How to Make Amazing Cold Brew Iced Coffee with a French Press and an Ice Cube Tray

A Mason jar full of milky iced coffee against a burgundy background.

My love of cold brew iced coffee is comparable to say, my love of listening to Nick Drake while walking around at dusk: that is to say, immense, deep, and neverending. I like to drink it black and unsweetened, although I’ve never turned down an iced coffee that’s had a drop or two of cream added. As a freelance writer in the summertime I go through an embarrassing amount of iced coffee and when I add it all up it seems crazy that I’m not making my own. I started making cold brew iced coffee in my French press instead and I have to say, I think it’s even better than what my local coffee shop is selling. What makes it so delicious? The ice cubes! I make two batches of coffee, one hot and one cold brew, and then fill ice cube trays up with the hot coffee for the following day. No watery iced coffee endings anymore, the entire experience is as loaded with caffeine as it could possibly be. Cold brew iced coffee needs at least 12 hours to sit so I’ve been making everything the night before – waking up has never been this hopped up and amazing!

for the coffee ice cubes:

Make coffee as you normally would using a French press and pour into ice cube trays. Freeze for future use in iced coffee. If the coffee on coffee component makes you leery and you enjoy milky coffee these cubes can be piled high in a glass and topped with the milk of your choice (this works really well for iced coffee on the go).

for the cold brew iced coffee:

The trick with cold brew coffee is to grind the beans coarsely, the flavour will be fabulous and you won’t have to worry about grounds floating around after you lower the press. Use about 3 times more coffee than you normally would, this will leave you with strong coffee that can be diluted with water or dairy. Cover the coffee grinds with filtered cold water, stir gently, and cover with plastic wrap before transferring to the fridge overnight and up to 24 hours. Since the coffee is being extracted in cold water the finished product won’t have strong acidity and bitter notes but it will have plenty of caffeine. Plunge the coffee as usual and pour over the coffee ice cubes, leaving room to dilute with with water or the dairy/non-dairy of your choice.

*If you like to sweeten your cold brew coffee it’s a good idea to keep some simple syrup made with either sugar or honey hanging around. Simple syrup will sweeten your coffee uniformly and will taste much better than regular cold brew with sugar sitting undissolved at the bottom of your glass.

A Mason jar filled with iced coffee and coffee ice cubes sitting on the book Alligator Pie by Dennis Leery.

Oh weird, yet ANOTHER 4AD artist I’m obsessed with (add it to the list: Belly, Tanya Donelly, Cocteau Twins, Modern English, Grimes, Blonde Redhead, Lush, Camera Obscura, Ultra Vivid Scene, Deerhunter – it’s like someone made a record label just for me).

Daughter – Numbers

Chilled Watermelon Soup with Roasted Apricots and Tomatoes

A shallow white soup bowl full of watermelon gazpacho with roasted apricots, tomatoes, and red onions on a red, white, blue floral background. Small fresh basil clusters are arranged on the gazpacho and background.

Soup is best served cold on a hot day and this gazpacho-inspired recipe is a fine example of chilled summer soup at its best. Make this soup when local produce is readily available, this is the time to let seasonal fruits and vegetables shine. Roasting apricots, tomatoes, red onions, and a jalapeño  pepper or two gives the soup depth of flavour and a solid base for the raw ingredients. It’s absolutely crucial that this soup is chilled for at least 12 hours in order for it to taste spectacular, 24 hours is even better if you have the time. Use a fruitier extra virgin olive oil if possible, the biting peppery taste of the oil you use to cook with isn’t complementary to the lovely sweetness of the soup. I’ve also used avocado with success, it gives the finished product a delicious buttery quality. I love using sherry vinegar in this recipe as a nod to traditional gazpacho and I’ve added some additional lime juice to really underscore the sweetness of the watermelon. I like to serve this chilled watermelon soup with something tangy and rich such as creme fraiche or high-fat yogurt, finely diced avocado also works well. Pack this soup into jars for an easy picnic addition or any on-the-go meal, it’s also incredibly refreshing after any outdoor activity when temperatures are in full mid-August mode.

chilled watermelon soup with roasted apricots and tomatoes:

(makes enough for several meals and will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator)

4-5 cups of watermelon, cubed with seeds removed

6 medium-sized tomatoes, cut into quarters

6 fresh apricots, cut in half with puts removed

1 medium-sized red onion, cut into quarters

1-2 jalapeño peppers, cut in half with seeds removed

Olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1 medium-sized cucumber, cut into a fine dice with seeds and peel removed

1 sweet pepper, cut into a fine dice

A generous handful of fresh basil, cut into a fine chiffonade

4 Tbsp. sherry vinegar

Juice of 1 lime

1/3 cup fruity olive or avocado oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Put the watermelon in a food processor and pulse until completely blitzed. Set aside.
  3. Arrange the tomatoes, apricots, onion, and jalapeño pepper(s) on a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with the salt and pepper. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until everything begins to brown, stirring occasionally.
  4. Scrape the roasted fruits and vegetables into the food processor with their juices. Pulse a couple of times being careful not to process until smooth, the goal is a chunky salsa-like texture.
  5. In a very large jug or bowl stir together the watermelon, roasted and chopped vegetables, sherry vinegar, olive oil, and fresh basil. Season generously with salt and paper.
  6. Cover the soup and refrigerate for 12-24 hours before serving chilled with your preferred finishing touch.

IMG_2824

Greg Gonzalez of Cigarettes After Sex has the gentlest of  singing voices, the most obvious comparison would be Hope Sandoval when she’s singing with the Warm Inventions but I also hear echoes of Low when they’re at their most sparse. This dreamy EP is just gorgeous, it’s also an album that gives me a definite feeling of time and place. It makes me think of reading in bed, sunlight filtering through semi-closed blinds, and the distinct smell of dust and library books. CAS has a playful yet melancholic sound that fills the room because of its lo-fi simplicity not despite of.

Cigarettes After Sex – Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby

Just a Little Leftover Steak Summer Salad

Summer salad of leftover steak, quinoa, blueberries, tomatoes, cucumber, arugula, and feta in a clear glass bowl on a white background.

Cold steak is the ultimate leftover, the smallest piece can be thinly sliced to yield a surprisingly generous portion perfect for any summer salad. Like everywhere else right now, it’s incredibly hot in Vancouver and using the oven is out of the question most nights. My solution is to keep a small salad bar on constant rotation in the fridge, a couple of containers full of prepped ingredient for super easy meals. I like to cook up a batch of quinoa and then cool it on a baking sheet so that it doesn’t continue to residually cook to the point of mushiness and keep it chilled in the fridge for a vegetarian and protein-rich addition to salads. Fresh fruit of any kind is what I look forward to the most when summer arrives so I love to include it in as many recipes as possible. In fact, many of the salads I make are more fruit salad than non, I’m unable to resist the bright sweetness and colour of seasonal fruit paired with salty, sharp, and bitter ingredients. Blueberries are lovely here but thinly sliced nectarines and peaches, pitted cherries, blackberries, strawberries, melon, and grapes are all welcome additions to any salad. I’ve finally succeeded in growing decent basil plants so I’m using it in all of my cooking, fresh mint, thyme, parsley, or cilantro would all taste amazing in this salad.

leftover steak summer salad:

Leftover steak, sliced as thinly as possible

Grape tomatoes, halved

Blueberries

Quinoa

Cucumber

Arugula

Feta cheese, crumbled

Fresh basil leaves

Sherry vinegar

Olive Oil

Fleur de sel (Maldon or kosher salt also works well, the “crunch” factor is what’s important)

Freshly cracked pepper

Pile all ingredients except for the vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper onto a large shallow bowl. Drizzle the salad with olive oil, following with a smaller drizzle of sherry vinegar. Top with plenty of salt and pepper. Toss and enjoy immediately.

I finally got around to listening to Morning Phase and I have totally fallen in love with the entire album, the more melancholy Beck gets the better in my opinion. This song is dreamy and nostalgic, a much-needed gentle soundtrack to my current morning phase. I highly recommend listening to this song in your summeriest pajamas while reading cookbooks and drinking cold green tea sweetened with honey.

Beck – Blue Moon

 

Creamy Portobello Mushroom Puff Pastry with Pancetta and Smoked Caciocavallo

Sour Cream Mushroom Puff Pastry

I can’t really think of a less summery recipe than buttery puff pastry piled high with meaty portobello mushrooms and then topped with smoky cheese, but up until quite recently Vancouver was asking its regular “is it winter? Is it summer?” questions, my cravings being reflected in the former season rather than the latter. I also have the benefit of my beloved toaster oven, which I use more than my actual stove all year long, meaning that my kitchen doesn’t get hellishly warm when I’m cooking things at 400 degrees. You don’t have to use portobello mushrooms, you can either go for the exotic and use fancy mushrooms or you can dial it right back with white button mushrooms. Regular bacon or even prosciutto can be used instead of pancetta if you prefer, it’s the crispy texture and resonant smokiness that’s important in this recipe. If smoked caciocavallo isn’t familiar or available to you then go right ahead and use smoked mozzarella in its place. Incidentally, if you’re searching for smoked caciocavallo it can often be found with the fancier supermarket cheeses, Cryovaced and in the shape of a rubber ducky – you’ll know it when you see it.

creamy portobello mushroom puff pastry with smoked caciocavallo:

1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed and rolled out on parchment paper

1/2 packet of pre-cubed pancetta (about 1/2 cup)

3 portobello mushrooms, dark gills removed

2 shallots, finely diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1/4 full-fat sour cream

1 tsp. smoked paprika

1 tsp. dried dill

Juice of half a lemon

A generous cup of grated caciocavallo or mozzarella

Fresh parsley, torn into small pieces for garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare puff pastry by pricking it all over with a fork, being careful to leave a small border around the edges and trying not to press the fork all the way through the puff pastry. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes while you prepare the mushroom topping.
  2. Cook the pancetta in a skillet over medium-high heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy. Remove pancetta from skillet and set aside.
  3. Chop the portobello mushrooms up into smallish pieces, removing any overly woody stems. Sauté the shallots, garlic, and mushrooms in the bacon fat over medium heat until softened and cooked through. Add the paprika and dill and cook for a couple of minutes longer.
  4. Remove the mushroom topping from the heat and stir in the sour cream and lemon juice.
  5. Bake the puff pastry for 10 minutes or until it begins to turn golden. Remove from the oven and spread out the mushroom topping evenly, right up to the border. Sprinkle with the smoked caciocavallo and return to the oven for another ten minutes, watching carefully to ensure the cheese doesn’t burn. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
  6. Garnish with the fresh parsley and serve with a crisp green salad. Alternately, serve chilled on  picnic along with seasonal fruit.

Where do I even begin? I’m wrestling with the mother of all depression demons right now, it’s been several weeks of lows so low I can’t touch the bottom. So I listen to a lot of Lemon Jelly because I feel like at least with them, there are no expectations. They’re a gentle push when I feel like I’m swimming against a leaden current, like an encouraging smile in the form of music.

Lemon Jelly – Come

 

 

Fiery Spaghetti with Plenty of Garlic, Fresh Herbs, and Parmesan

Spaghetti with Fresh Herbs, Chilies, Parmesan, and Black Pepper on a vivid red background.

This recipe has many, many variations but the basic idea is always the same: heaps of fiery chilies, bright greenery, enough garlic to offend anyone within close range, and some sort of satisfying umami element to bring it all together. You could go ahead and use any type of pasta you prefer, but there’s something very satisfying about eating a big bowl of perfectly toothsome al dente spaghetti that I find essential to this loosely crafted recipe. If I’m using sub-par garlic, which tends to be often, I use between 5-7 cloves to really drive the point home. If you’re lucky to have wonderfully pungent cloves then feel free to scale back (or not). I have fresh basil and parsley kicking around more often than other greenery, but I’ve also had immense luck with arugula, dill, and even baby spinach. What you’re looking for is a big happy juxtaposition of elements, the greens need to be capable of standing up for themselves and shining through layers of other robust flavours. The cheese is the umami hit that’s so essential when bringing all these flavours together, I tend to have a big chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano hanging out in the fridge so I use it as my default ingredient but anything aged and flavourful will work wonderfully (may I humbly suggest Pecorino Romano, aged Manchego, Piave Vecchio, Asiago, Crotenese, or even a really aged goat’s milk gouda).

fiery spaghetti with plenty of garlic, fresh herbs, and parmesan:

Enough spaghetti for 1-2 people

Olive oil

5-7 cloves of garlic, finely minced (if you have super strong garlic use less, or not!)

A big handful of flavourful greens and fresh herbs (parsley and basil are my personal favourite)

Copious amounts of freshly cracked pepper

Dried chili flakes

Parmesan cheese, grated (or other aged cheese)

Kosher salt to taste

  1. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions, before draining reserve about half of a cup of the pasta water.
  2. In the same pot that the pasta was cooked in heat up the olive oil over medium heat.
  3. Sauté the minced garlic until fragrant and then add the fresh greens and dried chili peppers.
  4. Toss the spaghetti and pasta water with the garlic, dried chili peppers, and greens. Take off the heat and add the freshly cracked pepper, parmesan cheese, and kosher salt to taste.
  5. Serve in large bowls with extra cheese and greens sprinkled on top. Eat large amounts while still piping hot, relax and reflect on how happy and nourished you feel.

I have to admit, there’s something about The War on Drugs that reminds me of early childhood, being in the car with my dad while he listened to Dire Straits or Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. As with so many things in my life, nostalgia takes the wheel once again and steers my taste. I love this album, it’s just meant for sunny Sunday afternoons and lying around on the couch, waiting to gently fall asleep in the pools of a softly filtered sunbeam.

The War on Drugs – Comin’ Through

Spiced Chickpea Stew with Butternut Squash & Spinach

spiced chickpea stew with butternut squash and spinach in a shallow brown bowl, a small white bowl to the side holds a cucumber slaw to top the stew with. the bowls are arranged on a blue and red tablecloth, with a small pot of ras el hanout and a tub of black nigella seeds.

A can of chickpeas, an onion, and some garlic make up the most unassuming of all blank canvases for a meal. These three homely ingredients become something special when combined, add in other pantry staples and spices and a meal worthy of casual company can come together quickly and without fuss. For this Spiced Chickpea Stew I made excellent use of frozen butternut squash and spinach, although fresh would work just as well. I’m going for convenience when making a recipe like this one. This recipe will keep for several days in the fridge, I generally eat it as written for a day or two before I begin adding in little extras to stretch out the leftovers. Mashed sweet potatoes or carrots  are lovely when mixed into this stew, rub chicken thighs with Ras El Hanout and olive oil and serve alongside the stew, or stir in a generous spoonful of this garlicky cashew cream with lime and cilantro. If there’s anything else I love more than a hearty stew it’s a crunchy, sweet, and tangy slaw to serve alongside (or on top!) of the chickpeas. The nigella seeds in the slaw aren’t strictly necessary, I’ve been using them a lot in salads lately and I find they complement the flavour of so many other ingredients I love, they look so pretty and they have such a lovely bright citrus flavour. The fun in this recipe is its flexibility, it’s a dream of a meal to put together when you have a the basic ingredients and a handful of miscellaneous items hanging about in the kitchen.

spiced chickpea stew with butternut squash & spinach:

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 small red onion, diced into small pieces

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 cup fresh or frozen butternut squash, cubed

1 red sweet pepper, diced into small pieces

1 Tbsp. Ras El Hanout or Garam Masala or curry powder

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. coriander

1 can of chickpeas, liquid reserved

3/4 cup vegetable stock

1 bunch of spinach or 1/2 package of frozen spinach

Generous amount of kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the red onion, garlic, butternut squash cubes, red sweet pepper and cook until the vegetables start to soften.
  2. Add the Ras El Hanout (or spice blend of your preference), cumin, coriander, and a generous pinch of salt and cook with the vegetables for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Add the entire can of chickpeas, including the liquid (this will help thicken the stew) and the vegetables stock. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes or until some of the liquid has evaporated, stirring in the spinach to cook  over the last few minutes.
  4. Serve the stew piping hot with a dollop of Greek yogurt or at room temperature with a side of Orange Cucumber Slaw with Nigella Seeds.

orange cucumber slaw with nigella seeds:

1 small cucumber, pulp removed and sliced into thin half moons

1 orange, zested and juiced

Drizzle of olive oil

2 Tbsp. scallion greens, sliced thinly

1 small bunch of parsley, finely snipped with scissors

Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

1 tsp. nigella seeds

Pinch of dried chilies

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, gently stirring to combine. Serve with Spiced Chickpea Stew with Butternut Squash and Spinach (or, stuffed into a pita with shredded chicken, butter lettuce, and mayonnaise mixed with a small amount of orange juice and zest).

Flowing slowed down shimmery songs like this one have always been a weakness of mine, I blame it on an early obsession with Mazzy Star, Belly’s sophomore album King, and Suzanne Vega.

The Black Ryder – Let Me Be Your Light

 

 

Fiery Israeli Couscous Salad with a Creamy Avocado and Fresh Herb Dressing

Israeli Couscous salad with creamy avocado herb dressing

I have been away the past couple of months because I’ve been writing, writing, writing and then writing some more; this Edward Gorey illustration is an accurate representation of how I’m feeling these days:

edward-gorey

You know what helps when I feel this burnt out? Salads all.the.time. I’m a huge fan of salads that are sturdy, salads that will last a few days in the fridge without becoming mushy or soggy. This salad has a big bite which can be lessened by using roasted sweet peppers instead of roasted serrano peppers – both of which can be found conveniently packed into jars or can be roasted at home in a short amount of time. I’m also obsessed with fresh herbs, I think that fresh basil smells like the greenest, deepest, most intense liquorice heaven ever. Don’t be shy with the lemon juice in the dressing, plenty of lemon is the key to preventing the avocado dressing from turning brown.  Israeli couscous is perfect in this recipe, the dense chewiness is a satisfying foil to the bright zippy flavours of the remaining ingredients. Pearl barley and orzo make excellent substitutes if you can’t find Israeli couscous, I’ve tried it with both and been more than happy with the results.

fiery israeli couscous salad with a creamy avocado and fresh herb dressing:

1 1/2 cups of dried Israeli couscous, cooked in salted water according to package directions

1 medium cucumber, peeled in alternating stripes and cut into thin quarter moons

3 roasted serrano peppers, seeds removed and sliced into rough strips

2 roasted sweet peppers, seeds removed and sliced into rough strips

1 bunch of scallions, greens thinly sliced

Big handfuls of fresh parsley, basil, mint, and cilantro to scatter on top of the salad

1-2 Bird’s Eye chilies, sliced paper-thin to scatter on top of the salad

for the creamy avocado and fresh herb dressing:

1 super ripe avocado

Juice of 1 lemon

Juice of 1 lime

1/4 cup of olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, loosely chopped

1 cup of fresh basil

1/2 cup parsley

1/2 cup cilantro

A few mint leaves

1/4 cup of Greek yogurt or Skyr

1 tsp. kosher salt

Freshly cracked pepper

Combine all of the salad ingredients except for the fresh herbs in a large bowl. Pulse together the salad dressing ingredients in a food processor, adjust seasonings if needed. Drizzle the salad dressing over the salad ingredients and toss until coated, transfer the salad to a shallow salad bowl and scatter with the fresh herbs and sliced chilies. Serve this salad at room temperature or while still cold, it will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Music for writing and music for eating while taking breaks from typing tends to be either Nick Drake, Erik Satie, Glenn Gould’s Bach Variations, Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions, and Brian Eno. Music For Airports instantly transports me back to early childhood, my mom used to play this album for my sister and I when we had our afternoon naps. Music For Airports is like the smell of rose hips and jasmine, things I associate with my mom’s room when I was growing up, particularly if she had been in there getting ready to go to work or out with friends.

Brian Eno – Music For Airports