Thursday, June 30, 2011

Rhubarb & Chipotle Grilled Salmon With Just Picked Greens

We are on the cusp of my favourite weekend.  Barbecues will be a-blazin' - the aroma of grilled meat will be wafting throughout neighbourhoods all across the country.  I'm all up for a nice juicy rib-eye, ideally if the cow was raised locally and ate lots of good things.  Same goes for a burger - layered with bacon, caramelized onions and smoky cheddar.  I'm a huge fan of grilled chicken too - with lots of lemon and garlic, and if I'm going meatless, I love those huge portabellos, stuffed with goat cheese and herbs, grilled in all of their veggie glory.  The only way I'll eat a hot dog is if it's grilled over an open fire, preferably at the lake, camping under the stars.  It has to be slathered with onions and sauerkraut and mustard, washed down with something cool and frothy.  My ultimate favourite thing to grill though, is fish.  Fish on the barbecue is insanely delicious, super quick, and super good for you.  

Saskatchewan is a land-locked province, and finding good fish, well, it's a quest in itself.  Most comes in previously frozen, and it costs an arm and a leg.  The sockeye I used was frozen and pretty good, but Oh to live near the ocean!  How I adore fresh Halibut and Sockeye.  But we have plenty of fresh water lakes in Sask, and the fish (pickerel, trout) is pretty phenomenal...I just need to get myself to the market to stock up...or else I just need to find myself a nice fisherman...

This recipe is a culmination of all things lovely and Canadian.  You have your rhubarb, which grows in almost every backyard across this great land of ours.  Maple syrup, that's pretty self explanatory.  Saskatchewan produces and exports a massive amount of mustard.  Funny, our mustard is shipped to France to make Dijon, then shipped around the world.  The chipotle adds some flava, and a nice bite of heat.  This is a variation on a recipe I saw in one of my favourite cookbooks - "High Plains" by Cinda Chavich.  I didn't have any rhubarb syrup, so I just cooked down some rhubarb (I have so much - it's out of control!) with a little sugar, strained it, and proceeded, by adding lime juice, maple syrup and the smoky chipotles.  Marinated for only an hour or two, the fish had killer flavour.  It only takes a few minutes on each side, so be careful not to over grill it...I got distracted by a phone call (damn telemarketers!)  hence mine was a teeny tiny bit overcooked, but delicious nonetheless.  Stay by your grill and don't move!

I'm super proud of my greens.  Nothing tastes better than fresh picked lettuce.  I made a salad with grape tomatoes, dried cranberries, loads of fresh dill and sliced radishes from the garden. AND a decent amount of goat cheese.  My vinaigrette was equal amounts olive oil and rice vinegar, with a drizzle of maple syrup and a dollop of Dijon.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Salad and salmon, eaten under my umbrella, in the shade of my apple tree.  It's the best.

This is the time of year for kids to run through sprinklers; for adults to crack open cans of their favourite beverage and sit around bonfires; for road trips to be undertaken and for gazing at fireworks in night sky.  I have a little bit of work to get out of the way, then I'll be taking in the sights and sounds of the Jazz Festival (Tegan and Sara!) under the bright blue Saskatchewan sky.  Reacquainting myself with my hammock and a super juicy novel, is also on my "must do" list.  So whatever you do, drive safely, apply sunscreen and eat something delicious!

Rhubarb & Chipotle Grilled Salmon

1/2 cup chopped rhubarb
1/4 cup white sugar

4 sockeye salmon fillets
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp chipotle chile in adobo sauce, chopped (or more if you like it spicier)

Place chopped rhubarb in saucepan with sugar.  Cook over medium heat, until soft, about 20 minutes.  Let cool for a bit, then strain out the solids. 
To the rhubarb puree, add lime juice etc.  Stir well. Adjust seasonings.  Place salmon in a glass dish, pour marinade over fish.  Refrigerate for 1 - 2 hours.  Preheat grill, grease it a bit.  Place salmon, skin side down, and grill for a few minutes, each side. The rule of thumb is ten minutes cooking time per inch of fish.  Serve with salad, or roasted vegetables and potatoes.  Garnish with more dill!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Rustic Ham and Brie Tart With Grape Tomatoes and Thyme

One of the things I like most about cooking is taking a peek into the fridge, seeing what needs using up, and concocting some sort of splendid dish out of the whole mess.  All of these years in the food biz have taught me don't dare throw any food out unless it's a rotting disaster. Ideally you stay on top of your inventory and use accordingly; buying only what you need for certain functions, etc.  Throwing away food is like throwing away cold, hard cash.  Same goes at home.  I'm the total nerd in the market with my list, buying only what I need for what I'm cooking this week.  There may be the odd impulse buy in the cheese section, or hello, I do in fact need this bar of dark chocolate.  Cheese and chocolate will get me every time.

Speaking of cheese, this delicious tart came to fruition because all that remained off of a wedge of brie were a few lonely slices.  There was also a container of sour organic whipping cream that needed to be used up ASAP, as the odour in the fridge was getting to be a bit much.  A few bits and pieces of roast ham were kicking around and I've got wonderful fresh spring onions in the garden now, and herbs galore!  The only thing I bought special were some lovely grape tomatoes.  I love eggs and tomatoes, especially in a warm buttery crust with all of that brie.

One of the things I want to become better at is making pastry.  The press-in crusts are awesome, and they come to my rescue many a time, but I really want to kick some butt at making honest to goodness roll out pastry.  Usually it tears apart and ends up a garbled mess of dough after trying to patch the pieces together, then it's tough as nails because I overworked it.  Joy.  So, practice practice practice.

I'm happy to report that this attempt did not suck.  Far from it.  I even added some whole wheat flour to the pastry, and it turned out just fine, save a minor crack I noticed after I par-baked the crust.  I just filled the shell with my fresh ingredients, wrapped the tart pan in foil, hoped for the best, because sometimes that's all you can do.  I kinda figured the egg would set up before any disaster took hold.  And I was right.  No kitchen nightmare here!

The best thing about this tart, is that you can prepare it in stages.  I made the dough the day before.  Rolled it out and put it in my tart pan, pressed the edges in, pierced the crust.  Plunked it in the freezer and forgot about it until the morning I wanted to make the tart.  Par-baked it for 20 minutes, prepped my filling ingredients, cracked some eggs, chopped some herbs, filled the tart and let it bake up into golden goodness.  Really, it's that easy.  Served warm, this tart is a splendid sensation of creamy brie and buttery crust, salty ham tamed by the sweet of the tomatoes.  Aromatic thyme and a tender bite of spring onion compliment it perfectly.  These ingredients are just a jumping off point...think bacon and Gruyere; roasted zucchini and cheddar; goat cheese and anything. Perfect for brunch guests, or a simple supper with salad.  And seriously, if I can make this pastry and it turns out half decent, you can too. 

Rustic Ham and Brie Tart With Grape Tomatoes and Thyme

11/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp chilled butter
3 Tbsp chilled shortening
4 Tbsp ice cold water

5 slices brie (about 1/2 cup) approx
1/2 cup diced ham, approx
2 green onions, sliced
1 handful grape tomatoes, cut in half
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
3 large eggs
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

To make the crust:  in a food processor, add the flours and fat.  Pulse until coarse crumbs form and if pinched between your fingers it holds it shape. With the motor running, gradually pour in water until a ball forms.  Pour in a bit more water if need be. Gently place the dough on a surface, gather into a ball and wrap in plastic.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.  After it has chilled, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface.  Place in a 9 inch tart pan with removable bottom.  Trim the overhanging crust to 1 inch, and fold it in, pressing gently.  Pierce crust allover and refrigerate for another 30 minutes, or you can wrap it and freeze overnight.  When ready, heat your over to 375*F, bake crust until golden, about 20 minutes, pressing down with fork if it bubbles up.  Remove from oven, layer in the cheese, meat, veggies. Whip the eggs with salt and pepper, pour over filling ingredients.  Sprinkle with fresh thyme.  Bake for 30- 40 minutes, until golden and filling has set.  Let rest 5 minutes and cut into wedges.  Serves 4-6.  Adapted from Bon Appetit. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Oh So Lovely Lavender Lemonade

Summer officially began this week, as did my super busy season at work...hence a post about lemonade.  Let me tell you there was nothing glam cooking in my little kitchen this week...just some soup from the freezer one night, eggs on toast another, and a simple, yet tasty salad tonight.  These are busy, busy times, plus there is the jungle of weeds to contend with and the ants to attack with great cunning and chemical.  At the end of the day I'm exhausted, and that's why I'm writing about lemonade.

This is no ordinary lemonade, mind.  The lavender infusion adds a lovely herbal note without overpowering the familiar tartness one expects from their lemonade.  And look at that colour!  Stunning!  In the name of "recipe research" I also added a splash of vodka, and it makes a dandy cocktail for days when you want your lemonade to have a bit more of a grown up twist. Days like today!!!

My lavender plant hasn't blossomed yet, so I used dried lavender, which you can find in health food stores or specialty groceries.  Remind me to one day tell you about this amazing lavender shortbread I make.  It's incredible.  I also sprinkle some dried lavender on my chicken as it's going into the oven to roast away.  It's good stuff this lavender, so if you buy some, don't think you can only make lemonade with it!

Simple and delicious, with only a little more effort required than opening a can of the frozen stuff...I'll be making this lemonade all summer long.  That whole thing about when life gives you lemons, blah blah blah, may actually have some truth to it.  

Lavender Lemonade

1 cup water
2 tbsp dried or 1/2 cup fresh lavender
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (freshly squeezed from about 3 lemons)
1/2 cup white sugar
2 3/4 cups - 3 cups cold water
fresh lemon wedges and lavender blossoms for garnish

To make lavender infusion, bring 1 cup of water to boil, and remove from heat.  Add lavender and let steep in a covered pot for about 15 minutes.  Strain liquid through a fine sieve into a pitcher, then add lemon juice and sugar.  Stir then add cold water.  I started off with a scant 3 cups, because you can always add more water if you think it's too strong, and don't forget about the ice cubes, which will weaken it.  Chill 2 hours, and garnish with lemon wedges and lavender.  ( I used some thyme, and it still looked pretty!) Makes 1 pitcher.  Adapted from House and Home.

My Aunt gave me this tray a long time ago...isn't it gorgeous?  Lemonade tastes even that much better served on something so pretty.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Strawberry Rhubarb Tiramisu

When I think of awesome collaborators, I think of:  Lennon & McCartney; Bono and The Edge, Hall & Oates; Tegan and Sara...

Bert and Ernie; Richie and The Fonz; Thelma and Louise; Hans Solo and Luke Skywalker; Betty and Veronica; Ben and Jerry...

Peanut butter and honey; peanut butter and chocolate; macaroni and cheese; bacon and tomatoes; strong black tea with milk and honey; vodka and tonic....

and of course...strawberry and rhubarb.  These two were meant for each other, playing off the tart and the sweet.  Whoever first combined the two was a genius.  Another genius was the person on staff at Chatelaine Magazine who came up with putting strawberry and rhubarb in tiramisu.  Brilliant!!!

I've been having my own little love affair with rhubarb this season, when I used it in this cake here, and oh, this tart here, and I haven't even chopped into my own stash, though it looks like it'll be good for the picking sometime this week.   This tiramisu is so good maybe I'll make it again!  I mean, think about it:  layers of ladyfingers, mascarpone cheese, and a lovely compote of rhubarb and strawberries.  Oh and the booze - just a touch!

This is one of those desserts you have to savour.every.bite. Acknowledge the hints of orange and vanilla, the sweet/sour rhubarb mouthful, the full bodied richness of the mascarpone cheese, and the slight detection of rum in the now cake-like ladyfingers. OH the decadence!  It's the perfect dessert for any special occasion, (or not...I just took some over to my Mom's for Sunday dinner) and it's great to make ahead.  Keep in mind that it probably has your daily allowance of fat, but what the hell...once in awhile a girl has to splurge.  You may just want to take a Zumba class, or run around the block a couple hundred times, or come over and weed my garden for me...

Strawberry Rhubarb Tiramisu

4 cups fresh rhubarb, sliced
1 cup granulated sugar
2 454 g packages of strawberries, preferably organic, about 8 cups, sliced
475g container of mascarpone cheese
1 orange, finely zested
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp pure vanilla
500 ml  (2 cups) whipping cream
1 tbsp granulated sugar
3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup orange flavoured liqueur like Grand Marnier, (I didn't have so used rum, and it was fine)
3 5.3 oz (150g) packages of lady fingers biscuits

Place rhubarb and 1 cup of sugar in a saucepan, stir and bring to a boil, stirring often, over medium heat (no need to add water).  Boil gently until a thick sauce is formed, 15-20 min.  Stir in sliced strawberries and cook only 2 minutes.  Don't overcook or they'll lose their colour.  Refrigerate until cool, about 30 minutes, or make ahead a day or two.

Place mascarpone in large bowl.  Stir in finely grated orange zest, 1/2 cup sugar and vanilla. Set aside.  In the bowl of a mixer, whip the cream and 1 tbsp sugar until soft peaks form.  Fold this into the mascarpone filling, 1/3 at a time, until no white streaks remain.

Stir orange juice with the booze in a pie plate.  Dip both sides of the ladyfingers in the liquid, and place in the bottom of a 9x13 inch glass baking dish. On top of the ladyfingers spread a layer of the fruit filling, then the mascarpone filling. Repeat layers again, starting with the booze soaked ladyfingers, then the mascarpone, then the fruit on top. (If you have any of the orange juice/booze left, just pour it over your last layer of ladyfingers.) You won't need all of the ladyfingers, but I found 2 boxes wasn't enough.  You'll just have to use them up next time!  Cover with plastic wrap, and place the tiramisu in the fridge for about 6 hours or overnight.  Keeps well up to 2 days.  Serves 12-16.  Adapted from Chatelaine. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mexican Tomato Chickpea Soup - Don't Forget the Croutons!

My cilantro plant is monstrous.  Really.  Not sure what in the heck has gotten into it, but it is THRIVING hard core.  Maybe it's just really happy to be nestled between two Lemon Drop tomato plants, which are doing super well too, knock on wood. (Last year all of my twelve tomato plants were completely wiped out by blight, which took hold on the Prairies majorly last summer.  I scaled back to 4 plants this year, and I'm really really hoping to have a good crop.  Blight be damned!)

So what's a girl to do with all of this cilantro?  Some of you may have stopped reading already because you hate cilantro.  Don't give up on it!  Cilantro has a bright flavour, and yes, it can be a bit much when over done, so use sparingly, but in Mexican and Asian dishes, it really is a must have.  I wanted to make Mexican Tortilla Soup, but alas had no corn tortillas kicking around, but I DID have a few squares of this incredible foccacia left from the weekend.  Let me tell you, bathed in a little extra virgin olive oil, and tossed with some coarse salt, baked until golden, these were the best croutons I've ever had.  Lucky any of them made it into the soup!

This soup has similar flavours and textures to the Mexican Tortilla Soup - spicy, bright, crunchy, creamy avocado amazingness.  I used some good chicken stock I had made with the bones from this lovely bird, frozen a couple of months ago, and time to use it up.  Added some ripe Roma tomatoes, plenty of garlic, some diced jalapeno, red onion, and it was a pretty tasty broth in no time.  You could use chicken in place of the chickpeas, but I had none on hand, and I'm of lover of this legume, so I tossed them in.  At the last second added the chopped cilantro,  then scooped into bowls, garnished with amazing croutons and chunks of avocado, and a squeeze of lime.  Don't think it's impossible to make or eat soup in summer. This one is perfect because it's light, so incredibly flavourful, and a great way to use up any extra herbs or tomatoes you may have kicking around. Not to mention it was ready in under 30 minutes!  Done deal!

I'm not sure what my favourite part of this creation is - the crunch of the crouton; the spicy, limey broth; the bit when you get some chickpea AND some crouton AND some avocado in the same bite.  So. Good.  Nights like tonight I'm kind of glad I was eating alone, because after I took these photos, I slurped up both of these bowls of soup, with the broth running down my chin and I didn't care one bit.

Mexican Tomato Chickpea Soup

2 tbsp canola oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, and finely chopped, or leave some seeds in for however spicy you like
6 cups chicken broth, or veggie broth, organic or homemade
2 tsp sugar
4 large Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 can (540ml) of chickpeas, rinsed very well
1 handful of cilantro, chopped
salt, pepper,
1 avocado, chopped
1 lime, cut into sections of 6 or so
homemade croutons

In a large pot, heat the canola oil over medium high heat.  Add the chopped onion and cook until translucent...add the garlic and jalapeno pepper.  Cook a couple of minutes.  Add your broth, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and add chopped tomatoes and sugar.  Simmer 10 minutes, add the chickpeas, simmer 5 minutes longer.  Remove from heat and stir in cilantro. Adjust seasonings...a bit more salt, or spiciness, you decide.  Scoop into bowls and garnish with more cilantro, lime wedges, croutons and avocado. Serves 3-4.

If you like, you can always substitute fresh basil for the cilantro, and it would still be delicious!

Look at that monster in the middle!!!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Leeks, Fresh Basil and Feta

I'm trying to behave myself.  Eating-wise, that is.  After last weekend's total glutton fest at the farm, I'm feeling the need to eat a little lighter, with a little less emphasis on the butter and bacon :(

It's not such a hardship.  I love me a nice big salad in summer - something simple, not requiring much effort on my part, because honestly after a day spent in the extreme hell of hotness - aka the kitchen at work -  I just want to hang out in the tranquil shade of my backyard - sipping a cocktail, reading a juicy novel, or just watching the cats chase bugs and birds.  'Tis summer after all!

Quinoa is my new best friend.  Read here for how awesome it is with curry and for the nutritious bonus points it packs.  You can add a multitude of flavours to it too, and it's always a shining star.  In this case, it was a little clean-out-the-fridge-and-add-it-to-quinoa-and-see-what-happens.  Magic, I tell ya.  Magic!!!

Leeks are the cosmopolitan cousins to the scallion.  Sweeter, with less of a bite, and simply marvelous when sauteed in a little butter or olive oil.  I'm totally digging them lately, as I've been putting them on turkey burgers, and even in a quiche on the weekend.  Lovely stuff.  Julie had put them in a quinoa salad a little while back, so this recipe is a bit of take off from that, with some modifications here and there.  Like I said, anything goes really.  I added some asparagus and fresh basil from the market, a chunk of feta, some toasted almonds just for fun, and nice juicy organic Roma's I got for a steal.  All bathed in a light olive oil and lime juice vinaigrette.  I packed it up and took it over to my Mom's where we ate it with some incredible artichoke asiago foccacia from Christie's Bakery.  (Yes, we did the Earl's thing and dunked it in olive oil/balsamic vinegar.  THAT never gets old.)

What else can I say about this salad?  It's healthy, delicious, pretty, and pretty darn good the second day, if you have leftovers.  Have I mentioned it gluten-free too?  Celiacs rejoice!  Now the hard part is saying goodbye to my good buddy bacon...

Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Leeks, Fresh Basil and Feta

1 cup quinoa, rinsed very well, for 3 minutes under running water
2 leeks, white and light green parts only; sliced in half lengthwise, then rinsed very well to get the gritty bits out and then thinly sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
6 or 7 asparagus spears, blanched, and chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup feta, chopped
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 small handful basil, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of 1 lime or lemon
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 tsp honey
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sauce pan, add the rinsed quinoa with 3 cups water.  Bring to a boil, stir, and reduce heat, cover, and cook for 15 minutes.  Drain, and put back into pot, cover with lid and steam for another half hour or so.  Put in a large bowl, and let cool.  Meanwhile, after you've rinsed the leeks very well, and sliced them, heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the leeks when it's hot, and saute until they start to caramelize, oh about 12-15 minutes or so.  Add this to the quinoa.  Add the rest of your veggies.  In a jar, add the vinaigrette ingredients (oil-s&p) and shake shake shake.  Add to the quinoa mix and stir.  Adjust seasonings...let chill in the fridge while you go out and do something fun.  Or do nothing at all and take a nap. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Cooking On The Farm, Part Two: The Desserts!

It's been well documented here that I love love love my sweets, so it's no surprise that the best part of the cooking cousins weekend was the desserts.  Yeah, everything we made here was super super awesome, but the desserts were the standouts.  Oooooohed and awwwwed over.  Eyes-rolled-back-in-the-head they were that good.  Some even cooed.  Ok, I cooed, but couldn't help it.  I was eating a strawberry chocolate springroll.  You would coo too!!!

When Leanne and I were texting back and forth over the menu, as soon as she said, "I'm going to make chocolate springrolls", I thought, holy smoke, this is going to be one helluva weekend!  I COULD NOT WAIT to see how these were made.  Leanne and Brian, like many of you I'm sure, religiously watch The Food Network (I don't have cable, so I almost never see it.  If I did have The Food Network I'm not sure I would ever leave my house.) and some dude was making these springrolls, and well, they were hooked.  Simple process really, make a chocolate and strawberry filling, add some nuts, if you like, freeze it.  Then chop the frozen filling into bar shapes, wrap in egg roll wrappers, and deep fry.  Heavens, yes.  We served them with Leanne's homemade chocolate sauce, and if you like caramel, try this amazing sauce to go with the springrolls too.  Delicious. 

Leanne's Strawberry Chocolate Springrolls

Melt:  3 100g Dark Chocolate Bars (Lindt 85% Cocoa was used in the recipe) plus
          4   1 oz. semi-sweet baking squares.

To this melted chocolate, add 2 cups sliced strawberries and a handful of nuts.  Leanne used peanuts, but use whatever you like.  Press in a parchment lined 9x13 baking dish, and freeze.  Great to make a day or two ahead.  While it's frozen, chop into bar-shaped chunks. 
Using egg roll wrappers, (Leanne used 1.5 packages), place one chunk in the middle of the wrapper. Dampen the edges, and fold corners in around the chocolate.  Set aside.  When all are wrapped, heat vegetable oil in a large pot on stove.  I'm not very scientific about deep frying, so I'm just going to tell you that when the oil is hot, start deep frying a few at a time, until golden.  Set aside, and keep frying until all are done.  Serve with chocolate and caramel sauces, and why not add some whipped cream too?  But I say that about almost all the desserts! 

Lately I'm all about the rhubarb.  There are so many great recipes abounding, I have to try them all!  Well not quite, but I'm trying.  I made this cake here, and I'm brainstorming another incredible rhubarb dessert to serve this weekend, but you have to hang onto your hat for that one.  This Rhubarb Tart with Brown Butter Streusel was no slouch either.  The Epicurious people described it as "a country tart meets city topping..."  and me being a city girl heading to the country for the weekend, well it seemed somehow apropos.  I'm a farm girl at heart, after all. 

When you make the streusel with brown butter, you'll wonder why you haven't done it sooner!  It adds a lovely nutty flavour to an already buttery, crumbly almond topping.  The crust is one of those straightforward shortbread types you press into your tart pan, and par bake.  (Can I just give a shout out to IKEA, and how much I loved baking this tart in their $6.95 tart pan?  Deal of the day!) And the fresh rhubarb shines through all of the butter and sugar, more and more delicious with every bite.  Again, a side of whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream would put this over the edge.  There were leftovers in the fridge and I almost snuck down from my attic guest room to have a slice in the middle of the night. But I didn't want to be rude because I'm hoping for another invitation to their wonderful farm. Maybe I'll even get a chance to drive a tractor!

Rhubarb Tart With Brown Butter Streusel

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 large egg yolk
4 tbsp chilled whipping cream

9 tbsp (135g) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3/4 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup golden brown sugar, packed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup all purpose flour

5 cups fresh rhubarb, sliced into 1/2 inch thick slices
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp grated lemon peel

To make the crust:  In a food processor, or with a pastry blender, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, and cut in the butter until coarse meal forms.  Add egg yolk, and 3 tbsp of cream.  Blend until moist clumps form, adding more cream if dough is dry.  Gather dough into a ball, and press it into a 10 inch tart pan with removable bottom, to make 1/4 inch crust.  Pierce crust all over with fork, and chill for at least 2 hours. 
To make streusel:  Cook butter in large skillet over medium heat, until golden, stirring often, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat, add nuts, sugar and cinnamon.   Add flour and stir until moist clumps form.  Cool completely.  (Crust and streusel can be made one day ahead.)
For filling:  Preheat oven to 375*F.  Toss all filling ingredients in a bowl, let stand until filling looks moist, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.  Bake cold crust until golden, pressing with back of fork if crust bubbles, about 20 minutes.  Remove from oven, reduce oven temp to 350*F.
Spoon filling into warm crust.  Crumble streusel over filling.  Bake until filling is bubbling and streusel is crisp and brown, about 1 hour.  Cool tart on rack for 30 minutes.  Serve warm, or room temp.  Serves 8-10.  Adapted from Bon Appetit.

I slept like a baby in the cozy attic, not even banging my head once!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cooking on the Farm, Part One: Turkey Burgers, Sweet Potato Fries and Grilled Caesar Salad

One minute I'm in the city, singing along with Bono at the U2 concert and a few days later I'm in the country, cuddling 2 week old kittens.  What a life I lead!  My cousin Brian and his wife Leanne, invited me and Denise (Brian's sister) to their farm two hours away, for a cooking/eating extravaganza weekend.  All I can say is thank God for stretchy pants!  Everything was awesome....the food, yes, but being in the company of cousins, that was the best part.  And ok, I kind of loved this teeny grey kitten, and no I didn't take him home with me.  Not yet, anyway.

So what the heck did we make?  Brian and Leanne have 4 really great kids, so I wanted to make something they would inhale too - and what kid doesn't like turkey burgers?  Sweet potato fries are the perfect side, especially with a sweet and smokey honey chipotle dip to dunk the fries in.  We slathered this dip on everything...and it was divine.  Leanne makes a killer grilled Caesar salad - my first time trying it, and now there is no going back.  Seriously...grilling romaine is sensational!  There were roasted vegetables, perfectly done in foil pans on the BBQ.  Denise brought an insanely delicious artichoke dip - a variation of this one here, which is one of my favourite things to eat in the whole world.  But my absolute favourite were Leanne's homemade perogies, baked with onions and bacon in a dill cream sauce.  Oh yeah baby.  My camera kind of goofed up when taking a shot of the perogies, so you'll just have to take my word for how awesome they were.  (If ever you find yourself in the Luseland, Sask. area, she sells them at the Farmer's Market, and they go like crazy.)  And I haven't even talked about the desserts yet!  I'm saving that bit of deliciousness for the next post, but I promise it will be worth waiting for.   

Turkey Burgers with Fried Leeks and Cranberry Sauce

Frying a few leeks in butter adds a little sophistication to this burger, and the cran sauce is the perfect foil for the turkey.  I got the recipe from the latest issue of "O" magazine, but made a few changes, which I think will make an even awesomer burger.  Oh, and the kids loved the leeks too. 

3 tbsp butter
2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, washed very well and thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp dried thyme (or 2 tsp fresh, finely chopped)
1/2 tsp dried sage (or 2 tsp fresh, finely chopped)
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 3/4 pounds (787 grams) ground turkey, preferably a mix of both light and dark meat
canola oil, for greasing grill
aged white cheddar, sliced
bacon, cooked
lettuce leaves, tomato slices
4 hamburger buns, sliced
mayo, grainy mustard, whole berry cranberry sauce

Preheat grill to medium-high.  Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp of butter over medium and fry leeks until golden and bright.  Set aside.  Add the rest of the butter and cook the onions and garlic until translucent.  In a large bowl, add the turkey meat.  Add the cooked onion and garlic mixture to this, along with the herbs, salt and pepper, and Dijon.  Form into 4 patties.  Place on preheated grill and cook, flipping once, until fully cooked, about 10 minutes.  During the last few minutes, top burger with cheese, and toast buns until lightly golden. 
Top the burgers with the fried leeks, bacon, cranberry sauce, mayo and mustard.  Lettuce and tomato too if you like. Serves 4.  

Sweet Potato Fries with Honey Chipotle Dip

This one is easy.  Take some sweet potatoes, say 2 large.  Peel and slice into "fries" or wedges.  Drizzle with olive oil, coarse salt, and fresh pepper.  Place on a parchment lined bake sheet in a preheated 375* oven, on the lowest rack, and cook until crisp, flipping a few times so they are evenly brown.  Takes about 30 minutes.  Good like that, or try this:  mix good quality mayo (I like the Hellman's Olive Oil kind), with a few dashes of Chipotle Tabasco sauce, and a little honey.  We didn't really measure, so just use your discretion.  If you like it spicy, add more Tabasco; need more sweet?  Add more honey.  We loved this with chips, too.  And it's delicious on a burger. It's mayo and it makes me happy. 

Grilled Caesar Salad

Take 2 heads romaine.  Slice in half lengthwise.  Drizzle with olive oil, cracked pepper and salt.  Place on a preheated grill and cook until slightly charred and wilted.  Chop immediately and place in a salad bowl.  Add chopped cooked bacon, croutons, fresh Parmesan, and drizzle with your favourite Caesar salad dressing.  Denise made a killer one of red wine vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, anchovy paste, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, chopped garlic, Tabasco, Worcestershire,and Parmesan cheese all shook up in a jar.  So good.   It's warm and wilty, but super super delicious with the grilled romaine.  Go ahead and try it!!! Serves 4.

For the roasted veg, take an assortment of your favourites, toss in a bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper, your favourite herbs, place in a foil pan, and place on the BBQ or oven to roast until done.  Cherry tomatoes and broccoli are super good when roasted.  And red onions.  Must have those. 

Did someone want to see the kittens?

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