Farmers Feast 02: A Promise of Picnics [Toasted Rye w Labneh, Fava/Sweet Pea/Mizuna Spread + Cold Avocado & Cucumber Soup]

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I promised myself I would picnic more this summer. Spend more time outside, feeling the breeze dance on my skin and the sounds of passing voices buzz in my ear, pack up a cooler filled with cold soups and icy drinks, sandwich-making ingredients and snacks and remember what it was like to not have deadlines breathing hot against my neck, or obligations too important to pass on. 

So far this summer, I’ve managed to fit one picnic in – I’m not all that successful at keeping my word to myself.  That said, it was a very lovely one where we gathered with friends at a dog park nearby, one brilliantly green and lush with weeping willows and an abundance of grassy spots to laze about during the seemingly infinite days of summer.  We drank cold beers (illegally – gasp!) and used a pocket knife to gnaw hunks of Piave cheese onto waiting apple and pear slices. We watched the dogs, tails thwarting back and forth, up and down in cheerful celebration, and rubbed their bellies when they came by for a drink of water and a slice of fruit. It was everything a picnic should have, and could have been. I want more days like that. I vow to make time for them before the absolutely endless days of winter arrive again.

When I arrived at Pascale’s shop to pick up the Farmers Feast basket this month, she explained that she and Tara went with the theme of “green” for the basket, the sides of the it draped in leaves and stalks of every shade from emerald to forest green.  It’s always such a treat poking through the ingredients, marvelling at the freshness of them and gently dusting the dirt from their roots. It was hard to ignore the only non-green sparks of colour from the purple kohlrabi and the crimson radish orbs.   

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Typically, I try to incorporate the Farmers Feast basket into one meal using as many of the ingredients as possible. This time around, Tara and Pascale decided that maybe it would be neat to create a few different dishes using the ingredients. Never being one to turn down a challenge, I got to work thinking of how I wanted to tackle the box and eventually came up with a theme of my own – a picnic lunch! I started out working off a soup and sandwich concept  and came up with a cold, creamy and refreshing soup made with avocados and cucumbers (and topped with salty kohlrabi chips!) and an open faced rye crostini with a kicky garlic scape labneh (salted, strained yogurt that turns thick – almost like cream cheese, but way better), a fava bean/sweet pea/mizuna spread that was sweet and bright and just a tiny bit bitter from the greens, and some thinly sliced radishes to add crunch, colour and a bit of a spicy bite. Everyting married so well - each bite offering creamy, tart, spicy, crunchy, sour and savory. My mouth was happy, my stomach even more so. It’s been absolutely been my favourite Farmers Feast to create, and potentially one of my favourite recipes to post on the blog (which says a lot because I’ve been kicking around here for some time). 

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The key here is that you don’t have to put all the recipes together. You can just make the spread or the labneh, or you can just make the soup on its own. Use what you have in your garden and at your farmers market to decide what you’re able to make, and adapt the recipes based on your produce availability. If you don’t have garlic scapes for the labneh, add half a clove of fresh garlic or even some fresh herbs instead. If you don’t have fava beans, make the spread with just sweet peas. It’s that easy! This is just a guide to what you could be doing with all the greens that summer’s throwing at us right now. 

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The wonderful, tireless farmers that provided the ingredients for this month’s Farmers Feast are: 

Mizuna – Jambican Studio Gardens
Bok Choy – Roots & Shoots Farm
Apple Cider Vinegar – Hall’s Apple Market
Kohlrabi – Luxy Farms
Cucumbers & Radishes – Linda’s Garden
Sweet Peas – Limeydale
Belarus Garlic – Acorn Creek Garden Farm
Fava Beans – Waratah Downs Organic Farm

We’ve started giving away some market bucks for those of you in Ottawa and this month is no different! See below on how you can enter to win one free item from one of this month’s participating farms. 

1. Leave a comment below telling me what you would do with one (or all) of the ingredients above. 

For extra entries (leave a new comment for each)
1. “Like” Ottawa Farmers Market on Facebook (1 extra entry)
2. Follow @OttawaFarmMkt on Twitter (1 extra entry)
3. Subscribe to the monthly newsletter and let me know you did in a separate comment (1 extra entry)

We will pick a winner at random this coming Tuesday, July 9th.

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Toasted Rye w Labneh, Fava/Sweet Pea/Mizuna Spread + Cold Avocado & Cucumber Soup

toast recipe adapted from La Tartine Courmande
serves 2

For the toasts:
1 1/2 cups Fava, Sweet Pea & Mizuna Spread, recipe follows
1 cup garlic scape labneh, recipe follows
4 slices rye (or bread of choice), toasted
4 radishes, sliced thin
pea shoots, optional
raw sweet peas, optional (for garnish)
fresh cracked pepper

Slather each slice of toasted bread with the labneh. Spoon a heaping mound of the bean/pea spread on top. Garnish with radish slices, pea shoots and raw sweet peas. 

Fava, Sweet Pea & Mizuna Spread
makes 2 cups

1 1/2 cups cooked fava beans, shells removed
1 1/2 cups blanched sweet peas, out of the shell (save about 2 tbsp to stir into the finished spread)
2 tbsp chopped mint
1/2 cup chopped mizuna (a bitter leafy green)
Juice from 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp salt
1 clove garlic

Place ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the dip is spreadable but still has a few chunks to it. Stir in the 2 tbsp of cooked sweet peas. 

Garlic Scape Labneh
makes 1 cup

1 1/2 cups plain, full fat yogurt
2 garlic scapes, minced
1/2 tsp salt

Stir ingredients to combine. Place in a colander lined with a few layers of cheesecloth and let drain over night in the fridge. In the morning, pull the corners of the cheesecloth together and give the labneh a little squeeze to release any extra moisture. Scrape into a dish. Will keep covered for a week. 

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Chilled Lime, Avocado & Cucumber Soup
serves 2

1 ripe avocado
4 baby (1/2 large) cucumbers, rough chopped
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 jalapeno, seeds removed and diced 
Juice of 1 lime (1/2 if you like it less tart)
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup plain yogurt
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup cold water


Place all ingredients except for the water in the blender and blend until smooth. If it’s too thick, add water a little at a time until desired consistency. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or lime if needed. 

Kohlrabi Chips
makes about 1 cup of chips

2 large kohlrabi, stems removed and sliced thin on a mandolin 
vegetable oil
coarse salt

Preheat oven to 250. 
Toss kohlrabi with oil and a few pinches of salt and place on a rack lined cookie sheet so the heat can evenly bake the chips. Bake for 30-45 minutes, turning the pan every so often, until golden brown and crisp. 

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Farmers, Chefs & Markets [Heirloom Tomato Tart w Lemon Ricotta & Cornmeal/Thyme Crust]



We rose, slower than usual, from our slumber Sunday morning, sipped our coffees as we rubbed our eyes, and had a small breakfast. We knew saving space in our tummies would pay off as we were in for a treat later in the afternoon. 

As we pulled into the parking lot of Brewer Park, the current home of the Ottawa Farmers Market, it was apparent that this was no regular day at the market. The parking lot swelled with cars and chipper market-goers toting bags spilling over with vibrant locally grown produce and fares. We parked, far quicker than we imagined, and set our sites on the white tent that stood taller and more elegantly than all the other vendor booths. This was where we would soon share a meal with locals food-lovers, farmers and chefs alike. This was Ottawa’s 2nd annual Harvest Table. 

Harvest Table is a much-anticipated yearly event, organized by Savour Ottawa, that offers patrons an opportunity to celebrate Ottawa’s ample harvest and culinary artistry by enjoying a meal with the hard working folks who both grow and prepared it. It brought some of the cities finest chefs, hardest working farmers and food-loving residents together under one charmingly decorated roof… err.. tent. 



As we wandered the market waiting for lunch to start, we happened upon the C’est Bon Cooking tour, offered with Cream of the Crop tickets ($75 as opposed to $60 for the lunch alone) and we listened in as Paola St George, tour guide extraordinaire, expertly navigated the market followed closely by a crowd of wide-eyed, eager guests hungry for every bit of information she had to offer… or maybe it was the tantalizing samples they were hungry for. Either way, people were happy. So happy. And it was lovely to see everyone so anxiously gobbling up the full market experience. We listened in for a few minutes as Andy Terauds, owner of Acorn Creek Gardens and vice-president of the market itself, spoke about his farm but trailed off when we spotted Somerford & Halls booth. [Side note: if you’ve not been to check out C’est Bon Cooking, I urge you to click through to the link above. Team building, cooking classes, Byward Market food tours, and so much more!] 

As we made our way to our table, Impromptu Strings setting the mood with their artfully performed classics, we took our seats, scanned the airy, outdoor space and breathed in the whole atmosphere. The tables were charming and simple, centerpieces made up of richly hued flowers and greens mixed with small tomatoes vines and kale, truly making use of every bit of summer’s harvest. Already present at the table was a platter of antipasti ripe with elk sausage, wild vegetables, edible flowers, soft cheeses and a deep purple blueberry ketchup. We passed it around the table as we acquainted ourselves with other diners over Kichessippi Beer’s Natural Blonde & a choice of either Chardonnay or Cab Franc from Casa-Dea Estates Winery. The Cab Franc was lovely; great acidity and a smooth plummy flavour. 



The antipasti platter disappeared as quickly as it came, and we were served course after course of exquisitely executed dishes; Chilled Strawberry Melon Soup with Goat Cheese, Grainy Potato Salad with generous hunks of egg, Harvest Table Farm Salad filled with local veg, Fresh Basil Ravioli with Tomato Sauce (easily my favourite - the ravioli were pan-fried similar to gnocchi and exploded with a warm, delicate basil filling), Roast Beef with Summer BBQ Sauce, Heritage Breed Pork Duo (pulled shoulder and belly), a vibrant Tomato & Zucchini Millefeuille with Goat Feta, Swiss Chard with Heirloom Carrots and Cinnamon Honey, New Fingerling Potatoes with Jalapeno & Onion Confit, and finally, a variety of tantalizing summer pies bubbling over with fresh fruit filling.

I’m not sure how we managed to avoid slipping into a food-induced slumber right there at the table while we digested our pie and applauded the work of restaurants, chefs, farmers & food producers, volunteers, organizers and sponsors for their magnanimous efforts in putting this event together. It was an experience I won’t soon forget. The honour of dining in the presence of those who have toiled endlessly (particularly after a hard, drought-filled summer) to grow and produce our food, and the chefs who work long, often-thankless hours to prepare dinner so we can sit back, relax and enjoy left me feeling an overwhelming amount of gratitude. When the option to attend rolls around next year, I hope you’ll join Savour Ottawa in celebrating our great city’s harvest, farmers and chefs - there are so few events that bring all of these together to truly tell a story of Ottawa’s food and people. 



After such a fantastic meal, I was inspired to create something with the beautiful heirloom tomatoes we grabbed on our way out. This tart is simple to make and so pretty to look at. I almost felt guilty cutting into it… but once I did, my guilt quickly faded away into the buttery layers of crunchy dough and sweet, warm tomatoes. 

 
Heirloom Tomato Tart with Lemon Ricotta & Cornmeal-Thyme Crust
makes 1 10” pie

Cornmeal-Thyme Pate Brisee
adapted from Martha Stewart

2 cups flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves (stems removed) 
1 cup unsalted butter, frozen cut into small pieces
1/4 – 1/2 cup ice water

In the bowl of your food processor, combine the flour, cornmeal, salt and thyme. Pulse the processor until butter pieces are about the size of a pea. Add water in 1 tbsp at a time until the dough starts to hold itself together. It should stick easily when pinched together. Dump the dough out and press together in a loosen ball. Divide in half and place each portion onto a piece of plastic wrap. Wrap each in the plastic and press into a flattened disc. Refrigerate for 1 hour (Make ahead: can be made 1 day ahead and kept in the fridge). 



Remove 1 round of dough from the fridge and roll out on a lightly floured surface to approximately 1/4” thick. Press your dough into a 10 x 1 1/2” pie plate. Trim the excess dough off the edges and crimp the edges if you’re into that sort of thing (I totally am, but as you can see, I’m not the best at it as a result of my big clobber mitts - you can just leave the crust as it is…we’ll call it rustic. Shhh!). Place in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes or until you’re ready to start prepping the filling. 



Filling
1lb Heriloom Tomatoes, sliced into rounds
1 tsp coarse salt
3/4 cup high quality ricotta
1 tbsp lemon zest (about 1 large lemon)
1/4 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350. 
Remove the tart shell from the fridge. Prick all over with a fork and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. 

While the shell bakes, toss the sliced tomatoes and salt together in a colander. Let it sit in the sink or over a bowl, tossing gently every few minutes. 



In a small bowl, mix the ricotta, lemon zest and salt. Stir well to combine.  

Once pie is removed from the oven, turn heat up to 375. Spread the ricotta on the pre-baked pie shell. Arrange tomatoes around the pie plate in two layers. Give a few generous grinds of pepper and place in the oven until tomatoes are soft and reduced in size, about 40 minutes. If you notice the crust cooking too quickly, just lightly cover the pie with tin foil. 

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Humble Comforts [Roasted Tomato & Carrot Soup with Mozzarella-Thyme Croutons]



Isn’t it remarkable that a certain smell or taste can instantly whisk you away to a time tucked deep in the cobwebbed nooks of your memory? One bite and you’re somewhere else, summoning thoughts and feelings as thought you’re right there, living through them again. Food is a wondrous thing, and the memories and traditions we craft around the table and share with friends, family and guests can stick with us for a lifetime. 


Grilled cheese and tomato soup is a meal that, for myself and many of my peers, beckons childhood memories of warmth and comfort. Lowly Kraft singles, oozing from between two crispy, butter-slicked slices of Wonder bread like lava, dunked into a once-gelatinous bowl of Campbell’s Cream of Tomato Soup. That is my childhood on a plate. It fondly greeted me at many lunchtimes and was the answer to far too many “what should we have for dinner?” queries growing up (if youre asking my mom, that is. We were quite happy to eat it any time of any day). It’s a meal that takes me back to lunches shared with my sister over our antique kitchen table, both laughing so hard we could hardly eat and ultimately ending in my parents “turning on the timer” (if you didn’t finish eating before the timer went off, you had to go to bed - it’s hilarious now that I’m an adult, but terrifying when we were younger)Though my tastes have become slightly more refined as I’ve grown up (they probably haven’t), I still find myself yearning for the humble comforts of tomato soup & gooey grilled cheese. 



Though there are still times I find myself reaching for that familiar red and white can I cherished so fondly, there is nothing quite like a bowl of rustic, real, homemade tomato soup. Chunky and thick, it has character and texture that just can’t be found at the bottom of a tin. In the recipe I’m sharing today, I’ve roasted heirloom tomatoes and colourful carrots, which impart a gentle sweetness to the soup, and pureed them all up into the perfect bowl of happiness. And because you can’t (no way, no how, absolutely impossible!) have tomato soup without some version of grilled cheese, I topped the soup with big, grainy croutons sprinkled with deep, woodsy thyme and mild, gooey mozzarella. It truly is a bowl of happiness, so if you make it, and I hope you do, breathe it in deep and let it wrap it’s warm, inviting arms around you until everything feels like it’s going to be alright. 



Roasted Tomato & Carrot Soup with Mozzarella-Thyme Croutons
adapted from Sprouted Kitchen
serves 2 as main, 4 as starter

Despite the fact that the tomatoes are roasted, you still want to buy the best ones you can find, which shouldnt be too hard right now  there are road side stands, farmers markets, community gardens  all filled with summer fresh tomatoes of all shapes and sizes. Carrots should be of high quality, too. No baby or pre-packed carrots  they should be fresh and dirty and peeled by your own two hands. I dont get overly strict on ingredient buying too often, but there is so little to this soup that its necessary. 

4-5 cups fresh tomatoes (any medium-large variety will work)
4-5 medium-large carrots, peeled 
½ medium onion, sliced into large wedges
small head of garlic, cloves peeled and separated
2 sprigs fresh thyme
olive oil
coarse sea salt
freshly ground pepper
2 cups high quality chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp paprika (hot or sweet)

grainy baguette (1 slice per bowl)
2 sprigs thyme, leaves removed from stems
fresh mozzarella (1 round per bowl)

Preheat oven to 350. 
Slices tomatoes in half and place on baking sheet. Add the onion wedges, garlic cloves, and whole carrots to the pan. Drizzle with just enough olive oil to coat and sprinkle it all with salt, pepper and thyme leaves (removed from the stems). 

Roast for 30-40 minutes or until tomatoes have reduced in size by half and carrots are easily pierced with a fork/knife.  While the pan cools, add your stock to a soup pot and bring to a low simmer. Scrape everything from the baking sheet right into the pot, including any brown bits or juices (that’s where all the best flavours lives!). 

Let it simmer for 10 minutes. While it simmers, take sliced baguette pieces, drizzle them with olive oil and top with a round of mozzarella. Place the cheesy toasts on a pan,  set oven to broil and pop them in. Let them broil for 2 minutes (peeking after 1 to make sure nothing is burning). Remove and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves. 



Sprinkle the paprika into the soup and puree everything in the pot up with a blender (immersion or otherwise) until smooth. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Ladle into bowls, top with your big, cheesy croutons and finish with fresh ground pepper. 

It should be noted that this soup is best enjoyed in your cosiest sweatpants and slippers. 

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It Could Be Worse… [Nicoise Salad with Lemon-Parsley Vinaigrette]



It could be worse. 

I keep trying to tell myself that of our “feels like” 42C weather. And while I know, deep down in the pit of my stomach where all the truths to my denials live, that it indeed could be so much worse, my outer shell, the one that feels like it’s been dripping with sweat and unable to sleep in our brain-roasting apartment for 2 weeks, doesn’t quite agree. 

To make matters only slightly worse, I’ve been partaking in my usual summer eating habits and trying to avoid the kitchen/stove like the plague. This usually involves a lot of restaurants, take-out, quick pastas and the likes. All very delicious, but all very heavy when it’s too hot to get much exercise. I’ve been feeling heavy, bloated and nasty from it all. 

And so, rather than sitting for one stinking, sweaty moment longer, I made my way to the kitchen. And surprisingly, something truly delicious came out of my determination to shake dust (aka. sweat) from my bones. 



Nicoise Salad is simple, packed with vibrant, hunger-inducing colours and filled with delicious things that will keep your body full and happy for hours. I ate it around 5pm and was happily full into the night. For those that know me, that’s a feat that few meals can accomplish. I am a snacker by nature and can seldom make it through an evening without grabbing (at least) a late-night yogurt or smoothie. I didn’t even think, not even once, about food after this salad. So make it, and eat it, in good health and sweaty pants. 



Nicoise Salad
serves 4

It’s traditional to use canned fish in this salad, but if you’re opposed to it, feel free to add a seared piece of your favourite fish. In the same note, it is tradtional to serve a red-wine vinaigrette but I swamped it for a lemony-parsley version purely for my own likes. 

Boiled potatoes aren’t exactly traditional, but I love the way they round out the salad and provide some extra sustenance. And delicious carbs. I like those. 

2 big handfuls green beans, trimmed
1/2 cup shelled fava beans, optional 
1 1/2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes
2 cups boiled baby potatoes (red or yellow)
1/2 cup Nicoise-style olives
2-3 tbsp caper berries
small handful cornichons, optional
hard boiled eggs
2 cans white (albacore), water packed tuna, flaked
Romaine or Boston Lettuce

Lemon-Parsley Vinaigrette
1 lemon, juiced
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/2 tsp honey
salt & pepper
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp parsley, minced  

Place a handful of ice cubes in a big bowl and fill with cold water.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the trimmed green beans to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute until bright green. Strain and place in the ice bath you prepared earlier. 

Get a few bowls or plates together and on each, place a handful of lettuce in the center. Place the rest of the ingredients around the outsides of the plate and place the flaked tuna right in the center.  

In a medium bowl, whisk the lemon, garlic, honey, pinch salt and pepper together. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Finish with the parsley and combine everything until smooth. 

Spoon as much of the vinaigrette over the plates as you like. And then nom-nom-nom it all up! 

 

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A Salad to Salivate [Grilled Kale Salad with Peaches and Ricotta]



I wandered into the grocery store yesterday afternoon to pick up a few things for lunch; cheese, bread, tomatoes, greens. As usual, I left with about 10 extra items that I simply couldn’t leave behind (and that tugged mercilessly on my back muscles as I lugged them home, completely unprepared). One such item, a giant basket of glorious Ontario peaches. How could I leave them behind? Peach season is only just starting and it always seems it’s over before it’s even begun. The humble peach is one piece of produce that I can never get enough of, constantly wishing I’d sunk my teeth into just one more dribbley, juice-filled, fuzzy peach. 

Sometimes it’s nice to let summer speak for itself, and this salad is one dish that does just that. The flavours of smokey, slightly bitter curly kale smoothed by creamy homemade ricotta and fragrant, juicy peaches drizzled with a sweet and tangy honey-balsamic vinaigrette. Can you feel the sides of your mouth starting to twitch and salivate? It’s totally deserving of that sort of reaction. Instead of eating the beautiful bowl I photographed, I stood hunched over the counter making tiny kale-leaf tacos stuffed with ricotta and peaches. If you want to do that, I’ll allow it, but it’s slightly more civilized, only slightly, to serve it in a dish. With utensils, even. But who am I to judge? 

Grilled Kale Salad with Peaches and Ricotta
adapted from Bon Appetit 
serves 4-6 

Bon Appetit used plums in their salad, but I had peaches on hand so I went that route. You can use whatever local stone-fruit is available. 


Ingredients:
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp honey
sea salt
fresh ground pepper
10-12 large curly kale leaves
4 medium peaches, halved, pitted and sliced
1 cup homemade ricotta (or high-quality store bought)

Whisk 3 tbsp olive oil, balsamic and honey together and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss with the peaches and set aside. 

Heat your grill or grill pan to high. Use remaining tbsp of olive oil to brush the kale leaves. When grill is hot, place the leaves on, turning once, until crispy and charred around the edged (about 2 minutes). Transfer to a cutting board to cool. When cool enough to handle, slice the large center stems away from the tender leaves and discard (or save for stock). 

On a serving dish, place a few tbsp of ricotta, 2 kale leaves, and a spoonful or two of peaches. Drizzle any remaining vinaigrette from the peach bowl on top of the salads. Season with a bit of salt and fresh ground pepper to serve. 


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Finding Burgatory [Bison-Apple Burgers with Sage-Jalapeno Pesto & Smoked Blue Cheese]



Brace yourselves. I’m about to share something with you that I don’t divulge often. It’s something that is usually met with double-looks and wide eyes. Some conclude I’m crazy, others simply write me off as a friend. Are you ready for this? 

I don’t really love burgers.  [….I’ll wait for your eyes to return to normal size.]

 
Are we good? I hope so. 

I just…don’t. They are big and awkward, messy and fall-aparty. Too many restaurants serve them with buns that are rock hard, causing the patty and toppings to spill out the back end. The same can be said for patties that are flavourless, over-cooked and resemble softballs made of ground beef. Unappetizing at the best of times. (It should be said that I have not visited Black Cat Bistro for Burger Tuesdays OR Absinthe Café for their Benevolence Burger….yet).

Upon finding some beautiful ground bison from La Maison Du Gibier, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands. My goal, to make a burger that fulfilled my needs. A patty as flavourful as it is moist, seasoned properly, seared to a perfect crust on the outside but slightly pink in the center. A thin bun that is buttery and soft, with a good crunch when toasted. Toppings that compliment but don’t overpower the meat or fall out the second you touch the burger. All very simple needs, but they seem to be lacking from so many burgers these days. 



I was entirely happy with the way the burger came out. The recipe came together quickly and with ease. The perfect weeknight burger, to be sure.  The apples gave the bison a slightly sweet kick, while the pesto and smoked blue cheese gave it that bit of extra depth and saltiness needed to take it over the top. A successful experiment in my burger diaries. 

If you have an aversion to burgers as I do, perhaps even if you don’t, you must give this burger a chance. It might be just the ticket you need to find your burgatory. 

 
Bison-Apple Burgers with Sage-Jalapeno Pesto & Smoked Blue Cheese
serves 4

Note on Bison:
Finding a quality bison is half the battle here. Choose a locally sourced meat from a butcher or market you trust. 

Note on buns:
I used some thin and butter onion buns from Rideau Bakery. I like a thin bun that’s soft, but use whatever you like best. Brioche buns would be delicious, too.

Note on cheese:
If you can’t find smoked blue cheese (often referred to as ‘Blue Haze’), a Danish blue cheese will work well, too. 

Burgers:
2 lbs ground bison meat
2 small apples (1 large), peeled
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp fresh sage, minced
1 tsp sea salt 
fresh ground pepper 

Pesto:
1 jalapeno, seeded, rough chopped
1 cup fresh sage, loosely packed 
1 small clove garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan (optional)
salt and pepper

To Serve:
Sliced tomatoes
Smoked Blue Cheese

For the Pesto:
Place everything but the Parmesan, salt and pepper in a food processor and blend until smooth. Stir in the Parmesan, a pinch of salt and fresh pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. 



For the Burgers: 
Grate the apples into a large bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Use your hands to smoosh everything together until it’s just combined (try not to overmix). Form the meat into 4-5 patties and make a small indentation in the center (this helps the burger cook evenly). Sprinkle the patties with a bit more salt right before frying.



Lightly coat a cast iron pan in vegetable or canola oil and heat over med-high until oil is shimmering. Place patties in the pan, 2 at a time, for 2 minutes on each side. They should be beautifully golden when you flip them. 

Toast up your buns, place a patty on each and top with a slather of the pesto, a few crumbles of blue cheese and a slice of ripe tomato. Serve with an ice cold wheat beer like Erdinger. 

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Seasonal Delicacies [Drunken Spot Prawn Ceviche Tostadas]



It’s been hot and steamy in Ottawa lately, and not in the sexy way, either. In the whine-endlessly-while-laying-in-a-starfish-on-the-hardwood-floors sort of way. I admit, I’ve been known to turn into a temper-tantrum-throwing 4 year old when the mercury rises above 28 degrees. I simply can’t handle our weather in Ontario some days. Most days. All the time. 

Not that the heat has ever stopped me from plowing through a plate of pasta or reaching for another serving of my mom’s creamy, buttery, whipped mashed potatoes, but if meal selection was chosen solely based on temperature, I would be eating anything and everything citrus for the full 3 months of heinous, humid, Eastern Ontario summers. 

Ceviche, the process of cooking raw seafood in citrus juice, is one of a handful of dishes that I could never, ever tire of. Ever! There are so many easily adaptable recipes that suit every taste, seasonal ingredient and budget, that there is no excuse to not make it at home (if it’s your cup of tea, of course. I won’t peer pressure you into making ceviche… but you should… immediately. Or else.)



Since it’s nearing the end of Spot Prawn season and I hate to miss out on seasonal delicacies, I decided to get my paws on a bundle of fresh prawns from The Whalesbone Sustainable Retail & Fish Shop. They were a stunning shade of rosy, blushed coral and smelled fresh like a salty gust of ocean air. I knew in a heartbeat that they would make the perfect ceviche to top some crispy corn tortillas. 

Say it with me now; Whether it’s prawns, white fish, salmon or scallops -  ceviche is your favourite summer friend. Repeat that 10 times fast and I think you’ll make it through the parching summer. 


 
Drunken Spot Prawn Ceviche Tostadas 
makes 6 tostadas 

A note on buying and handling from Wild BC Spot Prawns; 

When buying live Wild BC Spot Prawns look for lively, almost translucent prawns. The tail should be straight in line with the head. The head should be firm to touch, with no black colouration.

Wild BC Spot Prawns come from cold Pacific waters. After buying your prawns, immediately get them into a cooler or on ice. This will help prevent the prawn meat from deteriorating. Wild BC Spot Prawns harvested “live” should be cooked immediately or have their heads removed as soon as possible. After the heads are removed the tails should be thoroughly rinsed.  Spot prawns have an enzyme that begins to permeate through the tail and turns the meat mushy.  Removing the head and rinsing the tail keeps the flesh firm. The head of the prawn can be removed from the tail by swiftly turning it and pulling it away from the tail.

Ingredients:
16 spot prawns, heads removed
Juice + zest of 1 lime
2 tbsp tequila
1 cup cucumber, cubed
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed and diced
small bunch (2 tbsp) mint leaves, minced
2 tbsp red onion, minced

To serve:
6 corn tortillas
vegetable oil, to fry
2 avocados, diced
2 green onions, sliced thin
1 lime, cut into wedges

Holding the prawn tail, lift the shell up and away from the body to remove. Discard or save (freeze) to make stock at a later date. 

Cut the prawns into bite sized pieces and put them in a medium size bowl. Add the  lime juice and zest, tequila, cucumber, jalapeno and half the red onion. Give everything a good toss and place in the fridge, stirring often, for 30 minutes. 

10 minutes before you’re ready to serve, heat 2 tbsp of oil in a heavy bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Test the oil by flicking a little water into it - if it sizzles, it’s ready to fry some tortillas! Place tortillas, one at a time, into the oil and fry until lightly browned in spots, 40 seconds. Flip and fry the other side. Repeat with all 6 tortillas.

Place 1 tortilla on a plate, top with ceviche, avocado, green onion, red onion and a squeeze of lime. And please, for the love of god, enjoy them with an icy margarita!! 

 

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Eating Summer [Fresh Mint and Pea Pasta Alla Carbonara]



I’m holding my wrists out, palms facing up, for the slap on the wrists I deserve for having been absent from here for so long. 

There has been so much going on lately that upon arriving home from most days, I am magnetically drawn to the couch and the comforts of my living room.  I’ve felt the guilt burning into me for not getting busy telling you about all these wonderful things I’ve been making lately, but thankfully the burning feeling could often be tamed with a cold glass of wine. For that, I am apologetic.



While most people are dealing with the ever-present heat-wave with light meals and less frequent eating, I am stuffing my face with anything I can get my hands on. Light, heavy, sweet or savoury. I want it all. And often. Why I can’t be one of ‘those people’ who magically stay svelte by repeating ‘It’s just too hot to eat’ is beyond me. I’m just not that lucky. I could eat pasta and bread every day all summer long. Maybe even 4 times a day. Not that I do… but I could. Oh boy, I could.

Thankfully, my affinity for filling but fresh dishes has brought me here today to tell you about something magical. It’s a pasta dish that’s summery, fresh and leaves you feeling satiated without feeling sleepy. 

If you’ve ever come across the site Honest Fare while grazing the vast plains of the internet, you know it’s a hub for the sort of dishes that feel as good as they taste. And how could they not with a name like Honest Fare. If there has ever been a site you click through to from The Gouda Life, let this one be it. It’s beautiful. It’s eloquently written. The photos are breath taking. And the food is utterly perfect. Always something fresh and unique and exciting to try at home. 



When I first laid eyes on an entry about a Fresh Mint and Pea Pasta Alla Carbonara, I knew, without ever a second of hesitation, it would be coming to a plate near me in the very near future. I couldn’t resist the way the little raw egg yolks looked sitting atop a steaming pile of linguine, with blanched peas, fresh mint, crispy prosciutto and Parmesan cheese.  It was lovely to look at, the textures worked so brilliantly with each other and it smelled just the way you would imagine summer to smell. 



Fresh Mint and Pea Pasta Alla Carbonara
adapted from Honest Fare

 If you’re worried about raw egg yolks, they do cook when you toss them with the hot pasta. If you’re still not comfortable with it, toss it all in the pot with a little pasta water before adding the fresh ingredients. 

If your snap peas are not really big enough to provide a crunch, you can just add extra English peas. 

1 1/2 cups English peas, fresh or frozen
1/2 - 3/4 cups sugar snap peas, shelled
5 slices crispy prosciutto, recipe follows
1/4 cup shallot, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 big handfuls of fresh mint, leaves whole
1/3 lbs linguine
2-3 egg yolks, depending on how many are eating
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
Salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan

Have sugar snap peas shelled and in a bowl ready to go.



Place egg yolks in individual bowls and sprinkle with a little coarse salt, cracked black pepper and a little red pepper flake if you like heat. Set aside until ready to serve. Have cheese grated and crispy prosciutto in bowls ready to use. 

Add olive oil and butter to a frying pan over medium heat. Once melted and shiny, saute shallots and peas, partially covered, until shallots are soft. Salt and pepper the veg to taste but feel free to go a little heavy on the salt since it will need it once tossed with pasta.



While shallots are cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the linguine to al-dente according to package directions. Before straining, add 1/2-1 cup of starchy pasta water to the pan with the peas and shallots.  Transfer pasta to the pan with the peas and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper and a little red pepper flake for some heat. Add a small handful of the cheese and some olive oil if the pasta is sticking. 



Assembly needs to be rather quick to keep the pasta hot enough to cook the egg yolks. Fill each bowl or plate with a good helping of the pea pasta. Top each dish with a pre-seasoned egg yolk, raw snap peas, crispy prosciutto and some flakes of Parmesan. Mix everything together at the table while the pasta is still pipping hot.




Crispy Prosciutto

In a large skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tbsp of canola or veg oil. Tear prosciutto into bite sized shreds and add to pan. Stir every so often to get it crispy on all sides. Transfer to paper towels to drain excess oil. 

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So Fresh & So Clean [Strawberry-Mint Parfait with Cheesecake Cream and Lime Curd]



I’m turning into an old man. Have you noticed? 

All I can seem to talk about lately is the weather. I want to talk about it all day long. And if I’m not talking about the weather, I’m talking about how I talk about the weather. I’m sure you’re tired of hearing about it by now, aren’t you? 

But guess what? It’s still hot as hell in Ottawa. And I’m still trying to find dishes that help cool me down without eating a freezer full of Popsicles. And I’ve got a great one for you today.

As I was flipping through the newest edition of Food & Drink, I came across a recipe that sounded almost as delicious as it ended up tasting. It’s simple, straightforward, fresh and tastes oh-so-decadent. And, in case you hadn’t already assumed, it’s easy. Almost as easy as this post. Which I do apologize for, but believe it or not, some nights I’m not nearly as brilliant and witty as I typically appear …. haw haw haw! (Ok, tell me that wasn’t even a little funny? No? Shoot.)

Parfaits are one of Mr GL’s favourite treats. Which is great considering they take 5 minutes to put together. Layers of whipped cream and fresh berries are easy and delicious enough, but when you add cream cheese and a citrus curd to the mix, it becomes something entirely different. The layers of flavour in this parfait are so fresh and clean. You can almost taste every ingredient separately before they combine in your mouth. To say they very least, it’s lovely. And also, it’s beautiful.

 

Strawberry-Mint Parfaits with Cheesecake Cream and Lime Curd
serves 4
adapted from Food & Drink

Because there are only two of us, we went the gluttonous route and piled the ingredients high into two glasses. But it actually does serve 4. Mais, nous sommes des cochons! 

If you don’t like lime, then you’re no friend of mine. No wait, I’m sorry. You can use lemon or grapefruit instead! 

6 cups fresh strawberries
2 tbsp sugar
handful fresh mint, chopped fine
1 package (250g) light cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 cup cold whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
1-1 1/2 cups lime curd, recipe to follow
Zest of 1 lime 

Set 4 of the best looking strawberries aside. Hull and slice the rest of them. Place in a large bowl with sugar and chopped mint. Cover and refrigerate until ready to put parfaits together. 



Using a standing or handheld electric mixer whip the cream cheese and icing sugar until smooth in a large bowl. In another bowl, add the vanilla and heavy cream and whip until stiff peaks form. Fold the two creams together until smooth. Cover and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. 





When ready to assemble parfaits - get 4 parfait or wine glasses capable of holding 1 cup and set on clean surface. Carefully add a spoonful or two of berries, followed by a large dollop of cream and a spoonful of curd. Finish with another layer of berries, cream and another spoonful of curd. Garnish with a whole berry and a sprinkle of lime zest. 






Lime Curd

4 large limes
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened

Finely zest one of the limes. Set aside. 



Juice the 4 limes into a small bowl. 

In a medium sauce pan, whisk eggs sugar and butter. Stir in juice and zest. Whisk constantly over low heat until mixture starts to thicken and turn lighter in colour. 15-18 minutes. Do not boil. 



Once thickened, pour through a mesh strainer into a glass bowl. Press plastic wrap right against the curd and let cool in fridge for 1 hour. 

Keep in fridge for one week or freeze and scoop as needed.
 
 

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Clean Eating for the Over Indulger [Fattoush Salad with Zaatar Baked Pita Crisps]



Happy Post Canada Day to all my Canadian friends! 

I hope you’re all recovering from what I assume was a long day (or if you’re like us, perhaps even 2 days) in the sun, filled with good food and drink and of course, great friends and family. 

We celebrated Canada Day in our usual manor. Mr GL’s parents welcome us and all of our friends into their home where we barbecue, swim, eat everything in sight, and enjoy seeing friends we haven’t been able to see in a while. It’s always one of my favourite days of the year. 

Being my favourite day of the year, I often over indulge on just about everything. Sun, food and especially drink. To make matters worse, we’re both lobster red and I managed to get mosquito bites on every square inch of my body (and somehow Mr GL came out with just one or two) making the day-after-indulgence pain feel just a touch more uncomfortable. 

I went in search of some lunch today in my hazy post-party state, and though my semi-rotted tummy is calling out for burgers and fries or anything dunked in grease, I know what I really need is clean food. So when I opened the fridge and found leftover salad from the other night, I knew it would make my mouth just as happy as my stomach. 

Fattoush is a Lebanese salad traditionally containing high-water-content summer vegetables (which makes it especially appealing in this warm weather), a whack-load of fresh herbs, toasted pita bread and za’atar. It’s as refreshing, crisp and cool as a salad can get. The use of Za’atar makes this salad especially bright. If you’ve never heard of it, or worse yet, tried it, you’ll be amazed at how wonderful this spice blend is with salad, sprinkled on pita bread or over fresh sliced tomatoes, or even on roasted root vegetables. The uses are endless. Seriously. Endless. Everything can be made better with a little sprinkle. 



Fattoush Salad with Zaatar Baked Pita Crisps
adapted from My New Roots

It’s important to know that the herbs in this salad are not simply for garnish. They are vital to the salads flavour and texture the way lettuce would be so the quantities are quite large. 

Salad:
2 red bell peppers
2 medium cucumbers, with skin
3 cups grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 large red onion, thinly sliced with a mandolin
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, rough chopped
1 cup chopped mint, rough chopped
4 tbsp za’atar, recipe follows


Cut the peppers and cucumbers into bite sized chunks and toss with the rest of the ingredients in a large salad bowl.  



Fattoush Dressing
1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon 
1 tsp. agave nectar
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
a couple pinches of sea salt
a pinch of black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients. 

Zaatar Baked Pita Crisps
5 large Lebanese-style pitas
2 tbsp zaatar
olive oil

Preheat oven to 325. 
Tear or cut pitas into chip-sized pieces. Brush each chip with olive oil and sprinkle with zaatar spice. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool.  

When you’re ready to eat, throw half the dressing into the salad and toss. Add more until desired sauciness is achieved. Spoon onto plates and crumble pita crisps over the salad. 


Za’atar
makes about 1 cup 

1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted
1/4 cup sumac
4 tbsp dried thyme
2 tbsp dried oregano

Stir all ingredients and pour into a glass jar. Store in a cool dark place.  

 

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