Monday, September 1, 2014

summer: nova scotia

I promised to show you Nova Scotia. Let's go to Cape Split.

One morning, we got up early to drive to the Annapolis Valley.

We wound our way through the valley, fields of corn and early-morning storm clouds, out to a little piece of land that juts into the Bay of Fundy.

We walked over patches of mud and tree roots and dry path until we reached the point where the cape actually splits.

We settled into the grass and Queen Anne's lace that carpets the top of the cape, and had our picnic lunch: blueberries, carrots, smeerkaas (spreadable Gouda cheese!), smoked maple sausage and a bit of mint dark chocolate we'd picked up along the way.

It was a nice view for lunch.

one year ago: summer road trip to b.c.
two years ago: cherry peach jam and ode to victoria
three years ago: salmon for dinner
four years ago: peach crisp and tomato zucchini gratin

Sunday, August 24, 2014

summer: prince edward island

When I think back on this summer, I will think of the beauty.

Of the way the sun hit the blue Atlantic and how clouds chased each other across the sky faster than I remembered possible. Of sand dunes and fine red sand between my toes. Of wild raspberries on the beach path and the smell of warm salt air. Of the East Coast in summertime.

Let me show you.

We'll start with Prince Edward Island. Nova Scotia will come in a few days.

These are the Greenwich dunes in Prince Edward Island National Park.

The boardwalk stretches on for ages, leading over bog and marsh and freshwater.

Until suddenly, at the foot of a dune, you take off your shoes for the sandy path and walk barefoot over that dune and right into the Atlantic Ocean.

Later, we drove east  all the way to one of the eastern-most points in North America.

The East Point Lighthouse was built in 1867 and is still manned.

Better keep an eye on that boat.

Waters from the Northumberland Strait and the Gulf of St. Lawrence meet at the foot of the lighthouse.

Dusk falls after a dinner of mussels, halibut and the most exquisite cobbler made with teeny-tiny Island blueberries at the old Shaw's Hotel near Brackley Beach.

Good night.

one year ago: snack chronicles: super fudge
two years ago: finding jim mitchell lake and tarragon three-bean salad
three years ago: tschüss, deutschland! and german groceries
four years ago: rote grütze on ice cream and rosemary corn butter

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

vietnamese noodle and chicken salad

This is a Honolulu-Edmonton noodle dish.

I know what you're thinking: of course, those two cities have so much in common!

Well, here's how it happened. Two years ago, Scott and I ate a Vietnamese-inspired cold noodle salad for lunch sitting out in the courtyard at Café Julia in Honolulu. The salad was so refreshing and so exactly right that we asked the manager to give us hints about what was in it.

I faithfully wrote his few words down. Lime. Fish sauce. Cilantro. I tucked those words away, waiting for just the right time to recreate the salad. But as it turned out, I just needed to wait for my friend Isabelle to have us over for lunch.

A couple weeks ago on a hot Saturday afternoon, Isabelle served us this noodle and chicken salad she had adapted from Nigella Lawson.

The chicken was moist and packed a punch of flavour  which I now know comes from the genius idea of soaking torn pieces in the dressing. And it was a grocery-store roasted chicken! Hallelujah for not heating up the kitchen!

We gobbled it down as if we'd been starving for two years (which we had) and were soon eating the leftover jap chae noodles with a bit of extra sauce dribbled over.

We've already made it twice at home, usually working with whatever we've got handy in the fridge and garden. Last week, that was kale, lettuce, chives, and peas. It does indeed call for lime, fish sauce and cilantro. Those are key ingredients, but we didn't have cilantro last time, so we threw in some sorrel from the garden and it was fantastic.

Now, do you know about Korean jap chae noodles? They are made from sweet potato starch and they're the best noodle ever  transparent and tremendously long with a nice firm elastic bite. We find them in Asian stores: they're worth the trek.

So, there you are: a new summer noodle dish inspired by Honolulu, made in Edmonton.

P.S. Works well in your lunch, too.

one year ago: homemade barbecue sauce
two years ago: eton mess
three years ago: sun tea
four years ago: chocolate raspberry horse turds

vietnamese noodle and chicken salad
adapted from nigella lawson and isabelle
feeds 3  4

2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1/4 – 1 tsp. red pepper flakes (or chili flakes if you like heat)
2 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
1/4 c. fish sauce (nam pla)
juice of 1  2 limes
1/4 c. water
2 tbsp. sugar

 2 c. bought roasted chicken, shredded or torn
500 g. Korean jap chae (sweet potato) noodles or glass (bean) noodles
2 c. greens: tender kale, lettuce, spinach, tender swiss chard, beet greens, mustard greens*, torn if you like
fresh peas, if you have them around
3 green onions, sliced diagonally (or lots of chives, chopped)
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped (or a few leaves of sorrel if you have it)
2 tsp. neutral oil, like canola or grapeseed
1 tsp. + 1 tsp. sesame oil

Whisk all the dressing ingredients together.

Take 1/2 cup of the dressing and toss it well with the torn chicken pieces.

Boil the noodles according to their package directions. Drain and rinse them well with cold water. Toss with 1 teaspoon sesame oil in their pot. Use kitchen scissors to cut through them a few times so they're only a foot long instead of ten feet long (seriously). Mix in the chicken, greens, peas, green onions, and some of the cilantro. Add the oils and see if you'd like to add the reserved dressing  probably you will. If you're having trouble mixing everything, use your hands or two salad tongs and try not to stress out.

Serve with more cilantro sprinkled over top.

* If you have tougher greens, such as old spinach or thick curly kale, steam it a tiny bit first or throw it in at the end of the noodles cooking for a minute.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

oatmeal chocolate cherry cookies

Oh, the power of a humble little cookie.

I work at CBC Radio and with all the government cutbacks over the last little while, morale is low. One Thursday a couple weeks ago, we were all bracing for yet another lay off announcement.

But that morning  before the announcement  we couldn't help but smile. My colleague Niall got up early and made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. He passed his "gratitude cookies" around with little napkins that thanked us for our hard work and said our work was valued.

It was such a small thing but also such a big thing.

It was a reminder that we are still doing good work and that people do care.

Also, his cookies were really good -- warm and comforting in the way that only oatmeal cookies can be. They reminded me how much I love making oatmeal chocolate chip (not raisin) cookies.

Now, making a chewy cookie gluten-free is not an easy feat. I dug out my favourite old Martha Stewart recipe, which I first came across back in 2004. You know, back when it seemed like Martha Stewart was the only reliable recipe provider on the whole world wide web?

This recipe also has the added bonus of calling for dried cherries and toffee bits. I didn't have the toffee bits, but I did have a leftover piece of marzipan calling my name, so I grated it up.

I pulled out my scale and weighed the gluten-free flours and hoped for the best . . .

And you know what?

They baked up chewy and rich, full of comfort and chocolate and cherries and marzipan. A small victory, but I'll take what I can get.

one year ago: asian slaw and silken chocolate mousse
two years ago: salmon with warm tomato basil oil and balancing tofino and the plane
three years ago: kristina's nuss kuchen and german zucchini soup
four years ago: honey orange cream and loganberry jelly

oatmeal chocolate cherry cookies
adapted from Martha Stewart
bakes about 24 3-inch cookies

1 1/2 c. wheat flour
     or gluten-free flours:
     60 g. sweet white sorghum flour
     40 g. pure oat flour*
     60 g. sweet rice flour
     50 g. tapioca starch
     1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 c. butter, room temperature
3/4 c. white sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. oatmeal
1 c. dried cherries, chopped
1 c. dark chocolate chips or pieces
1/4 c. marzipan pieces or 1 c. toffee pieces**

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line your cookies sheets with parchment paper.

Stir the flour(s), salt and baking soda together and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 2  3 minuets. Mix the egg in well. Follow with vanilla extract and make sure you scrape the sides of the bowl down. Slowly add the flour mix and stir until it's fully integrated. Stir in the oatmeal, cherries, chocolate and marzipan/toffee pieces.

Divide the dough into 3 and use plastic wrap to roll 3 logs that are about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Cut into 3/4 inch pieces and place fairly far apart on baking sheets. (I only put 6 on my regular cookie sheets because they like to spread.) If using gluten-free flours, chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

Bake until golden-brown, about 8  10 minutes. Let cool on the pan for a few minutes before removing to a rack.

* I make oat flour by grinding rolled oats in the food processor. Make sure you use "pure" oats, which are not grown near wheat or contaminated in processing.
** You should find toffee pieces in a bag next to the chocolate chips at the grocery store.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

summer salad template: warm asparagus kale salad

Salad doesn't interest me very much.

Usually, I just think, hmmm, fresh vegetables, nice. At home, we make perfectly nice lettuce salads with a simple vinaigrette . . . but I almost never go back for seconds.

Occasionally, and I mean occasionally, a salad makes me sit up straight and look at the big blue glass salad bowl to make sure I can eat some more.

Tonight, we happened upon one of those salads.

We had tender young kale and some local asparagus that needed to be eaten stat. I ripped up the raw kale and tossed it in the bowl, while I set the asparagus to boiling in salted water.

While the asparagus was simmering away, I pulled out a mug and made the vinaigrette. I wanted fairly strong flavours since I knew the asparagus would be sturdy and assertive.

I pulled out the Japanese ume plum vinegar from the back of the cupboard because it has a special kind of round salty flavour to it. Put a splash of that in the mug  maybe one tablespoon? Pulled out the grainy mustard and dropped in a teaspoon or so. Ground salt and pepper over. Drizzled as much maple syrup as I could get from the end of the syrup bottle  maybe three teaspoons?

Whisked it all together and started drizzling in fruity olive oil. I would say I used about three tablespoons of oil all together. Tasted and added another teaspoon of grainy mustard. Tasted again.

When the asparagus was bright green and tender-crisp, I chopped it into inch-long lengths and threw it on the kale. Spooned some vinaigrette over and sent it to the table.

It was absolutely heavenly. Suddenly we had a new summer salad template: raw kale with something steamed or boiled or roasted thrown on top and mixed with vinaigrette. I remembered to take a picture about 30 seconds before we ate it all.

With our bumper crop of kale, we will do this throughout the summer. I think you should, too.

You can make endless variations on the vinaigrette. Start with some kind of vinegar  red wine, sherry, rice  and mix it bit with a bit of mustard and something sweet, like maple syrup, honey or sugar. Grind a good amount of salt and pepper over it. Then slowly whisk in any kind of oil you like, about three times as much as the vinegar you used. Taste, season again, and toss with your summer salad.

Here's to summer salads!

Bonus photo!
North Saskatchewan River at 10:15 p.m. on the summer solstice.

one year ago: chewy granola bars and longest day link love
two years ago: hop & go fetch it: pacific rim edition and penne with sausage and greens
three years ago: tomato cheddar soufflé with asparagus and kathleen claiborne's hot cakes
four years ago: chilli pasta

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

quick zucchini sauté

I first learned to cook zucchini this way last November.

Now   boom!   I can't seem to cook it any other way.

I was hosting a book club potluck dinner where we were reading (that means cooking) Deb Perelman's recipes from Smitten Kitchen. I already make lots of Deb's recipes (hello, dilled potato and cucumber salad!) but I wanted to try something new for the potluck.

At the same time, I was short on time and ingredients. I was also busy cleaning the house and setting the table for eleven. I had a zucchini in the fridge and found what looked like the easiest recipe on the site.

I was doubtful. I mean, four ingredients and you think it will be amazing? I threw it all together on the stove as the first book clubbers trickled in and set up their dishes.

It took all of five minutes and it changed my world when it comes to zucchini. I don't quite know how to describe it but to say that just a few slivers of toasty almonds really set off the zucchini and the shavings of parmesan make it feel very chic.

It is a very pleasing dish and possibly the best part   besides how it tastes   is that it's equally good at room temperature. That's right: you can make this a few minutes before your guests arrive for a dinner party and you will all be happy campers.

one year ago: chewy granola bars and longest day link love
two years ago: hop & go fetch it: pacific rim edition and penne with sausage and greens
three years ago: tomato cheddar soufflé with asparagus and kathleen claiborne's hot cakes
four years ago: chilli pasta

quick zucchini sauté
via smitten kitchen inspired by the red cat, nyc
as deb notes, you don't really need to measure anything here  just throw it in

  2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. sliced almonds
  2 small zucchini, chopped into small matchsticks
salt and pepper
a few shavings of parmesan cheese*

Heat your skillet or heavy-duty frying pan over medium. Add the olive oil and swirl to warm it up. Stand back (in case the oil spatters) and throw in the almonds. Give them a few stirs. Cook for 1   2 minutes until toasted. Throw in the zucchini and grind a bit of salt and pepper over it. Give them a few quick stirs and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending how big your zucchini is: you're really just warming the zucchini, not cooking it.

Serve hot or at room temperature with a few thin shavings of parmesan cheese.

*I find a sharp vegetable peeler works very well for shaving the parmesan

Thursday, June 12, 2014

penne with smoked trout and asparagus

Thirty-six minutes.

I timed myself twice and that's how long it takes me to make this dinner.

I hope it's still asparagus season where you live, so you can see if you can make it in 36 minutes, too.

And if it's not, maybe you could cheat and buy some California asparagus?

I won't tell.

I would never have thought of combining asparagus, smoked trout and dill with horseradish, but let me tell you: it works.

It all comes together in a tasty, summer-is-so-close-I-can-feel-it kind of way. And did I mention the 36 minutes?

Now, perhaps like me, you're also new to the world of smoked trout.

Good news! We discovered smoked trout at the grocery store a few months ago because it's half the price of smoked salmon . . . and turns out to be equally good with cream cheese on bagels. It also freezes beautifully (yes, I am turning into my mother), so we usually use half the package and freeze the rest.

Turns out, half a package of smoked trout is exactly what you need to make this for dinner. Tonight. In 36 minutes.

one year ago: asparagus and cheese sauce on toast
two years ago: chinese-canadian lettuce wraps and loganberry vinegar
three years ago: oregon hazelnut salad and blueberry rhubarb rum jam
four years ago: chocolate peanut butter oatcakes

penne with smoked trout and asparagus
slightly adapted from canadian living
serves 4

450 g. (1 lb.) asparagus
340 g. (12 oz.) penne
1 c. frozen peas
1 c. (about 115 g./4oz.) smoked trout or smoked salmon, chopped 
1/4 c. fresh dill or parsley, minced
2 tbsp. prepared horseradish
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 c. thick plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
splash of white wine

Snap the old ends off the aparagus and cut into 2.5 cm (1 inch) pieces. Set aside.

Bring a big pot of water to a boil and salt it well. Cook the pasta for about 9 minutes, until it's about 2 minutes from being cooked to al dente. Throw in the asparagus and peas; cook until the pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes. Scoop out 1 cup of the cooking water and set aside. Drain the pasta, peas and asparagus and put back in the pot.

Stir in the reserved cooking water, trout, dill, horseradish, olive oil and yogurt. Add a splash of white wine and stir in. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

buttermilk cookies en route to calgary

I firmly believe that road trips should involve at least one small tub of homemade cookies.

Poppyseed rugelach have been a favourite, as have salted chocolate cookies. Right now, I'm really into buttermilk cookies.

These cookies are pale-gold and soft, with a smear of just-sweet buttermilk glaze. I think of them like a muffin in my ideal world, even though they are not like a muffin at all. I mean that they're small, and they taste good, and they feel just a little bit virtuous, like they're a legitimate snack. You know? (If only real world muffins lived up to those ideals.)

So, we needed cookies for a road trip to Calgary and these are the cookies we ate. Calgary is just three hours away from Edmonton, due south down a highway that boasts rolling grain fields and speeding black SUVs.

Now that we live in Edmonton we're not supposed to like Calgary. In fact, I staunchly defended Edmonton as the much superior city in Alberta . . . until I actually visited Calgary last weekend.

Of course, Edmonton is still the best but Calgary, well 

There's that mountain-blue river winding along next to downtown.

There's that friendly little diner that is so amazing we ate there twice in one weekend.

There's that perfect meat  specifically, tuna conserva, roast chicken and steak with chimichurri sauce.

There's that fantastic shoe store and all your friendly people . . .

Calgary, I just might need to visit again.

See how happy I am at this diner?
I believe I could live here, sipping cream of assam tea.

one year ago: cauliflower and mull cheddar soup
two years ago: mango love on oahu
three years ago: dutch marzipan cookies (also an excellent road trip cookie)
four years ago: asparagus on pizza and chocolate nut balls

buttermilk cookies with lemon zest
slightly adapted from Orangette adapted from Gourmet
bakes about 40 little cookies

for the dough
1 1/2 c. wheat flour
     or gluten-free:
     60 g. sorghum flour
     30 g. almond flour
     60 g. sweet rice flour
     60 g. tapioca starch
     1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
85 g. (6 tbsp.) butter, at room temperature
130 g. (3/4 c.) sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
80 g. (1/3 c.) well-shaken buttermilk

for the glaze

3/4 c. icing (confectioner's) sugar, sifted
1 1/2 tbsp. well-shaken buttermilk
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Prepare two big cookie sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Whisk the flour(s), baking soda and salt together. Stir in the lemon zest.

Beat the butter until creamy, and then beat the sugar in until pale and fluffy. Beat the egg in. Mix the vanilla in. Alternate between stirring the flour mixture and the buttermilk in. Your dough should end up smooth and pale yellow.

Make small cookies by dropping tablespoons full of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 4 cm (1 1/2 inches) spaces between. If you used gluten-free flours, chill for at least 10 minutes in the fridge.

Bake one sheet at a time for about 11  15 minutes, until the cookies have puffed up and they look slightly golden around the edges (or are golden on their undersides). Let the cookies cool for a minute on the tray; then transfer them to a wire rack.

While the cookies are baking, prepare the glaze. Whisk the icing sugar, buttermilk and vanilla together until it's very smooth. Use a teaspoon to spoon the glaze onto the warm cookies.

Leave cookies on the rack until they're cooled and the glaze is set. Store in an airtight container for a few days or in the freezer for longer, layering with parchment paper.