Apricot Jam

14 08 2008


This is a very quick version of an apricot spread that you can use on biscuits, toast or croissants to make your morning a little brighter.  I don’t even add any pectin – the fruit mixture just simmers down until it gets quite thick.  This makes only a small batch of jam and is intended to be eaten right away rather than canned.  For information on how to make large batches and prepare jars for canning, visit http://www.pickyourown.org/allaboutcanning.htm

Apricot Jam

Makes approximately 1 cup of jam    


  • 2 heaping cups of apricots (about 15 small apricots), quartered and pits removed
  • Pits from the apricots
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon amaretto liqueur
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  1. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, place all ingredients (including pits). 
  2. Bring fruit mixture to a simmer and reduce heat so it is gently simmering (not a hard boil).  Simmer for approximately 45 minutes or until fruit has cooked down and started to thicken.
  3. Remove pits and discard.  Let jam cool and use on toast, etc.  Can be kept covered in the refrigerator for a few days.

Bon Appetit and Enjoy!

News and Inspiration – August 10th, 2008…

10 08 2008

It’s now peak season for produce at the market.  Here are a few things to look out for when you’re shopping (based on availability in Southern Ontario, which will vary slightly in other regions):

  • Corn.  I bought some corn on the cob about a week and a half ago and it wasn’t great but the cobs I picked up yesterday were sweet and delicious.  Serving idea:  Cut kernels off the cob and stir into your favourite salsa for a sweet, raw crunch that’s delicious with corn chips. 

  • Tomatoes.  To be honest, so far I’ve found local tomatoes to be a bit disappointing.  Some of the smaller ones such as strawberry and cherry tomatoes have been quite flavourful but the field tomatoes I recently bought were a bit mealy and lacking in flavour.  Hopefully better ones will hit the market soon.  Serving idea: Toss some halved cherry tomatoes with cooked pasta, olive oil, torn basil leaf, salt and pepper and cubed fresh mozzarella.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

  • Peaches.  They are just starting to come into their own.  It’s been a wet season in Ontario peach country so they may be a bit slower than normal reaching their peak but after I let them sit for a day or two (on the counter – not in the fridge), they were quite juicy and sweet.  Serving idea: Halve peaches and discard pits.  Brush with a bit of honey and place cut side down on a hot grill.  Grill until lightly browned with grill marks.  Serve with vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream.


  • Peppers.  Red, green and yellow peppers are just starting to turn up at farmer’s markets.  Often they are a bit misshapen and ugly compared to the perfect greenhouse specimens we usually see but they are not lacking in flavour.  The red and yellow peppers I picked up yesterday were very sweet.  Serving idea:  Saute strips of green, red and yellow peppers in a pan with sliced onions and a bit of oil and garlic.  Squeeze with fresh lime juice and season with salt and pepper.  Serve with grilled chicken or beef (omit for vegetarians), sliced avocado, salsa and sour cream in a warm flour tortilla.

  • Eggplant and zucchini.  Zucchini are abundant right now so I will be developing a few recipes to use them up (particularly for those of you in rural areas where zucchini can quickly get out of control and people will leave baskets of them on their neighbour’s doorsteps just to get rid of them!).  Servng idea: Cut zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, peppers and onions into large chunks and toss with a tablespoon each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Place in grilling pan (or a roasting pan for the oven) and grill or roast until vegetables begin to soften and brown around the edges.  Season with sea salt and your favourite fresh herbs before serving (thyme, oregano or basil are delicious). 

  • For Ontario home chefs (particularly those of you in the Greater Toronto Area): I recently discovered a fantastic gourmet store that features products primarily from Ontario, including oils, vinegars, meats, cheeses, produce, nuts and flour.   It’s called Culinarium and it is an excellent source for anyone in Ontario who is hoping to use local ingredients.  They carry Red Fife flour, which has become a favourite of chefs (JK Wine Bar in Toronto uses it).   I’m working on a couple of recipes using the flour so stay tuned.  The service at Culinarium is excellent: very friendly and they will let you sample virtually everything they keep in stock.  I picked up some flours, vinegar, oil, peanuts, dried cranberry and a bit of produce.   Their website is www.culinarium.ca and they are located at 705 Mt. Pleasant Road, Toronto, Ontario, phone: 647-430-7004.   

I’ve been exploring the farmer’s markets and doing a lot of experimentation in the kitchen so check back often for the latest in market news, gourmet finds and of course, new recipes with seasonal ingredients.  Have a great weekend and good eating!



Corn and Tomato Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

7 08 2008


Corn is one of my favourite vegetables.  The season for fresh corn is very brief in Canada so during the few weeks it’s available, I eat it as often as I can.  Simply roasted or boiled corn on the cob with butter, salt and pepper is a classic but it’s also wonderfully versatile as an ingredient in salads, pasta sauces or soups.  I developed this recipe as a way to showcase a few summer ingredients that we can only get for a short time so enjoy it while you can!   It’s also an excellent way to use up any leftover cooked corn (if there ever is such a thing – which is not too often in my house!)

Corn and Tomato Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Makes approximately 4 servings as a side dish

(Can be adapted to be VEGETARIAN)


  • 2-1/2 cups cooked corn, cut off the cobs (approximately 4 cobs)
  • 4 rashers bacon (optional – omit for vegetarians)
  • 10 to 12 mini tomatoes (such as cocktail, cherry, grape, etc.), cut in half
  • 3 Tablespoons red onion, cut into a fine dice
  • 1/4 cup red pepper, cut into a fine dice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Fresh basil leaf, for garnish
  1. Cook bacon until crisp.  Crumble into pieces and place in a large bowl.
  2. Add tomatoes, corn, onion and red pepper to bowl.  Drizzle with basil vinaigrette (see recipe below) and toss to coat.
  3. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with a basil leaf.

Basil Vinaigrette:

  • 4 Tablespoons neutral oil (such as canola or safflower)
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil (*see tip on how to chop basil)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • pinch of salt

*Tip for cutting basil leaf: Take a few large basil leaves and roll them up together very tightly, as though rolling a cigar.  With a sharp knife, cut through roll in thin strips.   Chop up strips into smaller pieces.

  1. Combine all vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together.  Use on corn salad or other summer salads.

Bon Appetit and Enjoy!


Peach Chutney

6 08 2008

I debated about what to call this – peach salsa, peach sauce, peach relish…  It is probably closest in style to a classic chutney – fruit, vinegar and spices are cooked together to make a delicious accompaniment to grilled meats.   I have given a few suggestions below for using the chutney. 

Peach Chutney

Makes approximately 1-2/3 cups sauce


  • 4 large, ripe peaches
  • 3 Tablespoons very finely diced red onion
  • 2 Tablespoons very finely diced red pepper
  • 1/2 a jalapeno pepper, seeds and membranes removed and finely diced
  • 1 Tablespoon neutral oil, such as safflower or canola
  • 2 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  1. Remove skin from peaches (see note*) and dice fruit, discarding the pits.  Set aside.  *To remove peach skin:  Fill a large bowl with ice and cold water and set aside.  Fill a stockpot with water and bring to a boil.  While the water is coming to a boil, use a knife to cut a large ‘X’ into the bottom of the peaches, making sure to cut right through the skin.  Once the water has come to a boil, carefully place the peaches into the water.  Leave them in for 45 seconds and then remove with a slotted spoon.  Drop peaches immediately into the bowl of ice water to stop them from cooking.  The skin should lift away fairly easily once they have cooled.  Peel skin off  and discard  (it’s not a big deal if you can’t get it all off easily – it will add a bit of colour and texture).
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat oil and saute onions, red pepper and jalapeno pepper on medium-high heat until they begin to soften, approximately 2 minutes. 
  3. Add peaches and cook for another 2 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients and cook on medium heat for approximately 10 minutes, until fruit is beginning to soften and the flavours start to come together.
  4. Chutney can be made in advance and refrigerated.

Serving Suggestions for Peach Chutney:

  • It makes an excellent accompaniment to grilled pork and chicken dishes.  For blue cheese stuffed pork chops: Take a thick cut (2″) pork chop and make a slit in the side with a sharp knife, forming a pocket.  Stuff with about a teaspoon crumbled blue cheese per chop.  Rub both sides of the pork chops with olive oil, salt, pepper, finely chopped thyme and rosemary.  Saute or grill seasoned chops. 
  • It makes a great dipping sauce for shrimp.
  • Puree chutney and use as a grilling glaze for shrimp, pork or chicken.  Use as you would a barbeque sauce.
  • Make simple hors d’oeuvres: put a dollop of cream cheese on a cracker and top with a spoonful of chutney.  Garnish with a sprig of thyme.
  • Use as a spread for chicken sandwiches or wraps in place of mayonnaise.
  • Add a teaspoon of ground cumin and serve with your favourite Indian dishes.

Bon Appetit and Enjoy!

Raspberry Yogurt Muffins

4 08 2008

Growing up in rural New Brunswick, we had a raspberry patch behind our house.  I didn’t exactly enjoy picking them – if you didn’t want to get scratched to pieces you had to wear long sleeves and pants in the summer heat.   However, they were so sweet and delicious, it was worth the trouble (my mom makes an excellent raspberry pie).  Luckily, farmer’s markets and some supermarkets are now carrying locally picked raspberries, sparing my limbs the trauma of picking my own.

The secret to making big, bakery-style muffins is to fill the muffin tins up to the top of the cups.  Be sure to grease the top of the tin as well as inside the cups because the muffin tops will puff up and cover the tin.  Another helpful tip: if you freeze the raspberries spread out on a baking sheet lined with wax paper, the frozen berries will not bleed into the batter as much as fresh ones.

Raspberry Yogurt Muffins

Makes 6 large muffins or 12 small muffins


  • 1-1/2 cups + 1 Tablespoon unbleached flour 
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup neutral oil, such as safflower or canola
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • Sugar to sprinkle on top of muffins
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine 1-1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, the baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Stir to combine.
  3. Add wet ingredients: the eggs, oil and yogurt.  Stir until batter is mixed together (it will be quite thick).
  4. In a separate bowl, combine raspberries with 1 Tablespoon flour and 1 Tablespoon sugar.  Toss to coat berries.
  5. Very carefully fold raspberries into muffin batter until they are mixed in.  Spoon batter into muffin cups (fill halfway for 12 small muffins or fill to the top of the cups to make 6 large muffins).
  6. Sprinkle muffin tops with a little bit of sugar.  For large muffins, bake for approximately 30 to 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the muffins comes out clean (reduce baking time for small muffins).
  7. Let the muffins cool in the muffin tin before removing – they are almost impossible to get out in one piece while they’re still hot!

Bon Appetit and Enjoy!

Raspberry Yogurt Muffins (shown with Banana Nut Muffins)

Raspberry Yogurt Muffins (shown with Banana Nut Muffins)