Composed Summer Tomato Salad

Composed summer tomato salad with fresh basil and shaved parmesan in a white shallow bowl.

When you’re in the thick of it (tomato season, that is) you don’t actually have to do anything to tomatoes. Yes, you can stack them up with thick slabs of buffalo mozzarella, heaping dollops of burrata, a smear of ricotta, your best balsamic reduction, and a drizzle of the fruitiest olive oil in your pantry but you can also haphazardly cut them into chunks, sprinkle on some Maldon salt and freshly cracked pepper and call it a day. That’s the thing with heavily ripe heirloom tomatoes, they’re a rare, gorgeous gift we only receive once a year* and when we have them, we need to make the best of them (however that may be.) I’ve been eating tomatoes nonstop this week, usually with a baguette that’s been heavily coated with fresh goat’s milk cheese and maybe some chili flakes. We’re in the middle of a heat wave in Vancouver, no one has air conditioning, and I live in an apartment without the faintest hint of a cross-breeze so I’m thankful for the ease that is fresh tomatoes on multiple levels. Here’s how I’ve been enjoying local tomatoes most nights; with a sense of playfulness based entirely on ingredient improvisation and of course, shining a spotlight on the natural flavour of the tomatoes. You’ll notice I don’t use any oil or vinegar here, feel free to add either or both if you like a more traditional salad.

*Unless, of course, you live somewhere perpetually warm and sunny (which Vancouver is definitively not.)

Composed summer tomato salad with fresh basil and shaved parmesan in a white shallow bowl with baguette slices and goat cheese.

composed summer tomato salad:

Big ripe summer tomatoes, cut into slices or chunks

Pinch of salt (I like kosher or Maldon)

Pinch of white granulated sugar

Fresh basil, cut into a loose chiffonade

Shaved parmesan

Dried chili flakes

Freshly cracked pepper

Arrange the tomatoes on a shallow bowl or plate. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and white sugar. Let sit for 15 minutes. Give the tomatoes a little stir. Top with shaved parmesan, dried chili flakes, and freshly cracked pepper. Eat at room temperature with a glass of lightly chilled pinot noir. Enjoy!

Yellow tomato salad on a white heart-shaped plate on a blue background.

I’ve been listening to Chopin nonstop for about a week – it’s calming and it’s beautiful and I can write at the same time (when I’m writing professionally I find it difficult to listen to music with lyrics at the same time.)

Chopin – Nocturnes

Fantastic Slow Cooker Pot Roast

Pot roast in a narrow serving vessel with a glass of red wine and a small white bowl of mashed potatoes.

My slow cooker, my friend. And a worthy friend at that! I can roughly chop a bunch of ingredients up, throw them in my slow cooker, and 4-8 hours later I have a meal that is comforting, delicious, complex in flavour, and almost always yields leftovers. Pot roast is an especially rewarding slow cooker meal, the final product being akin to actual kitchen alchemy with very little effort on your behalf. All you need to do is brown the roast on all sides and then pop it into your crockpot, add a few flavour enhancers, and then nestle in a bouquet of winter vegetables to complete the meal. I know that lots of people like to add potatoes to their pot roast, which you should do if that sounds appealing. Personally, I prefer my potatoes made separately – mashed with butter and Greek yogurt until perfectly whipped and fluffy. You can add all sorts of vegetables to your slow cooker, besides the options presented below; I am particularly fond of celeriac, parsnips, mushrooms, pearl onions, fennel bulbs, and turnip. Just make the vegetables are cut up in a fairly uniform size, although the risk of undercooking anything is rendered impossible due to cooking times. This is also a very forgiving recipe and in fact a very good one to use if you’re trying to clean out your fridge drawers of somewhat wilted vegetables. You can omit the red wine and use all broth, or omit the broth and use all wine. The fresh herbs could be substituted with dried (use less in this case), you could also add some puréed tomatoes to make an exceptionally savoury ragu for pasta. Alternately, you could serve this pot roast on freshly toasted rolls with thin slices of mozzarella for a rustic take on the good old fashioned Sloppy Joe (one of my favourite ways to use up leftovers). I don’t think pot roast requires that you make complementary sides, but a big green salad and steamed broccolini with chopped garlic and olive oil wouldn’t be remiss.

fantastic slow cooker pot roast:

3-4 lb. pot roast (I generally use deboned roasts)

2 Tbsp. grapeseed oil

1 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 cup of red wine

1 cup of beef broth

2 stalks of celery, cut into thin half moons

1 large red onion, cut into fat wedges

3 large carrots, peeled and cut into generous, uniform pieces

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 small rutabaga, sliced into thick half moon pieces

1 fresh sprig of rosemary

3 fresh sprigs of thyme

2 bay leaves

1-2 Tbsp. flour or cornstarch

Generous amounts of kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

  1. In an large skillet or Dutch oven brown the roast in the grapeseed oil on each side. Transfer to your slow cooker.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the flour or cornstarch, and cook on high for 4 hours or 8 hours on low.
  3. Towards the end of the cooking time remove some of the gravy from the slow cooker and whisk in the flour or cornstarch before returning the mixture back to the slow cooker. Stir the mixture back into the contents of the slow cooker and heat for another half an hour or so, stirring occasionally to prevent lumps.

I’ve been revisiting Sparklehorse lately, which is like wrapping yourself in a big blanket of sadness. The real life tragedy behind Sparklehorse is all too real is and seeps into their music as thick as any depression I can remember, which is odd because I generally find myself listening to Sparklehorse when I feel the lights turn on in my own life.

Sparklehorse – Painbirds