I wouldn’t characterize myself as a greedy person, but something takes over me when I drive by a farm stand or visit a farmers market. I always buy way more than I can possibly eat. It happened to me last week with local summer strawberries. Winter strawberries trick you into thinking they will be good, but when you cut into them, the white centres are so disappointing. These local ones were deep crimson, inside and out!I needed to use these up fast before they spoiled. No to pie, cobbler, crisp, galette and jam. Been there, done that. I wanted to make something new. And then this recipe for oven dried strawberries popped up in my inbox. Unlike dehydrated strawberries, which are quite dry and leathery, these oven dried strawberries are chewy, with a plump, juicy consistency. The roasting really concentrates the berry flavours.
Halved strawberries are mixed with a bit of sugar and allowed to macerate for about 30 minutes. Spread them out on a non-stick silicone baking mat and cook at 200°F for about 3-4 hours, until dried at the edges, but still juicy in the center. Once dried, they will keep in the fridge for about a week.These berries made their way into a seriously delicious salad. The sweet strawberries play beautifully with the bitter arugula and salty halloumi. Toasted hazelnuts bring the crunch.Fried halloumi is one of the cheese world’s greatest inventions. If you’ve never tried it, you’re in for a treat. It’s kind of hard to describe. Salty and squeaky/firm on the outside and creamy and melty in the center.
The finishing touch was a drizzle of Mike’s Hot Honey over the fried halloumi. Sheer perfection. I met creator Mike Kurtz about 4 years ago on a NYC pizza tour. He pulled a bottle out of his bag on our third stop and offered us all a little squirt on our pizza. I was hooked! Sweet heat with cheese is fantastic. I buy mine online here in Canada from The Vanilla Food Company.
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.
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!)