Summer Gazpacho with Feta and Oregano

I adore soup, and not only in the winter! I make so many different varieties of chilled summer soups – from Zucchini Vichyssoise, to carrot soup, to cucumber and yogurt soup – but the King of all summer soups has to be Gazpacho. And it’s my favourite, too – not only because the leftovers make a killer Bloody Mary. (Just add 2 ounces of vodka to a tall glass and pour in the soup. Then garnish with any of your favourite Bloody Mary accoutrements!)

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Lemon-Vanilla Gelato

Happy Summer! I love making different varieties of gelato, ice cream and sorbet at home during these hot, dry months. When I was a kid, we had one of those hand crank ice cream makers. Every Fourth of July my parents would drag it out from the closet beneath our stairs, dust it off and fill it with ice and rock salt. It was my brother’s and my job to crank it, taking turns until our arms felt like jelly and it became impossible to turn. Then my father would take over and finish it off. It was such a special treat, but such an ordeal to make that we only got to enjoy homemade ice cream once or twice a year. Thank goodness for modern ice cream makers! Mine is, by far, one of my favourite small appliances – no joke!

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Pain Perdu (French Toast)

Our typical weekend breakfast rotation used to go a little like this: pancakes, waffles, French toast, eggs and bacon, on repeat.  Recently, however, it looks more like this: French toast with berries, French toast with whipped cream, French toast with maple syrup, French toast with apples, etc. It seems like the kids ask for French toast almost every day. I don’t blame them – if there was a definitive list of the most heart-warming “Comfort Foods,” this would certainly be near the top.

There’s no shortage of recipes and variations on French Toast out there.  It’s one of the most searched-for recipes on Google. Most of us have grown up eating some form of this treat, whether for breakfast or for dessert. French toast’s appeal comes from its ability to blur the lines between these two meals. In France, French toast, or pain perdu, is almost always served as a dessert. The name literally means “lost bread” because it was a way to salvage stale bread that would otherwise have gone to waste. But is French toast really? Mais non! Almost every country and culture has a method for reinvigorating stale bread with a mixture of eggs and milk.  With most things that are falsely attributed to France (French fries, French doors or le French kiss) the adjective only serves to make this dish all the more appealing. Continue reading “Pain Perdu (French Toast)”

Chambord Rosé

Chambord with Rosé is a beautiful variation on the more traditional Kir which is simply made by combining Crème de Cassis, a blackcurrant liqueur, with leftover dry white wine and swirling the two together in the glass. When making Kir or its more elegant cousin, Kir Royale (which is made with champagne), I often substitute Chambord, a black raspberry liqueur, for the standard Crème de Cassis.  The two liqueurs are very similar in taste, with the exception being that Crème de Cassis is slightly sweeter and syrupy in texture, whereas Chambord is more refined in flavour, with notes of blackberries, Moroccan vanilla, honey and citrus playing off the predominate raspberry flavour.  It’s not quite as sweet as Cassis and is a bit thinner in texture making it easier to swirl into the wine.  In my opinion, the two can be used almost interchangeably but, since raspberries are my favourite summer berry, I always have a bottle of Chambord in liqueur cabinet.  Continue reading “Chambord Rosé”

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”

Lavender Gelato

There are places in this world that seem to radiate a magic not found elsewhere. It’s not, at first, apparent, but is perceptible as something of an electric hum. A sparkle of vivacity, a reverberation like the resonance of a drum.  New Mexico is one of these places.  What looks, to one just passing through, like desert – harsh and unforgiving – in fact, hides a treasure trove of secrets found only if you take the time to explore the region a little more deeply. There’s an energy here and it manifests in the food they produce, in the soil, laced with minerals and metals, in the water, so scarce in places, and in the terroir.  I can’t think of any place in the world that is quite like New Mexico, except for just one. Provence. Continue reading “Lavender Gelato”

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.

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Vanilla Raspberry Cake

This past Monday was my birthday.  I always bake my own birthday cake, and this year I took the occasion to make my favourite – a vanilla butter cake with the most luscious salted, brown butter icing. Not that we should ever need an excuse to bake a cake, especially this one, but if we do, a birthday is a pretty good one.  I love that this is a small, single layer cake, perfect for serving 6 – 8 people, with no leftovers.  And though it’s small, it’s decadent in its simplicity.   The crumb is moist and airy, but the real treat is pouring over the brown butter glaze in thick ribbons, flecked with vanilla beans and sea salt. Continue reading “Vanilla Raspberry Cake”

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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Watermelon Mojitos

If there’s one thing you will always find on my counter or kitchen table in the summer, it’s a watermelon – the bigger the better.  Like a basket of apples in the fall, or pumpkins in winter, it’s an iconic part of our ever-changing “kitchen table still life.”  I will let it sit there, getting riper by the second in the afternoon heat while I admire its variegated jade and emerald skin, until someone reminds me that I really should cut it so that we can enjoy it with more than just our eyes.  And then the boasting starts.  Who can eat the most? Who will take the title of Watermelon Master?  This contest is almost always initiated by my husband, Rich, who claims to be able to eat the entire watermelon in one sitting.  I don’t doubt that he would, if given the chance, but it’s an accolade that the kids are not willing to let him have.  While I certainly don’t condone these brutish, gluttonous brag-fests, I have to admit, they’re wildly entertaining. Continue reading “Watermelon Mojitos”