Happy Pi Day! Did you know that March 14 is Pi Day? Somehow a day that honours a mathematical symbol is feted with the baking of a pie. I’m okay with that. I have always loved math. Algebra and geometry made sense to me. Calculus, not so much! I could never understand its application to real life. Here at salt and serenity we’re going to mark the day with a savory little hand pie, made with ground lamb and a combo of spices that will leave you feeling very joyful. Food that you can eat with your hands is always more fun, and these flaky little pies are as charming as they are delicious. Redolent of Morocco, the scent of cumin, coriander and cinnamon will perfume your kitchen.I made a dairy-free pastry, using refined coconut oil (refined coconut oil has almost no scent). You could of course use butter if you wish. I added a bit of cornmeal to the all-purpose flour for a bit of a crunch. You could make them rectangular or round. Just make sure to cut a few holes in the top crust so that the steam can escape during baking and they don’t explode.Sautéed onions, frozen peas and corn were added to the filling for a welcome sweet vegetal hit.
Galette is French for “Lazy Ass Pie.” No, not really. It actually refers to a free-form tart. Pies are a lot of work. There’s all that stress about making the crust and rolling it out without cracking. Plus, I suck at crimping. But a galette is supposed to be rustic. Rolling the dough into a perfect circle is not required, in fact, it is frowned upon. (Well, I frown upon perfect circles)
Wild blueberries have arrived and sadly, they’re only here for a few short weeks, so I take advantage of the short season and work very hard at eating my weight in wild blueberries during the month of August. This recipe would certainly work with regular blueberries, but you may need to add a bit more sugar, since wild ones are so much sweeter. You could also use frozen berries. The PC frozen wild blueberries are excellent, as are Trader Joe’s brand.
OK, let’s make a
lazy ass pie galette. Start with the filling. Mix blueberries, tapioca flour (also called tapioca starch), sugar and lemon juice. Next we tackle the topping. This corn crisp topping was the genius idea of Bon Appetit Magazine. I saw it in their July 2016 issue, and I knew I had to try it. Such a fun idea to combine blueberry and corn in a dessert. Start with a traditional crisp topping of flour, sugar and butter. Add a touch of cornmeal for added crunch. Then cut in fresh corn kernels. Topping done. The dough comes together very quickly in the food processor. No need to chill it. Just roll it out right away between 2 sheets of parchment paper, to avoid any fuss. Time to assemble.
I made a dairy free version of the galette last weekend for some friends. I used chilled coconut oil in both the dough and the topping and it was fantastic. The coconut oil was only detected (and rejected) by one friend, but I suspect he’s a super taster.
Click here to print recipe for Wild Blueberry and Corn Galette.
I recently attended a food photography workshop at The Urban Element. The class was taught by two very gifted Montreal food photographers, Ariel Tarr and Valeria Bismar. Together they run The Illuminated Table.
I have been experiencing blogging fatigue, struggling with what to write about and feeling like I’m stuck in a rut with my photography and food styling. The opportunity to attend this workshop came at the perfect time. It was great to connect with other like-minded food obsessed women.
I came away feeling inspired to step away from my comfort zone and change my camera angle. (I rely too heavily on the top down shot) Watching Ariel and Valeria maximize the available natural light galvanized me to abandon my artificial lights and set up next to the window.I also left with some great new food blogs and Instagram accounts to follow. Food blogger Katie was there at the suggestion of her mom. Wish my kids listened to my suggestions!! Denine, a photographer and teacher of photography at Algonquin College was there to pick up a few tips about food photography. Food blogger and cooking show host Eva, and cooking teacher and blogger Maria were both looking to hone their photography and food styling skills.
The workshop was mostly hands on, with lots of opportunity to practice the new skills we were taught. In the afternoon session we had the chance to style and shoot a gorgeous lemon meringue tart. With local strawberries just coming into season, I was inspired to create a strawberry lemon meringue tart. The genius idea of roasting the strawberries, to intensify their natural sweetness and juiciness comes from this Bon Appetit recipe.You could of course make one large tart, but I have mini tart pans and I love to use them any opportunity I get.Time to build the tartlets. A tart lemon filling is topped with sweet and juicy roasted strawberries. I filled my tarts with a lemon cream, but I strongly suggest you fill yours with a lemon curd. The recipe that follows has detailed instructions on how to make a lemon curd. A curd is much more stable than a cream and as a result, the tarts will not get soggy within a few hours. I put the meringue in a piping bag fitted with a star tip and greatly amused myself making different designs. You could also just spoon it on, but then you won’t have as much fun. To brown the meringue I used a kitchen torch, because it’s so satisfying and just a bit dangerous to play with fire. (I know, I live on the edge!) If you don’t have one, a minute or two under the broiler will achieve the same result.
Click here to print recipe for Roasted Strawberry and Lemon Meringue Tarts.
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.
Click here to print recipe for Tomato, Corn and Two Cheese Tart.
The first time I cried, I was halfway through the book “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green. I noticed a slow tricking of tears sliding down my cheeks. Within an hour, there was full on gushing. No question about it, I was sobbing. I went through a full box of Kleenex. For those not familiar with this book, I don’t want to give too much away in case you plan to read it. Let me just say that it is raw, genuine, alternately sad and funny and honestly all-out poignantly heartbreaking.
The book falls under the category of “YA (young adult) Literature.” At their core, YA books are for and about teenagers and pre-teens, usually between 12 and 18 years old. Full disclosure here, I am not in that age category. I will, however, admit that I am a sucker for this genre of writing. I have read the Harry Potter series (All seven books. TWICE!), the Twilight series (Team Jacob all the way!), and the Hunger Games series. The thing about these books is that good writing is good writing. If the characters are believable and the plot is compelling, its appeal will span a wide age range.
The second incidence of tears occurred this week, as I was binge watching “The Big C”, late at night when sleep eluded me. It was during the third episode of season 4 when again I noticed the quiet dribble of tears making their way, ever so slowly, down my cheeks. The main character, Cathy (brilliantly played by Laura Linney) has terminal melanoma. To ease the burden for her husband and son, she selflessly checks herself into a hospice to die. Her 17 year old son feels totally helpless and wants to do something for his mom. He sneaks into the hospice at 5:00 am and while his mom is deep in a morphine-drip induced slumber, he covers the ceiling above her bed in a huge collage of family pictures. When she wakes up and sees what he has done, it is all I can do to hold it together.
If my children are reading this, you now know what to do with those thousands of pictures I tortured you by taking as you were growing up.
As I thought about my tears, specifically how they began as a leisurely crawl and progressed to a full on waterfall, I couldn’t help but make the maple syrup analogy. (Even in my deepest sorrow, food is not far from my thoughts. I must have a well developed right cerebral cortex!) When maple trees are tapped for their sap, the initial flow is just a mere dribble. As the weather warms up, the flow increases.
Our friend, Harold, who lives close to our cottage has a sugar bush. Every spring he gives us a 2 litre jug of maple syrup. Last summer I baked some raspberry tarts for him. He asked me if I had ever made maple tarts. He said they are just like butter tarts, but instead of corn syrup to sweeten them, you use maple syrup.
Butter tarts are the quintessential Canadian treat. Sadly, my experience with butter tarts does not come from a tattered recipe handed down from generation to generation. For me, butter tarts will always be associated with the summers I worked as a counsellor at an overnight camp. On our day off, my friends and I would hitch hike from camp into the nearby town of Haliburton Ontario. When I think about some of the rides we accepted, climbing into the back of pick up trucks with strange men, I shudder. But, in our defence, we were young and the part of our brain that deals in common sense was not yet fully formed.
When we arrived in town our first stop was the laundromat. Then, while our clothes were spinning, we shopped at Foodland, for a picnic lunch and treats to keep us fed until our next day off, as camp food was less than stellar. We would park ourselves on the beach by the lake and eat our feast. We always finished with a huge box of butter tarts. They were tooth achingly sweet but we craved that sugar rush. The main source of sugar came from high fructose corn syrup. We had no idea what an evil thing it was in those days.
So when Harold told me that you could substitute maple syrup for the corn syrup, I felt my insides do a little flip! Could it possibly be true? He brought me a recipe and I tucked it away, vowing to try them as soon as the sap began running again in the spring. It just seemed wrong to make maple tarts in the summer. Well, I am thrilled to report to you that, yes, maple tarts are real, and they’re spectacular!I fiddled a little bit with Harold’s recipe and added some whole-wheat flour. I like the earthy depth of flavour that it contributes. I also browned the butter in the filling. Browned butter has an intense aroma and nutty flavour that really complements the maple syrup in the filling. These tarts are undeniably sweet, but the flavour profile is layered, with the molasses in the brown sugar contributing an assertive acidic sweetness, while the maple syrup adds a deep, caramelized toasty sweetness. There is a touch of cider vinegar and salt in the filling, to help balance all the sweetness. The dough comes together fairly quickly. No food processor is needed. I used Michael Smith’s dough recipe. His method involves grating frozen butter into the flour and then using your hands to gently knead it.
I added toasted chopped pecans and raisins to mine, but feel free to leave them out if you like.When you brown the butter for the filling, stay by the stove and watch closely. It can turn from brown to black in the blink of an eye. Transfer it to a measuring cup when it reaches the perfect shade of brown. This will stop the cooking process instantly. It will smell nutty and toasty. Resist the urge to sample as soon as they come out of the oven. Let them cool completely before you try to remove them from the muffin pan.