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Posts Tagged ‘summer’

If harvest season were a novel, this would be the denouement.

For the past few months we’ve had farm-fresh produce delivered right to our door through a CSA with our neighbour’s family farm, and it’s been a fantastic experience. Unpacking the box every Saturday afternoon felt a bit like Christmas: what do we get this week? Raspberries! Baby kale! Golden beets! I’m sure it was just a few weeks ago that the volume and variety of veg in the box reached a fever pitch, but now it’s tapering off, and this week we’ll see our last box.

One thing I have especially enjoyed about the CSA is how seamlessly the season unfolded. First, shoots and greens, then ripe juicy veg, then the hardened and sturdier roots and gourds. Of course, the progression isn’t neat and tidy; along with the last of something you get the first of something else. Like the last of the tomatoes, and the first autumm squash.  This first squash was funny, though – pale, tender flesh like zucchini, skin as tough as an autumn squash. Not quite summer squash, not quite autumn squash.

What to do? Turn on the oven, I thought.

A long slow bake does wonders for both squash and tomatoes, after all. Toss in some leeks, fresh herbs and a generous sprinkle of parmesan cheese, and you’ve got yourself a delightful side dish. Or, with a fried egg and some crusty bread, a divine brunch.

Few better ways to say goodbye to summer’s last veg.

 

Tomato and Squash Gratin
serves 4 as a side dish

1 tbsp. olive oil
2 small leeks, sliced

1 pound summer squash, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 pound ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/4 cups grated parmesan
salt and pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil

Heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cook the leeks: In a medium-sized skillet over medium heat, saute the leeks until soft and lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Spread the leeks evenly in the botton of an oiled square baking dish, and let them cool.

To assemble the gratin, start with sprinkling some of the chopped herbs over the cooked leeks. Starting at one of the baking dish, lay down a row of slightly overlapping tomato slices,propped up slightly at an angle, and sprinkle them with herbs, salt and pepper. Cover the tomatoes with parmesan. Next, arrange a layer of squash slices over the tomatoes and repeat with the seasonings. Repeat with alternating layers of tomatoes and squash, seasoning and covering with cheese, until the pan is full. Sprinkle the whole thing with a healthy pinch of salt and pepper, the remaining herbs and cheese, and drizzle the whole thing with olive oil.

Bake for at least an hour, during which time the juices will bubble and reduce significantly, and the top will be well browned.

Can be made in advance and reheated before serving. This gives the flavours even more chance to get acquainted.

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I have a love/hate relationship with pancakes.

I love to make them and I love to eat them, but I hate they way they leave me hungry an hour after breakfast is over. They’re like the Vietnamese vermicelli of breakfast. As a person with hypoglycemic tendencies who has recently changed my ways in the white flour and sugar department, I’ll treat myself on occasion but I swear I can feel my blood sugar get out of whack. (I’m sure this is just me being paranoid, but there you are.)

But here’s the thing. I have a husband who likes pancakes, and a baby who will happily eat anything starchy. How could I deprive my loved ones of pancakes? To make us all happy, I just need a pancake recipe that includes grains and less white flour, and then I need the will power not to drown my portion in syrup. But first things first: the tinkering.

Smitten Kitchen (a website I love) has a recipe for oatmeal pancakes that I tried once, and turned out fine, but it calls for a cup of cooked oatmeal. Now I can be organized, but not always so organized that I would think to cook extra oatmeal the day before. (Besides, how would I know that I’ll want pancakes the day before I want them? But I digress.) Now the advantage of using cooked oats is so that you get the heft of the oats, all that fibre-y goodness, without the chewy bits of dry/raw oats in the batter. As a compromise, I used both quick-cook oats and oat flour – rolled oats finely ground in the food processor – which both add weight but soften quickly in the batter.

A note on flour. The theory goes that using all whole wheat flour isn’t the best idea in a quick bread, since the bran tends to weigh a batter down. Despite that fact that I would rather leave out the white flour as much as possible, I do use a bit because I still can’t shake the notion that a quick bread recipe needs a bit of flour that is unencumbered by bran, for the sake of its structural integrity.  That said, I’m sure that you could substitute whole wheat flour for white in this recipe and it would likely turn out fine.

Come to think of it, you could probably get a fluffier pancake if you sub the yogurt for buttermilk. I just don’t like to use too much buttermilk in pancakes because then they turn out too tangy for my liking.

Anyway, these pancakes, they made me happy. I even made them into blueberry pancakes to celebrate the joyous height of fruit season.  Blueberries in the pancakes and on the side, plus some ripe perfect peaches on top. And a bit of lightly sweetened ricotta to add a tiny bit more protein. Oh yay.

The family approved.

And you know what? That breakfast kept me going straight through till lunch.

Blueberry oatmeal pancakes
makes about 16 four-inch pancakes

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup quick-cook oats
1/2 cup oat flour or finely ground oats
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup yogurt
1 1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp. honey
3 tbsp. melted butter
2 eggs

approximately 1/2 cup of blueberries
extra melted butter for the pan

Combine the dry ingredients: in a bowl, whisk together the white, whole wheat and oat flours, quick-cook oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the yogurt, milk, honey and melted butter. Add the eggs last, one at a time, taking care not to overmix. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients, folding the batter gently. Mix just to combine. A slightly lumpy batter is okay.

Heat your favourite skillet over medium heat until a couple of drops of water sizzle in the pan. (You can speed up the process by using two skillets at a time.) Brush the pan with melted butter and working quickly, use a quarter-cup measure to drop the batter in the pan, two or three at a time.  When bubbles form on the surface, drop a few blueberries onto the top sides of the pancakes. A pancake is ready to flip when bubbles are evenly distributed throughout the surface and the edges are slightly dry. Flip and cook another minute or two, and keep warm in the oven until all the pancakes are ready.

Serve warm with maple syrup and more blueberries. I also highly recommend some lightly sweetened ricotta.

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End-of-summer plum ginger tart

The first day of school has come and gone, the days and nights are growing cooler, but I’m still wearing my sandals, dammit, and likely will be until October, when the mercury dips low enough to necessitate socks.

And as we ease through the transition from high summer’s lush stone fruit to the this season’s fresh apples and pears, I made this tart the other night with some plums.

It’s taken me a long time to become comfortable with making pie pastry. I’m always worried about overmixing it and having it turn out too tough, or not letting it rest enough and having it shrink in the oven. For a while I thought that making classic flaky pie pastry, like the knack for getting your whites really white, was the domain of our mothers and grandmothers – you had to be inducted into that secret society before you really got the hang of it.

One of my last cooking jobs, where I had to make pies every other day, helped cure me of that.  It’s all about practice, pure and simple. And also confidence. Sure, there are tricks, like adding some vinegar or even vodka to the water – and these have merit. But for me the bottom line is that as long as all of your ingredients are very cold, and you don’t mix it too much, you’ll be ok. You can even add a bit more water than you think you should, and it will be ok.

But for those of us who, unlike our grandmothers, aren’t in the habit of whipping up a pie on a regular basis, this pastry is a breeze. And the freeform shape means you don’t even have to trifle with a pie plate. Easy as pie.

Plum Ginger Tart
serves 6 virtuously, or 4 generously

For the pastry:

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/4 cornmeal
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter or shortening (or a mix of both)
ice water

For the filling:

1 1/2 pound of plums (about 6), sliced thin
1/2 cup sugar (to taste)
1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp. flour

1 egg for egg wash
parchment paper for baking, cut large enough to fit a cookie sheet

First, make your pastry: In a bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt. With a pastry cutter or two butter knives, cut in the shortening until it looks like a crumbly mixture, with some pea-sized pieces of shortening in it. Add in 2 tablespoons of ice water, then additional tablespoons of water if needed. The dough should stick together when squeezed.  Shape the dough into a flat disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill it in the fridge for an hour. (If you’re impatient like me, you can probably roll it out after a half-hour, but I found it crumbled a bit too easily and would have benefited from the extra resting.)

Make the filling:  In a bowl, mix the plums, ginger and sugar together. This would be a good time to taste the fruit and make sure the sweetness is to your liking. Depending on the sweetness of the fruit, you might want to add another few tablespoons. Once you’ve got that tweaked to your liking, add the flour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Shape the tart: Lightly flour the parchment paper, and roll out the pastry to approximately 14 inches around. Transfer the crust, parchment and all, onto a large baking sheet.

Pile up the filling in the centre, leaving about 2 inches around for a border. Fold the border over the fruit. You can try to make this all pleated and pretty, but I think the tart will be just as attractive – call it rustic – if it cracks here and there. Some juices may spill out onto the parchment paper, but that’s why you have it there.

Bake the tart for 40 to 45 minutes, until the crust is brown and the filling is bubbling. Let it cool for 15-20 minutes. This will be a test of your willpower, but it helps the juices congeal a bit so you don’t lose them when you slice the tart. 

Best served warm or at room temperature, but if you happen to eat some leftovers (ha!) straight out of the fridge, well, I’m not one to judge.

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Corn salad

 This salad is perfect for these days when you have too much corn on the cob on your hands. Or, just a good excuse to buy way too much corn.

After all, the end of summer is here, folks. Best to enjoy it while we can.

Deliciously simple. No sense measuring here, just mix together in proportions that suit your taste:

Cooked fresh corn
cherry tomatoes, cut in half
green onions, minced
fresh basil, shredded
cider vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Delightful  served warm or cold.

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