ribbons of dulce de leche ice cream is quite an unbeatable duo.
When the farmers market stands begin to overflow with corn and tomatoes, I add them to everything I make. Lightly dressed arugula gets topped with sautéed corn and tomatoes and garnished with some buttery diced avocado. Peaches and Cream Corn and Blondkopfchen mini tomatoes weave their way into fritattas and onto tortilla chips gussied up as a salsa. Tiny tomatoes bursting with sweet acidity mingle with basil and plump sweet corn kernels. Tossed with some hot penne pasta and chunks of creamy buffalo mozzarella, it makes for a very happy summertime dinner.
I know that for many folks, biting into a freshly boiled, buttered and salted ear is a summer ritual eagerly anticipated all winter long. When all those sweet little kernels explode in your mouth, it’s bliss for them. But I am among the, mostly silent, minority who do not like to eat corn straight off the cob. It gets stuck in my teeth and I just want to run for the floss. Yes, very un-Canadian/American of me, I know. But I am ok with that. I am perfectly comfortable being mocked when I cut my corn off the cob.With my abundance of corn, tomatoes and scallions, I decided to make a tart. Chef Christine Cushing’s buttermilk pastry, studded with fresh thyme makes a perfect base.Rolling out the dough between 2 large sheets of parchment paper is a foolproof way of handling pastry.Line the pastry with some parchment paper and fill with pie weights to blind bake the tarts. I buy dried chick peas that I reuse for this purpose only. This will give your pastry a head start so that your finished tarts do not have soggy bottoms.Delicious hot or at room temperature (they were even great reheated the next day) these little tarts are a very special way to celebrate the bounty of summer. Once everyone has a bite of these, you will be forgiven for cutting the corn off the cob.