Zucchini Vichyssoise with Sweet Corn Relish

French country cooking meets a mid-century American past-time.

Yesterday I made one of my favorite summer soups: a zucchini vichyssoise, loosely based on Ina Garten’s recipe from her book, Barefoot in Paris.  It’s an old stand by in my kitchen during the summer months for two reasons: 1) it’s a great way to use up all the zucchini that’s coming out of the garden and 2) it’s delicious!  It looks lovely garnished with green ribbons of julienned zucchini or with fresh snipped chives, as Ina suggests in the book,  but yesterday, as I stood at the stove and watched it simmer I realized that the soup alone wasn’t going to satisfy my craving for something cool and fresh the way it usually does. Continue reading “Zucchini Vichyssoise with Sweet Corn Relish”

Tortellini Salad

I have a fondness for formulas – mathematic formulas, scientific formulas, photographic formulas, and, of course, kitchen formulas.  I feel that if I follow a formula, nothing too bad can happen.  If I you think about it, living “the good life” is one huge formula waiting for us to figure out.  The key is knowing that formulas build on one another. Like a pyramid, the most highly specialized ones – recipes, techniques, ratios, etc. – form the foundation. I think many people equate a formula to something that is dull and predictable. “That novel was so formulaic, it bored me to tears,” someone might say. But on the contrary, I see formulas as a road maps of sorts.  They are the best and fastest way to live the life to which we aspire with the least amount of interruptions or obstacles . No one would ever consider planning for retirement or purchasing a home without a reliable formula to consult first.  There is a reason we have the phrase “a recipe for success.”  . . .  And while I don’t often cook with recipes, formulas are something from which I never stray.

Continue reading “Tortellini Salad”

Cannellini Bean Tapenade

The summer months are buzzing with activity around here.  We have friends or family over several times a week, the kids running around the yard, the men on the deck or in the garage.  I have an open-door policy, literally.  love to open all the doors so that people can drift in and out, from one yard to another, like waves on the shore.  On days when I entertain but can’t bring myself to turn on the oven (the house is hot enough with all the doors open!), instead of cooking a big meal, I will set out a generous charcuterie board overflowing with an assortment of meats, cheeses, marinated olives, cherry tomatoes, cornichons, grapes, nuts, crackers and slices of baguette, and let everyone help themselves.

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White Asparagus with Vinaigrette

I often write about visiting my aunt and uncle’s farm when I was a child and how, every spring, we would forage for wild asparagus near the stream on the edge of the apple orchard.  When I moved to Europe at 18 I was enthralled by the assortment and variety of asparagus available.  The only asparagus I had ever known was that wild and wiry green variety that grew beneath the apple trees.  At the markets in Pisa there were crates full of milky white asparagus, thick stalks of green asparagus with purple tips, and even a sweet variety that was entirely purple from tip to toe.  How much fun I had learning to cook with them all! Continue reading “White Asparagus with Vinaigrette”

Quick and Easy Garden Pickles

This warm weather has me dreaming of the garden and all the easy summer meals we’ll have out there!  My grandmother’s recipe for quick garden pickles is still one of my family’s favourite side dishes. They’re so easy, they come together in just five minutes – perfect for those busy days and hot nights when you really don’t feel like cooking at all. We all have nights like that, don’t we?  Growing up, my grandparents had a large garden where we would play as children.  There they grew many different varieties of cucumbers – Armenian, gherkins, lemon cucumbers – which my grandmother would combine when making these pickles.  If you have several varieties in the garden, it’s fun to mix and match the colours and shapes, but if not, an English cucumber works perfectly well.   Continue reading “Quick and Easy Garden Pickles”

One hundred drafts, one meal

People write blogs for different reasons.  Some to make money, others to promote their business, many want to showcase their photography, and some simply have a story inside of them that needs to get out.

For me, the reason is simple.  I use this space as my own personal cookbook.  The process of cooking for me is very organic.  I’m impulsive in the kitchen.  I go with my gut, adding a pinch of this or a dash of that, all the while taking notes and writing down the steps as I go.  Most of the time all this note-taking happens right here on the blog, in a new, unpublished post where I type while in the midst of cooking.  If, in the end, the food is good, if the people around my table are happy and linger long, cleaning their plates with the last bits of bread, draining the last drops from the bottle of wine, laughing while they hold their full bellies, I’ll save the draft.  If not, I just hit “Delete.” Continue reading “One hundred drafts, one meal”

Maple-Cinnamon Sweet Potatoes

L’opéra d’automne

The lake is changing quickly these days.  Fall has stepped firmly into the spotlight .  I always say, Fall arrives as a whisper.  She is the Prima Donna of a grand opera.  She arrives quietly through the back door and slips into her dressing room with nothing more than the rustle of her petticoats.  In the theatre there’s a whisper of her presence, a rumor, an electricity in the air, and though no one has seen her, she is felt by everyone.  She keeps it that way for a while, perhaps only for her own vain amusement, as Prima Donnas are known to do.   She works on her own time, at her own pace, primping and prepping behind the scenes, and everyone follows suit.  No one dares to question her punctuality as she waits in hushed wings, keeping her presence secret until she, and only she, is ready to step onto the stage.  Her grand entrance is a crescendo of gold and bronze and brilliance and luster as she arranges herself in the centre of everything and all eyes fall upon her.  Though she had been there all along, the audience watches in awe and stunned silence as the music begins to swell.   Continue reading “Maple-Cinnamon Sweet Potatoes”