Zucchini and I have a complicated relationship. She and her sister, summer squash and her cousin, the adorable pattypan squash, lure me with their shiny skin and vibrant colours. I bring them home from the farmers market, bathe them in olive oil, honey, salt and chile flakes and grill them for a few minutes. Sadly, I am always disappointed by their bland flavour and watery texture. Then I saw a recipe in the June issue of Bon Appetit for Summer Squash and Basil Pasta and I was convinced to give zucchini another chance. Apparently, if you sauté the heck out of the zucchini, for over 15 minutes, it becomes jammy and saucy. That’s when the flavour transformation happens. All the water evaporates out of the zucchini and the flavour becomes concentrated and delicious.
This is my take on the Bon Appetit recipe. I have adapted it slightly.
Slice up lots of garlic and start frying it gently in some olive oil. The original recipe leaves the sliced garlic in the final dish. I don’t love crunching down on big bits of garlic so after the garlic is lightly golden brown and has imparted its gorgeous perfume to the oil, scoop out the sliced garlic and discard it. Zucchini needs salt. Lots of salt. Don’t be afraid. Once the zucchini has wilted down, add some raw corn and keep cooking until the zucchini deepens in colour and gets all jammy. Don’t forget some spicy heat. I used red pepper flakes.I finished the dish with some grated Parmesan, fresh mint, basil and a big dollop of ricotta cheese. If you happen to have any homemade ricotta hanging out in the fridge, even better.
This is my favourite mug. The weight and shape of it feel just right in my hand. It is part of my comforting morning ritual. If you’re wondering, the mug is from Anthropologie,. Sadly, they don’t make them anymore. I bought a bunch of them with the initials of favourite family members and friends so they would feel welcome when visiting. Now I can’t make any new friends, unless their names start with certain letters that I already have on the shelf. Such a dilemma! It would be awkward to serve my new friend Xavier a latte in a letter M mug.Here is my mug from the rear view. With the small chip in the base it’s not quite as attractive as the front view. (Most of us look better coming rather than going) Despite this flaw, the mug is still quite functional, so I refuse to replace it. I am also flawed but functional, so my mug is a perfect analogy for me.
This broccoli salad was created the week before we moved. I had been trying not to shop for any groceries and use up what was in the house, so that we would have less stuff to haul. A lonely bag of pine nuts escaped the freezer purge earlier in the week, so they were added for crunch. A jar of raisins survived the pantry purge, so in they went for sweetness. The top shelf of the fridge held a few Kalamata olives and some leftover pickled shallots. Please don’t chop the florets off your broccoli and discard the stems. Once you peel the outer woody skin, the inside is quite tender.
I had some help in styling this salad from the talent behind the fabulous Instagram account @bowlsand beats (where health and hiphop collide). Full disclosure, she’s my daughter and she was home visiting for the weekend.
This was my first try at styling the salad. I wasn’t thrilled with the composition so I called her in to help.She immediately grouped all the little elements together for greater impact. Better but not quite satisfied, she suggested we try a round bowl instead. Perfect. We shot it with my iPhone for her Instagram page and then we ate!
Hope life is treating you well this week. We are in full-on purge mode around here. We’re planning to downsize shortly. It’s amazing the amount of junk you can accumulate in 23 years. Getting rid of stuff is not my husband’s forte. He still has all his high school essays. (He got an A+ in his Family Studies paper on “The cost of setting up a home for newlyweds” – it was the 70’s!) He kept all the cards from our wedding. We have been married for over 30 years. He also kept every birthday and father’s day card from me and the kids.
I wasn’t hopeful that he would be able to dispose of very much. But once he began shredding, he couldn’t stop. And then he discovered Kijiji. Things have been flying out of here at an alarming rate. It has become quite cathartic for him. I’m afraid that if I stay still for too long he might put me up for sale on Kijiji. I can just imagine the ad:
“Pre-owned, but very well-maintained wife for sale. All parts original. A little slow to start up in the morning, but motor begins purring after an extra-hot latte.” Will accept any reasonable offers.”
This salad was inspired by a forgotten bag of Israeli couscous I discovered sitting at the back of my pantry in a cleaning spree. The addition of roasted butternut squash is the clever idea of Daniel Gritzer over at seriouseats.com. Start by toasting the uncooked Israeli couscous in a bit of olive oil.Add boiling water and salt and cook couscous.I recently learned that squash is an excellent source of potassium. Apparently acorn squash is the champion, but butternut is a close second, and I find it much easier to peel. All those ridges in acorn squash scare me. If you need a primer on peeling and cutting butternut, check out the video in this post. Toss squash with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Add some smoked paprika too, because everything is better with smoked paprika.A jolt of freshness is provided by lots of green (scallions, mint and parsley) and yellow (lemon).
As parents, I believe one of our most important jobs is to create memories for our children. Certain aromas or sounds can instantly evoke specific memories or feelings. It only takes a shake of Ajax cleansing powder and a squirt of Joy dishwashing liquid to transport me right back to the kitchen of my childhood. The combo of Ajax and Joy was my mom’s special recipe for disinfecting the sink after dinner each night. The scent was sinus clearing and most certainly responsible for the loss of a few brain cells. But we had the shiniest sinks in the neighbourhood.
If you were to ask my children, undoubtedly, they would tell you that the annoying whir of my cobalt blue Braun immersion blender was the soundtrack to their childhood. Each morning, they were roused from a deep sleep to the sound of their mom frothing milk for her morning latte. (This was before Nespresso machines with milk frother attachments) No need for alarm clocks in our house.
I hope that I have created other memories for my children, that were perhaps a bit more pleasant.Last weekend was the start of cottage season and we had a full house. My youngest son was there as well as my daughter and 3 of her friends. A few days earlier the girls had decided that they wanted to eat healthy for the weekend, so I was instructed to please not bake anything tempting. I made this salad for our lunch on Friday. It was met with rave reviews. It’s not really a grain salad, as the farro only plays a supporting role. The real star of this salad are the fat spears of sweet asparagus, charred to perfection on the outside but still maintaining a bit of crunch in the center.
The inspiration for this recipe came from Melissa Clark, over at www.cooking.nytimes.com. She roasted the asparagus in the oven, but I wanted to officially start grilling season. I like fat spears of asparagus and I peel the bottom third of each spear because that’s how I was taught to do it at my very first restaurant job.The dressing for the salad packs a flavour punch. Lime juice, garlic, soy sauce and olive oil are whisked together and mixed with the cooked farro. This is a great make ahead salad as the farro can sit in the dressing for several hours. The asparagus and green onion can sit for about 30 minutes before serving. I decided on a bed of peppery arugula and bitter radicchio. Toss the farro with the salad greens and top with the grilled vegetables. Using a vegetable peeler, shave thin shards of Parmesan cheese over the top of this salad.
I am not exactly a fully immersed and loyal subject of the social media kingdom. While I do have an Instagram account, I came late to the game and don’t post very frequently. Like all social media, it sometimes leaves me feeling just a teeny bit jealous. Like when I see posts like this, this, and this.
Local asparagus, rhubarb or spring peas have not yet arrived in my neck of the woods, but I am still craving something fresh and crunchy. Enter the humble carrot. Much like that shy kid you knew in school, carrots possess way more charisma than we give them credit for. One of mother nature’s most versatile creations, they can be juiced, braised, stir-fried, roasted, pureed, whipped and baked. Equally at home in savoury and sweet applications, carrots are an unsung hero in the kitchen.
Bonus points if you can find rainbow carrots, but regular carrots will be equally delicious. Start with a quick pickling of a shallot and some raisins. If you have some fancy champagne vinegar in the pantry, now’s the time to bust it out. If not, regular white wine vinegar will also work. Give the vinegar, sugar and salt some time to do their magic and get on with the rest of the salad. Julienning carrots is a breeze if you have a mandoline. If not, here’s the perfect time to practice your knife skills. I made a video showing you the safest and quickest way to do it. If you can’t be bothered to julienne, simply shaving the carrots with a vegetable peeler would be a good alternative. I just prefer the crunch that you get with julienned carrots.
Mint and Italian parsley add the verdant freshness I am craving this time of year. This salad touches all the bases. The raisins and honey add a welcome whisper of sweetness. Bitter radishes and spicy red pepper flakes punch back at that sweetness. Pistachios add a satisfying crunch. And bonus! This salad tastes even better the next day.