Sunday, July 25, 2010

summer vegetable tart

I made this tart a lot last summer. I tried tweaking it but I'm not sure I've improved on the original. It's hard to go wrong though with market fresh veggies.

Last week I made this version,

using zucchini and tomatoes and the tart dough recipe from here. I made the dough, spread 1 tbsp of dijon mustard on the bottom,

 then layered 2 sliced and grilled zucchini, topped with sliced campari tomatoes.

I topped it with the mayonaise/ parmesan cheese/ basil mixture to which I added a bit of lemon zest. I'd used less lemon next time, and make the dough match the height of the veggies in the pan.

For lunch yesterday, I tried another tweak - same dough, with mustard on the base. One layer of grilled zucchini, layered with corn kernels from two ears of fresh corn, covered with basil, followed by sliced tomatoes, followed by more basil and diced herbed feta. The problems with this one were that the cheese didn't really melt into the vegetables but the folding over of the dough into a galette style worked better.

In both tarts, the vegetables are full of flavour and summery goodness.

more summer fun...

We've had some fantastic weather lately and even the odd day which hasn't been stellar has been just dandy - what is a few clouds among friends. My barometer is how much water I need to be pouring into my containers - it's summer baby.

With our boy, summer involves lots of popsicles, ice cream, water (sprinklers, fountains (whale fountain at the park, the big fountain in front of the rec center) plus the beach and pools. His old toddler pool gave up the ghost - as in we blew it up and filled it with water and the pool deflated before he could jump in more than two times and the water was all over the patio. So we have a new pool.

It's deeper and wider so it takes a lot more effort to blow up (Mummy - are you done yet with my pool as I'm keeling over from lack of oxygen) - and more water to fill and the water is cold. Shocking cold. But T and I both fit in the pool for splash fests so it's all good - cold but good.

The other day, T and I spent some time at a secret beach hidden away from the beaten track. We shared it with a few other people, lots of geese and a couple of big tidal pools. T and I played badminton, waded in the tidal pools, swam in the surf with his swimming noodle (but there was too much seaweed touching T that he gave it up), had a snack of cheese bunnies and water, played with his boomerang and T dug in the sand. Then we were allowed to leave as we had "had fun at the beach". More beach time coming up in the next few weeks, I hope.

We've been blowing bubbles in the backyard, watching the vegetables grow, watching the bees and butterflies in the flowers, a small amount of lying in the hammock for me, tea and drinks and lunch in the garden. We've been riding on mini trains (and watching the model railways run), playing in parks, trying to fly a kite, visiting the market (and getting a tractor from Santa there), face painting, and lots of cherries, strawberries, cherries, raspberries, blueberries to eat. There has even been a quick trip to look at a visiting naval ship.

It's our watermelon coloured beach umbrella up in the backyard to give us some shade. And now it is time for my summer drink

 - Pimm's cup and a quiet moment outside. Bliss.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I made pie - apricot galette

The other morning I was feeling a bit under the weatherish and consequently was doing what I often do when feeling so...lying on my sofa watching a cooking segment on TV. Regan Daley made apricot galette on CityLine. It looked easy and delicious which makes every recipe seem like it should be made and D is very fond of fruit galettes. And when I went to the fruit stand later in the day, they had apricots. So it seemed like it was a sign. A sign that I should make this galette.

Along the way I stopped at the library and they finally had Laura Calder's book - French Taste for me to take out and read. And she has a primer on pastry in it. Just the thing for a recovering pastry phobe like me. Pastry has always frightened me a bit. Well, ok - a lot. My mum made pastry that was, well, a bit tough. Not as tough as the brick walls she described it as but still, you had to put a lot of pressure on your fork to cut a piece. But that didn't deter her from making pastry. She made pies and tarts and never resorted to boxed or pre-made or frozen pastry. In fact, I might have been the one to introduce her to the wonders of frozen pastry shells (and frozen french fries but that's a whole nother story). My paternal grandmother, however, was the baker in the family - she made pies and cakes like no-one's business and her pastry was delicious. She was however, of the Crisco school of pastry and I have to say, as flaky as it made her pies, the thought of that tub o'lard in the vicinity of my food makes me a bit nauseous (maybe as I no longer have a gallbladder, but there you are). So, here is my confession. When pastry has been called for from my kitchen, until recently, I have relied on boxed or frozen or pre-made pastry. My first foray was pastry for a quiche lorraine and then a cauliflower tart - the pastry was easy to make in the food processor and the first time I made it I was so worried about overmixing that I turned off the processor when the dough was just crumbs and I ended up pressing it into the pie dish - but it worked. The second time I let the dough combine into a dough before turning off the processor and then rolling out the dough and it worked again. A miracle! And then I made the french tomato tart and the dough worked for that. And a few weeks ago when making another galette, I had been planning on using puff pastry but when I took it out of the fridge, it was hard and crusty in places (had obviously been refrozen after being defrosted) and instead of panicking (with people coming over for lunch), I whipped out my french tart recipe and quickly made the dough and it worked! I'm ever so proud of myself. So I have a filled tart dough recipe, a savory tart dough recipe and today I also have a sweet dough recipe. And all of them can be made in a food processor. Love it.

So my sweet dough recipe calls for flour, salt, sugar, butter, ice-cold water and vanilla and makes enough for two disks of pastry. It's in Laura Calder's book - French Taste. Knowing I wanted to make the apricot galette today, last night I made the pastry and put the 2 disks in the fridge.

And now I have another pie I can make! For the fruit I combined 1 1/2 lbs of apricots, quartered and stoned, 1/2 c sugar and 3 tbsp corn starch and refridgerated overnight.

Tonight I rolled out the pastry into a circle, piled the fruit in the middle, cut up ~  tbsp butter over the fruit and folded the pastry over the fruit, galette style. Then I sprinkled sugar over the folded over dough. And baked for 50 minutes at 375 deg F.

The pastry was flaky and tender but not gooey. The fruit was tart. Delicious.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

cheddar zucchini fritters

My sister-in-law recently gave me a stack of magazines to peruse (have I mentioned she's the best!) and in the recipes I found this one.

I made the recipe as written, except I did what I do always with grated zucchini (having had mushy fritters in the past), I put the grated zucchini in a dish towel (clean!) and wrung it out really well to get as much moisture out of the zucchini as possible. I find this works much better than blotting with paper towel. I used locally made cheddar cheese and these were delicious. The recipe says it makes 12 1/4 cup fritters but I only got 8 plus a little baby one. This was a delicious supper served with portobello mushrooms and green beans sauted in butter and balsamic vinegar with some local feta cheese tossed in. Don't forget the sauce for the fritters in the recipe - it sets them off really well. And with yogurt added, makes a great salad dressing or sandwich spread.

chicken with cherry tomatoes and olives

I had the remains of a tin of pitted green olives in the fridge last week, left over from making this which gave me the inspiration to make chicken with cherry tomatoes and olives for supper. I found a recipe here, actually it is the recipe pictured on the front of the book.

I didn't really follow the recipe, just used it as a guideline. Here's what I did -

8 bone in chicken thighs
1 cup pitted green olives, halved
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved (I used sun gold)
olive oil
half a red onion, sliced

I seasoned the chicken with salt and pepper and cooked it at medium high heat for about 5 minutes per side in olive oil. Once the chicken was browned on both sides I added the onion to the pan and covered it for another 5 minutes until the onion was soft. Then I tossed in the tomatoes and olives and covered again and heated for another 5 minutes. Then I served the chicken up with the sauce formed by the chicken juices, olive oil and tomatoes.

The side dish was creamed chard, as I had a bunch of chard that I bought at the market and the bunch of chard that was in my prize basket.

pasta salad

It's a quiet weekend here at our house. Friday night we had a sick little boy - he picked up a tummy bug, poor little muffin. He started to come around yesterday afternoon - lost the pale, yellow colour on his face and was more his bouncy, chatty self but is still a bit listless and sleepy. And after a sleepless Friday night, D and I were dragging yesterday. And it's been hot. So I made a big pasta salad for dinner last night. My inspiration for this salad was a salad made by a friend for a church picnic before T was born - it included roasted chicken and corn and a dressing of balsamic vinegar and olive oil which was a delightful departure from the mayonaise heavy pasta salads I was more familiar with.

To make I cooked up some penne pasta and at the last minute tossed in some topped and tailed and chopped green beans.

In olive oil, I sauted one sliced onion, added some diced pancetta, ~ 2 cups of frozen corn, two sliced orange peppers and heated until the vegetables were soft. Then I added in 1 c of basil pesto (homemade). I tossed the veggies into the cooked, drained and cooled pasta and beans and added a few handfuls of roasted cashews and about a cup of diced smoked gouda, then poured a glug of balsamic vinegar and another glug of olive oil into the bowl and tossed. I seasoned with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and celery salt.

With a green salad it was supper. And for dessert we had some of this lovely stuff.

my garden this week - july 11

Summer heat arrived here this week. And to our rain soaked bodies it was a shock. It has clouded over a bit now and the scorching heat is gone but the sunshine and no rain continues.

Yesterday I harvested the lettuce that hadn't been eaten by the slugs - I'll plant some more and try cayenne around the plants and see what that does. With my digging boy, I cannot do any poison and I don't really want to - just seems like I'm being a garden bully.

The beans are shooting up, and flowering now. I got more radishes last night and they went in the salad - so homegrown salad! The tomatoes are growing too. D thought I cheated and bought plants. But no, the plants growing are mine from seed. A bit behind but the sunshine has sent most of them shooting up as well.

The zucchini are growing - only 2 of the 7 I planted have done anything so far.

1 yellow squash and 1 green, with lots of flowers (maybe I'll try a squash blossom recipe) and a couple of growing fruit. My disappointing peas have grown a few pods so I might still get a few garden peas. The chard wilted in the heat, despite the packet saying it was heat tolerant - we'll see if anything happens. Otherwise I'll be picking the chard sooner that I thought. The strawberries have a few green berries on them, hopefully they'll ripen in the sunshine and we'll get to taste a few more of our own.

The roses are doing well

and the sweet peas have started to bloom.

I now am able to cut flowers from my garden for the house. The lavender is full of flowers which the bees love.

And the creeper in T's garden is sprouting lots of lovely yellow flowers.

A lovely, growing garden!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

a market surprise

So I made a batch of strawberry banana muffins this morning and took them down to the market for today's muffin competition. There were three entries - a breakfast muffin, a banana muffin with peanut butter frosting and mine. I did my rounds of the market, buying greens and chard and tomatoes and cherries and beef sausages (as they were out of eggs). T fell and scraped his knee and persuaded me to get him a chocolate cupcake. He's made friends with several of the market vendors - he plays peek-a-boo with them and most of them think he's cute - they give me extra cherries and radishes and tomatoes for him.

Finally it was time for the muffin competition. The judges stood around sampling the muffins. There was discussion about different types of muffins - sweet vs not so sweet. Then Mary called me over and asked me to pick a bunch of flowers from her stand.

She said all the competitors got flowers but that I had won and it would be announced. By this time T had had enough of the market and wanted to go home. We got home and were doing our things around the house

 (building more cranes on the lego ship) when I got a call from the market. I needed to go back and pick up my prize. So off we went, back to the market, to pick up my prize

- a bunch of lovely things from different market vendors (chard, tomatoes, a yellow pepper, a scone, a mint plant, cookbook, small ceramic bowl and a lovely pair of earrings) and they were lovely enough to give T a prize as well - a little game and toy. And I have to admit - the muffins weren't really as good as they normally are - I left them in the oven a bit too long.

a strawberry day

I started this morning with a full basket of strawberries. But they'd been sitting in the fridge since yesterday and needed eating and I needed to make muffins for a couple of reasons, not the least of which was that our boy ate the second to last one as soon as he jumped out of bed. And I read this lovely post which got me dreaming of roasted strawberry goodness. I mixed the strawberries, balsamic vinegar and vanilla extract and put the roasting pan in the oven.

Then came the muffins. As is usual when I'm baking in the morning, I have to do a whole lot of other things while I'm baking. I make tea, and breakfast ( so you see a theme here?)

 and tidy dishes away and feed the cat and start laundry and sometimes I get to drink the tea and eat breakfast. I always fervently hope I don't get any of the multitude of things mixed up. I'm sure it makes me hopelessly confused and inefficient but as long as the bread gets made or the muffins get baked it seems to be working for me so far. Although one day I hope that I will get to drink my tea while it is still hot.

So while I was beating eggs into oil and weighing flour, our boy decided it would be a good time for him to clean the windows on the back door, mere inches from my baking counter. He collected a towel from me and proceeded to get it soaking wet in the bathroom and drag the soaking wet towel from the bathroom, through the dining room and to the kitchen to wash the windows.

I suggested he use the plant mister so he ran and got it. He did a good job on the windows and in the end I was left with somewhat clean but very wet windows, a very wet towel, very wet carpet and floor. But I have a boy interested in cleaning all on his own which is priceless.

I did get muffins in the oven

and baked. And once the strawberries for the popsicle recipe had roasted and cooled a bit, I added the sugar and then whizzed them in the food processor with cream and milk and put in a glass dish in the freezer to freeze - as I don't have a popsicle mold. We had it for dessert tonight - delicious! Seriously good stuff. So good in fact that I think I now have to buy a bunch more strawberries and freeze them so I can make this all the time! 

Saturday, July 3, 2010

boy's summer adventures so far...

Our boy has been playing soccer, here at the turf tot world cup -

had picnics - here at the turf tot world cup (T has the brazilian flag painted on his face)

 and at the park - here is the preschool picnic.

Here are the kids waiting for the pinata to be set up. We went to the farm and fed the bunnies,

pet the goats

and rode on tractors.

We've tended our garden and harvested radishes.

We've done chalk drawings on the patio and played with trains and trucks and dug big holes. We've been to the market and the vegetable man and thrown lots of rocks and now have a bucket full of rocks for our rock collection. And made up a new bath game where mummy throws blue fish into the bathtub and our boy scuba dives for them and throws them back at mummy. "You're doing a great job, Mummy. We're going to win the trophy for this game!" And there has been swimming (and some driving around looking for an open swimming pool) with Auntie Kerry. And there have been a fair number of popsicles eaten.

It all goes better with a friend of course. And we are planning lots more summer adventures.