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Archive for the ‘summer’ Category

Summer is in full swing, and I’m craving lighter fare that can be whipped up in no time and doesn’t leave me wanting a nap. And, because it is the perfect time of year for them, I’m craving tomatoes something fierce. I have an aversion to non-local, out-of-season tomatoes so I get my fill of them while they’re at their delicious peak…when they’re so sweet you can eat them like an apple and so juicy you need a shower when you’re finished.

With Husband and I trying to get used to a new schedule (I got a new job so I can have evenings and weekends to focus on my photo business and some family time), we’re trying to tag team dinner. So, when Husband got home late in the evening (read: after the blistering sun had set) a couple of nights ago, he whipped up a bannock crust for us to use as a flat-bread base for some tasty Mediterranean-inspired toppings the next day. That way, we wouldn’t heat the house baking the flat-bread the following afternoon and we could just scatter the toppings on and quickly broil it to warm them a little and voila! Dinner!

And what a dinner it was! We came home the next afternoon after a long day at work and dinner prep lasted all of five minutes. When we took it out of the oven, it smelled just like a bistro entrée that we could leisurely enjoy while sitting on a patio somewhere, sipping herbaceous cocktails and people watching for hours. Okay, we ate it while sitting on our couch in our underwear and watching the second season of Community on Netflix; but, you get the idea! I have a feeling this flat-bread will join gazpacho in the summer rotation.

Mediterranean Flat-bread

-1 12″ flat-bread, prebaked (we used our bannock pizza crust recipe)

-1 cup tofu feta

-1 ripe tomato, thinly sliced

-1/4 red onion, diced

-1 cup fresh baby spinach

-1/4 cup fresh mixed herbs, chopped (I had parsley and dill on hand)

-2 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced

-6 kalamata olives, pitted and chopped

-T. oil from the sun-dried tomato jar

-pinch crushed red pepper flakes

Preheat the broiler for 3-5 minutes. Lay the prebaked flat-bread on a large baking sheet.

Spread the tofu feta on the base, leaving about an inch of crust all the way around. Lay the tomato slices on top on the feta in a single layer. Scatter the remaining ingredients on top, finishing with a drizzle of oil.

Broil the flat-bread 2″ from the heat for 3-5 minutes, or until the spinach starts to crisp. Remove from oven, slice into 8 wedges and serve.

 

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Gazpacho

Gazpacho is the only thing I want to eat when the temperature soars past 30 degrees Celsius. There’s something about the chilled soup that is so refreshing and light; even though it feels like a hearty meal. It helps that you don’t need to turn on any appliances to make it and it comes together lightning fast. And the colour! All those delicious, bright-coloured veggies peeking out through the tomato “broth” make me sooo happy!

My recipe is a little different from most gazpacho recipes I’ve seen. Most call for breadcrumbs to be blended with the tomatoes and veggies to give you a thick, smooth soup. Granted, I’ve never tried it this way so it may be even more delicious; however, I just can’t get on-board with the idea of wet breadcrumbs. It reminds me of a childhood friend that liked to tear pieces of Wonderbread and put them in their Campbell’s tomato soup and then they would fish those soggy chunks out and eat them and it disturbed me greatly. I know, I’m crazy…hahaha.

Anyway, if you would like a refreshing and light chilled soup to enjoy while the temperatures are so high, give this soup a try! Husband and I will be living off of vats of it for the next 2.5 months.

Gazpacho

-6 cups tomato juice

-2 large tomatoes, chopped

-1 cucumber, chopped

-1 green pepper, chopped

-2 stalks celery, chopped

-1/4 of a small red onion, peeled and diced

-2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

-1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

-1/4 cup each chopped fresh parsley and cilantro

-1/2 tsp. cumin

-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

-the juice of each a lemon and a lime

-2 tablespoons dill pickle brine/juice (it might sound awful; but this is my “secret” ingredient and it adds something really wonderful to the dish)

Combine all the ingredients together in a large pot. Cover and chill at least 12 hours to allow the flavours to develop. Husband and I find it best the second or third day.

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Pie Love

I know I just made a pie post last week; but, I couldn’t help myself from making another. That pie up there is just too delicious not to spread the word. I found a recipe years ago on vegweb.com for a chocolate pie using avocados in the creamy filling and after trying it, I was a total convert. Not that I needed any help converting to a lover of all things chocolate or avocado…nonetheless, the pie was life-changing.

A single 9″ pie will feed a small army; it’s so rich and decadent that a tiny sliver is enough to satiate even the most die-hard chocolate fans. That being said, it’s a surprisingly “healthy” pie: even if it tastes like the chocolate was bathed in soy cream for a week before being massaged with Earth Balance…seriously…so rich…almost truffle-y.

Another bonus to this chocolate gem is how quickly it comes together. The hardest part of course is pre-baking the shell; but, you could simply use a store-bought crust if you want to save yourself a few extra minutes. I happened to have some whole wheat pastry in the freezer so I went with that option. It’s equally delicious with a graham crust; but, vegan graham crackers/crumbs/pie shells are pretty difficult to come by in my little neck-of-the-woods. If you can find one or feel like making one, feel free! You won’t be disappointed.

Chocolate Avocado Pie

-1 9″ pie shell, baked and cooled completely

-3 medium avocados

-1 tsp. lemon juice

-1 tablespoon vanilla extract

-1.5 cups vegan chocolate chips

In a double boiler or microwave, carefully melt the chocolate until smooth and glossy.

Meanwhile, blend the avocado, lemon juice, and vanilla together in a food processor or blender until smooth.

Blend the chocolate into the avocado mixture until completely incorporated. Pour the filling into the cooled pie shell. Smooth the top with a spatula and chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

Don’t stop there! Think of all the delicious little surprises that could be hiding under that chocolate layer: raspberries, thinly sliced peaches, chopped nuts, candied orange slices…or maybe a little mint in the filling? The options are unlimited; that’s one of the most appealing facts about this pie. And, really, could there be a better treat to go along with your iced coffee on the deck/balcony?!

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I’ll be the first to admit it, I’m a summer addict. I love the heat, humidity, sun, sand, all of it. Naturally, one of the best parts about summer is the food. I get so excited to see the seasonal produce arrive in all its multi-coloured glory; I relish my first peach, strawberry, tomato, basil leaf, and zucchini. I also look forward to the first sighting of the summer produce, the best clue as to the wonderful things to come!

A few days ago, my sister-in-law told me the rhubarb in her garden was ready for harvesting. (We have an understanding that I can have as much of it as I want as long as I share the goodies with her.) Yay! Rhubarb means summer is almost here! In a few short weeks, we will begin our crawl down the hill to shorter days and then to cooler temperatures. I feel that’s why rhubarb has such an alarming taste…it’s a wake-up call telling us that the good weather is here so get out and enjoy it because it’s gone all too quickly again (at least for those of us up in Northern Ontario).

And what’s the easiest way to enjoy summer? With a slice of pie, of course! After collecting my pie’s worth of rhubarb, I bought some lovely fresh strawberries and settled on this recipe. Anna is a girl after my own heart with her passion for sweets and baking so I knew that I wouldn’t be disappointed. After trying a bite, Husband declared it the best pie he’d ever eaten: a strong comment from a man whose favourite dessert is pie! Of course, I made a few changes to veganize the recipe and I felt the crumble topping would benefit from the use of whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour so I made that change, as well. Having devoured two slices last night, I can assure you that Husband’s assessment was not wrong; this pie is perfect. My veganized version is below:

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Pie

Crust:

-1.25 cups flour

-pinch salt

-1/4 cup each cold, cubed vegan margarine and vegan non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening (I use Earth Balance)

-2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

-1/4 cup cold water

Filling:

-4 cups chopped rhubarb

-2 cups hulled and sliced strawberries

-1 cup sugar

-3 tablespoons cornstarch

-3/4 tsp. cinnamon

-1/4 tsp. ground ginger

Crumble:

-2/3 cup whole wheat flour

-1/2 cup sugar

-1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg

-pinch salt

-1/4 cup vegan margarine, melted

To make the pastry, combine flour with salt. Cut in the margarine and shortening with a pastry blender or two forks until it is the consistency of pebble-sized crumbs. Add the vinegar and water and blend till it just comes together. Shape it into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a 1/4″ thick circle, large enough to fit into a 9″ pie plate. Trim and cinch the edges.

Toss the fruit with the remaining filling ingredients. Scoop it carefully into the pie shell.

Stir together all the crumble ingredients and sprinkle the mixture over the fruit. Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 45 minutes more, or until the filling bubbles.

Let cool completely before slicing.

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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: 1) garlic dills and spicy pickled green beans 2)blueberry jam, wildberry jam, and strawberry jam 3) a plethora of preserved goodiespickled asparagus, pickled carrots, pickled cauliflower, pickle medley (with red peppers from my sis-in-law’s garden!) 4) pickled asparagus, pickled carrots, pickled cauliflower, pickle medley (with red peppers from my sis-in-law’s garden!)

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before how much I adore the idea of having the opportunity to have been a 1950s housewife. I love all things “domestic” and, besides, who could resist a cute little apron and pearls (imitation, of course!)? One of the most appealing parts about housewifery for me is the kitchen quality time…always making meals, trying out the recipe that was printed in that morning’s newspaper for a NEW casserole, and preparing food for storage for the winter. There is something very magical about food preservation…and to me, it’s always seemed a little mysterious and frightening, as well. (I told you all about my previous attempt at canning…remember those sad pickled beets?) Well, a couple of weeks ago, my sister-in-law, her brother, and I got together in the largest kitchen we had available to us and set out on a very ambitious canning project. What started out to be just a simple affair of hoping to recreate these delicious pickled spicy green beans that my sis-in-law bought in bulk from an Ontario company, turned into a very large undertaking…at least for first timers.

We started out by taking a trip to the produce section of no less than 3 different stores to pick up our fruits and veggies, then back to the kitchen to start boiling some water and chopping away. We were armed with a canning bible and the instructions that came in our package of pickling spices, and the jumbled memories of what our mothers and grandmothers used to do. Oh, did I mention it was close to 40 degrees Celsius with the humidity and we had no AC? I’m left wondering how a 1950s housewife could end the day with such perfectly coiffed hair and fresh makeup under conditions such as these!

Well, we got through our task. It took us just over 10 hours and we were giddy with exhaustion by the end of it; but, we really felt like we had accomplished something. And 24 hours later, when we checked the jars, we were elated to discover that every single one was sealed correctly! We learned a lot along the way…and we made a few mistakes. (Who knew you had to cut off the stem end of the cucumber because there’s an enzyme in it that can prevent your pickles from being crunchy?  We do now…after having made 10 jars of pickles with the stem end attached!) The important thing is, we had a blast doing it and are looking forward to next summer when we can do it again…maybe using some more intriguing ingredients and add-ins!

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My sister-in-law gave me some of the bounty from her garden a few days ago and I happily devoured the majority of it within minutes of her dropping it off! I simply cannot resist a garden-fresh tomato…I’m weak, I know. Anyway, her zucchini plant is not doing so well, unfortunately, and she’s had to pick the zucchini while they are still fairly small or they basically just rot right off the plant…it’s very strange. She gave me one of these adorable little zucchinis in my little garden care package and I spent a couple of days trying to decide what to do with it, considering it was really too small to use as a side dish or to make bread.

While contemplating this, I happened to notice that the plantain I had sitting around was on its last legs. That’s when I had the idea to make a fritter/patty/cake thing and just add a little extra vegetable to it to round out the mild zucchini. Originally, I was thinking of a fritter, maybe even something similar to a pakora; but, the food had other ideas of what it wanted to become and I just went along for the ride, stirring and adjusting until it felt right.

What came out of the oven was a tender, aromatic, beautiful cake that I served up with a little lemon caper aioli over a bed of baby spinach and farmer’s market tomatoes that had been spritzed with nothing but a little fresh lemon juice. It was such a lovely dinner: fresh and full of flavour.

I think that the cakes would be a big hit with kids because the plantain gives them an inherent sweetness, and the carrot dyes the batter a lovely shade of yellow. The vegetables give some great texture to the cakes; as well as nutrients and seasonal flare. They’re very simply seasoned with a little minced garlic, a hint of garam masala (the ingredient responsible for the amazing aroma as they bake), and salt and pepper.

Veggie Plantain Cakes

-1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

-1 carrot, peeled and grated

-1 small zucchini, grated

-1 very ripe plantain, peeled and mashed

-3/4 cup all-purpose flour

-1/2 tsp. baking powder

-1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs

1/2 tsp. garam masala

-1/2 tsp. salt

-1/4 tsp. pepper

-1 tsp. vegetable oil

-1/3 cup soymilk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet.

Stir together all the ingredients until incorporated; but, not completely smooth. You still want a few lumps in the thick batter. Ladle spoonfuls of the batter onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving about an inch between each one. You want them to be about pancake size (about 3-4 inches in diameter). You should end up with 6 cakes. Lightly spray the tops with a little cooking spray or olive oil.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, remove and flip over, and then bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until they are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Husband and I have a bit of a sandwich obsession; I think it may even have been one of the prerequisites set out in our marriage vows! Often times, when we want a snack or quick meal, we turn to two pieces of bread surrounding something tasty. With the summer heat has come the strong desire to grill everything. When we combine those two things, the end result is a delicious grilled sandwich that we happily eat while catching up on the day’s happenings at dinner.

When I made this sandwich the first time around, I thought it was nothing special and didn’t bother taking a photo before I served it. Then we took a bite! Oh, man….it was so good! Husband said it was some of the best tempeh he’d ever eaten. I would have to agree with him. The agave-garlic marinade I created for it had a little heat from the horseradish; the agave caramelized so nicely on the surface of the tempeh and the garlic was a pronounced flavour while still being relatively mellow. The day after making it the first time, I went out for more tempeh and ciabatta rolls to make it again, this time “for the blog…to get a picture”.

Served on fresh ciabatta rolls with nothing more than a light smear of Vegenaise and some crunchy cucumber slices, this sandwich was perfection! The nuttiness of the tempeh really took centre stage while the individual flavourings in the marinade rounded out the chorus, so to speak. The textures in each bite were wonderfully balanced: crunchy-cool cucumber, soft, chewy bread,  and firm tempeh…such a pleasing combination.

Agave-Garlic Grilled Tempeh Sandwiches

-1 pkg. tempeh, cut in half horizontally and vertically to end up with four rectangles

-3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

-2 T. olive oil

-1 T. tamari

-2 T. agave nectar

-1 T. grainy mustard

-1 T. prepared horseradish (check ingredients, a lot of these contain dairy)

-1/2 cup water

-4 fresh ciabatta rolls

-Vegenaise, to taste

-approx. 16 slices field cucumber

Combine the garlic, oil, tamari, agave, mustard, horseradish, and water in a shallow dish. Lay the slabs of tempeh in the marinade. Cover and marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours, turning half way. Grill the tempeh for approximately 4 minutes per side. Meanwhile, prepare the sandwiches. Slice the buns and lightly spread Vegenaise on one side. Lay some cucumber slices on top of the mayo. When the tempeh finishes, lay one slab of tempeh on each sandwich.

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