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A Late Summer Crostini Feast

By Tracy MacMaster, photo by Paul Christensen

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Many of us spend the winter dreaming of garden bruschetta.  Ripe heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, local garlic and toasted bread combine for the world’s greatest food.  Building a meal around good bread and late summer produce is a chief pleasure of the season.  Toast the bread, break out your fruitiest olive oil and dust off your prettiest platter.  Try this assortment of crostini toppings, or scope out what looks good at the market and create your own.

Basic crostini method:

Toast or grill slices of good crusty bread, white or whole wheat is fine.  Rub with the cut side of a garlic clove.  Lightly pile on the topping and drizzle with olive oil.  Count on 3-4 crostini per person as appetizers, or serve with salami or cold chicken for a light meal.

Classic Garden Bruschetta

3 – 4 ripe tomatoes, chopped – a mix of varieties and colours are great

A handful of basil, torn

1 clove of garlic, minced

Olive oil

Salt, pepper to taste

Gently mix the ingredients and let sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes to allow the flavours to mingle.  Pile onto crostini and serve.

Swish Chard, Shallot & Pine Nuts

2 tablespoons pine nuts

1 shallot, sliced

1 clove of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons of fresh thyme

Olive oil

1  bunch of swiss chard, washed, stems removed, greens chopped

In a dry pan over low to medium heat roast the pine nuts until barely brown.  Remove the pine nuts, add a slug of olive oil to the pan and sauté shallots and garlic until soft.  Add the chard and thyme, and stir until chard is just wilted.  Remove from heat and mix in the pine nuts.  Pile onto the crostini and serve.

Roasted Pepper and Goat Cheese

2-3 sweet peppers– a mix of colours is great

Plain goat cheese

1 tablespoon fresh thyme or chopped chives

Salt and pepper to taste,

Olive oil

Grill the peppers over a grill or open gas flame until skin is charred.  Place in a bowl and invert a plate over them to steam the skins for a few minutes – peel as soon as they are cool enough to handle.  Cut the peppers into strips, and mix in fresh thyme and a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.  Pile pepper mixture onto crostini and top with goat cheese.  Heat briefly under a broiler or in the oven until the goat cheese is warmed.

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Arugula, Peach and Basil Salad with Cajun Grilled Chicken

By Tracy MacMaster

Photo by Paul Christensen

August usually brings the dog days – heat, humidity and the urge to eat a dripping peach.  This summer we’re short on heat, but the peaches in the market are beautiful – plump, ripe and juicy.  To enjoy peaches with dinner, take a trip around the market to assemble a fine salad.  Greens, fresh basil and peaches with spicy chicken hit the spot.

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For the salad:

1-2 large bunches of arugula, washed, dried and torn

2 ripe peaches, sliced

1 small red onion, sliced into rings

1 handful of basil, rinsed and torn

Large drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle of red wine vinegar

Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

For the chicken:

2 boneless chicken breasts

Cajun spice mix to cover chicken completely (approximately 4 -5 Tablespoons)

Method:

Heat the grill to medium high, or preheat the oven to 375C.  Thoroughly coat the chicken breasts with Cajun spice mixture.  Cook until the juice in the thickest part of the chicken runs clear, approximately 25 minutes.   Let rest 5 minutes.

Place the arugula, onions, basil and peaches in a bowl.  Slice the cooked chicken on the diagonal, and place over the arugula.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle on red wine vinegar and season with salt and pepper. 

Serves  4.

 

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Summer is here… and so is the Gooseberry Maple Freezer Jam

By Tracy MacMaster

Gooseberries are a charmingly old-fashioned fruit.  Gooseberry season is brief – pints appear in the market for a few short weeks and then they are gone.  To celebrate gooseberries and hold some of their pleasures over to winter, I like to make an annual jar or two of gooseberry jam.  Gooseberries contain high levels of the setting agent pectin, so are terrific for inexperienced jam makers.  Freezing keeps it simple.  Tailing and topping of gooseberries is a meditative task - create your jam on a lazy Sunday morning, coffee in hand.

Equipment required:

Medium sized non-reactive pot

Wooden spoon

2 pint jars with snap lids

Paper towels for wiping the jar rims

Ingredients:

2 pints of gooseberries, tails and tops removed

3/4 cup of brown sugar - this can be adjusted to taste, since the jam is being stored in the freezer

2 tablespoons of maple liqueur  - optional but delicious – or water

Method:

Wash the jars and lids in hot soapy water, and rinse well.  Leave to rack dry.

Place topped and tailed gooseberries in a pot over low-medium heat with the brown sugar and maple liqueur, if using, or water.  Stir carefully until the gooseberries begin to pop and release their juices, approximately 5 minutes, and then lower the heat until a slow simmer can be maintained.  Cook the mixture until it reaches a jam-like consistency, approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

When the jam is thickened to your liking, pour it carefully into the pint jars, leaving a larger than usual space at the head to allow for expansion in the freezer – about 1 inch of headroom.  Carefully wipe the rim of the jar with a clean paper towel to remove any drips, and cover with the lid, tightening the screw-top to fingertip tightness.  Freeze for up to 6 months.  The jam lasts approximately 7-10 days in the refrigerator, and is especially wonderful with fresh biscuits, on whole wheat sourdough toast or mixed with plain Greek yoghurt.

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Herbed Sliced Steak Salad with Lime Vinaigrette & Fingerling Potatoes

by Tracy MacMaster

Photo credit: Paul Christensen

We had a long, cool spring, perfect weather for local lettuce and herbs.  Now that it’s hot, salad is the perfect solution to ‘what’s for dinner?”  Don’t heat up the kitchen, take your market produce outside to the grill. 

For the salad:

1 head leaf lettuce, washed and torn

Small bunches of mint, cilantro, and basil, torn

1 Flank steak, generously seasoned with salt and pepper

For the vinaigrette:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Juice of 1 lime

Pinch of coarse salt, fresh pepper

 Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

1 pound fingerling potatoes

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Coarse salt, fresh pepper to taste

1 head of garlic, separated into cloves

To prepare the potatoes:  Preheat BBQ to medium high.  Parboil the potatoes until just tender.  Place potatoes in a foil plate, add unpeeled garlic cloves and drizzle with olive oil.  Season the potatoes and garlic with coarse salt and ground pepper, and place on the highest rack for approximately 20 minutes, shaking occasionally.

For the salad: Toss the lettuce and most of the torn herbs in a large bowl, reserving a handful of herbs.  Season the steak with salt and pepper and grill over a medium hot flame until medium rare.  Rest the steak on a heaped bed of the reserved herbs on a wooden cutting board for 5 minutes, and then slice the steak thin against the grain.

Place the warm sliced steak on top of the greens, pour the olive oil and lime juice over the salad and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve the potatoes on the side with the broken open cloves of garlic.

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Red, White and Celebration

By Claire Lukka

Growing up in Ottawa, Canada Day was always a special day crammed full of red, white and celebration.  Since early July also screams fresh strawberries, it stands to reason that fresh, bright red strawberries topped with white powdered sugar seem like the perfect ingredients for a special breakfast on Canada’s birthday.

When I was a kid, we ate “strawberry puff” as often as we could during strawberry season.  My Mom couldn’t pull them out of the oven fast enough and my siblings and I would fight over the last piece.  As I blended up my puff this morning, I thought about the pure enjoyment of going to markets in my community to get fresh produce, which made me feel a great pride for the country I am so fortunate to live in.  Of course, I also recalled fond memories of sharing this meal with my family on Canada Days of the past.

On a day where red and white is a fun cooking challenge, I wanted to share my recipe for “strawberry puff”.  Serves two for breakfast, or a few more for dessert (maybe with dollops of ice cream or whipped cream!). 

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Strawberry Puffed Pancake

3 eggs

½ cup flour

½ cup milk

2 tbsp melted butter

1 tbsp sugar

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp cinnamon

Strawberries

Combine everything but the berries in a blender for about 30 seconds (or whisk by hand) until smooth.  Pour into a well-greased 9 inch round baking pan and bake for 20-25 minutes at 450° or until puffed and golden brown.  Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve with strawberries.