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

 

 

Simple Asparagus Dinner

Earthenware shallow bowl with roasted asparagus, toasted breadcrumbs, and parsley.

It’s so easy to make a meal out of good, seasonal produce. Ordinary ingredients become Platonic ideals of themselves, every component is placed together in perfect purity of execution. This might seem hyperbolic to some people, but I truly get an immense amount of pleasure from selecting and preparing beautiful vegetables. I was lucky to have found the most delicate bundle of pencil thin asparagus yesterday while I was out shopping for groceries and I’ve spent my entire work day mulling over my various options as far as what to do with them. I trimmed the asparagus stalks and roasted them for 10 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. While the asparagus cooked I toasted some panko crumbs, salt, and pepper in some olive oil before tossing with a scant handful of finely chopped parsley in a small bowl. The asparagus was arranged in two shallow bowls and topped with the panko crumb mixture. The only extra addition to my Tuesday night supper was a couple of crispy olive oil fried eggs, spiked with plenty of freshly cracked pepper.

Asian Inspired Bright Steak Salad

Steak salad arranged on a white plate in a colourful presentation containing purple cabbage, greens, tomatoes, red peppers, and slivered ribeye steak. On a flowery tablecloth.

I like my steak really, really rare; not quite blue, but the closest shade possible (a particularly rosy shade of indigo?).  I generally make steak about once a month, I can go weeks without red meat and then suddenly I need the rarest, bloodiest, still perfectly pink red inside and seared on the outside steak I can get my hands on. Last week I treated myself to a ribeye steak that was so massive not even ravenous and particularly carnivorous Ashley could finish it. Steak sandwiches are always a good way to use up a leftover steak, but I suppose I was hankering for something slightly lighter (after all, I had to make buttery wish mashed potatoes, caramelized onions, and sautéed mushrooms to go with my steak dinner), and this steak salad was born. Marinating the steak after it’s been cooked gives it marvellous complexity and intense flavour, especially if you can give it a significant time in the fridge before you prepare this recipe. I wanted this salad to have tons of crunch and tons of colour but feel free to use my suggestions as a guide only, you can use any kind of vegetable or leafy green you’d like. I think salads like this are functionally best when presented on a shallow serving platter, this way the heavier salad ingredients and the dressing won’t sift down to the bottom of the bowl. You can also take this salad to work or school with you, just keep the steak and it’s marinade separately in a tightly lidded container and add right before you eat your lunch. Alternately, if eaten at home or on a picnic, this salad is fantastic with a really cold glass of dry Prosecco – the brightness of the salad is perfect with the crispness of the wine.

asian inspired bright steak salad:

1 ribeye steak, prepared your favourite way and at room temperature or cooler

1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar

1 Tbsp. fish sauce

2 Tbsp. soy sauce

Juice of 1 lime

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. finely minced ginger

2 tsp. garlic and chili sauce

1 Tbsp. dark sesame oil

2 small heads of bok choy, cut into fin ribbons

1 cup of shredded purple cabbage

1 cup cucumber, thinly sliced

1 red sweet pepper, thinly sliced into strips

2 cups of green leaf lettuce, torn into small pieces

1 jalapeño pepper, sliced very thinly

1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved or quartered

3 scallions, snipped into small pieces

A large handful of cilantro, torn into small pieces

A large handful or fresh basil, torn into small pieces

  1. Slice the steak very thinly on a cutting board, I find that a good carving set is essential for creating extra thin slices.
  2. Whisk together the rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, soy sauce, lime juice, sugar, ginger, garlic and chili sauce, and sesame oil in a medium-sized glass container. Add the steak pieces and marinade for at least an out but up to overnight.
  3. When you’re ready to eat you salad arrange the bok choy, purple cabbage, cucumber, sweet pepper, green leaf lettuce, jalapeño pepper, and grape tomatoes on a large, shallow serving platter. Add the steak slices and pour the marinade over the salad to coat. Gently toss to coat the salad with dressing and finish the salad with a generous sprinkling of cilantro and fresh basil before serving.

 

Intentionally operatic and beautiful, Austra reminds me so much of the best of best: Kate Bush, Annie Lennox, Tori Amos, and Elizabeth Fraser. Cinematic, atmospheric, lush, and darkly moving – I wish I had Austra in high school, because I know I would have a band photo up in my locker amongst all the other aforementioned greats.

Austra – The Beat and Pulse

Creamy Parsnip Soup with Marinated Eggplant

White bowl of creamy parsnip soup with eggplant as a garnish on a hot pink background.

There’s something to be said for soup after a 5 day period of eating nothing but extremely rich food, especially if its at the beginning of December and the cold weather practically makes it the required light food of choice. This parsnip soup is deceptively creamy, its texture suggests the use of heavy cream when in actuality the blame falls firmly on Greek yogurt. You won’t miss the the fat, and in fact the yogurt is preferable as it lends the soup a soft tanginess that ensures its subtlety isn’t drowned by its own voluptuousness. That being said, the amount of butter and oil called for could easily be reduced by half but I think the fat adds an extra layer to its already silken perfection. Marinated eggplant is a favourite of mine, and if you have a jar of it already then please feel free to use that (I never do because I tend to devour jars in their entirety with a fork, all in one sitting). The eggplant isn’t necessary but it’s definitely a good thing, so make it if you have the time. You could always make the soup and eggplant the day before, blending the soup before you want to heat it up and letting the eggplant mellow in its juices at room temperature an hour before serving. Some parsley or cilantro would be beautiful as well, just snip them with scissors into very small pieces – you’d want just enough to add a dusting of greenery to the final picture.

creamy parsnip soup:

1 Tbsp. butter

1 Tbsp. olive or grapeseed oil

1 large bunch of scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces

2 cloves of garlic, each cut into 3 pieces

2 lbs. of parsnip, peeled and cut into smallish pieces

4 cups of vegetable stock

1 tsp. curry powder

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

Kosher salt, to taste

  1. Melt the butter and oil together over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add the scallions, garlic, and parsnip and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to a gentle boil. Turn the heat down to encourage a gentle simmer, cook with the pot lid on for 20 minutes or until the parsnip is very soft. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. Using either an immersion blender or a stand up version blitz the soup until silken and very creamy. Pour 3/4s of it back into the soup pot and blend the Greek yogurt and curry powder into the remaining soup, add to the soup pot. At this point it’s a good idea to test for seasoning, the soup will almost definitely need salt and even some extra curry powder if you’re inclined.
  4. Heat the soup over low heat until nice and hot, being careful not to let it boil. Serve in a shallow bowl with the marinated eggplant strewn across the surface.

marinated eggplant garnish:

1 small eggplant, cut into medium sized dice

Olive oil for drizzling

1 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. red chilli flakes

1 tsp. kosher salt

Juice of 1/2 lemon or 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Scatter the eggplant pieces in a single layer over a parchment lined baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle the dried oregano, chilli flakes, and kosher salt evenly, tossing to coat.
  2. Roast for 25-35 minutes, stirring periodically. When they look evenly browned and crisped at the edges remove from the oven and transfer to a small bowl. Spritz with lemon juice or add the vinegar, stirring once again to coat.
  3. Use immediately or cover and keep in the fridge for up to 3 days, bringing them to room temperature before using as a soup garnish (these are also very good cold as an addition to an antipasto salad plate).

Oh, this is such a pretty one! Hex is an amazing album, just perfect for traipsing alone around the apartment in the depths of intellectual introspection or, more likely, pondering what to make for dinner that night or where your cookbooks should go in your solarium/office. With me it’s the latter, for I wouldn’t be myself if I wasn’t constantly adding lists to my lists of lists.

Bark Psychosis – Absent Friend