Big Crunchy Winter Salad with a Maple Balsamic Dressing

Big crunchy winter salad on a square white plate with maple dressing.I can’t stop eating crunchy things lately. The other night I had a late-night dinner of barely roasted green beans and sea salt and the following day I was eyeing all the crunchy ingredients in my fridge, wondering how I could combine them all into one ultra-crunchy meal. This big crunchy winter salad is the result of all that wondering; composed of red cabbage, raw kale, broccoli stalks, apple slices, pomegranate seeds, celery, and toasted almonds this salad really lives up to its name. I know fruit in salad is highly contested, but I love the combination and ended up topping the salad with a maple balsamic dressing and a sprinkling of chunky sea salt. Ordinarily I would have used dried apricots in this salad, but I had a bright orange apricot and almond cheese plate add-on that I forgot to use so I chopped it into thin strips and used that instead. This salad will keep with its dressing on for several hours in the fridge so feel free to periodically nibble away on it until it’s totally gone.

big crunchy winter salad:

About 1 1/2 cups of thinly sliced or grated red cabbage

About 1 cup of very thinly sliced kale, ribs removed (give them a good massage with some olive oil and lemon juice if they’re particularly tough)

3 celery ribs, very thinly sliced on a diagonal

1 broccoli stalk, peeled and julienned (I used my handy-dandy julienne peeler for this)

1/2 an apple, very thinly sliced (dip in lemon juice to prevent browning if the salad will be sitting out for any length of time)

1/2 cup of toasted almond slivers or slices

5-6 dried apricots, cut into matchsticks

1/3 cup pomegranate seeds

Layer all of the salad ingredients on a large serving platter or in a salad bowl. Drizzle with the maple balsamic dressing and add a sprinkling of chunky sea salt such as fleur de sel on top of the salad before eating.

maple balsamic dressing:

1 Tbsp, maple syrup

2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

3 Tbsp. olive oil

Kosher or sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

Whisk together the maple syrup and balsamic vinegar before slowly drizzling in the olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Big crunchy winter salad on a white plate.

As a writer I find myself alone a LOT of the time during the day, which means I seek out audiobooks and podcasts when I’m not doing work that requires constant attention to order and word arrangement. There are also times when I’m by myself and I need to listen to something that will pump me up, usually in the form of a one-person dance party in my kitchen – and this is a good example of music that keeps me going when I’m feeling lonely. The Knife can be pretty inaccessible but damn, when they’re on they’re on!

The Knife – Silent Shout

Warm Roasted Potato Salad with a Crispy Egg

 

Warm roasted potato salad topped with a crispy egg on a square green plate with a purple background.

I love potato salad and I’m not snobby about it. I’ll eat deli-style mayo-based potato salads any day, and I’ll certainly eat a warm potato salad with a tangy sweet dressing like the one. I think that roasted potato salads are notably more autumnal than their creamy counterparts and this recipe is living proof (in that, I have been eating it frequently ever since the first tinge of fall crept into the air). Many potato salad recipes, of the warm sort or otherwise, contain a couple of hard-boiled eggs to lend a creamy texture to the finished product. The truth is that I hate peeling eggs and will do almost anything to avoid doing it and as a result I’ve decided that topping a roasted potato salad with a crispy egg is the next best thing, especially if you fry them in any hypothetical bacon fat you might have lying around in your freezer. As with many of the recipes I post, you can consider this recipe a jumping off point. In the past I’ve had great success with the addition of finely diced cornichon, crumbled feta cheese, pancetta, and niçoises olives (so, basically anything salty). You can even use leftover roasted potatoes and skip the first step altogether, just let them sit out of the fridge for an hour or two so that they come to room temperature.

warm roasted potato salad with a crispy egg:

16-20 new potatoes, scrubbed and halved

2 Tbsp. olive oil

Kosher salt

6 radishes, halved and very thinly sliced into half moons

2 ribs of celery, very thinly sliced

1 bunch of scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced

1 Tbsp. capers, roughly chopped

Big handful of fresh dill and parsley, roughly chopped

2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

1 tsp. paprika

2 tsp. white sugar or 1 Tbsp. honey

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

Kosher salt and plenty of freshly cracked pepper to taste

1/4 cup olive oil

1 egg per person

Small amount of bacon fat (if you have it), or any other type of fat that the eggs can be cooked in

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss the halved potatoes with the olive oil and kosher salt before spreading them in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes, flipping the potato halves over with tongs a couple of times to ensure even roasting. Remove from oven and transfer to a large bowl.
  2. In a small saucepan warm the vinegar, paprika, white sugar or honey, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste over low heat. Pour the olive oil into the saucepan in a thin stream, whisking constantly so that the dressing emulsifies.
  3. Add the radishes, celery, scallions, capers, and fresh herbs to the warm potatoes. Drizzle the also-warm dressing over the salad, using a spatula to gently combine the ingredients. Taste to see if the seasonings need to be adjusted.
  4. Heat a small amount of bacon fat over medium-high heat in a lidded skillet. Fry the eggs for a minute or two, covering with a lid so that the whites will cook. Carefully remove the eggs and place on top of the plated warm potato salad, adding an extra scattering of fresh herbs before serving.

Small white ramekin with thinly sliced red radishes on a purple background.

Pretty little Beach Boys-inspired song that I forgot about until my sister came over and started playing random music off of my computer. She’s the biggest AC/Panda Bear/Avey Tare fan I’ve ever met and I don’t think I’d listened to Panda Bear’s Person Pitch in several years; thank you Gabrielle!

Panda Bear – Ponytail

Zucchini, Caper, and Parmesan Naan Pizza

A naan pizza on parchment paper covered in thinly sliced zucchini, capers, parmesan cheese, and parsley.

I always keep a bag of naan in my freezer for those times where I’m cooking for one and I want a personal pizza or flatbread in under 20 minutes. I don’t have to worry about the annoying process of stretching out pizza dough (I know, I know, it’s supposed to be fun but I have very little patience with anything dough-related) and naan is the perfect size for a pizza meant for one person. This zucchini version comes together quickly, especially if you have a mandolin for the slicing, and the tanginess of the capers, the nuttiness of the parmesan, and the garlicky olive oil blend together effortlessly to form a naan pizza with big flavour and a very short list of ingredients.

zucchini, caper, and parmesan naan pizza:

Naan bread

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2-3 cloves of garlic, finely minced

A small handful of parsley, chopped into tiny pieces

Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

Very thinly sliced zucchini, enough to cover the naan with some overlap

1 tsp. pickled capers, chopped

Parmigiano-Reggiano or other very firm and flavourful cheese, finely grated

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl combine the olive oil, garlic, parsley, and a a generous pinch of kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
  3. Using a pastry brush, coat the naan with a generous amount of the oil and garlic mixture making sure to leave some for the brushing on top of the zucchini.
  4. Place the oil-brushed naan on a parchment-lined baking tray and warm in the oven for about 5-6 minutes or until the naan is just starting to crisp up. Remove from oven.
  5. Layer the zucchini slices on the naan with a slight overlap and brush with the remaining garlic and parsley oil. Scatter the chopped capers over the zucchini and top with a fine layer of parmesan.
  6. Broil the zucchini naan pizza for a couple of minutes, making sure the edges don’t brown too much and the cheese begins to melt. Slice into three pieces with a pizza cutter and enjoy while hot or at room temperature.

Close-up photo of olive oil with parsley and garlic.

When my sister told me about this album I didn’t believe it existed, which is ridiculous in retrospect because why wouldn’t this be a real thing? This is the first remix on the album and in my opinion it’s the best one. I mean, I already listen to Enya without shame on my own but the combination of Enya as well as Dntel results in an ethereal layering of voices and warmth that makes for a beautiful listening experience.

Dntel – After Ventus (Enya Mixes)

Easy Oven Ribs

Ribs with scallions, coleslaw, and barbecue sauce in small dishes on a rectangular plate.Living in Vancouver (or any other ridiculously expensive city) means that owning the actual space and equipment to barbecue is a luxury. I wish I could go back in time and remind younger me of this fact, I would have been on the deck barbecuing every single meal all year long. I used to think that tasty ribs cooked in the oven were a contradiction in terms, which is silly when you think about it – ribs taste delicious however they’re cooked! I’ve been using my dear Uncle Howard’s rib recipe for a couple of years, it doesn’t feel like a real family gathering until he’s handed me the perfect spicy Caesar. He’s cautioned me on the fact that people think boiling ribs to soften them up is a taboo practice which is baffling to me, as this recipe makes the tenderest and most flavourful ribs I’ve ever tasted. Regardless, I’m here to tell you that delicious ribs can be made in your oven and best of all, the recipe can be completed in small steps well-ahead of time. The type of rib you choose isn’t exceptionally important, what you’re looking for is plenty of meat and a minimum of dangling excess fat and sinew (also known as silver skin). You can make your own barbecue sauce or buy it, I find that if I’m having a large dinner party it’s easier (and cheaper!) to buy store-bought barbecue sauce. I think that ribs are best when served with coleslaw and corn on the cob, this isn’t a rule by any means but I’ve never had ribs that didn’t taste heavenly when they were served with either or both of these two sides.

Easy Oven Ribs 2

easy oven ribs:

As many ribs as you need per person, err on a larger amount and you’ll (fingers crossed) have leftovers

3 lemons, rinsed under very hot water to remove their bitter and waxy flavour

1 whole head of garlic, each clove smashed to remove the skin and left whole

1/2 cup of kosher salt

1/2 tsp. whole peppercorn

Barbecue sauce

  1. Heat a very large stock pot over high heat about two thirds full of water. Add the lemons, garlic, salt, and peppercorns.
  2. Carefully remove any of the tough silver skin found on the ribs, this tough tissue should be loosened at one end and then torn from the ribs in one piece.
  3. Add the ribs to the boiling water, turn the heat down to simmering, and cook for one hour.
  4. Remove the ribs from the boiling water and lay on a large baking pan, transfer the meat to the fridge and allow to cool down completely (I like to leave them overnight).
  5. Take the ribs out of the fridge about half and hour before broiling and preheat the broiler. Brush ribs on both sides with barbecue sauce using a pastry brush, brown under the broiler until the sugars start to caramelize, flipping with tongs so that the both sides can begin to brown and sizzle.
  6. Remove the ribs from the oven and serve with coleslaw, corn on the cob, watermelon, or any other summery side you prefer.

What can I say? I’ve been listening to The Cars almost non-stop the past week.

The Cars – Drive

Easy Sweet Corn Salad with Basil and Feta

White square plate with sweet corn salad with basil and feta cheese.

Fresh corn is such a distinctly nostalgic thing to eat. It’s attached to so many memories of heading sleepily home after a day at The Pinery, a provincial park lining several sandy beaches along Lake Huron. My parents would pull over at a roadside produce stand, the kind involving a strict honour system and a glass jar for payment, and come back with bags of fresh corn and peaches. Compared to my idyllic childhood experience of lazily prepping corn on a lawn chair in the backyard, still wearing my bathing suit in case the lawn sprinkler was turned on after dinner, husking corn in a small apartment is slightly less picturesque. Although any method of preparing the corn will work, I like to roast mine husk, silk, and all in my toaster oven; the corn is steamed and the rest falls away easily once its cooled down. Using apple cider vinegar for the pickled shallots makes the corn taste even sweeter and fresh basil offers, well, the amazing taste and aroma of fresh basil. You could use Cotija cheese or chevre if you prefer, but I like creamy Macedonian feta best of all. Since fresh corn is only available for a short amount of time you can definitely use good-quality frozen corn in its place, heat it up in a small amount of olive oil in a cast iron skillet until just starting to char in spots. This salad goes with just about any summer meal you can think of; barbecued chicken, skewered vegetables with tzatziki, and watermelon are a few of my favourite accompaniments.

sweet corn salad with basil and feta:

Corn from 5-6 cobs of corn

3 shallots, finely minced

3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 large handful of fresh basil + more for garnish, cut in a chiffonade

About 2/3 cup of crumbled feta cheese

Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

Add the corn to a large salad bowl. In a small mixing bowl combine the shallots with the apple cider vinegar; let stand for 15 minutes. Add the olive oil, mustard, basil, salt, and pepper to taste; pour over the corn. Finish the salad by sprinkling with the crumbled feta and extra basil, tasting to see if it needs and more salt or freshly cracked pepper. Enjoy chilled or at room temperature.

I know fall is fast approaching when my American Analog Set listening goes up, soon I’ll be walking around in warm sweaters at night listening to this album on headphones. For now, I perversely listen to them while preparing some of the summeriest food imaginable. Such a lovely melody, I can smell the autumn leaves already.

American Analog Set – Magnificent Seventies

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

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