Tag Archives: Melissa Clark

Grilled Asparagus and Farro Salad

On blue oval platterAs 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.3 platesLast 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.peeling asparagusready for grillinggrillingThe 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. Lime Soy DressingI 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. close up

Click here to print recipe for Grilled Asparagus and Farro Salad.

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Cultured Butter Cookies

with-latte-and-sugar-cubesIf there were a “little black dress” of the cookie world, this cookie would be it. Simple and elegant, much like I imagine Melissa Clark, creator of this cookie, to be. Cultured Butter Cookies, perfect for any occasion, need to become a staple in your cookie wardrobe.

A rather unassuming little cookie, but appearances can be deceiving. When a cookie lists flour, butter and sugar (along with a little salt, baking powder and an egg yolk), as the only ingredients, then quality matters. That’s where the cultured butter comes in.

For the uninitiated, here’s a little butter making history. (I always consider it a great day when I learn something new!) Many years ago all butter was made with “cultured” cream. After the evening milking the farmers left the cream to sit out overnight so that the milk would settle and the cream would rise to the top of the bucket. Without refrigeration, the naturally occuring bacteria in the milk caused it to sour slightly, giving it a tangy nuttiness. This cultured cream, once churned into butter, retained that delicious flavour.

Once dairy farmers began pasteurizing their milk, all the active cultures were killed and the cream no longer soured on its own. If they wanted cultured cream they would have to add an additional step in the butter making process and add live cultures back into the pasteurized milk. In an effort to save time and money, North American farmers skipped this step and made butter from sweet cream.

We grew accustomed to the mellow flavour of butter churned from sweet cream. But over in Europe, they never stopped adding live cultures back into the pasteurized cream. When we began importing these European cultured butters into North America people were surprised at how different this butter tasted. Cultured butter is a higher-fat product (86% butterfat vs 80% for regular butter), which in turns makes the butter more silky and gives it a richer taste. The complex tanginess is very pronounced.

When the flavour of butter is front and center, it’s worth the extra money to buy cultured  butter. simple-ingredientsThe dough comes together quickly and then it’s essentially a slice and bake cookie. The dough gets rolled in coarse sanding sugar for a little glitter, because even cookies need a bit of bling!rolling-log-in-sanding-sugarslicingcooling-on-rackThese cookies are crumblier, crisper and more buttery in flavour than a traditional butter cookie. Sometimes simple is best.tied-up

Click here to print recipe for Cultured-Butter-Cookies.

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Caramelized Leek and Potato Soup

serving soupI have been transfering my liquid dish soap into beautiful glass bottles ever since I was inspired by this. That was in 1993, long before #hatemartha was trending. For the record, I am firmly in the #lovemartha camp. She is all about making everyday life aesthetically pleasing. She speaks my language.

While my husband doesn’t share this passion, he does tolerate it. However, I think I pushed him to the brink this week when I bought a charming new glass bottle for the liquid dish soap. soap bottleHe complained that the soap is very slow to come out. I turned the bottle upside down and counted. Yes, it takes a full 7 seconds for the soap to drip into the dirty dishes. I told him he was viewing it with the wrong lens. He simply needs exchange his impatience for anticipation. He just smiled and nodded, a trick that I taught him. My little secret for how to have a happy marriage. You’re welcome.

This is not a quick cook soup. It too, requires some patience. But while you are caramelizing the leeks, just anticipate how delicious it will taste. A traditional leek and potato soup (vichyssoise) is pureed smooth and served cold. The leeks are very briefly sautéed before the potatoes and stock are added. In this version, created by New York Times columnist Melissa Clark, the leeks are cooked until golden brown. If you haven’t already, you need to sign up for the New York Times Cooking Newsletter. Wonderful daily inspiration!

You can’t hurry caramelizing onions. They must be cooked over a low heat for a good 25-30 minutes. Turn up the heat and you will burn them, resulting in bitter onions.in white bowl 2 625 sqdicing leeksThe leeks are sautéed in a mixture of butter and olive oil. At first it seems like you have way too many leeks, but they eventually shrink down to a very small pile, of golden delicousness.raw leeks 1caramelized leeksFlavouring this soup is a supporting cast of fresh herbs. Sage, bay, thyme, parsley and celery leaves get tied up in a cheesecloth bundle to impart their goodness to the soup. I used a mixture of vegetable stock and water, but I think I would use all water next time, to really let the leek flavour shine through.bouquet garni Yukon golds are the potatoes of choice. I peeled, halved and thinly sliced them.slicing potatoesI very coarsely pureed the soup with a few bursts of power from my hand held immersion blender. I really like to leave the soup mostly chunky.soup pot

Click here to print recipe for Caramelized Leek and Potato Soup.in white bowl on wood and white marble server

Roasted Squash with Smoked Paprika, Maple Syrup and Sage Salt

Roasted squash 2 625 sqWhile home for a visit last weekend, my daughter observed the mess on our dining room table and expressed the opinion that perhaps I may have developed a bit of a hoarding problem. “Don’t you think you’ve acumulated enough food photography props mom?” she asked.DR tableClearly she doesn’t understand. Those are all spring/summer props. Now I need to start acquiring appropriate fall/winter props. While some parents turn their kid’s vacated bedrooms into gift wrapping quarters or perhaps an extra closet to store off season clothing, it is entirely possible that her bedroom may be converted into my props closet, if I continue collecting at my current rate.

Of course it doesn’t help when my sister sends me these charming bowls. They were intended as nut bowls, but they are just perfect as mise en place bowls for a photo shoot!  I let out a squealed with joy when I opened my gift. I have an extreme fondness for bowls! The colour combination of these little vessels is just gorgeous. little bowlsShe found them in Toronto at The Cookery Store. I have since discovered you can also get them online at Fishs Eddy.

I had a glut of winter squash after a recent photo shoot, and I needed to use them up before they went bad. My go-to ingredient for roasting vegetables is smoked paprika. It just makes everything taste better. The inspiration for this roasted squash hails from Melissa Clark’s book, Cook This Now. She mixed smoked paprika with olive oil and honey and smeared it all over squash before roasting. I swapped out the honey for some maple syrup, because that’s just the way we Canadians roll!ingredients

brushing squashMelissa suggests finishing the roasted squash with a sprinkling of homemade sage salt. So simple to make; just bake some fresh sage leaves for about 10 minutes, until crispy. Then crumble them between your fingers with some coarse sea salt. Earthy, and slightly bitter, sage makes a perfect partener for sweet squash. A final sprinkling of toasted pumpkin seeds adds a welcome crunch.

Click here to print recipe for Roasted Squash with Maple Syrup, Smoked Paprika and Sage Salt.

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Pomegranate Molasses Glazed Carrots

ready to eat 2 625 sqYou know it’s January because every food blogger worth her salt is writing about the joys of vegetables . Those sweet food porn days of December are long gone, buried under the 5 pounds of butter and sugar, tucked oh so discretely under a layer of skin, in my case, just below where my waist used to be.

Although we squeal with delight and burble over with joy at summer produce (remember wild blueberries?), winter in the produce aisle can produce some gush worthy moments as well. It just requires a bit more work.

Carrots are often bypassed as too pedestrian, but in deft hands, carrots can be magical. These carrots were way too pretty to leave behind at the supermarket.carrots in a circle 2I have a secret ingredient that turns ordinary roasted carrots into something quite special. It’s pomegranate molasses. Not actually molasses at all, but just pure pomegranate juice, and a bit of sugar boiled down and reduced to a thick, syrupy reduction. Dip your finger into this thick, garnet coloured syrup and you will be instantly transported back to your childhood! sweet tarts fIf you are of a certain age you will remember with fondness that powerful puckering of your lips from these candies. Pomegranate molasses has that tart/sweet quality, but in a grown up way. It adds an intense earthy depth of flavour to so many things. I have been using it in a chicken sauce for years now, and everyone who eats it always asks, “what is in this sauce?” It can be found in many supermarkets now, as well as in Middle Eastern specialty shops. If you can’t find it, here is a recipe from Alton Brown to make your own pomegranate molasses.

 

The idea of roasting carrots with pomegranate molasses came from Melissa Clark’s book “In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite.” The first time I made them, I found the flavour to be delicious but the carrots were a bit shrivelled in appearance and leathery in texture. As I thought about how to avoid this issue, I remembered that I boil potatoes for a few minutes before roasting to get a crispy not leathery skin. I wondered if the same treatment with carrots would work? I peeled them and cut them on the diagonal, to increase the surface area that would come into contact with the roasting pan. peeling carrots They got a quick 2 minute dip in boiling salted water. Then I drained them on paper towels for a few minutes before roasting.boiling carrotsdraining carrotsI tossed them with a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne and roasted them in a hot (425°F) oven for about 45 minutes. I added the pomegranate molasses and some honey during the last 5 minutes of roasting as I did not want them to burn.ready for oven

pouring glaze on carrotsThe finished carrots were crispy without being leathery. The pinch of cayenne added a nice kick and the pomegranate molasses added an amazing sweet tart punch. I gilded the lily and sprinkled on some pomegranate seeds. They glistened like little jewels.

Click here to print recipe for Pomegranate Molasses Glazed Carrots.

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