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

 

 

Marinated Olives with Orange and Rosemary

Clear glass dish with marinated olives with orange and rosemary on a white, green, and red striped tablecloth.

Do you need a quick, dare I say effortless, appetizer for your next gathering? Something less formal and more of a help-yourself-my-lovely-friends ordeal, but still sophisticated enough that it looks elegant decanted into a few pretty dishes? Look no further dear reader, this bright little recipe lets the olives do the work with the help of a few vibrant additions to the overall look and taste. Rosemary and orange zest are old friends in this recipe, seemingly oddball in combination with the olives but somehow it just works. Give the olives at least a day to marinate in the fridge and then put them out for your guests in a few well-chosen beautiful dishes (remember to include a little container for the pits as well) and let them have at it.

marinated olives with orange and rosemary:

About 2 cups of mixed olives, with pits (reserve the brine for storing any leftover olives)

2 or 3 big sprigs of fresh rosemary

1 orange, coarsely zested and juiced

3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

Olive oil

Freshly cracked black pepper

In a large bowl or container stir together the olives, rosemary, orange zest and juice, garlic, and a few good glugs of olive oil. Give the mix a generous addition of freshly cracked black pepper, stir well and try an olive to make sure the flavours are on the right track. Allow to marinate overnight or for at least 12 hours and up to 48 hours, store any leftover olives in the reserved brine (these make an excellent midnight snack as you stand in the front of the open fridge pondering what your real snack will be).

And speaking of midnight snacks, cold roasted radishes dipped in sea salt make an excellent last-minute addition to your day…

Roasted pink radishes on a white plate.

Bowery Electric provides the ideal downtempo soundtrack to mulling over your late night eating habits; I should know, this album has served me well through my important snack food decision making for the last 20 years or so.

Bowery Electric – Empty Words

Slow Roasted Sweet Pepper and Baked Halloumi Salad with Oregano and Chilies

Slow roasted sweet peppers layered with slices of halloumi on a bright blue plate with decorative sprigs of halloumi cheese.

Salt is my kitchen constant. Sweet is fine enough, but nothing makes me excited to eat quite like the prospect of impending salt does. I don’t feel particularly worried about this obsession, I don’t eat very much pre-packaged food so most salt content is of my own doing. Like cheese curds, halloumi is delightfully fun to chew – the squeak brings a feeling of whimsy to such a well-respected ingredient. Often made with a mix of sheep and goat’s milk (Canadian domestic brands are often made with cow’s milk) and sometimes flecked with fresh mint, halloumi is a wonderfully adaptable protein to introduce into your recipe repertoire. For the purposes of this recipe and for overall ease I’ve opted to bake the halloumi here, but it is just as at home on the grill or in a hot skillet where it will hold onto its shape in quite an uncheese-like manner. I don’t often bother with removing the blistered skins from roasted sweet peppers out of sheer laziness, but I feel that in this case it really makes a difference when presenting and eating the salad. It’s just salty slabs of marinated cheese with the yielding sweet flesh of peppers, topped with a little additional balsamic vinegar and olive oil to bind it all together. This salad could serve 2 for lunch or 4 as part of a dinner, I would present it alongside a mixed green salad and maybe a small antipasti plate with charcuterie, olives, fresh figs, and ripe peaches. A bottle of well-chilled and fruit-forward Gewurztraminer wouldn’t be amiss, nor would a gin and tonic with a slice of cucumber peel wrapped round the inside of the glass.

Sliced Halloumi Marinating in Lemon Juice, Olive Oil, Bird's Eye Chilies, and Fresh Oregano

for the slow roasted sweet peppers:

4 sweet peppers

2 tsp. sherry vinegar

2 Tbsp. olive oil

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Leave the peppers whole/with stems intact but pierce them in a few spots with a sharp knife. Roast for 1 1/2 hours, turning a few times to ensure even cooking. Remove from the oven and transfer to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow the peppers to steam for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the charred skin from the peppers and tear them into sections that are about 1 inch across. Drizzle with sherry vinegar and olive oil, allow to sit for at least 30 minutes at room temperature before using in the salad.

for the baked halloumi with oregano and chilies:

1 block of halloumi, sliced lengthwise in 1 cm pieces

Juice and zest from 1 lemon

2 Tbsp. olive oil

A small handful of fresh oregano leaves, roughly torn

3-5 Bird’s Eye chilies, halved lengthwise

Plenty of freshly cracked pepper

Arrange the halloumi in a single layer on a glass baking dish. Whisk together the lemon juice and zest, olive oil, oregano, chilies, and black pepper. Pour over the halloumi and allow to marinate in the fridge for up to 24 hours. When you’re ready to bake the halloumi, preheat the oven to 400 degree. Once the oven is hot bake the cheese for 10-16 minutes or until browned, it should be soft but still retain its shape.

to assemble the salad:

Beginning with a piece of halloumi, layer the roasted sweet pepper strips and the cheese until the ingredients are all used up. This salad is perfect for playing individually, or layering it all up at once for an intimate salad for 2-3 people. Pour any leftover balsamic vinegar and olive oil on top and finish with sprigs of fresh oregano. Serve at room temperature.

I’m firmly entrenched in a delicate state of fake it til you make it, I’m wiping back tears at the most inopportune moments, feeling untethered and far away from everything and everyone. When I’m asleep I feel like I’m grasping at the darkness to make sure my eyes stay shut, when I’m awake I’m dreaming of the darkness. So I listen to music like Aurora’s amazingly present and self-assured album All My Demons Greeting Me as a Friend to feel connected to the moment in a way that only loud music can.

Aurora – Conquerer