Farmers’ Market Report – July 8th, 2010

8 07 2010

Zucchini blossoms are a rare and delicious summer treat.

Welcome to my first Farmers’ Market Report for Summer 2010!  The markets are at their peak for the next couple of months and this week’s offerings did not disappoint.  In fact, growing conditions in Southern Ontario have been so good this year, there were a few surprises.  Here is a rundown of some of this week’s highlights:

Corn

Corn has arrived at Ontario markets earlier than usual this year.

I was a bit stunned to see the first local corn at the markets already.  Speaking with some farmers, I learned that’s about two weeks earlier than normal this year.  I bought six ears to experiment with, crossing my fingers the quality was going to be decent. The ears were on the small side but the kernels were very tender.  It wasn’t as flavourful as I’d hoped but because it’s so early, I’m sure later harvests will be sweeter. My favourite way to eat corn is boiled, rolled in butter and then topped with salt and pepper. However, if you’re looking for something more elegant, try my recipe for Corn with Red Pepper and Herbs.

Peaches

Like corn, peaches are also early this year.  I didn’t buy any this week but we’ve been having a heat wave so hopefully that bodes well for upcoming weeks (peaches love hot, dry weather).  Peach Tiramisu is an elegant, no-bake dessert that showcases fresh peaches beautifully.

Apricots

Apricots were abundant at this week's market.

I often find raw apricots kind of bland with a bit of a mealy texture but the ones I bought today were pretty tasty.  They had a nice sweet-tartness to them so I ate a few out of hand.  I chose ones on the smaller side but the farmers were selling larger ones as well.  Apricots are ideal for both sweet and savoury recipes; why not make some Spicy Apricot Glazed Grilled Shrimp?

Herbs

Fresh herbs were in abundance this week including basil, mint and dill.  I keep an herb pot during the summer for day-to-day herbs but if I decide to do any large batch pickling or pesto, I’ll head to the farmer’s market to buy large amounts at a good price. To make use of summer herbs, check out my recipes for Pesto Sauce and White Bean Dip with Fresh Herbs.

Summer Squash

Pattypan squash and baby zucchini.

I have a feeling that zucchini are going to take over many gardens this summer, judging by the number and size of them at this week’s market.  Many of the yellow and green zucchini on display were already getting a little big for my taste (smaller ones tend to be less watery and are better for most recipes).  Pattypan squash were also abundant this week. You can make the most of summer squash by making Zucchini Pie with Fresh Basil or a moist Zucchini Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting.  I was also excited to find zucchini blossoms at a local grocer this week.  They are fragile and rare but will occasionally turn up at local markets.  To use them, try my recipes for Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms.

I discovered another summer squash this week that I was not familiar with: vegetable marrow (see photo below).  I asked the farmer about them and learned that they are very similar to zucchini and are often stuffed with a ground meat mixture.  It seems to be a popular vegetable in England.  You can find a recipe for stuffed vegetable marrow here: Recipe for Stuffed Marrow with Sausage Meat.

Vegetable marrow are similar to zucchini and are delicious stuffed.

Cucumbers

My husband loves cucumbers and often eats sliced cukes with a dash of salt and pepper as a snack.  They also add a fresh note to sandwiches and salads.  A crisp Asian Summer Slaw makes a great no-cook dinner.  Some of the stalls were selling dill alongside baby cucumbers – one-stop shopping for pickle makers.  Pick up some smoked salmon to make a Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Salad that is accented with fresh dill.

Cherries

Both sweet and sour Ontario cherries were abundant this week.  While sweet cherries are imported from the U.S. each spring, sour ones are harder to find.  My grandmother had a sour cherry tree in her yard so they were the only kind we ever had when I was growing up.  They’re not very good raw but once cooked and sweetened, they have a tartness that is addictive.  For a classic sour cherry pie recipe, check out this one from Epicurious.com: Classic Sour Cherry Pie with Lattice Crust.  If you have sweet cherries, why not make a Cherry Clafouti with Almonds or a simple Cherry Almond Bread?

Asparagus

I was told that this is probably the last week for asparagus this year.  Usually by the end of the season, asparagus is starting to look tired but not this year.  The stalks were thick, robust and vibrant.  This was an exceptional year for asparagus and I enjoyed it in a variety of dishes.  Check out the Asparagus Archives for some delicious ideas ranging from Sesame Noodles with Asparagus and Mushrooms to a rich and decadent Roasted Asparagus Lasagna.

Until next week,

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Asian Summer Slaw

7 07 2010

Beat the heat with a refreshing salad of seasonal vegetables and an Asian-style dressing.

We’re having a major heat wave in Southern Ontario, with high temperatures and humidity not seen here since 2007.  While this is good for growing things such as peaches, tomatoes and grapes, it can be a challenge when trying to decide what to eat for dinner each night.  No one wants to run a hot oven when the temperature is soaring so we look for things that are fresh and cooling.

So what should we eat?  Salads, of course!  Salads are a great option at the peak of summer because a lot of local produce is now available at the market.  A vibrant salad packed with fresh vegetables and lightly tossed with an Asian-inspired dressing is the perfect dish for dinner. It pairs well with grilled meats and rice dishes or you can add some grilled shrimp or chicken to make it a substantial main dish on its own. Cooked whole-wheat spaghettini or chow mein noodles would also be a nice addition.

The prep work for this salad takes a bit of time but none of it is difficult.  You could use bagged shredded coleslaw mix in place of chopping the cabbage and carrots. The dressing can be made in advance and refrigerated until ready to use.  However, don’t dress the salad too far in advance or it will get soggy and limp.

Asian Summer Slaw

Makes 4 to 6 side dish servings (can be made as a main course as well, see above)

(VEGETARIAN)

Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup Hellman’s/Best Foods style light mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon sodium-reduced soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, very finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more, if you prefer a bit of heat)
  1. In a small bowl, add all ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined.  Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Salad:

  • 3/4 cup snow peas (about 15), trimmed
  • 1/2 large red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 small or 1/2 a large carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 4 green onions, chopped (white and light green parts – save the dark green tops for garnish)
  • 1 cup sliced cucumbers – cut about 1/4″ thick (about 1/2 a large cuke)
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 2 cups shredded Napa or green cabbage
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
  1. To blanch snow peas: Prepare a bowl of cold water and add a few ice cubes. Set aside.  Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add snow peas and cook for 1 minute.  Drain peas and plunge them immediately into the ice water to halt cooking.  Drain and dry them once they cool and add to a large salad bowl.
  2. Add the red pepper strips, carrot, green onion, cucumber, bean sprouts and cabbage to the bowl.  Use salad forks (or spoons) to toss all ingredients until combined.  Add dressing to the salad a little at a time and stir to coat the vegetables, making sure you don’t overdress the salad (you probably won’t use all of the dressing. Extra dressing can be kept covered in the fridge for a couple of days).  Stir in sesame seeds and garnish with green onion slices.
  3. Serve as a side dish or add some protein and noodles as described above.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!





Welcome to Summer!

21 06 2010

Summer produce should be hitting its peak within a few weeks.

Today is the first day of summer, which is always exciting.  Kids are almost finished school for the year and the weather is heating up.  Farmer’s markets are underway for the season, although it will likely be a few weeks until they hit their peak (lots of strawberries and asparagus right now though).  It was a busy spring – I had guests visiting, made a couple of trips to Montreal and my husband was stuck in Vancouver on business for a lengthy stretch.  Summer is a time when we can (hopefully!) relax a little and keep cooking and entertaining simple.

I hosted a casual brunch for ten last weekend and chose a menu inspired by what’s in season.  Many of the components can be made in advance and warmed as guests arrive.  I served everything buffet-style, which allowed everyone to take what they wanted and kept things informal and relaxed.  Here is what I served:

Early Summer Brunch Menu

Cherry Almond Bread

Asparagus Quiche

Ham and Cheese Tart (I left out the leeks and added some finely diced onion)

Green Salad with Basic Vinaigrette

A cheese plate, composed of local cheeses and garnished with fresh grapes

Bagels with cream cheese (Chive Cream Cheese topped with smoked salmon is a nice variation)

Sliced Montreal Smoked Meat

Build-Your-Own Strawberry Shortcakes

Mimosas

Coffee

A special thanks to my mom for helping with all of the preparation and cleanup!

I’ll be starting my annual Farmer’s Market Reports later this week so check back for some great recipe ideas for what’s in season.

Bon Appétit!

Trish





Strawberry Mojito

29 05 2010

Strawberry mojitos are very refreshing on a hot afternoon.

The weather in Ontario this May has been incredible – unseasonably warm (hot even!) and very dry, which is unusual.  It feels like it could be mid-July instead of the end of May.  If this is any indication of what’s ahead, we’re in for quite a summer.

When the weather heats up, naturally we look for ways to cool down.  Iced tea, ice cream, lemonade and popsicles are just some of the treats that keep us cool.  For many adults, enjoying some frosty beverages on a patio is the perfect way to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon with friends.

I was at the farmer’s market this morning and local strawberries were abundant. There were also a number of vendors selling bunches of fresh mint.  It was then that I had a light-bulb moment: hot weather + front porch + strawberries + mint = strawberry mojitos! A mojito is a Cuban cocktail traditionally made with rum, lime, mint , sugar and sparkling water.  I first learned to make them while attending a wedding in Cuba. The resort we were staying at had a demonstration one day on how to make Cuban cocktails such as Mojitos, Cuba Libres and Hemingway Specials.  The key to making a proper mojito is to muddle the mint well. There are wooden muddlers that you can buy but a wooden spoon will work just fine.

Balance is important in this drink – you don’t want to venture into Girl Drink Drunk territory.  Keep the sugar to a minimum and let the strawberries and lime add a sweet-tart note.  To keep things easy, I use simple syrup to sweeten the drink instead of cane syrup or bar sugar (a quick dissolving sugar).  It’s very easy to make and can be used in a number of cocktails.

Strawberry Mojito

Makes 1 drink – can easily be multiplied

  • 5 large mint leaves
  • 1 to 1-1/2 oz. simple syrup (see recipe below)
  • 3 large or 5 small very ripe strawberries, hulled and cut into a small dice
  • 1/2 oz. fresh lime juice – from about 2 limes
  • 1-1/2 oz. white rum
  • Club soda
  • Ice
  • Fresh mint and a strawberry to garnish
  1. In a highball glass, add mint leaves and 1 oz. of simple syrup. Use a muddler or wooden spoon to mash the leaves in the syrup until they are broken up.
  2. Add the strawberry pieces and mash them with the spoon until they are broken up and juicy.
  3. Add ice cubes and pour in lime juice and rum.  Stir until combined and top with club soda.  Taste and add a bit more simple syrup if desired.
  4. Garnish with fresh mint leaves and a strawberry.

Simple Syrup

Simple syrup is one part water, one part sugar so it can be adapted to any quantity.  For a half cup of syrup you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  1. In a small saucepan, add sugar and water and bring to a simmer on medium heat
  2. Stir sugar until it dissolves.  Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool before using.  Syrup can be stored in the fridge for a few days.  Extra syrup can be used in a number of other cocktail recipes.

Cheers and Enjoy!





The Search for a Perfect Tomato

23 09 2009

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Once upon a time there was a garden that grew each summer and produced red juicy Tomatoes that were sweet and flavourful.  I can still remember going out to the garden to pick those Tomatoes as my mom was preparing salad to go with dinner. They were warm from the sun and smelled of vines.  Those Tomatoes were good enough to eat plain with just a sprinkle of salt and dash of pepper.  After eating far too many mediocre, mealy and flavourless tomatoes in the intervening years, I sometimes ask myself: Were those Tomatoes for real?  Or did they only exist in my imagination?

A basket of tomatoes, September 2009

A basket of tomatoes, September 2009

I’ve had fleeting encounters with Tomatoes again from time to time (as opposed to small ‘t’ tomatoes, the mediocre tasteless fruit of which I’ve had too many).  A trip to Napa, California in 1999 led us to Michael Chiarello’s restaurant, Tra Vigne.  It was early September and tomatoes were at their peak.  The menu featured them heavily so we ordered a simple caprese salad and an heirloom tomato mini pizza.  A good caprese salad is all about the ingredients so everything has to be top notch: high quality mozzarella, fresh basil leaves, good olive oil, sea salt and of course, the very best Tomatoes you can find.  The Tra Vigne caprese was flawless.  The restaurant made their own olive oil and mozzarella and the Tomatoes had the advantage of California’s climate to ripen them to perfection.

Now and again I would encounter a Tomato again but was particularly hopeful that a trip to Italy would provide a cornucopia of perfect Tomatoes.  After all, don’t Tomatoes and Italy go hand in hand?  Aside from the fact that tomatoes actually came to Italy from the New World, we were traveling in the Tuscan region which isn’t the epicenter of tomato based Italian cooking.  However, one day in Florence, I ordered a simple bruschetta with lunch.  On two pieces of toasted Tuscan bread were chopped ripe tomatoes and a drizzle of local olive.  I took a bite and there it was: that elusive fresh Tomato flavour that I had been seeking for so long.

P1000936

Bushels of tomatoes at a roadside stand in the Niagara region

Upon my return to Canada, I visited farmer’s markets and roadside stands in my quest to find delicious Tomatoes.  I was always hopeful but all too often even red, ripe specimens yielded no flavour and even worse texture. Occasionally I would find ones that were pretty good and they weren’t always the ones you’d think.  Just because a tomato has an odd shape or strange colour doesn’t mean it has no flavour.  Likewise, perfect looking tomatoes can be awful. Luckily, heirloom tomato varieties have seen a surge in popularity over the past few years and the quality is often remarkably high.  Heirlooms are tomatoes that have been grown from seeds passed down through generations.  I have tried to grow my own but due to lack of space, a shady property and devilish raccoons that foil all attempts at growing anything edible, I’ve given up and now rely on the farmer’s markets.

Roasted cherry tomatoes

Roasted cherry tomatoes

Admittedly, 2009 was a poor year to embark on a quest to find the perfect Tomato. The weather in Eastern Canada was unseasonably cold and wet for most of the summer which is not the ideal environment for tomato growing.  Most tomato varieties require hot, dry weather and lots of sun so clearly this wasn’t going to be a banner year. However, I held out hope of finding something more acceptable than tasteless watery tomatoes that are no better than what’s available in January supermarkets. I visited farmer’s markets and asked farmers their opinions about which ones tasted the best.  I bought heirlooms in various colours, cherry, grape and plum tomatoes, basic field tomatoes and strange looking cluster tomatoes.  Then I cut them up, sprinkled them with a bit of salt and subjected my poor husband to a blind tasting.  The results were as follows (I’ve used somewhat generic terms to describe the types of tomatoes I tasted – there are hundreds of specific cultivars):

From left: coloured heirloom tomatoes, cluster tomato, Campari cocktail tomato, plum tomato, field tomato

From left: coloured heirloom tomatoes, cluster tomato, Campari cocktail tomato, plum tomato, field tomato

Field Tomatoes – Generally pretty poor overall, with pale colour, little taste and mealy texture.

Plum (Roma) Tomatoes – Plum or Roma tomatoes are typically a bit drier than field tomatoes but I also found them lacking in flavour.  However, cooked into sauce and seasoned they were still pretty good.  Roasting will also enhance their sweetness.

Heirlooms – These come in a variety of colours and even patterns such as green and yellow zebra stripes.  Overall they were pretty good – sweet and flavourful and with tender, moist flesh.

Cluster Tomatoes – These were some of the best I found.  They were bright red, meaty and full of flavour.  When I returned to the market the following week, I mentioned to the farmer how much I enjoyed them and he threw in a couple for free which was very nice of him.

A cluster tomato

A cluster tomato

Cherry Tomatoes – These were also quite good.  Small and sweet, they were my tomato of choice this summer.  When roasted, they get even sweeter as their juices concentrate.  They’re also great for salads because you don’t have to fuss – just toss them in whole or simply cut them in half.

Greenhouse Grown Cocktail Tomatoes – For comparative purposes, I threw some Campari cocktail tomatoes that were greenhouse-grown into the mix.  To my surprise, they compared very favourably to the summer varieties.  This is good news for the 10 months of the year when fresh field grown tomatoes aren’t available where I live.

Colourful heirloom tomatoes at the farmer's market

Colourful heirloom tomatoes at the farmer's market

So overall, it was a bit of a mixed bag and I didn’t find the elusive Tomato of my youth but I will continue my search next year. Cherry tomatoes and heirlooms were the most consistent overall and the cluster tomatoes were also pretty good (although they can be a bit harder to find). Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a ton of tomatoes to deal with so I’m off to make sauce….

UPDATE: Will I ever find a ‘perfect’ tomato? Visit Part 2 of my search to find out!

Check out some of my tomato recipes, including a few for roasted and cooked tomatoes which can be made year round:

Tomato Recipes

Crab and Avocado Stuffed Tomatoes
Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta
Winter Caprese Salad
Bucatini All’Amatriciana
Heirloom Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese and Sherry Vinaigrette
Slow Roasted Tomatoes
How to Peel Tomatoes
Tomato Tart with Herbed Ricotta
Caprese Salad 101
Corn and Tomato Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

A cocktail tomato stuffed with fresh mozzarella and a basil leaf

A cocktail tomato stuffed with fresh mozzarella and a basil leaf





Allan’s Linguine alle Vongole

15 09 2009

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My husband Allan loves pasta with clams.  He has always enjoyed various pasta and seafood combinations but one night in Italy, he had the ultimate version of his favourite: Lingine alle Vongole (linguine with clams).  We were at Ristorante Romano, a Michelin-starred seafood restaurant on the Tuscan coast.  The seafood at Romano’s was fresh and impeccably prepared with typical Italian simplicity.  When we returned home, we decided to develop our own version of this classic pasta dish.

The key to this dish is using high quality ingredients.  Choose small, live clams in their shells and be sure to discard any that don’t open when cooked.  Fresh parsley, oregano, garlic and hot peppers are preferable over dried and keep the dish fresh and light tasting.  Sautéeing the whole garlic and peppers in the oil and then discarding them gives the pasta a hint of garlic flavour and heat without overpowering the dish.  However, if you prefer a bit more punch, feel free to mince some of the garlic and peppers and leave them in the sauce.  Although I usually prefer fresh pasta, this is one dish where dried works better.  If linguine isn’t available, substitute spaghetti or bucatini instead.

I guarantee that this recipe is simple to prepare: Allan doesn’t normally cook (aside from the occasional crème brûlée) and he can put this together in no time.  The pasta and clams cook at roughly the same time so everything should come together at once.

Allan’s Linguine alle Vongole (Linguine with Clams)

Makes 4 to 6 servings

  • Approximately 18 small clams, in their shells (such as baby clams, littlenecks, etc.)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil + 2 Tablespoons to finish the dish
  • 2 small hot peppers, such as Thai bird chiles OR 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 2 whole garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley + extra for garnish
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/4 cup reserved pasta cooking water
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb / 500 grams good quality dried linguine
  • A large deep skillet with a lid (or some way to cover it, such as a large plate)
  • A large pot to boil pasta
  1. Rinse clams in cold water to ensure the shells are clean and free of grit.  Make sure all of the shells are closed tight and discard any whose shells have opened.
  2. Heat a large pot of salted water to cook the pasta.  Bring to a boil on high heat.
  3. In a large, deep skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil on medium-high heat.  Add the garlic cloves and whole chile peppers. Sauté for about 5 minutes or until they turn golden brown, watching carefully so the garlic doesn’t burn.  Remove the garlic and chiles from the pan but keep the oil in the bottom of the skillet.
  4. Place the clams (in their shells) in the skillet and add the wine, chopped oregano and 2 teaspoons fresh parsley.  Cover with the lid and let simmer on medium heat.  
  5. Place the linguine in the pot of boiling water.  The clams and pasta will take about the same amount of time to cook, about 9 to 10 minutes.  Set a timer for 9 minutes.
  6. After 9 minutes, check on the clams.  The shells should be wide open.  If a few are still closed or partially open, give them a couple more minutes.  Any that do not open in that time should be discarded.   Test the linguine – it should be al dente.  Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water before draining the pasta and set it aside.  Drain the linguine.
  7. Add the cooked linguine to the skillet with the clams.  Toss to coat, adding a bit of the reserved pasta water if it seems dry.  Drizzle with remaining 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil and stir thoroughly.
  8. Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with a bit of fresh parsley.
  9. Serve with crusty bread and a glass of dry white wine.

Note: Italians don’t usually eat cheese with seafood pasta so if you want to keep it traditional, refrain from garnishing with grated parmesan.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

 

Linguine with clams + a glass of wine = the perfect meal!

Linguine with clams + a glass of wine = the perfect summer meal





Farmer’s Market Report – September 14th, 2009

14 09 2009
Ontario Grapes

Ontario Grapes

I didn’t post a Farmer’s Market Report last week but I actually visited three or four different ones.  I was on the quest for decent tomatoes, which have been difficult to find this year due to poor weather earlier in the summer.  I did find a few that were okay but sadly, many more that were disappointing.  However, there are were a lot of other great finds as summer draws to a close:

Grapes

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I had never tried Ontario grapes (except in wine, of course, but grapes used in wine production are different from edible grapes). It seems I’ve been missing out!  I bought some seedless Coronation grapes last week and they were fantastic.  They tasted like grape juice but with a bit of a sour finish.  It was almost like eating sweet and sour grape candies.  They were so good that I went back and bought more.  Highly recommended as a snack or as part of a cheese plate.

Corn, Peaches and Peppers

Corn and peaches are still going strong.  The peaches this year are quite good and I’ve been enjoying them in desserts and out of hand.  I have a few that are getting soft so I may puree them into juice so I can enjoy some Peach Sangria on a late summer afternoon.  All of the corn I’ve had this year has been good and I’ve enjoyed it both on the cob and in salads.  There were lots of red bell peppers and shepherd peppers available, perfect for making Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Thyme Croutons.

Fall Produce

Despite the fact that fall is my favourite season, I’m a bit saddened this year to see typical autumn vegetables at the market such as squash, Brussel sprouts, apples, pears and leeks.  Summer seemed to pass quickly this year and I’m not ready for fall quite yet! Luckily, the weather in Southern Ontario is the best it’s been all year so hopefully that will allow us to enjoy what’s left of the season for a little while longer. As soon as the days turn cool, my thoughts will turn to braising, roasting and hearty fall dishes such as Leek and Ham Tart, Braised Short Ribs and Apple Caramel Tart.

There’s no need to lament the end of summer just yet – there is still a week left in ‘official’ summer and hopefully the good weather will extend the season even longer.

Until next week…

Trish





Peach Tiramisu

8 09 2009

 

A basket of Niagara peaches at a roadside farmstand

A basket of Niagara peaches at a roadside farm stand

Tiramisu is one of those desserts that became a victim of its own success.  It’s delicious when made properly but became so popular in restaurants that people got tired of it.  Like crème brûlée and molten chocolate cake, tiramisu became ubiquitous on menus in the 1990’s/2000’s and mediocre versions of these classics turned many people off for good.  However, it’s time to revisit tiramisu: my seasonal version is easy to prepare, requires no baking (perfect for hot days when you don’t want to use the oven) and is impressive in both presentation and taste.  Whenever I make it, it gets raves.

The key to this recipe is to use peaches that are at their peak: ripe, juicy and tender. If your peaches are too firm, leave them on the counter for a couple of days to soften up.  There’s no need to remove the skin but if you’d prefer to do so for presentation purposes, visit  Kitchen Tip of the Week: How to Peel Tomatoes and Soft Fruit for instructions.  

This recipe makes individual desserts, which are a fun and impressive way to present it.  It can also be made as one large family style tiramisu.  The servings don’t look as nice on the plate but it will taste fine.

Peach Tiramisu

Makes 4 individual desserts

  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ½ cup chilled whipping cream
  • ½ cup amaretto liqueur
  • Approximately 10 large ladyfinger biscuits (savoiardi)
  • 2 large peaches, pits removed and cut into thin slices
  • Mint leaves, for garnish – optional
  • 4 martini glasses or other glass dishes suitable for serving the individual desserts

Making the Mascarpone Cream:

  1. In a large bowl, combine mascarpone cheese, 3 Tablespoons sugar and vanilla. Stir until smooth and set aside.
  2. In a metal or glass bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until whites are frothy, glossy and form soft peaks. Set aside.
  3. In another metal or glass bowl, beat whipping cream and 1 teaspoon sugar until it forms stiff peaks (do not overbeat).
  4. Add egg whites and whipped cream to mascarpone cheese. Carefully fold in until just combined – do not mix vigorously.

Assembling the Desserts:

  1. Set out the four serving dishes. Spoon a small amount of mascarpone cream into the bottom of each one.
  2. Pour amaretto liqueur into a shallow bowl. Dip ladyfingers quickly into amaretto, just enough to moisten them (do not sit them in the liqueur or they will go soggy). Break biscuits as necessary to fit into serving dishes and layer over mascarpone cream.
  3. Top biscuits with peach slices and add another layer of mascarpone cream. Continue layering amaretto-soaked ladyfingers, peaches and cream, finishing with a layer of cream on the top.
  4. Refrigerate and let rest for at least 2 to 3 hours so biscuits have time to soften and the flavours can develop. Garnish with peach slices and mint leaves (optional).

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

This recipe first appeared on Suite101.com

Individual Peach Tiramisu

Individual Peach Tiramisu





Artichokes with Lemon-Garlic Dip

4 09 2009

 

Ontario grown baby artichokes.

Artichokes are grown in Ontario? Yes they are!

I love artichokes and artichoke hearts. However, I don’t eat them very often for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I find fresh artichokes intimidating to prepare and eat. They’re beautiful to look at but I’m never sure what to do with all those leaves sticking out of them.  I usually eat them as part of an antipasto platter or in dips made with jarred hearts.  The second reason I don’t eat them is that I tend to focus on local produce in the summer so I don’t really think about them when I’m surrounded by local corn, tomatoes, peaches, etc.  However, all of that changed yesterday at the farmer’s market when I discovered this: artichokes are grown in Ontario.

For some reason this surprised me.  I’ve driven through Castroville, California which is the Artichoke Center of the World, growing 75% of U.S. artichokes.  Naturally I associated artichokes with California’s warmer climate and it never occurred to me that they might grow here.  I spoke to the farmer selling them and she told me that they are grown as annuals in Ontario (as opposed to perennials in California) and are started early in a greenhouse.  

An artichoke growing in Castroville, California

An artichoke growing in Castroville, California

The ones I bought were baby artichokes, which are smaller and more delicate than full sized ones.  Another surprise is that baby artichokes are very easy to prepare. Just trim the stem, peel off the toughest outside leaves, cut off the top 1/4 of the artichoke and steam the tender yellow heart.  The website oceanmist.com provides excellent step-by-step photos and videos that are very helpful. Once you’ve steamed them, let them cool.  Serve with a delicious lemony-garlic mayonnaise that pairs beautifully with the tender hearts. If you can’t find fresh artichokes to steam, serve the dip with jarred or canned artichoke hearts.

Lemon-Garlic Dip for Artichokes

Makes 3/4 cup

(VEGETARIAN)

  • 3/4 cup Hellman’s or Best Foods style light mayonnaise 
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 small garlic clove, very finely minced
  • Lemon zest strips, to garnish (optional)
  • Toothpicks to dip artichokes
  1. In a bowl, add mayonnaise, lemon juice, grated lemon zest and garlic.  Stir to combine thoroughly.  
  2. Arrange cooked artichokes on a platter and pour dip into a side dish.  Garnish with lemon zest strips if desired.  Use toothpicks to dip the artichokes in the mayo.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

 

Steamed baby artichokes with Lemon-Garlic Dip

Steamed baby artichokes with Lemon-Garlic Dip





Crab and Avocado Stuffed Tomatoes

27 08 2009
Crab and Avocado Stuffed Tomatoes

Crab and Avocado Stuffed Tomatoes

Summer is winding down but there’s still time to host an outdoor party before the evenings turn chilly.  Miniature tomatoes stuffed with a little bit of avocado and crab salad are always a hit and are easy to put together.  This dish was inspired by a salad I had on my honeymoon in France.  We enjoyed a fantastic multi-course lunch one day while overlooking the Mediterranean – everything was local and seasonal, including rosé wine, fish, vegetables and a salad of tomatoes and crab.  I took this idea and turned it into small bites that can be eaten as hors d’oeuvres but you could always serve it as a first course if you’d prefer.  Just use larger tomatoes and adjust the number of servings accordingly.  You can substitute lobster meat for the crab if desired.  

Crab and Avocado Stuffed Tomatoes

Makes 12 hors d’oeuvres (recipe can easily be doubled)

  • 12 cocktail or large grape tomatoes (about the size of a ping pong ball)
  • 1-1/2 cups cooked crabmeat (approximately 6 oz.) or lobster meat
  • 2 Tablespoons Hellman’s or Best Foods style mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon very finely diced red onion
  • 1 Tablespoon very finely diced celery
  • 1 Tablespoon finely diced red or yellow pepper
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped Italian (flat leaf) parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped chives, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 very ripe Haas avocado, skin and pit removed
  • 1 Tablespoon sour cream
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Using a sharp knife, cut a small sliver from the bottom of each tomato so it makes the bottom flat enough for them to stand upright without rolling over.
  2. Cut the top ¼ off the tomatoes. Scoop out the seeds and pulp and discard (be careful not to scoop right through the bottom of the tomato). Set tomatoes aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the crabmeat, mayonnaise, onion, celery, red pepper, parsley, chives, salt and pepper. Mix until thoroughly combined. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. In a small bowl, combine avocado, sour cream and salt and mash with a fork until smooth.
  5. To assemble: Spoon a small scoop of avocado mixture into the bottom of each hollowed out tomato. Top with a spoonful of the crabmeat and garnish with chives.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

This recipe first appeared on Suite 101.com.