Posts Tagged summer

Roasted Tomato & Goat Cheese Risotto

Before all of summer’s Delicious. Juicy. Sweeeeet tomatoes are gone for good, you must make this recipe. Don’t even bother continuing to read this post. Run out to your nearest grocery store and pick up: pint of cherry/grape tomatoes, goat cheese, arborio rice, basil, onion, garlic, and some veggie broth. Do it now!

Alright, now that you’re back from your grocery trip, I can tell you about this gem of a recipe. The inspiration mostly comes from my love of August’s (and some of September’s) amazingly ripe and perfect tiny tomatoes. They’re snacked on and chopped into many salads. But I downright crave roasting these little babies. And when the cool air of September hits and there are still delicious tomatoes in store, the time is just right to blast the heat in the oven and roast up some tomatoes. The sweetness of the tomatoes intensifies, but is balanced by the smoky char left from the high heat. Perfect Little Red Rubies.

These roasted lovelies have been stirred into soups and pasta dishes, served alongside fish and chicken, and even nestled right back into salads. I figured that if they taste so amazing in all these dishes, they are going to kick some serious taste buds in risotto. Experimenting with risotto is a favourite kitchen past-time of mine. The creamy rice dish is one of the best culinary blank canvases, and you’ll be sure to see plenty of risotto recipes on here.

Typically we add a ridiculous amount of snowy grated parmesan to the risotto right when it’s done, but luckily I noticed a log of goat cheese in the fridge. I figured the tanginess of the soft cheese would be a better balance to the sweetness of the tomatoes. I also added some vinegar to the roasting tomatoes to add one more sharp note in order to tone down any sweetness. Enjoy this one while the tomatoes last folks. Until next year …

Roasted Tomato & Goat Cheese Risotto

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
1/4 cup onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
6 cups vegetable stock/broth
2 oz goat cheese, divded
1 Tbsp cold butter
small handful basil, chopped

Preheat oven to 450°F. Place vegetable stock into a saucepan and heat over medium heat.

Half the tomatoes lengthwise. In a small bowl, combine tomatoes, 2 Tbsp olive oil, red wine vinegar and 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper. Spread tomato mixture onto a baking tray (I am incredibly anal and prefer to have all the tomatoes  facing cut-side up…I don’t think it’ll make a difference if you neglect this step). Once oven is at temperature, roast tomatoes for 10-15 minutes until lightly charred.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 Tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pot, risotto pan, dutch oven (whichever risotto making apparatus you have). Add onion and garlic and saute for 5 minutes or until lightly golden. Turn the heat to medium and add the rice. Saute the rice for about 2 minutes, allowing each grain to soak up some of the oil and become toasty. Pour in the wine (and keep your face away from the steam!) and lightly stir the rice. Once the rice has absorbed most of the liquid, add a ladle full of veggie stock and stir the rice again. Add another ladle full of liquid when the rice has absorbed most of the last addition. Continue this process for approximately 20 minutes, or until the rice is al dente (still slightly chewy – to your liking of course).

(Note: Here is another anal move of mine: I read once that traditional Italians will stir the rice in only one direction during the whole process – so if they started stirring clockwise (my preference), they continue to do so the remainder of the time. Does this make a difference? I’m not sure because I’ve always used this method. But come to think of it, I’ve always made kick-ass risotto!)

Once the rice is cooked, remove the risotto from the heat. Crumble in half of the goat cheese (1 oz) and add the butter – stir to combine. Once the butter has melted, add the charred tomatoes and any juices in the pan, stir again to combine. Have a taste to see if you need any more salt and pepper. Portion the rice into bowls and sprinkle each serving with the remaining goat cheese and some basil.

Serves 4 as part of a full meal – i.e. protein and salad.


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Green Gazpacho

I swear this isn’t a travel blog. It’s a website to share recipes. I feel that each recipe has a story, and that’s why recent posts (plus this one now) have focused on tours to other destinations. I don’t think this site would be as entertaining to read (it is entertaining isn’t it?) if I simply posted a recipe and left you to it. Where’s the history? Where’s the inspiration?? Where’s the point? And lately I’ve been motivated to share recipes pertaining to recent trips.

So yet again, another post dedicated to a voyage away from my hometown. Last weekend I went to Edmonton (yes – exotic local, I know) to attend Wicked with my sister-in-law who lives in St. Albert. I have been looking forward to this since February, when I found out the Wicked Tour would be making a 19-day pit stop in Edmonton. I read the book a few years ago, and have been enchanted by Elphaba and her story ever since. There will be no spoilers here, suffice to say I am endeared to Elphaba’s veiled empathy and beauty. The show was very different from the book. However, it was enjoyable, and great to see another perspective on this amazing story of the Wicked Witch of the West.

When I got home, I was inspired to pay homage to Elphaba. It’s not easy being green – for a human, or a meal. First of all, green dishes tend to be unappealing to most children. Broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts…the list goes on with green things kids just won’t eat. Actually, come to think of it, I know a lot of adults who won’t eat these things. (Note: I loved nearly all veggies growing up. I was some sort of childhood anomaly – choosing broccoli and dip over a slice of pumpkin pie) On top of being unappetizing to people, some green food is sometimes just awful on the eyes. Take pea soup as an example. One of my favourites (again…anomaly) – it has tons of salty taste from leftover ham, but it looks like a bowl of baby poo. (Yup, I said it right here folks)

I had to make something that was wonderful and beautiful – just like Elphaba. The only problem was that it’s been a bit too hot in the ‘ol apartment to do any sort of cooking. So, what’s my go-to summer meal when it’s burning up inside my home? Gazpacho! This stuff is great – you can whip up a huge batch and store it in the fridge to be eaten throughout the week for lunch, dinner, snacks, whenever the desire to fuel up and cool down hits you. I learned about gazpacho when I was very young, while visiting an auntie who lives in Sherwood Park, AB. Every summer she would make batches of the cold veggie soup for everyone to enjoy on hot prairie days. Her recipe is still my favourite gazpacho come July and August. Gazpacho may not be everyone’s cup of soup, but it’s one I’ve grown up loving.

Now to make it green.

Green Gazpacho

Alright. So this isn’t what typical gazpacho would be. It’s lacking the tomatoes – the usual base for a gazpacho. So I suppose one could just call this “Green Cold Blended Veggies” but does that really sound that appetizing? I looked for green tomatoes, but alas, those are lacking in our produce section. So this “gazpacho” has a cucumber base, making it extremely refreshing on a hot summer’s day. Add as much or as little of the jalepeno pepper as you like. I enjoy my cold soups “hot” with peppers. 

2 cups English cucumber, peeled, seeded & roughly chopped (about 1 large)
2 celery heart ribs, roughly chopped
1 avocado, peeled, seeded,  roughly chopped (+ more for garnish)
1/2 cup green pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 cup green onion (scallion), roughly chopped
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp chives, chopped (+ more for garnish)
1 – 2 Tbsp jalepeno, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp lime zest
2 Tbsp lime juice (about 1-2 limes)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup water

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend until nearly smooth. Add more water if you prefer a thinner consistency. Taste the soup and add more salt, pepper, vinegar if desired. Chill until ready to serve.

To serve: ladle into bowls and garnish with chopped avocado and chives, then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. You can actually garnish this with any vegetables you would like – we just happen to prefer avocados.

Note: if you want a silky smooth consistency, strain the soup with a fine mesh strainer (and maybe even a cheesecloth). I don’t mind  mine having a bit of texture to it, so I leave it as is.

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Fruity Ice Pops

We’re on the countdown to our vacation in Nova Scotia. In one week we’ll be on a layover, happily drinking and eating to pass the time – who cares that we have to spend 5 hours in an airport…We’re On Vacation!!! By next Friday we’ll be spending Canada Day in Truro, NS. Me: soaking in all the sights, smells, and sounds that the East Coast has to offer. Kyle: reminiscing of his childhood spent growing up in such a rich part of our country. I can not wait. I’ve pumped myself up for things before and been disappointed, but I have a sneaking suspicion that nothing can prepare me for the wonderful holiday we are about to have.

The one thing I’m hoping for though is that the weather changes. Right now, it’s cold, rainy, and miserable in Nova Scotia. And we’re living in one of the hottest places in Canada. I know, it’s a shocker. The North is known is for being the Land of the Midnight Sun – not the Place to Get Your Tan On. I adore the heat – and I really don’t want to be heading out of this place to go somewhere colder. That’s just not what we do here. We leave our little Capital City to escape the cold.

While I’m a akin to reptiles and prefer my settings to be hot as opposed to cool, I realize that most warm-blooded people start melting this time of the year. This is when most people shut down, lose the will to exert the tiniest bit of energy, for fear that simply lifting a finger will break them into a drenching sweat. I however just start to find my midnight-sun groove and don’t run out of steam until September. While the oven is taking a break for a couple of months, the blender, food processor, and BBQ get to take centre stage. Grilling up summer feasts, preparing summer soups, and blitzing up fruit for drinks and icy treats. I can’t get enough of the fresher tasting produce (we don’t have the luxury of farm-stands and farmers markets up here) and my mind goes into overload with all the different ways to prepare it.

Getting back to icy treats. I know you want them this time of year. And making your own takes very little time at all. You get to control the sugar and you know you’re eating real fruit. Of course you could leave the fruit out entirely and just make your own chocolate pops. Or coffee ones. Really anything you can get into a fluid form and jam into an ice-pop mould.

I made these fruit-based (and a little alcohol-based) ice pops over the weekend. When I knew I’d need something to cool myself off while lounging on the balcony. It’s simply of matter of throwing everything into the food processor (or blender), straining through a fine-mesh sieve, pouring into the moulds, and freezing for at least 2 hours. Done. It’s even simpler if you can get someone to clean up the mess for you. (Alas, I was still alone at the time these were made – but not for long, as Kyle returned early this past Tuesday!)

I’m sharing the recipes for two flavours I made. But experiment with whatever you have on hand. Peaches would be amazing. Citrus juices would be especially refreshing. These two fruits though – Strawberries & Watermelon – are the epitome of Summer for me. And I seem to have an abundance of both this time of year, so I need every possible method to use them up before the heat gets to them first.

Watermelon Ice Pops

4-5 slices of watermelon (you can see the size of slices I mean in the photo)
juice of 1 lime (if it’s not very juicy, use 2)
1/4 cup simple syrup (recipe follows)

Throw everything into a food processor or blender. Process until the mixture is liquid and there a very few chunks left. Place a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl (preferably one that is easy to pour from). Pour the watermelon mixture into the sieve, and with the back of a spoon, work out as much of the liquid as you can. You can skip this step, but your ice pops may not hold together as well – plus the texture won’t be as appetizing. Pour the mixture into the moulds and place into the freezer for at least 2 hours.

To serve, place the moulds into hot water for about 30 seconds to loosen them up.

Strawberry-Mint Daiquiri Ice Pops

1 lb strawberries, sliced
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup simple syrup
4 oz. coconut rum
2 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped

Place the strawberries, lemon juice, simple syrup, and rum into a food processor or blender. Process until the mixture is liquid and there are very few chunks left. Place a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl. Pour the strawberry mixture into the sieve, and with the back of a spoon, work out as much of the liquid as you can. Stir in the mint. Pour the mixture into the moulds and place into the freezer for at least 2 hours.

To serve, place the moulds into hot water for about 30 seconds to loosen them up.

Simple Syrup

1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar dissolves. Allow the mixture to cool, then transfer to a clean container. Will keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

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Summer Squash Salad

I don’t mean to brag, but I have the best commute ever. That’s really the wrong word for it. I have the best situation for traveling to & from work: shoes/gear on, I stroll down the hall to the elevator and take a very quick trip down 8 stories. A 5 second jaunt through the beautiful lobby of our building and out into the world. Breathe in the fresh air, and it’s a 5-10 minute walk to the front doors of the building my office is housed in. 5 minutes if I’m running late and hence running to work (ah, that’s why they call it that..) or 10 minutes if I have the opportunity to lightly stroll and take in the quiet moments between home and work life. Yes, I love this situation and don’t plan on changing it anytime soon.

One of the many bonuses of living where I live is the ability to quickly get home at lunch and prepare myself a mid-day meal that beats microwaved dinners and take out – not that there’s anything wrong with either one. Soups can be simmered lightly on the stove. Leftover pizza can be reheated in the toaster oven. And salads can be made on the spot – crisp and fresh – ready to eat greedily. I know I’m spoiled by this situation. Mainly because of the ease of relaxing at home for 45 minutes, but also because on occasion my superb husband fixes me up something tasty to nosh on before I have to head back out the door.

Alas. Kyle is not here for another 2 weeks, so this kid is on her own for lunches. Already it hasn’t been too hard, since I’ve had tons of leftovers (cook enough for 4-6 for 1 person…hmm) to heat up and enjoy while perusing enlightening material such as CBC news Etsy on the internet. But leftovers get boring, even if it’s something different everyday. I want something light and fresh by the end of the week. And thankfully Bon Appetit came to my rescue yet again. Since I have subscriptions to food magazines, I feel I have to make at least a few things out of each issue to get my money’s worth – although having the food mags for *ahem* “food-porn” purposes isn’t really that shameful is it? So when looking through the dog-eared pages of June’s BA issue I saw the recipe for Shaved Summer Squash Salad; and as luck would have it, I had every single ingredient sitting, waiting, wishing to be united for a few brief minutes before I tucked into this delicious looking salad.

The salad is uncomplicated and quick. Easily prepared with enough time to savour each bite before (running) back to the office. You could even omit a cutting board if you have a microplane grater and grate the garlic into the bowl. However, I needed one since I decided to embellish the recipe just a wee bit. Don’t get me wrong. This salad will be fantastic just the way it is. But it’s summer (well in other parts of the world it is), which means plenty of fresh herbs at my mercy. And I want to use them. So I added some fresh thyme to the dressing and a sprinkling of fresh flat-leaf parsley over the prepared salad. They brightened up the dish just enough for me to feel like summer just might make it to our neck of the woods soon…

Shaved Summer Squash Salad

Adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2011

I know some people aren’t fond of arugula, but I think the salad needs the peppery greens to balance the cool sweetness of the squash. Omit it if you must, but only substitute with another tender green – anything too crisp (i.e. romaine, iceberg) won’t be as pleasing texturally. Next time I’m going to swap toasted pecans for the almonds. Not because I think they’ll be better, I just like the combination of pecans and zucchini. 

3 Tbsp whole almonds
1 lb summer squash – zucchini (green & yellow)
2 1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 cups arugula
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
pecorino cheese (to shave over salad)

Toast the almonds over medium heat until lightly browned (you’ll probably be able to smell them, and then you’ll know their done), then lightly chop.

Trim the ends of the squash. With a vegetable peeler, peel thin strips off the squash (lengthwise) and transfer to a large serving bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the squash ribbons and let stand for 2-5 minutes. Add the arugula and lightly toss. Sprinkle the parsley and almonds over the salad and then top with shavings of pecorino.

Serves 4.

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