Smoky Roasted Gazpacho Soup

2 green bowls FIt probably wouldn’t shock you to learn that I am a very organized person. Each spring, I dump out the stale spices in my alphabetized drawer and buy fresh ones. The only one I never have to toss is the smoked paprika. I go through that stuff on a stunningly regular basis. It make everything taste better. It typically sneaks it’s way onto roasted vegetables, like cauliflower, sweet potatoes, squash and carrots. I recently made a smoked paprika and garlic vinaigrette  that took roasted broccoli to another dimension.

Smoked paprika has that transcendent ability to take a dish to a very delicious new height.3 bowls on yellow platesThis soup was adapted from a roasted vegetable gazpacho that I stumbled upon while browsing through Donna Hay’s Modern Classics: Book 1. I have most of her books and regularly use them for styling and photography inspiration. Her collaboration with photographer Con Poulos has created multitudes of awe inspiring images.

Donna’s soup was heavy on the roasted red peppers and light on the roasted tomatoes. I flipped this because I love tomatoes way more than peppers. When I saw the addition of smoked paprika, I knew I had to try it.tomatoes and peppersquartering tomatoesroasted pepperspeeling peppersblendingAfter blending I took a taste and decided that the heat and smoky flavour needed to be boosted. A teaspoon of my favourite chipotle tabasco made all the difference! Additional smokiness without painful heat.one white bowlI diced up some red peppers and cucumbers to garnish the soup and served it with some grilled    sourdough for dipping. After chilling in the fridge overnight the soup was even richer and deeper in flavour the next day. one green bowl

Click here to print recipe for Smoky Roasted Gazpacho Soup.

one yellow bowl F

 

Killer Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

ready 625 sqSome days, it seems like the world is covered in jagged, sharp edges. Nothing goes smoothly and everything irritates you. When you wake up on the dark side of the mattress, plan on having this grilled cheese sandwich for dinner.

Gooey, crispy, salty and buttery, it comforts like nothing else can.

This sandwich is based on the “Grilled Cheese with a Twist” I ate at Milk Truck’s Smorgasburg location a few years ago. Crafted from aged Wisconsin gruyere, champagne vinegar pickled onions and  whole grain Dijon mustard on Blue Ribbon Bakery Jewish Rye, it was a revelation for me. I have put caramelized onions in my grilled cheese before, but never pickled onions. The sharp tang of the vinegar cut right through the rich fatty cheese and created such flavour balance.

I substituted shallots for onions, because they are sweeter and milder. pickled shallots For my version, I decided upon a combo of cheeses. I used mild, buttery Fontina because It melts like a dream and gives you a really ooey gooey center. Gruyere adds really earthy, nutty flavours to the sandwich. And, rounding out my cheese trifecta was classic mild cheddar. Don’t be tempted to use “old” or “sharp” cheddar for this. It is too dry and crumbly to melt properly.making sandwiches 2A smear of Dijon mustard adds an unexpected tang. I also added a layer of thinly sliced Honeycrisp apple. It added a welcome crunch and tart-sweet component. If you are lucky enough to live in Ottawa, please, please, please, use Rideau Bakery rye bread!

You get much more even browning when you butter the bread, rather than melting the butter into the pan. A very light sprinkling of salt on the buttered bread, before cooking, adds a bonus oomph! But feel free to leave it out if that’s how you roll. I promise not to judge. The key is to cook it low and slow, so that you get it brown and toasty on the outside and completely melted in the center. A lid on the pan will help with thoroughly melting the cheese.cooking

 

sliced closeup

Click here to print recipe for Killer Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.

on black platter

Lime Coconut Squares

with milkA really good lime square should have more than a whisper of citrus flavour. It needs a big shout-out of lip puckering sourness. The base is usually quite sweet, so the topping needs to be really tart. The key to achieving this balance is not as simple as adding more lime juice.  When baking, the juice and zest of citrus fruits react differently. The flavour compounds in the juice are suspended in water, so they evaporate during baking and you are left with only a mild citrus flavour.  Zest, on the other hand, contains essential oils that do not dissipate with the heat of the oven, so the pucker power remains strong.

Lime and coconut is a perfect pairing for summer, and these bars pack a serious pop of lime flavour. mise en placeCitrus squares typically have a shortbread-like base. I decided to mix things up a bit and added some oats to my base. The dough comes together quickly and can be patted into the pan with your hands, no rolling necessary.mixing basepressing base into panThe filling is mixed in one bowl. Fast and easy.pouring filling on crustspreading filling evenlyLet it snow!let it snowcut into perfect squaresWhile small in stature, these squares are mighty in flavour. The edges of the crust are crunchy but the center remains slightly chewy. The filling is loaded with tart lime and tropical coconut flavours. A dusting of icing sugar provides just the right sweet counterpart to all that pucker.

Click here to print recipe for Lime Coconut Squares.on green plate

Crispy Cheese Breakfast Tacos

With fried egg 2For me, the best part of a grilled cheese sandwich is the rogue bits of cheese that escape, melting and then dripping down the side of the bread, bubbling and browning away on the bottom of the pan, transforming into a lacy crispy disc of cheese. The Italians  have been making these crispy discs for years. They call them Fricos. I have made cheddar-parmesan ones to serve with soup.

The genius folks over at serious eats figured out a way to get that crispy cheesy goodness on a taco. Normally, grated cheese is added to a taco, but that’s kind of humdrum. They fused melted cheese to the taco.

My mind immediately went to breakfast, needing to fill these with eggs, avocado, jalapeño and salsa. If you are just going to make one taco, (and who could eat just one?), then you can certainly make the whole thing in a frying pan. But I wanted to figure out how to make several at a time, in case you are really hungry, or perhaps have a few people to feed.

Start with a parchment lined baking sheet and a 375° oven. I chose cheddar cheese, but feel free to experiment with your favourite. Pepper-jack would be good too. Arrange 1/2 ounce of grated cheese in a 5- by 2-inch rectangle. Repeat until you have about 3 or 4 cheese rectangles on the baking sheet. Bake for about 3 minutes until the cheese starts to melt.Melting cheese 1Melting cheese 2Then lay a fresh corn or flour tortilla  on top of cheese so that roughly half the cheese is covered by the tortilla. For my first batch, I lightly oiled the tortillas, which turned out to be a mistake, because you don’t want the tortilla to become crispy. It must remain soft, pliable and moist,  so you can fold your tortilla in half to eat it. So I briefly dipped the tortillas into a bowl of water before placing them onto the cheese and back into the hot oven. That way, the surface moisture evaporates, steaming the tortillas to give you the perfect supple texture.Melting cheese 3Melting cheese 4When they cool, you can lift them off the baking sheet and each tortilla is now wearing her own crispy cheese mini skirt! Then the fun begins. Fill them with whatever makes you happy.

I created some with scrambled eggs.scrambling eggsscrambling eggs 2With scrambled eggs 625 sqThen I decided to make an open faced one with a fried egg.With fried eggThese are almost as much fun to make as they are to eat.

Click here to print recipe for Crispy Cheese Breakfast Tacos.

 

 

 

Canned Cornbread

Yes I’m fully aware that baking cornbread in tiny tomato paste cans is a bit twee, but I just couldn’t help it. After being served “canned” cornbread at The Tasting Room, I just knew I had to  come home and recreate the experience. Just imagine the surprise on your friends and family’s faces when you lift up the can to reveal cornbread inside. It’s just so much fun. And really, who couldn’t use a little more fun in their day? output_WdoSLZThe most time consuming part of this project is preparing the cans. They need to be greased and floured very well.prepping cansThis cornbread recipe is an old favourite, created by my friend, Pam. I have tried many different recipes in the past 20 years, and I always come back to this one. With both cornmeal and cornflour in the batter, the texture of this cornbread is fantastic. The addition of corn and jalapeño add sweet and heat.ready to bakeThe batter mixes up quickly in one bowl. mixing batterA spring loaded ice cream scoop makes easy work of getting the batter into the cans. DO NOT FILL EACH CAN MORE THAN HALFWAY!filling cans

ready for ovenIf you greased and floured properly, the cornbreads will slide right out. If you missed a few spots like me, some “gentle” coaxing may be necessary.

They are delicious as is or mix up a batch of whipped browned butter to slather on them.

whipped brown butter 1whipped brown butter 2I served them on these adorable safari plates my daughter bought for me. with a glass of wineleopardelephant 625 sq

Click here to print recipe for Canned Cornbread with Whipped Browned Butter.

on blue rectangular platter