A Tasty Evening with BC Blueberries

Blueberry season has been in full swing for at least a month now and even though I am buying two boxes per week, my family still can’t get enough of ‘nature’s candy’. Blueberries have a particular allure to them, they aren’t too sweet and when they have just a little sourness to them, they are perfection. We eat them by the handful, over yoghurt and with granola for breakfast, in muffins, in crumbles, and in many savoury dishes as well. Blueberries are not just tasty treats, they are so good for you too! They are regarded as being a ‘superfruit’ which is extremely high in anti oxidants and have been known to reduce cardiovascular disease and loss of brain function (bcblueberry.com).  Just a half cup serving of blueberries can be the equivalent of one serving of your daily fruit and vegetables.

This year I had the opportunity to enjoy a fun hands on cooking event at Cookbook Co. Cooks with the BC Blueberry Council. Did you know that British Columbia is one of the world’s largest producers of high bush blueberries, with over 77 million kilograms grown annually? I just can’t get over the fact that 77 million kilograms of blueberries are grown in a coast BC region that is only 11,300 hectares, about 20 kms by 80 kms. Cooking with a bunch of blogger friends is definitely a lot more fun than cooking by myself at home and our ultimate goal was to sit down and share a delicious blueberry themed dinner together. Once we were divided into groups of 3-4, we stood beside one of three cooking stations with pre arranged recipes and ingredients all sorted out. 
007I gravitated toward the baking station, where I helped Julie van Rosendaal and Gwendolyn Richards make Dark Chocolate and Blueberry Scones. Actually ‘helped’ is a pretty loose term, as I ended up just chopping the chocolate into large chunks. Julie naturally took over as head scone baker and had them ready for the oven in no time. I’m pretty sure she could probably make scones in her sleep by now. julievanr

Our finished Dark Chocolate and Blueberry Scones were paired with a delicious Warm Berry and Thyme Compote.blueberryscone

So now that I’ve covered dessert, here are the other dishes we made that night…

blueberrysaladSpring Salad with Blueberry Balsamic Dressing

blueberrychickenButterflied Chicken Breast stuffed with Blueberry and Goat Cheese and served with a Blueberry Maple Sauce. 

Some of the industrious and talented blogger chefs creating our blueberry themed dinner:

blueberrybloggers

Justine (JustineCelina), Aadil  (Beltline Bites), Michelle (Cooking with Mama Mui), Chef Melissa Gorsedin,

Kate (The Archives of Cool), Stephanie (Clockwork Lemon), Sarah (From Stork to Fork), Denise (Sweet Peas and Saffron)

Dark Chocolate and Blueberry Scones with Warm Berry Thyme Compote

(recipe by Chef Melissa Gorsedin, Cookbook Co. Cooks)

Scones

Ingredients

  • 2 cups AP Flour
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4  tsp salt
  • 1/4  cup butter; chilled
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half cream
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate; chopped
  • 1 egg

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  2. Cut butter into mixture of flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add blueberries and chocolate and toss to mix.
  3. In separate bowl beat together cream and egg, and slowly pour into dry ingredients, stirring with rubber scraper until dough forms. Knead just until it comes together, 3 or 4 times. Don’t over handle.
  4. Roll the dough out 1 inch thick and cut out rounds. If you like, brush the tops with milk or cream and sprinkle with sugar.
  5. Bake on ungreased sheet about 20 minutes at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Serve warm!!

Warm Berry and Thyme Compote

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 1/2 cup blackberries
  • 1 12 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp chopped thyme
  • 1 cup raspberries

Method

  1. Melt butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Stir in blackberries, blueberries, sugar and lemon juice.
  2. Cook until juices are released from fruit, about 14 minutes.
  3. Stir in thyme, then raspberries. Add more sugar and lemon juice to taste, depending on sweetness of berries.
  4. Serve warm with scones.

Here are some of my favourite Dish ‘n’ the Kitchen blueberry themed blog posts:

grapesalsa2

 

Blueberry and Grape Salsa 

 

 

 

 

pie3

 


Blueberry Lattice Pie with Lemon Zest and Spruce Buds

 

 

 

blueberryribs2

 

Blueberry Balsamic Braised Beef Short Ribs

 

 

 

084

 

 

Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

 

Grilled Peach Fruit Salad with Burrata and Lime Basil Vinaigrette

I hate to be the party pooper, but as of today, summer is half gone! Can you believe it? I sure can’t. We really haven’t done that much at all and I know that I’ll regret not getting out there and camping once summer is gone. So here’ my chance to turn that around and become more inspired, live life to the fullest right? YOLO and all that jazz. Even though we don’t have the extra cash to get out to top attractions, go camping, or even go on a road trip to visit our families, we can still make the most of summer right out in the back yard on our sunny deck. We’ve been spending the beautiful evenings sipping local craft brews on our deck, hanging out with friends, and definitely eating as much as we can out of all that delicious summer produce.

Since blueberries have come into season, I’ve been buying two cases per week and the kids are snacking on them in lieu of candy. That says a lot about the quality of produce we are getting this year and I’ve haven’t even gotten started on how amazing the cherry season has been this year. I bough record sized Rainier Cherries the size of toonies just last week and the Bings have also been outstanding. Even though cherry season is coming to an end (and plums, apricots, peaches, and nectarines are taking over) I am expecting a 10 pound crate tomorrow. I’ll be making my yearly batch of preserved cocktail cherries which I much prefer to the neon pink monstrosities you buy in the store. Are those still even cherries?! 2016-06-24 001 050

Grilled Peach Fruit Salad with Burrata and Lime Basil Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 2 firm fresh peaches; halved
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup fresh cherries; pitted and halved
  • 1 fresh burrata
  • zest of one lime
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 cup fresh torn basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Method

Pre-heat barbecue on med-high for five minutes and give the grate a good clean with your brush. Place peaches cut side down onto the hot grate and leave for about 10 minutes or until they have softened up a bit. Remove and cool. Place lime zest, lime juice, honey, basil leaves, and olive oil in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Arrange fruit around burrata and drizzle vinaigrette all around. Enjoy! peachsaladpin1

This Grilled Peach Fruit Salad with Burrata and Lime Basil Vinaigrette makes the most out of the end this year’s early summer fruits and the beginning of the mid summer fruits at the same time. I grilled a few of the first peaches that I bought because they are still quite firm and easy to slice in half. They soften right up on the barbecue, with the heat releasing all the sugars hidden within the stone fruit. Add some pitted and halved cherries, some blueberries and whatever other fruits you have. You might think that the burrata is not necessary for a great fruit salad (and with the lime vinaigrette it just may be) but if you pick one up, you won’t be sorry you did. The addition of the fresh creamy cheese really elevates this salad to another level. We actually ate this salad as a main dish one evening. YOLO.

Burgers and Beer at Azuridge Estate Hotel

Azuridge Estate Hotel was built in 1997 as a 13 acre private oasis in the gorgeous foothills west of Calgary but was converted to a hotel in 2012. The location is quite secluded and peaceful; it’s the perfect place to take in the fresh air and majestic views while still enjoying all the comforts of home, and more.  Built across from the Priddis Greens Golf and Country Club, the estate is popular with golfers (with complimentary golfing available during a stay at Azuridge), hikers, skiers (both alpine and cross country), and those wanting to take part in the world class equestrian events at nearby Spruce Meadows. The facility offers 13  comfortable suites, gorgeous manicured outdoor spaces, a wedding planner, butler service, and several outstanding dining options.

welcomecocktail No matter where you dine at Azuridge you are sure to be pampered

Executive Chef Yoshi Chubachi oversees main dining at the Opal Restaurant (including a personalized Chef’s Table experience), as well as dining the three Azuridge patios and the ‘Overnight Menu’. While the dining experience in the Opal restaurant is…opulent, the patios are much more casual and relaxed. Each has a slightly different menu, but all have stunning views of the estate and surrounding forests.

azuviewsOne view of many from the Gazebo Patio

This summer, the Gazebo Patio menu features ‘Burgers ‘n’ Beer Nights’ on weekday evenings from 6-10 pm. For $35 per person you order a choice of five burgers (Brant Lake Wagyu, local lamb, chicken, salmon, and portobello mushroom), two sides (truffle mac ‘n’ cheese, Caesar salad, Fruit Salad, or the artisan baby mixed salad), and beer. Sit back , enjoy the view, and listen to the tunes from the on site DJ. If dancing isn’t your thing, there are assorted lawn games to play on the well manicured lawns.

lamburgerThe Lamb Burger: Sliced tomatoes, house made mint relish, blue cheese, red onion, topped with smokey mustard and served on a brioche bun.

chickenburgerThe Chicken Burger: Grilled marinated chicken breast with
lettuce, sliced tomatoes, avocado, sliced onion, smoked cheddar, maple bacon and balsamic mayo on a brioche bun.

AzuteamThe staff at Azuridge are super friendly and you’re always well taken care of!

Fattoush – Cook the Book Fridays

Have you ever join a group or organization with the best of intentions, only to fizzle out of focus in grand glory? It seems I have done exactly that with the poor ladies at the Cook the Book Fridays cookbook group. The group is a tight knit and encouraging community, having previously cooked through the entire ‘Around My French Table’ by Dorie Greenspan. They’ve become fast friends through the discussion of this delicious cookbook, and having survived the trials and tribulations of cooking every single recipe from it. I watched their posts with interest, from afar, and when they finished we all wondered what would happen next. It turns out that ‘next’ is a similarly impressive feat; cooking each and every recipe from ‘My Paris Kitchen’ by David Lebovitz. Since I have the book and have met David in person, I felt it was a great opportunity to join in the fun.

Cooking an entire cookbook takes a lot of time and commitment. I need to cook for my family regardless, and what better way than to use David Lebovitz’s recipes? I’ve never hit upon a bad one so I didn’t have any concerns about whether or not this would be a challenge. The challenge, it turns out, is not in the cooking but the posting. I have managed to (mostly) keep up with the bi monthly recipes but writing about them and keeping up with the other participants requires a fair amount of time. I also find that, due to legalities, not being able to post the recipe on my blog is somewhat disappointing. I understand that since we are cooking the entire book, publishing each recipe is discourteous to Mr. Lebovitz, but this is (after all) a food blog.  All I can say to my readers is please go buy the book and follow along. Really, you won’t be disappointed! fattoush

Without further adieu, here is the beautiful and tasty Fattoush salad that was the featured recipe for June 3…on July 13th! This one was kind of a ‘no brainer’ because I had all of the ingredients on hand AND needed to use up some old pitas. It was also a really hot spring day (warmer than any day we’ve had so far in July) when I didn’t feel like cooking at all. The three of us demolished this whole salad for dinner, then had pie for dessert. You have to balance the good with the bad right?080This salad was really easy to make and assemble. I had romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers in the fridge all ready to go so all I had to do was toast the pitas and make the dressing. I finished the salad with fresh herbs from my garden and used up all the ground sumac that I had. Sumac is a spice that I really enjoy because it adds a certain ‘zest’ to whatever you add it to. It heightens the taste of lemons and makes your mouth water! Instead of plain black pepper I threw in some lemon pepper that had been given to me by a friend. She recently moved back to Canada after some time in Dubai and she bought me some of this lemon pepper from a real street side spice souk, a traditional market where people buy spices of all kinds.095
If you want to find more ‘up to date’ Cook the Book Friday posts visit this link here. Meanwhile, I shall keep plugging on…

 

Fairmont Banff Springs – A Rocky Mountain Culinary Destination

Visitors from around the world flock to Banff National Park to experience the gorgeous views of the Canadian Rockies and breathe in the pristine mountain air.  There are few places on earth that equal the rugged beauty of the mountains and in the midst of it all sits the majestic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. Staying at the Fairmont Banff Springs is, in itself, an amazing experience. The rooms are comforting and relaxing, striking a fine balance between the charm of history and modern convenience. While the weekend summer peak season at the hotel is fully booked, exploring the Fairmont Banff Springs on your own is fully encouraged and worthwhile.  The “Castle in the Rockies” has been a Rocky Mountain destination for over 125 years and while most visitors come for the views and adventure, many more are pleasantly surprised when they find out that the Castle is also a notable culinary destination.

With 13 restaurants, pubs, and lounges, it’s safe to say that the Fairmont Banff Springs has a culinary experience for everyone. From fresh sushi to Charcuterie, fondue, and beyond…every appetite can be satisfied. The following are a few of the spots where you can enjoy more substantial fare after a long day of healthy mountain activity:

Samurai Sushi Bar – Walk into the Samurai Sushi Bar and be immediately greeted with a smile and a cheerful Japanese welcome, “Irasshaimase!” by Chefs Kaoru Ohsada and Masa Endo. From their stations behind the tiny sushi bar, they prepare the freshest sushi in a most traditional manner five days a week. Since the fish is flown in to the restaurant every second day, you can be sure to have an amazing culinary experience each time you visit. The menu includes standard favourites such as Tekka Maki (tuna roll) and Kappa Maki (cucumber roll) and even more unique items such as Ume Shiso Maki (pickled plum and perilla leaf roll) and Saikyoyaki (marinated and grilled sablefish). In addition to sushi and sashimi, Samurai Sushi Bar also offers several udon dishes and traditional hot pots. (Thursday to Monday from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm)

samuraicollageSalmon/Avocado Sushi\Maki, Tuna Tataki, Chef Kaoru Ohsada, Marinated & Grilled Sablefish, Fresh Norwegian Mackerel Sushi

1888 Chop House – Ontario born and raised Chef Richard McMillan moved west and fell in love with the beauty of the Canadian Rockies. He moved to Banff in 2013 and the quality of Alberta grown and raised ingredients are a huge reason he loves working at 1888 Chop House. The restaurant is located in a quiet, cozy corner and is the perfect spot to have a special fine dining experience within the walls of Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.  The seasonally driven menu offers a wide range of farm fresh, locally raised, and sustainable ingredients from Bison Tenderloin and Elk Rib Eye to West Coast Sockeye Salmon. After you have settled on a Prime Cut, the sky is the limit for delicious in house made accompaniments. I definitely recommend the Brown Butter Whipped Potatoes and Braised Carrots. Don’t forget to leave room for dessert; in fact, if you don’t feel like a large meal and want to skip straight on to the sweet stuff, 1888 Chop House is the place to go!  (open Tuesday-Sunday; 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm)

1888collageChef Richard McMillan, Bison Tenderloin at 1888 Chop House, Dark Chocolate Paté, Plank of sides.

Stanley’s Smokehouse – You don’t have to be a guest at the Fairmont Banff Springs to enjoy golfing at the gorgeous 18 hole Stanley Thompson or 9 hole Tunnel Mountain. Walk the pristine greens and load up your fitbit because the mouthwatering menu at Stanley’s Smokehouse awaits. Home to many a post-game beer, Stanley’s offers 360 degree views out onto the Stanley Thompson course and some of the best barbecue around. Chef Craig Parkinson uses cherry wood to smoke dry rubbed whole racks of ribs, beef brisket, chickens, and pork in the enormous kitchen smoker, then finishes them with the house made Jim Beam bourbon barbecue sauce. If the barbecue doesn’t get you salivating, there are so many other items on Stanley’s menu (salads, burgers, nachos, fish and chips, steaks, wings, and grilled fish) that you’ll be sure to find a dish to suit your appetite. (Open daily from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm)

StanleyscollageChef Craig with a plate of Smoked Brisket & Sweet Potato Fries; Smoked Rack of Ribs, Chicken, and pulled pork; Centre Fireplace at Stanley’s Smokehouse

Waldhaus Restaurant – In what used to be the original golf course club house lies one of the most unique restaurants on the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel grounds. Leave the main hotel and follow the wandering path down to the restaurant and you immediately find yourself transported to Bavaria. The menu is filled with German favourites such as veal bratwurst and schnitzel but the most popular item is the Waldhaus Fondue experience, which is not really German in origin at all. Still, you can imagine that you are surrounded by the Swiss Alps while you dip your way through the Cheese, Beef, and Toblerone Chocolate fondues.  Pick a rainy summer day and ask for a table in the sun room or visit on a gorgeous sunny day and choose the patio for the most unbelievable views. (Monday to Friday – 4:00 pm to 11:00 pm
Saturday & Sunday – 11:00 am to 11:00 pm)

waldhauscollage Chef Moshe Zalipski, Gorgeous patio view, Beef Fondue, Cheese Fondue

The above are just a few of the restaurants that operate independently or in conjunction with the main kitchens located in the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. They each have extensive menus that reflect the character or theme of each restaurant, while at the same time staying true to chef J.W. Foster’s (Fairmont Banff Spring’s Executive Chef) vision of a working culinary ecosystem. His vision includes highlighting the best of what Alberta can provide through agriculture, animal husbandry, and natural abundance to visitors from around the world.

Amaretto Cherry Pie

There’s really no denying that cherry pie is as classic as pie gets. In the fall when the weather turns chilly, apple pies and pumpkin pies reign supreme but since we have the whole summer ahead of us, the time for cherry pie is right now. Even though cherry pie ranks at the top of my list of the most drool-worthy pies, I was straining my brain trying to remember the last time I had made one. I’m embarrassed to admit that it’s been YEARS. In my family, the making of a pie is usually required for a celebratory event but in the case of this ruby beauty, it was for comfort; pure and simple.

So far this week has really been a bust. Calgary weather is so changeable and unpredictable that on most days we can have sunshine, gale force winds, rain, snow, sleet, hail…anything really. It so happened that on Tuesday afternoon, the teens and I were heading back home from lunch out when the winds began to howl and rain began to fall quite heavily. I made the hasty decision to stop for coffee at the Braeside Second Cup, not knowing that Braeside streets are known for really bad drainage. By the time I reached the intersection near the Second Cup it was fully underwater with geysers shooting up from where the manhole covers should have been. I parked in the parking lot (which was slightly higher than the intersection) and went inside where all of the customers were glued to the front windows, taking videos of the flood with their phones. Here’s where things begin to go a bit sideways…instead of weathering out the storm/flood we ordered our coffees to go. I figured that if I drove in the opposite direction of where the flood was, I could somehow get around it and get home. We made it two blocks before I realized we were in trouble. I drove the car slowly and slightly to the right side of the road to avoid the open manholes, but at one intersection, the water was just too deep. The wake of a vehicle passing in the opposite direction washed water over my entire hood and the car stalled right away. I managed to maneuver it a bit farther to the side of the road but there we were, stuck in a giant puddle in the middle of a bus stop. Soon, the water began to come in through the passenger side doors and my son began to panic. I mean really panic. He wanted me to open the windows in case we were going to get trapped but I knew if I turned the power on I could risk shorting out the electrical system. He began trying to pry open the moon roof so that he could get out and push us out but the last thing I wanted was him out on the street. The car began to rock in the wake of every passing vehicle and I began to feel ill. There were people on higher ground, taking videos of us with their cell phones and I wanted so badly to scream at them. I felt like a fish in a fish bowl. We were trapped like that for half an hour until finally we could see that the water was subsiding. I think someone must have called 911 because a firetruck arrived and we had 3 firemen push us out of the low spot we were in. My hubby drove the 4 x 4 out to rescue us and determined that the car was not going to start any time soon. Since it was rush hour and traffic was in a grid lock, we all walked back to the Second Cup to wait out the pandemonium. It’s been two days now and the car still won’t start. It looks like enough water got into the engine to make it cease up, so we’re really just waiting for word from the insurance company. I’m guessing it will be a write off and unfortunately we just can’t afford to replace the car right now. So, it’s a tough blow to our family but things could really be a lot worse. We’re safe and that’s what matters.

Now for that pie. I must have really been in a pie baking zone because DAMN this has to be the best pie I have ever made. No, really. It is. I used half small sour Evans cherries that I had frozen from last year and half dark, sweet fresh Bing cherries. Then I added some amaretto and lemon zest. The rest is pie history.

bowlofcherries


Amaretto Cherry Pie

Filling Ingredients

  • 3 cups fresh or frozen Evans cherries (or other small sour cherry); pitted
  • 3 cups Bing cherries; pitted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 tbsp cornstarch
  • zest of a small lemon
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp amaretto

Filling Method

  1. Add cherries to a pan and place on stove over medium heat.
  2. Once the berries are sizzling and releasing juices (about 5 minutes), add the amaretto and let boil for a couple more minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch into the sugar.
  4. Sprinkle 1/2 of the sugar/cornstarch mixture into the cherries and stir well. Repeat.
  5. Add the lemon zest and juice.
  6. Let the mixture come to a slight boil and allow to thicken.
  7. Once the mixture has thickened, remove from heat and allow to come to room temperature.

Pastry Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar (optional)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter; cut into 1 cm cubes
  • 6-7 tbsp very cold water

Pastry Method

  1. Add 1 1/2 cups flour, salt and sugar to a food processor. Pulse 2 to 3 times until combined.
  2. Scatter butter cubes over flour and process until a dough or paste begins to form, about 15 seconds. It will look nice and ‘sandy’.
  3. Scrape bowl, redistribute the flour-butter mixture then add remaining 1 cup of flour. Pulse 4 to 5 times until flour is evenly distributed. (Dough should look broken up and a little crumbly).
  4. Transfer to a medium bowl then sprinkle 6 tablespoons of ice water over mixture. Using a rubber spatula, press the dough into itself. The crumbs should begin to form larger clusters. If you pinch some of the dough and it holds together, it’s ready. If the dough falls apart, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra water and continue to press until dough comes together.
  5. Remove dough from bowl and place in a mound on a clean surface. Work the dough just enough to form a ball (do not overwork). Cut ball in half then form each half into discs. Wrap each disc with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour, and up to 2 days. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months (just thaw it overnight in the fridge before using).
  6. Before rolling, take pastry out and let sit for five minutes. Flour your work surface and roll one disk of dough out to 1/8 inch thickness using your pie plate as a size guide. Roll out the second disc of dough and cut into strips for a lattice pie or keep it simple and just poke some holes in the top.
  7. Fill pie shell with cherry filling, cover as desired.

068

Baking Method

Bake the pie in a pre-heated oven at 375 F (180 C) for 50-60 minutes, until the filling is bubbly and the pastry is golden. Let cool to room temperature before slicing. 081

Summer Pea Pesto Orecchiette

The sweet summer peas have begun to arrive in gardens and markets everywhere. If you haven’t already, go get yourself a bag and start shelling…

Shelling peas is the ultimate early summer meal prep, preferably done with a grandma on a back porch, somewhere near a sleeping dog and a cold glass of lemonade.  No matter where I shell my peas these days, I always get transported back to my childhood when shelling peas was a huge undertaking shared by myself and various members of our family. I would beg to get out of picking them from the garden in the morning, but I always took part in the shelling. When I was younger, I probably ate more peas than I shelled but as I got older, I found a strange pride in having a strong iron will that kept the sampling to a minimum. Believe it or not, this iron will was applied to any kind of picking, but was especially difficult during berry season. I guess I just realized that the ingredient that I was preparing/picking would eventually become part of something greater.

In the case of fresh peas, ‘something greater’ would most always be creamed peas and there would have to be enough to feed at least ten people including all the men coming in from a long day of farming. That first feed of peas was something everyone looked forward to and I distinctly remember how pleased they all were when I placed the bowl of creamed peas on the table. It was the first bowl to be passed around (clockwise direction only please!) and the first bowl to be emptied. Even though the planting, weeding, and harvesting was through my grandma’s hard work, the shelling glory was partly mine and eight year old me had earned the right to be proud to serve those peas. Funny, I was just thinking I don’t know how to make creamed peas like grandma used to. I’ll have to get the recipe from her very soon, if there is a recipe!

Today I don’t have a garden large enough to grow enough peas to feed my family so if we’re going to have a ‘pea feed’ I have to buy a large bag at the farmer’s market. It doesn’t take very long to shell them for my small bunch and our preferred pea dish is a fresh pea pesto on pasta. I like to use orecchiette because it holds the pesto quite well and if you’re lucky, you’ll find a pea stuck inside the pasta shell too. peasnpasta

Summer Pea Pesto Orecciette (Inspired by grandma’s creamed green peas)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups freshly shelled peas
  • 1/3 cup walnuts or pine nuts; lightly toasted
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan Reggiano
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh basil
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • cream
  • tender pea shoots for garnish
  • 1 package orecciette pasta cooked according to package directions

Method

While the pasta is cooking; add 2 cups of the peas (reserve 1 cup), nuts, cheese, basil, salt and pepper to a food processor or blender. Blend together, then drizzle in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil while still blending. Transfer to a small pot, add the rest of the peas and gently heat for about 5 minutes. Add some cream to thin it out a bit.

Drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of the liquid. Add peas and pesto to the pot of pasta and gently toss to combine. Garnish with pea shoots and slivers of Parmesan Reggiano.

peasnpastatop

 

 

 

Lemon Curd Mascarpone and Earl Grey Amaretto Tiramisu Trifle

Easter arrived really early this year, as did our lovely spring weather. Though I’m still seeing reports of snow storms from across our country, my daffodils are up and the lawn maintenance companies have all come knocking on our door. Easter occurred so early that it fell on the same weekend as my husband’s birthday and that meant that Easter dinner/dessert had to be combined with a birthday celebration.

I know this dessert looks super fancy and full of steps, but it really wasn’t that difficult to make. The great thing is that it can be made and refrigerated ahead of time and served with a flourish at the end of the meal. It’s a bit of a hybrid sort of dessert; I wasn’t sure what to call it because it’s messy like an Eton Mess, has dipped lady fingers like a Tiramisu, and is served layered in a trifle bowl. Whatever you call it, it’s a stunner of a dessert for that special occasion at your table. Believe me, the reaction you get when you place this trifle on the table is worth the time it took to make it!lemontiramisu

 Lemon Curd Mascarpone and Earl Grey Amaretto Tiramisu Trifle

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) sliced natural (skin-on) almonds
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 cups (500 mL) granulated sugar
  • 12 egg yolks
  • 4 tsp (18 mL) grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup (250 mL) lemon juice
  • 1 cup (250 mL) cold butter, cubed
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) amaretto liqueur
  • 2 tbsp loose Earl Grey tea
  • 18 ladyfinger cookies, (about 4 inches/10 cm long)
  • 1 tub (475 g) mascarpone cheese
  • 2 cups (500 mL) icing sugar
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
  • 2-1/2 cups (625 mL) whipping cream 35%

Method

For the Almonds – Toss almonds with egg white to coat; stir in 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar until well combined. Spread on parchment paper–lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake in 350 F oven, stirring several times, until light golden, about 12 minutes. Let cool.

For the Lemon Curd – In large heatproof bowl, whisk together egg yolks, 1-1/2 cups of the granulated sugar, the lemon zest and lemon juice. Place bowl over saucepan of simmering water; cook, stirring, until thick enough to coat back of spoon, about 12 minutes or take more time, if needed. Remove from heat; stir in butter, 1 tbsp at a time. Strain through fine- mesh sieve into clean bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on surface. Refrigerate until curd is thick enough to mound firmly on spoon, about 1 hour.

For the Ladyfingers – While lemon curd is chilling, in saucepan, cook remaining granulated sugar with 1/4 cup water and 2 tbsp Earl Grey tea over medium heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat; let cool completely. Stir in amaretto. Strain the tea and reserve liquid.

For the mascarpone – In large bowl, beat together mascarpone, icing sugar and vanilla until smooth. In separate bowl, beat 1-1/2 cups of the cream until stiff peaks form; fold into mascarpone mixture.

To Assemble: Begin by dipping the each ladyfinger entirely in the tea/amaretto liquid and placing it in the bottom of a trifle bowl. Repeat with more ladyfingers, arranging them so they fit together in a single layer:ladyfingerlayer

Spread a layer of mascarpone over top of the ladyfingers: mascarponelayerSpoon some of the lemon curd over top of the mascarpone cheese:curdlayerSprinkle some of the candied almond slivers and begin another layer:anotherlayerAfter you’ve built up the layers, top with whipped cream and the remainder of the candied almonds.103

A Ham, Blue Cheese, and Pear Quiche – CTBF

So it seems that I am somewhat keeping up with the cooking aspect of Cook the Book Fridays, but maybe not the writing aspect. Ah, c’est la vie. My life is quite busy right now with garden planting, yard work, extra writing, a sudden influx of event opportunities, final exams for both teenagers (and thus, the impending job searches), one of which is graduating (which has led to endless hours of searching for scholarship opportunities). It is a rule of life, however, that no matter how busy your are, you are still required to eat. quiche1

In this Cook the Book Friday blog post, I write about the Tarte Salée au Jambon, au Bleu, et aux Poires that I cooked from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. Quiches are quintessentially the very easiest of ‘uber French’ recipes that you can make if you are new to French cuisine. The good news is that they can be blank canvases, meaning you can add ingredients to suit your own tastes if you really aren’t much of a blue cheese lover (as an example). I did think about tailoring this quiche to my liking, but happened upon some beautiful, creamy blue cheese at The Italian Centre Shop and cooked the Tarte Salée exactly as it was written in the book. There was only one exception, because I just couldn’t bear to use parsley in the quiche, I picked some fresh tarragon and added that instead. quiche2

I am no stranger to pastry making, but the crust for this quiche was quite unique as it used cornmeal as an ingredient. The recipe made just enough to line a 9 inch spring form and it baked up quite nicely. It is essential that you do patch up any cracks in the dough and be sure to chill it before filling as David suggests. The cornmeal gave the pastry a unique texture that we really enjoyed. As for the filling, I really couldn’t believe how much cream and cream cheese were in the recipe, though after I tasted a slice I was faced with an ‘aha’ moment. I used some Seckel pears that were quite small and floral, though I wished I had gone with the more standard Bartlett variety. This time of year is the best because there are no more trips to the store to buy fresh herbs…all the herbs I used in the quiche were picked fresh right from my garden.quiche

I am having so much fun cooking my way through My Paris Kitchen. I think my family would agree that this quiche is by far the best quiche they’ve ever tasted, especially with all the cream and cream cheese involved. I would make the crust again, but perhaps scale down on the calories in the filling.

Second Cup Canada’s Bold New Flavour

I’ve been a Second Cup customer since my university days, when studying required pulling all nighters and my son woke me with the rising sun every morning. Having a small child and trying to complete that last year of study in a new city was what pushed me towards the delicious, frothy vanilla lattés served at the only Second Cup location in down town Regina. Fast forward many years later, through two more children, one move to Calgary, and MANY frothy vanilla lattés and I am still a huge Second Cup fan. With three Second Cup locations within a 5-10  minute drive (or 30 minute dog walk!) from my home, I stop in often for an afternoon pick-me-up. My tastes have changed over the years and so has Second Cup.

SecondCupNewLook1Each new café will have a local flavour: This mural by Calgary artist Jeff Spokes at Braeside shows the Saddledome,  paddlers
on the Bow River, and Henrietta Muir Edwards (one of the Famous Five), Lougheed House, and nearby Canyon Meadows Golf Course

The newly updated Braeside Second Cup (1919 Southland Drive SW) is the second location in Alberta to feature the new look and innovation of the company. The bright, welcoming space ensures that every customer has a comfortable in-store experience. It’s the perfect place to park your laptop for a couple of hours and enjoy great coffee while you work.  With the thoughtful addition of power outlets and phone charging stations scattered throughout, you never have to worry about low batteries ever again.secondcupcharger

Enough chit chat, let’s talk coffee. Second Cup is definitely the place to visit if you are a coffee connoisseur or if you just enjoy a good cup once in a while. You can grab a quick cup and carry on with your day or you can take a seat at the Slow Bar and watch the barista expertly brew your coffee with the Steampunk machine. It’s quite mesmerizing, really. The Steampunk is a by-the-cup brewer similar to the Japanese siphon system but in a more automated, consistent manner. The system uses steam to agitate the coffee in the upper chamber and the amount (and pressure) of steam, as well as temperature, etc. is controlled by the barista via a centralized computer. This allows each cup to be brewed in a way that extracts the most important characteristics of that coffee. If you like things a little less high-tech, you also have a front row seat to watch the barista brew your cup using the pour-over technique. secondcup2

During the event, I had the chance to attend my first ever coffee tasting. While tasting, it is important to note the aromas from the coffee, then the flavours as you swirl them around in your mouth. We sampled both the medium and dark roasts from the new limited edition coffee, Batch 49. The medium had more of a citrus aroma and lighter flavour, while the dark blend features subtle cocoa notes with berry sweetness and a touch of ‘smoke’. There will be barista led coffee tasting events held at the Braeside Second Cup location. Check in store or call 403-212-0044 for details.secondcupThe Second Cup company holds true to their brand pillars of “superior quality, optimism, collaboration, creativity and community”, by having each franchisee working in their own franchise location. At Braeside, John and Cameron Rhind, a father and son, are extremely excited to bring Calgary the first Second Cup ‘café of the future’. Judging from the huge welcome and popularity of the Braeside location, there will soon be other Calgary franchisees following their lead.
owners

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