Watermelon Gazpacho

Colourful teacups on a flowered tablecloth, filled with pink watermelon gazpacho.

Summer in Vancouver is shaping up to be cool and rainy; I won’t lie, I love this cooler weather and the rainy days. I’ll admit that I do miss eating food in the sunshine, there’s something remiss about eating local strawberries while huddled under a blanket, wearing thick wooly socks. So this Sunday, when we had a rare sunny day, I decided to make the summeriest food I could think of and gazpacho was at the top of my list. This isn’t a true gazpacho, but it comes together quickly and can be poured into a juice jug to de served at intervals over the next few days. I bring it to work for an afternoon pick-me-up that I can sip at my desk, and I have it for dinner with chickpeas, fresh herbs, diced avocado, and a swirl of creme fraiche. The watermelon makes this gazpacho taste divine and satisfies the need for a brightly healthy afternoon snack, as well as any unwanted late night hunger pangs.

Colourful teacups on a flowered tablecloth, filled with pink watermelon gazpacho.

Colourful teacups on a flowered tablecloth, filled with pink watermelon gazpacho.

watermelon gazpacho:

1 small watermelon or half of a large one, cubed into large chunks

1 English cucumber, peeled and seeded and cut into large chunks

2 ripe tomatoes, quartered

1-2 Serrano chilies, sliced into a few pieces (remove the seeds for less heat)

1 shallot, peeled and loosely chopped

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar

Big handfuls of cilantro, parsley, and mint

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Add all of the ingredients to a blender and blitz until combined but with some remaining texture (work in batches if you’re dealing with a small blender). Allow to sit in the fridge overnight and up to 4 days for maximum flavour. Serve with creme fraiche or Greek yogurt and a your choice of finely chopped fresh herb for garnish.

 

Watermelon Gazpacho3

Here’s something regionally appropriate for gazpacho, and something beautiful to melt your soul into a warm puddle of nostalgic happiness. Almost a full hour of Andres Segovia, how wonderful!

Andres Segovia – The Intimate Guitar (album)

Slow Roasted Red Pepper and Ricotta Pasta Sauce

White bowl full of penne and a roasted red pepper blush sauce on an orange tablecloth.

I’m coming down from one incredible weekend; it’s Tuesday and I still feel some residual buzzing going on. Last Friday afternoon 11 of our friends came up to Vancouver from Seattle and San Francisco for a gigantic friend reunion of sorts. On top of that, I saw Beach House twice (!!) – Saturday at The Vogue and then Sunday night at Performance Works on Granville Island. Saturday’s concert was of course, wonderful, and Sunday’s performance was so special and so beautiful. Beach House did a series of intimate concerts in very small spaces, just the 2 original band members, and my husband was lucky enough to have been able to get us both tickets. From the moment we stepped into the witchy magenta hued space I felt utterly enchanted, the light show itself was gorgeous and sitting on the floor with cushions while you get to experience the visuals and the music all at once was an unforgettable experience. It was wonderful being able to surround myself with a live performance in such an aesthetically pleasing cocoon, I felt as though I was floating on the way home afterwards.

Tray of cut up peppers, celery, cucumber, and grape tomatoes.

On Saturday afternoon we all came to the consensus that dinner should be easy and totally uncomplicated. Pizza was ordered and I made a vegetable platter with hummus that I doctored with Greek yogurt and cumin. At the end of the evening I came home by myself, in desperate need of some solitude after the concert and the swarms of people downtown. While everyone else went on a drinking adventure I got into my pajamas, had a beer, and watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer in bed (which is pretty much my definition of paradise). I also snacked on the leftover cut up vegetables but realized that I’d need to think of a good use for all of the peppers I’d cut into strips. Monday night, when Ian and I were both in battery charging mode AKA extreme states of introversion, I decided that the leftover pepper strips would be just perfect for a pasta sauce because let’s face it, pasta has and will always be the best form of comfort that food can possibly offer. I wasn’t in any hurry because I was having a great time just reading a PD James book on the couch so I slow roasted the vegetables, this also made them very sweet and full of flavour without the unsightly addition of sugar burned black flecks in the sauce. The ricotta helps to thicken the sauce without having to add flour, it also gives an incredibly rich taste and texture without adding a surplus of cream. In fact, the small amount of cream called for in the recipe could easily be substituted with milk, just be sure not to bring the sauce to a boil in order to avoid accidental separation.

slow roasted red pepper and ricotta sauce:

3 sweet peppers, cut into strips

10 grape or cherry tomatoes

1 large red onion, cut into fat wedges

4 cloves of garlic, left whole in their papery husks

3 Tbsp. olive oil

2 sprigs of fresh rosemary

Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

2/3 cup of ricotta

1/3 cup of cream

5 fresh basil leaves (plus more for garnishing), torn into pieces

Pasta of your choice

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Spread the pepper strips, tomatoes, onion wedges, and garlic in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and freshly cracked pepper, add the rosemary whole and with your hands toss the vegetable mixture to coat.
  3. Roast the vegetables for up to an hour, stirring every 20 minutes or so to ensure even cooking. The vegetables are done when they’re very soft and beginning to caramelize. Remove the rosemary and garlic husks and transfer the remaining vegetables and their juices to a food processor and pulse until you have a not so smooth puree.
  4. Add the red wine vinegar, ricotta, cream, and 5 basil leaves to the food processor and give a final blitz – the sauce should still be slightly chunky in texture. Adjust the salt and pepper if neccessary.
  5. Cook the pasta until al dente, saving about 1/2 cup of cooking liquid for the sauce. Lower the heat and transfer the sauce into the pot used for cooking the pasta and stir in the cooking liquid and sauce. Allow the pasta and sauce to cook together for about 5 minutes, this will give the sauce a chance to thicken up before you serve it. Garnish with a generous amount of fresh basil that’s been cut into a very fine chiffonade.

This song is an ideal addition to my soundtrack for the last few days, kind of like a beautiful sunset after a sublimely sunny day – pure, melodic, and strangely intimate. After Sunday’s show I now have an accompanying vision of light installation flower walls from floor to ceiling and both of us on pillows, leaning into each other in the softest moment possible.

Beach House – Real Love

Sweet Pepper Slaw with Fresh Herbs

Sweet Pepper Slaw

I spent my Easter weekend with good friends, my second family in lots of ways. All of us are from Ontario and away from our immediate families for the holiday, so it’s always nice to get together for way too many cocktails and an impressive spread of food. This year we had some incredible bacon and spinach stuffed mushrooms, green peppers stuffed with spiced rice, macaroni and cheese, strawberry Eton mess, and this sweet pepper slaw with fresh herbs. When serving such a rich selection of food it’s always nice to have something light on the menu and this colourful salad was a bright addition the creaminess of the pasta and stuffed mushrooms. Use any singular fresh herb or combination you’d like, I’ve used my favourite fresh basil, cilantro, mint, and parsley in this version of the recipe. A mandolin would be useful for cutting the peppers, but a sharp chef’s knife will work perfectly well, albeit more slowly.

sweet pepper slaw with fresh herbs:

5 large sweet peppers of various colours, cut into very thin strips

1 small cucumber, sliced into very thin half-moons and then drained on paper towel

4 scallions, sliced very thin

3 cups of torn spinach, romaine lettuce, baby kale, or bok choy (or a combination)

Several handfuls of fresh herbs (such as mint, cilantro, parsley, or basil), loosely torn so that they resemble delicate salad greens

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. sherry or red wine vinegar

1 tsp. caster sugar, honey, or maple syrup

1 tsp. kosher salt

Generous amount of freshly cracked pepper

Toss all of the salad peppers and greens together in a large bowl. Whisk together the olive oil, sherry vinegar, sweetener of your choice, salt, and pepper in a measuring cup, pour over the salad and toss to coat. Let sit for 15 minutes before serving with additional fresh herbs scattered over top.

Speaking of friends from home, this album was my best friend at one point in my life about 13 years ago. It’s so strange listening to something that was so important to me at a totally different time in my life. I listened to Change while I was riding my bike along the Springbank park bike path, I listened to it during a particularly dark winter in my early twenties, and I listened to it over and over again in my first apartment during freshman year of university.

The Dismemberment Plan – Sentimental Man

 

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