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.
Once local asparagus shows up, you know that flip flops and a chilled glass of rosé can’t be too far behind. This tart is a splendid way to showcase asparagus, Post-Asparagus Stinky-Urine Disorder, be damned.Mild, milky ricotta is the ideal partner for asparagus. They complement each other perfectly. Ricotta can be a bit bland, so I added lemon zest, lemon juice and red pepper flakes to ramp up the flavour. Some grated Gruyere cheese and a beaten egg add some heft to the filling.
For the dough, I decided to use Kim Boyce’s Rustic Rye Dough, from her book Good to the Grain. The hearty rye dough stands up quite well against asparagus’ strong flavour.
This dough takes a bit of time and needs several hours to chill. If you don’t have the time or the inclination, I think that this tart would still be very delicious using my go-to simple Galette Dough.Rye flour, all purpose flour sugar and salt are sifted. Cold butter is worked in with your hands. Ice water and cider vinegar bring it all together.Once the dough comes together, let it rest in the fridge for about an hour, then roll it into a rectangle, and fold the rectangle into thirds, like a letter. This is similar to the process of making puff pastry. The dough gets rolled and folded two more times and is then chilled for an additional hour. You can make the dough and the filling components a day ahead and then just assemble and bake before you are ready to eat. I decided to roll the dough into a rectangular shaped tart, but feel free to to roll it into a circle. I have a strong aesthetic sense and I prefer the linear way the asparagus line up in a rectangular tart.
To punch up the flavour profile even more, I spread the tart with a pistachio pesto (recipe from Anna Jones’ A Modern Way to Cook.) Whole grain dijon mustard or a jarred basil pesto would be good substitutes.The border of the tart just gets folded over the filling. No need to be too precise or precious about it. It’s supposed to be rustic. This would be great as a light lunch or dinner, or cut up into smaller squares and served for aperitivo with a freezing cold glass of Prosecco, on the dock. (I have big plans for this tart!)
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.
The curious folks over at America’s Test Kitchen have launched a new digital brand, Cook’s Science. I have a great fondness for understanding why things work in the kitchen. If you’re a food science geek like me, you’ll love it. I subscribed to their newsletter right away, and one of the first recipes to pop up in my inbox was this one for a white bean hummus.
The recipe was actually created to highlight the tepary bean. The tepary bean is higher in protein and fiber than other beans and is one of the most heat and drought tolerant crops in the world. At this time they are only available by mail order. Since I was in a hurry to make this, I just substituted dried white kidney beans (also called cannellini beans).
Of course you can buy ready made hummus at the supermarket. And, in a pinch, most of them are ok. Moving up a level from store bought is hummus made with canned beans. Ultimate hummus can really only be made with dried beans. Yes, it takes a bit of planning ahead, but the ultra smooth silky texture you get is worth it. Baking soda and salt are added to the soaking water. Both of these contribute to breaking down the tough cell walls of beans and contribute to the creamy consistency of the finished hummus. The usual suspects of lemon juice, garlic, tahini and cumin are added to this version. Where the similarity ends however, is how the garlic is added. The garlic is first pureed with the lemon juice and allowed to steep for 10 minutes. The infused lemon juice is strained out and the garlic is discarded. Turns out that the acidity in lemon juice, tames raw garlic’s harsh pungent bite. I love this kitchen hack. I’m excited to try it with vinegar and garlic in my next batch of vinaigrette. Be patient when pureeing the beans. It will take a good four minutes to get a silky smooth hummus. The hummus is finished an herb and olive salad. Parsley and dill add a bright verdant freshness and olives pack a briny salty punch. A topping of toasted pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds add a delicate crunch.