Roasted peach sorbet.

It’s chaos in here as our move-in date was bumped up to September 15. Nick wants to paint the new place, because when we moved in here no one had and it has driven him insane for most of two years, so he’s been wandering the hall between our two places for weeks, looking at paint chips and trying to determine how dark is too dark for an accent wall and exhausting me with so many questions about so many shades of blue. He made a monster out of the cat, who had previously not known that there are other apartments (and therefore, grand adventures) to be had in this building, and now she sits most of the time crying by the door, begging to be let out into the world.

We’re all pretty pathetic, and between the cat’s howling and whining and Nick’s puttering and pacing and me we’re not finding the energy to pull ourselves together and get properly sorted and packed. There are stacks of things, “go through it” piles that don’t get gone through, and Nick keeps saying horrible things like “you don’t need all these books, maybe get rid of some?” I’d like if we never have to move again.

So I did what I do whenever I don’t want to do any of the things I’m supposed to. I made a project out of the fruit in the fridge, and sorbet resulted, and it reminded me of desserts I ate in Paris and so I went back there in my mind. Once I had black currant sorbet with cold fresh strawberries dressed with just a whisper of brandy, and it was soft on the tongue and pure fruit – better than ice cream, if you can believe it.

I adapted David Lebovitz’s recipe for nectarine sorbet. It’s peach season now, and because Okanagan peaches are perfect we only ever eat peaches when Okanagan peaches are available. For a few weeks every summer, we have peaches in our oatmeal, on our salads, and sliced over vanilla ice cream. I buy too many, and the peaches at the bottom of the bag turn soft, not good for eating raw but ideal for roasting. So this is a roasted peach sorbet, and it is as fruity and clean as a French sorbet and it will help you enjoy what’s left of the summer or forget about how many things you have to do this fall.

Roasted peach sorbet

  • 2 lbs. fresh peaches, halved, stones removed
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • Zest and juice of one large lemon

Heat oven to 400°F. Grease a 9″x13″ baking dish.

Place peaches cut side down in dish, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the fleshy sides have turned golden. Remove from the oven, cover with aluminum foil, and let rest five to 10 minutes.

Remove foil, and peel skins off peaches. Discard skins. Place peaches in a blender with remaining ingredients, pulse until smooth, and then strain into a bowl. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until cool.

Pour mixture into an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Serve on its own, with assorted other fresh fruits, or with a touch of your favourite liqueur.

And then after that, go look at the cutest cat on the Internet.

Paneer with greens and chickpeas.

If you’ve recently returned home from Paris to find your diabetic husband has eaten nothing but brisket sandwiches from the BBQ place down the street since you’ve been gone, your home full of needy pets and their molted winter fur, and your own digestive system in distress, you’ll relate to this sudden need for the nourishing simplicity of stewed greens. While they simmer, you can toss out all those little containers he left behind that contain just a strand or two of coleslaw and maybe run a vacuum over the floors or the cat. If your jaw is still sore from all that ravenous mastication of so much perfect French meat, this dish will ease your suffering – you don’t have to chew too hard.

Also it includes cheese. Which, if you are harbouring some variety of Space Dinosaur, means that you are addressing all of your needs in one dish and will not have to run out to the market later in the evening for a hunk of medium orange cheddar and some saltines to quell any mad cravings you might be experiencing. In your absence, he ate all the cheese.

Sometimes there’s a lot going on, you know?

Anyway.

This dish is an adaptation of Palak Paneer, one of my favourite things in the whole world which requires only the effort of finding paneer, which in Vancouver is no effort at all, or of making it. The recipe is loosely based on one I’ve made a few times from India Cookbook by Pushpesh Pant, which is a resource that I insist you get if you like to make Indian food – it’s worth it’s (dense) weight and (slightly pricey) price, even if all you do is read it and look at the gorgeous photos. The dish is generally made with spinach, but I like to throw it together with whatever’s on hand; a mix of greens is lovely and also very healthy.

Paneer with greens and chickpeas

(Serves four to six.)

  • 2 lbs. greens, such as chard, spinach, kale, or collards
  • 2 tbsp. mustard oil (or olive oil)
  • 1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, including juice
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 14 oz. can chickpeas
  • 1 lb. paneer, cubed
  • 1/2 cup chopped cashews, toasted

There are two ways you can start the greens, and I like both ways. You can either blanch them in boiling salted water and then purée them in a blender or food processor, or you can put them dry into the blender or food processor. If you use the blanching method, you will end up with creamy greens; if you go dry, the final product will have a bit more texture. Both ways are good, so I’ll leave that part up to you. Process greens and then set aside.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, sauté fenugreek seeds for about 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic, ginger, jalapeño peppers, cumin, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper, and cook for two minutes, stirring frequently.

Add greens and diced tomatoes, and reduce heat to medium. Let simmer for ten minutes, adding water as needed (if you processed your greens without blanching, you may need somewhere around a cup of water) to soften the greens. Add cilantro.Taste, adjusting seasonings as required.

Add chickpeas, paneer, and cashews, cook until paneer is warmed through, about two more minutes. Serve over rice with a dollop of plain yogurt.

And stay tuned – more on Paris later! Get super excited for strawberry season.

Curried apple and Cheddar soup.

Every so often circumstances force us to face unpleasant truths about ourselves. I am fortunate in that I am quite delusional, but over the course of the past week I have come to the stunning realization that I might be just as annoying as anyone else when faced with even the suggestion of illness, and that my dramatics are lost on everyone I’m married to.

As the weight in my sinuses drags me down, I’ve realized that I must feed us real food if we are to survive this thing, even if the idea of cooking in that kitchen that is piled with an unnavigable stack of dirty dishes is so repellent that all I can do is fall into the couch to marathon Glee and slurp kimchi ramen out of a Styrofoam bowl and whine about how no one really loves me or he’d throw out everything we own and go to the store to buy new, clean stuff so we could start over and maybe also give the floor a wash and fold that pile of laundry that’s lived a week on the sofa that gets wrinklier and covered in more and more cat hair every day. Also it would be good if someone would make me a pot of tea and find me my lip balm.

Cheese soup might not be the healthiest thing we could do for ourselves at this tissue-littered time, but it’s restorative in that it contains all of the calories I have not been getting by only consuming bowls of cereal, instant ramen, and juice since my face decided to protest health. It’s an easy meatless meal, and despite its half-pound of delicious aged Cheddar and its scandalous amount of cream, there are good things in it. The carrots aren’t just for colour.

Curried apple and Cheddar soup

(Serves four to six.)

  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cups diced carrot (about four)
  • 2 cups diced apple (such as Granny Smith, about two large)
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. Madras curry powder
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 5 cups water or vegetable stock, or a combination
  • 1/2 lb. sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 cup cream

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, melt butter. Sauté onion, carrot, apples, and garlic until golden, three to five minutes. Add curry powder, salt, turmeric, and black and cayenne peppers. Stir to coat.

Add water or stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until carrots have softened, 10 to 12 minutes.

Remove from heat and purée using a blender or immersion blender. Return to heat and stir in cheese and lemon juice. Taste, adjust seasonings as needed. Stir in cream, and serve hot, with a sprinkling of additional cayenne pepper, as desired.

Also because it’s been awhile here’s a photo of the cat in the laundry basket that we emptied onto the sofa and then just left in the middle of the living room.

 

 

Orange granita that tastes like Creamsicles.

I have had three cold showers today.

Outside is lovely, bright and beautiful and exactly what I was hoping for, but inside – my goodness. Everyone is flat. And covered in a sticky, glossy film of the kind of sweat that never dries. There is no air conditioning here, or at work. And yet, I have not adapted. The cat seems to be suffering the most, and looks like a puppet without a hand, just tossed on the floor. And I think she might be losing it. Do cats get the heat crazies and hallucinate? Am I projecting my own neuroses? Should I stop talking about my cat? Okay. I will. After this photo.

So, yeah. We’re a little warm. We haven’t been eating any of the kinds of things that demand high heat or long cooking times. We have been drinking homemade iced tea by the gallon, and eating a lot of fruit. And today, granita. Because I don’t own an ice cream maker (I really have to do something about that) and there is no place to buy Slurpees within walking-without-sweating-distance.

Granita is actually the perfect hot-weather dessert, because it’s completely no-stress. You just haul your sweaty ass off the couch every so often to scrape the ice crystals – no churning required. It takes about three hours, but most of that time can be spent procrastinating over other things. And this granita? It tastes like Creamsicles.

Orange granita

(Serves four to six.)

  • Zest of 1 large navel orange
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

In a pot over medium-high heat, combine citrus zest, juices, sugar, and salt. Whisk until sugar has completely dissolved – two to three minutes.

Remove from heat. Whisk in vanilla and cream, and pour the whole thing into a glass pan or pie plate. And then put it in the freezer.

Every hour for the first three hours after that, pull the juice out of the freezer and scrape with a fork to move the ice crystals around, which keeps them from becoming a solid mass. After that, just pop in every once in awhile to be sure that all is well, scraping as needed.

Serve as is, or with whipped cream.

Every hour for the first three hours after that, pull the juice out of the freezer and scrape with a fork to move the ice crystals around, which keeps them from becoming a solid mass. After that, just pop in every once in awhile to be sure that all is well, scraping as needed.

... then you're cold.

Remove from the freezer about ten minutes before serving, and scrape with a spoon into serving dishes. Serve as is, or with whipped cream. Swoon.

Delicious.

Did I just tell you about dessert first? I guess I did. Come back soon – I have lots to tell you, all about baked beans and ribs and cornbread with blackberries and wonderful things like that.

Preview.

*Note: I originally called the grapes “concord” because until this morning when I read the package, I thought that’s what they were called. No. They’re coronation grapes, and they’re marvellous. But you can make this with concord grapes if that’s what you’ve got. Cheers.

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Beurre blanc: A tasty conclusion to a very good day.

Yesterday was one of those very good days that required no vehicle and no long trips away from home. The day started groggily, and with starvation, so we walked over to Szechuan Chongqing for spicy green beans and siu mai and king crab with garlic, among other things, and to meet up with Theresa, Mick, and Corinne.

We ate until we were sure we were sure we’d explode, which is how you’re supposed to do dim sum, and then waddled our separate ways, with Nick and I headed for Granville Island and patio beer.

While there, we grabbed spices and vegetables, and two thin pieces of fish, and wine. Always wine, because if you’re going to eat white fish you need white wine to go with. Everyone in the entire market was smiling, Nick noted, and why wouldn’t they be? The sun was trying harder than it has in a long time, and there was a man with an accordion, and everything smelled fresh and all together the fragrance of ocean and roses and bread and fudge and smoked meats and maple and fruit musk was invigorating. In this city that’s smelled like wet pavement for a week, things were looking up. With the late afternoon to spare, we headed home, intent on writing and napping and that wine.

And dinner was just as easy and low-key. Nick chose the ingredients at the market – the fish and some asparagus, and in the time it took to roast the asparagus in the oven – twelve minutes – I made Julia Child’s beurre blanc, two poached eggs, and the fish, pan-fried very gently in a film of melted butter. It was the kind of meal you could eat any night of the week, easy and fast, but also so delicate and elegant that you could serve it to good-quality company. The secret, of course, is the beurre blanc, which is basically an emulsion of butter and acids, lemon and/or vinegar (or wine!), some shallots, a little bit of salt, and, if you’ve got it, white pepper.

You can make up to a cup of this by using a bit more butter, but since it’s just the two of us, I use 3/4 cup. You’ll have enough for four people with the recipe below.

Beurre blanc

(From Julia Child’s My Life in France)

  • 3/4 to 1 cup cold butter, cut into pieces about 1 tbsp. each
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper
  • 3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. finely minced shallot

In a heavy bottomed sauce-pan, place salt, pepper, vinegar, lemon juice, and shallot over high heat, and reduce quickly until only about a tablespoon of the liquid remains.

Remove from heat, and turn heat down to low. Whisk in the first cube of cold butter, and then the second, until a cream forms. Return the pot to low heat, and continue whisking in cubes of butter, adding a new pat just as the last piece has melted into the sauce. Serve immediately, spooned over fish or vegetables. All in all, this takes about five minutes. Less, maybe, and you can do it as your fish cooks and your asparagus roasts and it will all be done together.

Serve with dry white wine. On a patio, if you’ve got one.

The acidity combined with the butter makes this a bright, surprising sauce that works well over a thin slip of fish, sole or trout, or even salmon or halibut. Also, it’s fun to say. Beurre blanc. It’s even more fun to eat.

Homemade salted caramels.

There’s this tiny shop just off Main Street, on 21st Avenue, called Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France, and they make fleur de sel caramels that I could spend my last dollars on without regret. They’re like sugar butter. Fortunately, I am becoming slightly wiser as I age – I realized that you can make caramels at home! And we always have butter, sugar, and cream here (I don’t know why we’re putting so much weight on either), so to make a batch of caramels required no special shopping trip.

Making caramel is about the easiest thing ever. It doesn’t seem like it, because molten sugar can be a bit daunting, and a candy thermometer is not everyone’s favourite kitchen tool. But a few ingredients and a little bit of science/magic, and it’s amazing what heat can do.

I don’t have fleur de del, but it doesn’t really matter. A little bit of sea salt in the caramel and some smoked salt for finishing, and these are every bit as delightful as something you could go and buy. If you don’t have smoked salt, use kosher salt, or some other coarse, delicious finishing salt.

Homemade caramel candy

  • 1 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup golden syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp. coarse salt

In a medium saucepan, bring cream, butter, and salt to a gentle boil. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Set aside.

In a large (three or four quart), heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, combine sugar, golden syrup, and water. You can use corn syrup if that’s what you’ve got, but there’s a little rumor going around that high-fructose corn syrup is bad for you. Of course, butter and sugar and cream are not.

Allow sugar to melt before stirring. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon, watching the sugar closely to ensure that it doesn’t burn. Nothing is a bigger culinary piss-off than getting excited about candy and then burning it. I let mine cook until it reached a red-amber hue. If you go darker than that, the caramel will take on a smokey, slightly burnt taste, which can be sort of good, but more often than not just tastes like you overcooked the sugar.

When your sugar is bubbly and red-amber, pour in the cream mixture. Don’t freak out. This is going to swell and bubble and threaten to maim you, but it probably won’t. If it didn’t maim me, you’re probably safe – I don’t do anything carefully.

Reduce heat to medium, and clip in your candy thermometer. Stir occasionally. You want the caramel to reach between 245°F and 250°F, which should take between ten and 15 minutes. Don’t rush it.

Pour caramel into a 9″x9″ baking dish that’s been buttered and lined with parchment, which you should have also lightly buttered, for good measure. Tip: when lining the bottom of the pan, cut the parchment too long, so that you end up with pieces sticking up on either side; these will act as handles when you go to take your caramel out of the pan – much easier. Let cool for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, sprinkle salt over top of the caramel. Let rest for two hours.

Cut into one-inch squares with a sharp knife dipped in cold water. You should end up with about 50 caramels. You lucky duck.

You can proceed to wrap each one with parchment or wax paper, or put each one into those little candy cups that look like mini cupcake wrappers. I’m sure they have a name, and I bet you can Google it.

Serve. To others, to mom (happy Mother’s Day!), or just to yourself. Enjoy!

Peanut butter and white chocolate shortbread cookies.

It’s my birthday (tomorrow)! Exciting news, I know. I’m now 27, which is three years older than my mom is in that picture, which makes me feel fairly unproductive and much less like an adult.

Fortunately, those feelings are easily forgotten by eating cookies, so I made myself some special birthday cookies and then stuffed my face with them. Being a grown-up means that I can have all the cookies I want, which is the best but most often overlooked part of adulthood. And tomorrow we are celebrating my birthday by driving two hours to Hope for pie, and then to a dodgy casino across the border for $1.75 pints and $3.00 blackjack. Adulthood can be kind of awesome if you don’t take it very seriously.

Peanut butter and white chocolate shortbread cookies

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy, whatever you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips, melted (if you don’t like white chocolate or simply prefer dark, use the same amount of semi-sweet chocolate chips)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

This is the kind of recipe for which you need to have some sort of electric mixer or food processor. You can do without, I suppose, but that would be an incredible pain in the ass. The thing about shortbread, especially shortbread made with granulated sugars (including brown sugar) is that you literally have to beat the hell out of it. And not for a minute or two either – I’m talking 25 to 30 minutes, so that the sugar rips tiny little tears into the butter before dissolving back into it.

Yes. Now. Cream together the butter, the peanut butter, and the brown sugar. Meanwhile, melt white chocolate in the microwave or in a bowl over a pot of simmering water on the stove. Once melted, pour into the butter-sugar mixture, and continue beating. Beat for 25 to 30 minutes, total.

After what will seem like forever, especially if your mixer needs to have its engine WD40d or something because it howls like it’s been stabbed, add the flour, a bit at a time, until a dough forms. Mix for another three to five minutes, until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl.

Divide into two balls. Roll out into two logs, about a foot long each, and an inch and a half in diameter. Cover tightly in plastic wrap, and place in the freezer to firm up, 30 to 40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Slice each log into about 24 equal pieces, place on a baking sheet about an inch apart, and poke each piece with the prongs of a fork. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, but check occasionally during the last few minutes to ensure the cookies have only just begun to brown. You want them firm and crumbly, but pale.

Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before eating, and then enjoy with chocolate milk (as much as you want).