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

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)

Chicken Cacciatore

Large cast iron skillet full of chicken cacciatore sprinkled with fresh herbs on a blue tablecloth.

As I’ve said before, I’m always tempted  to go the fussy route when cooking for other people. I know the food I write about is often and ideally simple, but believe me when I say that it takes lot of back and forth conversation in my head to arrive at the meals I write about. So, after an evening spent buried under cookbooks and cooking magazines, with notes and grocery lists jotted down several times over, I stopped to think about what I would actually love to eat more than anything else at that moment in time. I’d been thinking about my grandma’s chicken cacciatore lately, served with a paper napkin on her white and navy blue flower-lined Corningware dishes, and I decided right then and there that chicken cacciatore would be on the menu for Lela’s birthday dinner. You could substitute other chicken pieces for the thighs, but I think that in general the dark meat tastes better – chicken breasts could work if pounded thin in order to prevent them from drying out. I love chicken cacciatore with buttered egg noodles, but I just happen to love buttered egg noodles in any context so I’m approaching this recipe with a firm bias, buttered white rice would also be delicious if noodles are absent from your pantry. If you don’t have anything you can use to cook with both on top of and in the stove, just transfer the chicken and sauce into a baking pan before popping into the oven.

chicken cacciatore:

2 Tbsp. + 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

8 chicken thighs (the skin is up to you, but I think it imparts some notable flavour to the finished product

1 medium onion, chopped into a fine dice

2 sweet peppers, the sweetest ones you can find (colour is secondary)

2 cups thinly sliced button mushrooms

3 cloves of garlic, finely minced

A scant cup of dry white wine

1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes

2 tsp. Italian herb seasoning

1/2 tsp. smoked paprika

1/4 tsp. red chili flakes

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Small handful of fresh parsley and basil,  chopped

Buttered egg noodles or rice for serving

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven brown the chicken thighs in 2 Tbs. of vegetable oil over medium high heat. Transfer the chicken to a large plate and add the rest of the oil to the skillet or Dutch oven, lower the heat to medium or even medium-low in order to prevent burning the vegetables.
  2. Cook the onions, red peppers, mushrooms, and garlic in the oil until they begin to soften, giving them a light dusting of salt halfway through. Stir in the dried Italian seasoning, smoked paprika, and red chili flakes before adding the white wine and tomatoes, deglazing the pan by scraping up any flavourful burnt bits of chicken that might be stuck to the bottom of the pan.
  3. Stir in a small amount of the chopped herb mixture and taste the sauce to check for seasoning, adjust accordingly. Add the chicken thighs, nestling them into the sauce, and cook uncovered in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the rest of the parsley and basil. Serve over buttered egg noodles or rice; if kept separate from the starches the sauce and chicken will keep for another 2 days in the fridge.

It’s funny listening to music under the influence of very different time periods of your life. When I first bought this CD it coincided with Fiona Apple’s appearance on the cover of Seventeen magazine (which I had a subscription to). I remember liking her for her how cool she came across as well as being a good singer, who could forget that speech at the 1997 MTV VMAs? And now, as an adult, I’m like “oh yeah! She’s also an incredible songwriter and lyricist!”  Funny how these things shift, and funny that despite my personal reactions she’s carried me through a million and half sullen afternoons of my own.

Fiona Apple – Sullen Girl