Strawberry Salsa.

Berry salsa

 

My kitchen is sticky with berry mess, and it is wonderful. I have blended them into smoothies for breakfast, pureed and diced them for muffins for the toddler, and fantasized about weather reliable enough for a pavlova that drips with lemon curd and macerated berries. Strawberries are back! I am not cranky about anything today.

But we have a lot of them, because I never know how much is enough until I have too many. No math skills, this one. I still have frozen strawberries in the freezer from last year’s picking/buying binge. Who could say no to summer fruit after too many months of last autumn’s apples?! Impossible.

So, we do what we can with them, and we do everything with them, and tonight because we were having fried white fish, I decided to make a salsa of them; I am very happy to report that my total inability to calculate even the simplest thing has left me with an abundance of salsa – I will get to eat it later, while watching TV, with a big bowl of tortilla chips. Success, no matter how you do the math. Especially if you can wrangle someone else to scrub the sticky off the kitchen floor and counters.

If you don’t like cilantro, I’ve made this with basil and it’s equally good. Also I take the seeds out of the jalapeno peppers but leave the membrane, because I like this salsa just a little bit spicy.

Strawberry Salsa

  • 2 cups diced strawberries, in cubes of about 1/4″
  • 1 large avocado, diced the same
  • 1 large or 2 medium jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 3 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Zest and juice of one lime
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Toss to combine, and let sit for 30 minutes in the fridge before serving. Serve over chicken, fish, grilled halloumi, or in a bowl on its own with all the chips you can eat.

More salsa

Sweet potato tortilla Española

Eggs

Thank you for all your breakfast advice! I have put it all into a Word document and bullet-listed it, and the document will serve as an extremely wordy shopping list. We’ve been eating a lot of leftovers, and Nick is very excited about the idea of breakfast cheese. He is less excited about leftovers, but he could get up early and make us both something to eat if he really has a problem with it.

He has yet to volunteer.

I’m even putting my Crock Pot to work. It’s still making breakfast slop, but at least the slop is different – I like this list of porridge recipes at SweetVeg (Hi! Thanks for the tip!), especially the overnight barley one (which also works for a blend of barley and farro with dates and cardamom).

Your advice has been super helpful. I have, literally, been eating it up.

I have been gradually learning to cope with morning food, but since starting this new job where my hours are much more flexible we have been eating wholesome homemade dinners a lot more often. Sure, I am up way too early and at the office at an ungodly hour, but I am home by 5:00! It is just enough time to start a load of laundry and savour a brief, perfect moment of silence alone with a magazine and no one wailing on the floor about the injustice of being told “no,” and then to start dinner.

Sweet potatoes in eggs

Tonight, dinner was a lot like a breakfast I might make if I had any zest for life in the grim hours before 8:00 a.m. I actually stole this recipe from my friend Paul who learned it when he lived in Spain, like the well-travelled bon vivant he most dapperly is. Well, I adapted it – his recipe uses regular potatoes, and no thyme. I always have sweet potatoes, and usually a hardy herb or two on hand, so it evolved to suit my fridge’s contents; feel free to use regular waxy potatoes and no herbs if you prefer. The best part about it is that we have just enough for breakfast! If I am very lucky, Nick will get up first* and reheat it for me so I can sleep a little bit longer.

Dinner.

*Dare to dream, no matter how impossible your dream may seem.

Sweet potato tortilla Española

(Serves 2 to 4; portions for 4 will be small.)

  • 4 tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 lb. sweet potatoes, sliced thinly (1/4 inch)
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 4 tbsp. cup water
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

In a 9-inch pan over medium-high heat sauté the onion in two tablespoons of olive oil until translucent. Add potatoes, tossing to coat in oil and onion mixture, then add water and cover with a lid. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for 20 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to prevent sticking (and scorching).

Remove the sweet potatoes and onion from the pan and cool for 10 minutes or until there’s no more steam, and heat the broiler. Fish out the thyme sprig and discard it. Wipe out the pan.

Whisk together eggs, some salt and pepper, and heat another tablespoon of oil in the pan, tipping to coat the whole bottom. Mix the sweet potatoes into the eggs, pour the whole thing into the heated pan. Run a spatula along the sides every so often, and when the sides are golden, after five or six minutes, then shove it under the broiler until the centre sets and the top is golden. Another three minutes, maybe five, but leave the oven light on and check frequently.

Turn out onto a plate, and slice into six pieces. Serve with salad and pickles or olives.

A slice of tortilla with coleslaw and pickles.

 

 

Slow-cooker ham and white bean stew

Stew.

Patience is a virtue, but it isn’t one of mine. And so I am pacing, expectant, as a friend of mine is days, maybe even hours away from having a baby I feel like she’s been gestating for years. I keep wishing things would hurry along, because while I know people with babies, very few of those people live nearby. And when you have babies, you need other people around you to have them. People with babies need other people with babies because what we really need is a support group with wine.

The longer you have babies, the more you need wine. Mine is an accidental hurricane, a destructive force of nature seemingly bent on exploring and subsequently breaking all my things. That this is going to happen to someone I know is very comforting.

And so my friend is almost there, and because one only needs so many onesies, I had said I would make her freezer meals in lieu of a shower gift. So I have been plodding along, making a container of something here, and a pot of something there. Tonight I added one more to the freezer, a pot of ham and white bean stew, a creamy, savoury combination of leftovers and slow-cookery.

I left the stew in the Crock Pot to cook for ten hours today, and when I came home this place smelled like salty meat and garlic and herbs; using just a few bits and pieces, there was enough hearty stew for at least eight people, I’m sure of it. It’s not beautiful, but it’s delicious, and plenty soothing for someone with a newborn and the imminent danger of having all her favourite stuff smashed by a happy little Hulk.

Crock pot full of stew.

Ham and white bean stew

(Serves 6 to 8.)

  • 1 lb. small white beans, such as Great Northern or navy beans
  • 1 lb. cubed ham
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 6 cups stock (ideally homemade ham stock, but store-bought chicken stock will work too)
  • 1 tbsp. grainy mustard
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • Juice of half a lemon, if needed
  • Salt to taste

The night before you plan to eat, cover one pound of white beans with an inch of water.

In the morning, drain and rinse your beans. Put them into a slow cooker, along with ham, onion, celery, pearl barley, stock, mustard, rosemary, and bay leaves. Stir, cover, set slow cooker to low, and cook for 10 hours.

Go to work, or about your day, or back to bed.

When you get home, stir in pepper, Parmesan, and parsley. Taste, and add lemon juice and salt as needed. Serve with bread. Feel virtuous.

Stew and toast.

Potatoes with chorizo, scallops, and gremolata.

Full disclosure: I didn’t pay for any part of this dish. It’s technically a sponsored post, I guess, which I agreed to do because the product is potatoes – whole potatoes, which I was allowed to do anything I wanted with. Some of them I cooked simply and slathered in butter, because potatoes in butter taste so much better than skinny could ever feel. (This is the point at which I am sure the nice potato people are wondering whose idea it was to contact me.)

I was asked by a company called EarthFresh, a Canadian potato company, to create a recipe for these pink and gold potatoes, and for it I got the groceries paid for. Which perhaps will become obvious to you when you see that I’ve created a recipe that uses a pound of scallops even though I am still unemployed. Maybe disclosure is redundant then? Anyway, the recipe will go into a contest and if I win I get a second gift card for even more groceries, which will come in handy should the search for work drag on.

As a main dish, I’ll admit this one’s a little weird. But bear with me – the sweetness of the potatoes is matched by the sweetness of the roasted garlic and the scallops, and balanced by the lemon juice and the spiciness of the pepper flakes, paprika, and chorizo.

While here they act almost like pasta, sopping up the dish’s flavourful juices, often potatoes are a secondary ingredient, a thing that rounds out a meatier dinner. I don’t know why that is, as on more than one occasion while I was a student I would eat a plate of buttery, cheesy mashed potatoes for supper and they were more than satisfying, but most often potatoes suffer silently at the side, relegated to the role of “lead starch.” We are told to enjoy them in moderation, and advised to eat them deep-fried less often.

Waxier potatoes, and in particular the golden varieties of potatoes, are not so bad for you. They score lower on the glycemic index, which means that Nick with his diabetes can eat more of them than the fluffy Russet kind as they aren’t so quick to spike his blood sugar levels. Even if he couldn’t eat a whole plate of them, golden potatoes also make for a more interesting mash.

Anyway.

Some notes on this recipe:

  • I used larger scallops for this, about 15 to 20 to a pound. If all you can get is the cute little baby scallops, cook them for less time – I’d guess 10 minutes.
  • I used two pounds of potatoes, about four potatoes to a pound which parboiled in about 15 minutes – if you have larger or smaller potatoes, adjust your cooking time.
  • If you decide not to use scallops, cubes of a firm-fleshed white fish, whole button mushrooms, or diced zucchini would work well instead.
  • When I tested this recipe I used a 9″x13″ baking dish, which worked fine, but the next time I make this I am going to use a roasting pan as I felt the potatoes could sop up even more flavour if they weren’t as densely packed. Use what you’ve got, though – a 9″x13″ baking dish won’t ruin dinner.

Potatoes with chorizo, scallops, and gremolata

  • 2 lbs. yellow-fleshed potatoes (such as Klondike Rose)
  • 1 lb. raw Spanish chorizo, cut into inch-thick pieces
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 heads garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice (from about one large lemon)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. coarse salt, divided
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 lb. scallops (thawed if frozen)

Gremolata:

  • 1/4 cup parsley, firmly packed
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Parboil whole potatoes until just fork-tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and chop into quarters or eighths, to about an inch thick. Toss into a bowl with raw chopped chorizo, bell peppers, and garlic cloves.

In a smaller bowl, whisk olive oil, lemon juice, one teaspoon of salt, pepper flakes, smoked paprika, black pepper, and oregano. Pour over potato mixture and toss to coat.

Pour the dressed potato mixture into a baking dish or roasting pan and bake for 20 minutes.

Using the same bowl you tossed your potatoes in (don’t rinse it!), toss your scallops with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. After 20 minutes, pull the dish out of the oven and carefully nestle the scallops in with the potatoes and sausage.

Cook for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until potatoes have browned and scallops have turned lightly golden.

Meanwhile, place parlsey, garlic, lemon zest, and salt in a pile on your cutting board and chop everything finely. Really mince the hell out of it. Throw it into a bowl and mix with the red pepper flakes.

When your dish has finished baking, pull it out and sprinkle with the parsley mixture. Drizzle with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and serve hot, with crusty bread for sopping and a salad to make you feel virtuous.

 

 

Sweet potato and pear barlotto.

Around here, risotto is a favoured comfort food. I like its toothsome porridginess (can that be a thing? Or is that redundant? Can porridge be toothsome?), and the way it lends itself to infinite variations. Nick likes carbs and wine and cheese. Who doesn’t, really?

It’s been cold lately, and we’re tired. We’re in need of comfort, especially after spending so much time comforting this ten-pound pork chop at the expense of uninterrupted sleep and personal hygiene.

Too often we seek solace in take-out. So while I crave risotto, it would be wise to make a healthier choice in light of the tempura and pulled pork and fast-food cheeseburgers we’ve consumed this past week. Pearl barley stands in nicely for arborio rice, and loaded with veggies this barlotto makes a meal that’s equal parts soothing and nutrient-rich. Make it as a main course for Meatless Monday, or serve it as a hearty, autumnal side dish with roasted pork or chicken.

Sweet potato and pear barlotto

  • 1 lb. sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 lb. firm-fleshed pears, diced
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus additional for garnish

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Toss sweet potato and pears in oil, and sprinkle with half of one teaspoon each salt and pepper. Pour mixture into a 9″x13″ baking pan, and roast 35 to 40 minutes until golden, turning mixture halfway through cooking.

Heat stock in a pot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, then reduce to low.

Heat two tablespoons butter and one tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add shallot, carrot, celery, and garlic, and sauté for one minute. Add pepper, rosemary, and thyme. Add barley, stirring to coat in butter and oil, then add bay leaf and wine. Stir frequently until liquid dissipates.

Add stock one cup at a time until absorbed, about 30 minutes, stirring regularly.

Add cheese, then taste. If you use store-bought stock, you likely won’t need to add salt. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Stir in an additional tablespoon of butter, then toss with fresh parsley. Serve immediately, with additional parsley for garnish.

Roasted tomato and garlic soup

Tomato soup is one of those things on the list of “Oh, I thought I didn’t like that,” which has gotten shorter and shorter as I’ve gotten older.

For years I despised tomato soup, because I thought it all tasted like Campbell’s Cream of Tomato, which always tasted tinny on my tongue and then itched in my throat going down.

My Dad liked it though, and our little cat at the time, Truffles, would lap it furiously out of her bowl the instant the bowl was put on the floor (she would coat the wall in orange splatter, unable to wait until it cooled even slightly to dive in), so we always had cans of it in the pantry. I preferred Cream of Mushroom, but I was in the minority.

You don’t need beautiful tomatoes for this; the ruddy, ugly, sort of soft or bruised ones are fine. The secret to good tomato soup is to roast the tomatoes first. Though around here that isn’t such a secret – a friend at work pointed out that roasting is my go-to technique for just about every ingredient. It sounds like I might be a bit predictable. But anyway. Roast the tomatoes. And the garlic. Use too much garlic. This is the future, and we’re okay with that now.

Roasted tomato and garlic soup

(Serves six)

  • 5 medium field tomatoes (2 1/2 to 3 pounds)
  • 3 heads of garlic plus three cloves, peeled
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, packed

Lightly grease a 9×13 pan. Preheat your oven to 300°F.

Quarter tomatoes, and line up in the pan. Scatter the peeled cloves from three heads of garlic over top. Drizzle olive oil over the contents of the pan, and sprinkle about a teaspoon of coarse salt over as well. Roast for 90 minutes to two hours, until tomatoes have withered and garlic is deeply golden. (This step you can do in advance; I like to roast a lot of tomatoes and garlic and stick them in freezer bags for easy weeknight dinners during the winter.)

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat two tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add three remaining cloves of garlic. Sauté onion until translucent, then add pepper, pepper flakes, and oregano, stirring to coat. Add tomatoes and garlic to the pot, scraping any solids that remain in the pan into the pot. Stir.

Add stock, and reduce heat to medium. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes, until later garlic cloves have softened. Purée using an immersion blender. Taste, adjusting seasonings as needed, then add basil and parsley and purée again. Add water to thin to desired consistency, if needed.

Serve drizzled with olive oil.

Corn and asparagus salad

As of about 1:30 p.m. last Friday, it is now summer on the west coast and I am wearing a sundress and remembering my thighs now that they are not prevented by denim or Lycra from rubbing together.

Finally, things I’ve been waiting a year for are in season again, and the sun is warm into the evening so we can garden after work or enjoy a fizzy drink or two and a tomato salad on a patio somewhere and be social. I bought this season’s first zucchini on Sunday. I picked strawberries in the sunshine on Saturday. On Friday I ate corn in a park beside a marina.

My Dad trimmed his garlic plants this weekend and sent me home with a wealth of stinky, curly green stalks with which to make pesto and salads until the garlic oil ekes from our pores and our coworkers beg us to eat anything else. And corn has begun to appear in the markets, just as the last of the frozen stuff has hardened into an iceberg that smells like freezer and deserves to be thrown out.

So for this Meatless Monday, dinner came together in a fifteen-minute frenzy of blanching, chopping, and tossing, and it was cool and bright-tasting, with lemon and tomatoes, and basil, and piquillo peppers from a jar in the fridge and those pungent, fabulous garlic scapes.

There would have been a handful of Parmesan cheese thrown in at the end but I was in such a rush to eat that I forgot. No matter. It’s just fine sprinkled on after, and it’s just fine without if you want to keep things vegan. It would also be wonderful with grilled scallops or spot prawns, or maybe halibut, but you can do that some other night.

Corn and asparagus salad

(Serves four as a main dish, six as a side.)

  • 1 lb. asparagus, trimmed, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 large cobs corn (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 cups diced fresh tomatoes
  • 2 diced piquillo peppers (or roasted red bell peppers)
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup garlic scapes or scallions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. minced fresh basil
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Blanch asparagus in a large pot of boiling water. Cool in an ice water bath until cold.

Scrape corn from cobs into a large bowl. Add tomatoes, peppers, shallot, garlic scapes, Parmesan cheese, and lemon zest. Add asparagus.

Whisk lemon juice, olive oil, basil, pepper flakes, salt, and pepper together. Taste, adjusting balance as needed. Pour over salad. Toss to coat.

Serve immediately.