"And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees,
just as things grow in fast movies,
I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer."
~ F. Scott Fitzgerald
Oh summer. It took you long enough. Really. But I'm so glad to finally see you. Your first couple of official weeks were full of too much rain and not enough heat. Glad to see you are making up for it now. Never have I ever been so happy for the return of back sweat. And excuses to eat ice cream for dinner. And the feeling of bare feet in the tall grass. I know you only have a couple of months to spend with me, but like any good, short, sweet romance, lets make the most of it, shall we?
Rhubarb is the only thing I've picked from my garden this year. You guys. My yard is a mess. I won't bore you with all of the details, but the short story is I sprained some ligaments in my knee (while planting the garden a month ago, no less. I know. I don't know how you do that either, but apparently I did it), and further diagnoses has shown early signs of arthritis, of the osteo variety. I know. Bummer. So advice from my very bossy acupuncturist was no gardening, no crouching. Rest! Rest! Rest! He said to me. Given that my job requires that I spend 8 hours or so on my feet, if any healing was to be done, all of my after hours had to be spent off my feet. With an ice pack. And chocolate. That's my own prescription, for everything.
Healing has been slow, but steady. The knee feels good, though not quite back to 100%. Last week my kind, young (I think I'm old enough to be her mother) physiotherapist gave me the green light for some "light gardening" activities. And just as I was all pumped to pull out weeds, I came down with one of those horrible summer colds you hear about. The one with The Cough That Won't Stop. Probably picked up whilst ferrying myself from one health practitioner to another. I've had the nasty business for about a week now, maybe longer. I forget. I'm in a bit of codeine coma. The pharmacist I spoke with today just said to hang in there. It gets better. Try a spoonful of honey, she said. And rest. In the sage words of my mother, "if it's not one thing, it's another."
So, let's talk about weeds. I've got 'em and I've got 'em bad. So much so that whenever I look back into the garden I let out a heavy sigh. They are crowding out the radishes and the lettuces. Poor kale and arugula are struggling under their tangled webs. Peas have somewhere to climb out of trouble, lucky them, and the tomatoes are holding their own, though need to be staked. I want so badly to bust in there and go hard. Like pull all of the weeds out at once. But, for now I have to take it easy. A little here and there. And maybe I won't get all of them, and maybe it will just be the year I had a shitty garden. And I have to be okay with that. I have to adapt with that. It'll just mean more frequent trips to the farmer's market. But gosh darn it anyway I'm not gonna let any of this junk cramp my summer spirit. Repeat after me: there's no feeling sorry for yourself in summer....
God love the rhubarb. So enduring, so low maintenance. Even a chick with bad knees can yank it out of the ground, chop it, roast it with some strawberries for a kick ass shortcake. The citrus zest and vanilla bean paste really ramp up the flavour while roasting. Believe me, roasted strawberries are your new best friend. And this lovely compote can be used on everything from yogurt to waffles. Make a double batch and keep it in your fridge for a week. Bliss! But these rye biscuits could be some of the best I've ever made. Yeah, they be full of butter and cream, and they rise so tall and slice open like a dream. They freeze most excellently, so go ahead and make a double batch of these too, while the oven is on anyway. You'll be glad you did. Rye flour has a nutty, earthy flavour that I quite like in baked goods, but if you don't have any in your cupboard, feel free to sub in more all purpose or whole wheat. Casual enough to make for a weeknight treat, and fancy enough to sweeten the end of any celebration, these little shortcakes are summer gold.
Rye Shortcakes with Roasted Strawberries & Rhubarb
For the biscuits:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup rye flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cane sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold, cut into cubes
3/4 cup heavy cream, chilled
1/2 cup buttermilk, chilled
2 tablespoons coarse sugar, for sprinkling
Heavy cream to brush the tops of the shortcakes
Preheat oven to 400 *F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Cut the cold butter into the dry ingredients using a pastry blender until it is the size of peas. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, then add in the buttermilk and heavy cream. Stir gently until just combined. It is okay if there are some dry spots. If it seems too dry, add more heavy cream or buttermilk, one tablespoon at a time.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat it into a square about 1 inch thick. Use a floured 2 1/2-inch round cutter to cut the dough. Don't twist the cutter - twisting reduces how high biscuits rise. Place the cut biscuits onto the prepared baking sheet. Gently re-roll scraps and cut again. Put the baking sheet into the freezer for 10 minutes. Brush the tops of the biscuits with heavy cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake until the tops are browned and the biscuits are cooked, about 20 - 22 minutes. Makes 8 biscuits.
For the Roasted Strawberries and Rhubarb:
1 pound strawberries, trimmed, hulled, and cut in half
1 pound rhubarb, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
4 tablespoons honey, or more to taste
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or 1 tsp vanilla or 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
4 strips lemon zest, peeled with a vegetable peeler
4 strips orange zest, peeled with a vegetable peeler
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely grated
Juice from 1 orange,
Lightly sweetened whipped cream, to serve
Powdered sugar, to serve
Preheat oven to 375 *F. Gently toss all of the ingredients together on a baking sheet, (including the vanilla bean seeds and pod, if using). Roast until the fruit is juicy and soft and the juices begin to caramelize, about 20 minutes. Let the fruit cool to room temperature and remove the vanilla bean pod and citrus zest just before serving. Slice the biscuits in half, then top with a generous serving of fruit and a heaping spoonful of whipped cream. Dust with powdered sugar and eat immediately. Serves 8. Recipe adapted from Food 52