Dog Days of Summer + Chocolate-Chocolate Cookies

oscar_cherry_beach

oscar cherry beach

sleep in

The dogs days of summer are a good excuse to slow down, be lazy, and eat out a lot. We haven’t had granola in the house for weeks, it’s been too hot to turn on the oven. Strangely enough it’s never too hot to make a batch of Momofuku Milk Bar cookies, especially if they’re chocolate-chocolate cookies.  Read More »

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Cherry Blossom Tea

cherry_blossom_tea

Don’t you wish cherry blossom season would last forever? Cherry trees bloom all too briefly in April or May for only a week or two. The delicate petals are easily taken down by wind and rain. But even in their decline, to be lying under a cherry tree showered by falling petals is pure slow-mo romance fantasy stuff.

cherry_blossom_tea

When my friend Kathy brought me a gorgeous container of preserved cherry blossoms from Japan many years ago I was awed. The fragile pink blossoms are preserved in ume plum vinegar and a generous amount of salt. I used the blossoms with the salt still clinging to them in sushi, and to dress cold soft tofu (along with green onions, grated ginger, soy sauce and sesame oil). I must admit I didn’t know until very recently that they are actually meant to be used as a special tea called sakura-yu, which is served at Japanese weddings. Read More »

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Heat Wave Food – Watermelon Salad

watermelon salad

What to eat when it’s blisteringly hot out and your kitchen feels like a stifling inferno? The thought of turning on the stove, or even worse, the oven is unbearable. The first thing I think of is ice cream, but that’s not really dinner. Next my mind goes to cool foods like cucumbers, mint, and of course watermelon. Watermelon salad enjoyed with a crisp cold cocktail makes the perfect starter. This genius watermelon salad disguised as a pizza comes from Lottie+Doof.

watermelon_salad_for_two

The presentation is a showstopper. We ate this outside and loads of people walking past stopped to ask what the heck was going on on our plates.  Read More »

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Summer Solstice Farmers Market

squash blossoms

Yesterday was blazing hot, even at 10 AM. I wanted to be cautious about my fur clad companion in the heat, so after soaking him in a public fountain, twice (shhh don’t tell), I did only the most minimal farmers market visit, sticking to just the first few tables closest to the entrance. Despite my haste I still managed to grab a really stellar handful of loot.

campari tomatoes

Tomatoes that taste like tomatoes

It may seem like an obvious thing, but tomatoes don’t always taste like tomatoes. The ones we get in the winter are red and perfect looking, but often have no scent and very little taste. When summer rolls around the real tomatoes come out, delicious smelling and bursting with flavor. A tomato should make you salivate. Small ones like the Campari tomatoes pictured above are heavenly sliced in half and tossed in a salads. I used these in a quinoa salad, along with kale, cucumber, avocado, and basil.

farmers market strawberries

Wild Strawberries

Bigger is not always better, especially when it comes to berries. These little wild strawberries taste like candy. I eat the majority of my fruit blended up in shakes for breakfast, but these little gems are too precious to be mashed up. I’m eating some at this very moment with heavy cream poured over them. Read More »

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Hello Summer! Magic Lemon Ice Cream

lemon ice cream

In celebration of the first official day of summer, this is a recipe for magic lemon ice cream that does not require an ice cream maker, nor any stove top time. The process is incredibly simple and uses just three ingredients: lemons, cream, and sugar. Sometimes I add a bit of rosewater, but I don’t like to fiddle with the ingredients too much because there is obviously some sort of food chemistry magic going on here.

ice cream cones

A few summers ago we brought this ice cream to a barbecue individually portioned in a dozen hollowed out lemons. The hosts’ freezer was completely full so everyone had to eat the ice cream right away, before the meal.

lemon ice cream

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Season Openers – Farmers Market

Farmers market season is finally here. The one I frequent the most is Nathan Phillips Square because it’s close to where I live; it’s no fun lugging a ton of heavy groceries half way across the city. Setting-wise it’s not the prettiest market. Nathan Phillips Square is a big concrete square in the heart of downtown Toronto; in the middle of the day there’s no shade. There are greener and more relaxing markets like Brickworks, Dufferin Grove and Trinity Bellwoods to name a few, but proximity prevails for me.

farmers market posies
The most special aspect of farmers markets is usually the person behind the table is the person that actually grew/baked/prepared the food you are buying. Provided there isn’t a long line up behind you, the purveyors are usually happy to chat and answer your questions. Another great thing about farmers markets is most of them are outdoors. This means I can bring Oscar with me. However, having him with me also means I can only get half the amount of groceries I’d usually be able to carry because I have to make sure I have enough hands free to wrangle him. My tactic is to first do a survey tour of all the different stands to see what’s on offer, then I decide on a few choice items. I try not to go to the market with anything too specific in mind. I prefer to pick up whatever catches my eye and inspires me. Admittedly this can sometimes result in an incongruous collection of ingredients. Following is a selection of things that caught my eye this week.

The Apple Farmers – Brantview Apples and Cider

apple cider donuts
These guys
are my favorite part of the farmers market. This is not because I especially like apples, it’s actually because of the quiet, kind and gentle demeanor of the farmers. I’ve never asked their names, but this stand is always manned by the same two men, and one of them always comes around to give Oscar a free apple and a scratch on the head. Today was no exception, while I was choosing my apples, he came around to coo into Oscar’s ear what a good girl he was. Oscar politely did not correct him. I always get half of a half peck of apples and some apple cider donuts. The first ingredient in the donuts is apple cider. I downed half the package while writing this. I’m told macs (my husband’s favorite) won’t be ready till September.

Posies

farmers market posies
I just learned today that posies are not a kind of flower. A posy is a small bouquet. I never knew that. Although cut flowers are not the most practical thing to pick up when you’ve got limited room and muscles to carry things home, they are near impossible to resist. The bouquet pictured above cost just $5. Read More »

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From the Garden – Green Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette

green salad with tarragon vinaigrette

When I planted our salad green seedlings I vowed to let them grow for one month undisturbed before starting to snip away at them. Let them put in some good roots, enjoy sunshine, drink rain, and nuzzle with bumble bees. But I’ve been greedily eyeballing them every day and they’ve been teasing me by growing well, doubling in size. Finally yesterday I could not resist and snipped the first leaves, early by a week. Fresh from the garden greens taste markedly different from the store bought kind-they’re still alive. When you cut them and see how delicate the leaves are it’s a wonder commercial greens can survive transport, sitting out at the store, and still be in good condition.

early harvest green salad

I’m a bit of a picky salad eater, I rarely order them at restaurants. I detest the standard iceberg lettuce, unripe tomato and shredded carrot salads. I remember being blown away when mixed field greens first came on the market years ago, but now these too have become ubiquitous, everyone serves that exact same salad straight out of the package.

green_salad

This salad consists of greens all from our little container garden-young leaves of kale, arugula, red oak leaf lettuce, curly endive, dill and chives, tossed with a tarragon vinaigrette. I wanted this salad to be relatively unadorned, showcasing the simple deliciousness of truly fresh greens. No tomato, no cucumber, no avocado, just the leaves, some herbs and a simple vinaigrette. Read More »

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Orecchiette with Peas and Wild Leek Pesto

pea pod
When I brought home a huge bag of fresh peas in the pod and showed them to my husband he groaned because he knew I’d be enlisting his help. He ended up being at work when I decided to use them so was off the hook. I actually like shelling peas, it’s a meditative process, you get to Zen out.

orecchiette with peas and wild leek pesto

Music makes any task more fun. I always have a kitchen soundtrack. I often leave the same CD in the kitchen CD player for months on end and listen to that album exclusively when cooking. It was Ween for the longest time, then the Smiths, then a mixed CD my friend David made for me. Recently I’ve been listening to a radio station that plays mostly 80’s music. Once when I was singing along to a Billy Idol song, Eyes Without a Face, my husband came running out of the bathroom because he thought the dog was howling. Read More »

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Life tastes good.