There’s a few instances of life-y things that I can count on one hand (hope you’re not expecting deep thoughts today):
The number of times in my adult existence that I’ve had a professional haircut (ditto for manicures and pedicures combined).
The number of times that I’ve visited New York City (’bout to change in September yesssss!).
The number of times I’ve bought a tie dyed/acid wash clothing item and regretted it (I can actually count that on NO HANDS, guys).
…And with the previous in mind, the number of times I’ve lingered over this Himalayan salt lamp purchase page (good air viiiiiiiibes).
Finally, the number of times I’ve really, truly, sincerely enjoyed a potato salad (LET’S DO THIS THING).
It’s hella obvious why a more typical potato salad is just not my scene. The texture is most definitely gloppy because the ratio of potatoes to mayonnaise is generally 1:1. There’s something wrong there. I’ve had a few vinaigrette-dressed versions that I could totally get behind, but I mean… filling 1/3 of my plate with potatoes at the hot-as-eff-in-July BBQ and washing it down with at least two beers (make mine a High Life, k thanks) is going to elicit some lethargy + all-out crankiness later on in the day (“But I’m TIRED.”). I want some vegetables. Some crunchy things. Something with water and vitamins.
So with this version, I started with seriously tender potatoes dug up from the garden. I filled out half of the salad with vegetables, grilled everything for texture, and dressed the whole mess in a tinkered up version of one of my favourite sauces. I love romesco because the ingredient list is fairly basic and it offers mucho flavour to anything you could possibly want to eat. Typically I would blitz it up in the food processor, but I went for a full on purée in the blender to achieve a creamier consistency. Once I had a batch made, I mixed a portion of it with a bit more oil for even coating and a touch of dijon mustard to evoke that traditional potato salad feel.
Then I went crazy with the add-ons: grilled mini zucchinis that I had picked up at a farm stand (some of them came with flowers attached!), the sweetest cherry tomatoes, garden green beans, olives, chives and grilled lemon. Basically all of the good things. Grilling a halved lemon is kind of my go-to fancy lady barbecue trick (you have those too, right?). The juices caramelize a bit and add just the right amount of lightly smoky acidity. Just baller on simple grilled vegetables or kale salads, but especially nice here because it thins the intensity of the romesco a bit. I kind of love this little mash up salad because it knocks out the veggie + the starch sides in one slick move.
And with that, I’ll raise a frosty High Life to you all from my heat wave-drenched nook of the world :) xo
grilled potato, lemon + zucchini salad with romesco recipe
notes: If you don’t have access to a grill, roasting all of the vegetables in batches might be a nice approach (but maybe only if you have air conditioning/a crazy strong fan in your house…).
romesco sauce ingredients:
1 roasted red bell pepper, stems + seeds removed (use one from a jar if you feel it)
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/2 cup blanched almonds
2 tbsp tomato paste
big splash of sherry vinegar
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
pinch of chili flakes
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt + pepper
1 lb of small potatoes, scrubbed
1 big handful of green beans, trimmed
6-7 small zucchinis, or 2 regular ones, cut down the middle lengthwise
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 lemon, halved
1/2 cup romesco
1-2 tsp dijon mustard
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
handful of pine nuts (optional)
handful of olives
10 chives, rough chopped
salt + pepper
Make the romesco: combine all of the ingredients in a blender and blend on high for a minute or so, until a creamy consistency is achieved. Check the sauce for seasoning, adjust, and scrape into a sealable container. Pour a thin layer of olive oil on top to help preserve the sauce a bit more. Place in the fridge or set aside if you’re using it right away.
Place the potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover them with cold water. Put a lid on the pot and place it over medium-high heat. Bring the pot a boil and simmer until potatoes are just tender, about 20 minutes depending on the size of them. Place the beans into the pot in the last 5 minutes of cooking. Drain the whole thing and return the potatoes to the pot. Run the green beans under cold water to avoid overcooking. Cut the potatoes into bite sized pieces once cool enough to handle and thread the pieces onto skewers. Coat the potatoes with a bit of the grapeseed oil. Season them with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Preheat a grill to high. Toss the zucchini halves with a bit more of the oil and season them with salt and pepper. Place the potato skewers and zucchini halves on the grill. Place the grilled lemon, cut side down, onto the grates as well. Flip all of the vegetables once they start charring a bit, about 5-8 minutes total. Place the potatoes in a large bowl. Cut the zucchini pieces into bite sized bits if necessary. Remove the grilled lemon from the grill as well.
Combine the romesco with the remaining oil and dijon mustard. Squeeze the grilled lemon into the romesco mixture and stir it up. Pour this mix on top of the potatoes and zucchini. Add the blanched beans, cherry tomatoes, pine nuts, olives and chives. Squeeze the grilled lemon over top and season the whole mix with salt and pepper. Toss lightly to combine. Check the salad for seasoning and garnish the top with some extra chives. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Putting food on the table is an obvious highlight point of the day for someone like myself and no doubt someone like you as well if you find yourself here with frequency (waves hi). Even if it’s just for me, I enjoy the passage of raw product from thought to nourishment, however long it might take. Actually, I enjoy it with a special heightened sense of gratification if I’m cooking for myself. In these stickier and brighter days, the ratio of effort to ultimate pleasurable experience is approached with a touch more consideration though. There is much to do in the long daytime hours of summer and the heat seems to pull at our focus on most days. The vegetables require less effort when they rise up out of our own dirt and we like to cut to the chase as far as meal semblances go anyway. The season is bright, it warms us to the bone, and it provides immensely, but it is also here and gone like a flash of lightning.
I’ve been working on all manners of things with intensity as of late–at the restaurant and on some creative projects. It feels like I’m always frantically jotting something down so that the next step/movement is easier. It keeps me in the realm of the future-possible and I’m all the lighter for it. My love and I have been planning his birthday weekend (oh lordy can’t wait), as well as a very rustic camping trip for the beginning of August and I caught myself uttering something to this effect: “Well yeah, it’ll be your birthday and then there’s a week of stuff, we go to that concert and then we go camping and then summer’s basically over.” And I mean… that isn’t true of southern Ontario as far as actual weather is concerned. September is stunningly beautiful here. But that feeling, the way we carry ourselves with less weight because it all just comes together, it seems to blow over like the intensity of a summer storm. Once in the thick of it, blinding light + black everywhere, and then the quiet of a movement gone.
It seems even more important to feel your feelings and wrap yourself up in what’s happening within arm’s reach.
So in terms of an actual meal and day-to-day living, this means that I’m relying on strong, very flavourful + easy sauces, as well as trusted techniques for more basic foodstuffs. Flicks of the wrist, a few chops and retrievals from the fridge are enough for dinner out of necessity. They have to be. Sauce at the ready, good vegetables, tasty staples and 10 minutes at the grill is the long and short of this particular dish. I had been thinking about homemade teriyaki and some charred-up eggplant for a while, but many recipes for the much-loved sauce are all salty soy and brown sugar (and sometimes starchy filler things). I love salt (like, true love 4 ever kind of love) and sweet things, but I wanted this to be a bit higher vibe with all of the punchy flavour still intact. I consulted a few books and rustled up this balsamic + honey/brown rice syrup-based mix that fills the role pretty wonderfully. Not authentic. Not even concerned. Just tasty. The rice that I serve it with is all herb-flecked with lots of delicious summery add-ins. Lime, chilies, shallots, cashews, scallions, sesames and more importantly, it’s cooked with a knob of coconut oil for that tropical fragrance. This is a strategy I always fall on for lovely brown rice. The aroma is lush and the fat helps to separate the grains a bit. The confetti tangle of garnishes really makes this dish for me.
So just like that, with a scrap of somewhat scattered forethought, dinner is ready in the great outdoors. We’re full, but still vibrant because of it. Hope you’re all savouring these days, staying hydrated and being kind to yourselves and each other. xo
vibed-out teriyaki grilled eggplant w/ herbed cashew coconut rice recipe
notes: Tofu, tempeh, portobellos and any other protein/highly absorbent vegetable you could find would be equally good in place of the eggplant.
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup honey/brown rice syrup/maple syrup/agave nectar
splash of GF tamari
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
white parts of 2 green onions, roughed up with the back of your knife a bit (save green parts for the rice)
1 tsp miso
1 tsp mirin
eggplant + herbed cashew coconut rice ingredients:
2 eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
1 cup brown basmati rice, rinsed
1 slice of fresh ginger
1 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil + extra for the grill
fat pinch of sea salt
2 cups filtered water
juice of 1 lime
drizzle of grapeseed oil
1 shallot, thinly sliced
green parts of 2 green onions, thinly sliced
2-3 sprigs basil, chopped
2 sprigs mint, chopped
1/3 cup toasted cashews + extra for garnish, chopped
small handful black sesame seeds
1 chili, thinly sliced (optional)
more salt + pepper
handful of sprouts/micro greens (optional)
Make the teriyaki sauce: combine all of the sauce ingredients except for the miso and mirin in a smal saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and whisk in the miso and mirin until the miso is fully dissolved. Set sauce aside to cool.
Place the eggplant slices in a large colander. Season the slices liberally with salt and toss them around to ensure even contact with the salt. Let the eggplant drain in the sink for about 10 minutes. Pour out any excess water and place eggplant slices in a ceramic dish. Cover the eggplant with 1/2 of the teriyaki sauce and allow it to marinate while you prepare the rice.
Place the brown rice, ginger slice, coconut oil, salt and 2 cups of water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring the rice to a boil and simmer until all of the water is absorbed, about 30 minutes. Scrape rice into a large bowl and allow to cool for a bit. Once adequately cool, toss the rice with all of the remaining herbed cashew + coconut rice ingredients, reserving some of the herbs, shallots, cashews and seeds for garnish. Check the mix for seasoning and adjust. Set aside.
Preheat your grill to high and brush it with some coconut oil. Place the marinated eggplant slices on the grates. Allow them to develop char, about 3 minutes, and then flip the slices over. Brush the grilled sides with extra teriyaki sauce. Once the other side is charred, flip the slice sover once more and quickly brush the other side with teriyaki sauce. Remove slices from the grill and serve with herbed cashew coconut rice. Garnish with remaining herbs, nuts and sprouts.
You know what is completely lovely? Pie and ice cream in the summertime. Kind of a no-brainer, but still worthy of the mention and a little recipe on here I think. Just thinking of a little plate heaped with shattering crust, stew-y fruit and cold cream feels hazy and dream-like. I’m not fanatical about crust all the time if I’m being frank. The filling is more of an attraction in a general way and what’s even more desirable is the creamy scoop that is casually finger flicked and served alongside, slowly slipping into a puddle on the plate. The pie is flaky, crumbly and jammy. The ice cream is smooth, fatty and cold. The one component carries the seasonal abundance and texture, the other adds lightness while simultaneously bringing out the rich aspects of undeniably homey dessert. Happy, happy union.
I do enjoy a strawberry pie quite a bit. It seems like the crop is at its mega-prime right at this very moment. We went driving around some of the more agricultural/wine country-ish areas of the region over the weekend. There were original plans to go to the beach, but this was all just as well. We stopped at an astro turf-covered stand that’s run by this rather quirky-seeming lady who wears floral jeans in a way that is decidedly unaware of movements/trends in the fashion world. She just likes them and that is totally fine. Her brother was sorting through some berries and as I was buying them up, they both mentioned no less than 6 times that I had to eat them right away because they didn’t use any spray or herbicide. Got it. All smiles and reassurances.
The rest of the day was spent tip toeing through the creepiest ever antique shop bargain basement (scored a totally sweet bowl though), having lunch at one of our favourite places, stopping at a local distillery for some white rye + bitters, and then putting those spoils to good use at the drive-in with some wonderful friends (and snacks, duh). Just going along wherever the wind blows. That’s summer. And that’s how I happened onto this pie + ice cream combination.
I love chocolate and strawberry together (seriously, who doesn’t). But I also enjoy hazelnut with both of those flavours, so I thought I’d go all out on this one. I made hand pies because I can’t resist that sweet half moon shape. Also, a portable dessert is rather convenient when you’re running from one incredibly fun/chill-breezy summertime activity to the next. The pastry is all whole wheat pastry flour and coconut oil, which gives a nice grainy heft and fragrance. The ice cream is my favourite part though. It’s maple sweetened full fat coconut milk at the base. I make it warm with vanilla and blend it up with a big scoop of wine-y + dark raw cacao powder. I toasted hazelnuts right to the edge of burnt (this makes them so easy to peel!), chopped them up and dropped them in right at the end of churning. Doesn’t even seem like it could be real, it’s so dreamy.
strawberry hand pies recipe
serves: makes 12
notes: I used the coconut oil pie crust recipe from Food52 pretty much to the letter, aside from subbing whole wheat pastry flour in for the all purpose. Also, I didn’t use a food processor like they suggested–just a pastry cutter and my own two hands. The coconut oil should be cold, but not so cold that you can’t cut it into the flour. I like to put a 1/2 cup of little oil scoops into a bowl and chill it for about 1/2 an hour or so.
1 1/2 cups diced strawberries
coconut sugar/evaporated cane sugar to your like (I used about 1/4 cup) + extra for sprinkling
squeeze of lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 batch of coconut oil pie dough (made with whole wheat pastry flour if you like)
milk of your choice for brushing
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
In a large bowl, stir together the strawberries, coconut sugar, lemon juice and vanilla. Set aside.
Generously dust a working surface with flour. Place the chilled disc of pie dough onto that surface. Roll it out as evenly as you can to about 1/4 inch thickness. Use a large-ish circular biscuit/cookie cutter to punch out individual crusts (my cutter was 3 7/8 inches). Lay the dough circles on the parchment lined sheet. Spoon the strawberries onto the centers of the dough circles. Fold one side of each circle over the fruit and pinch the edges shut by pressing the tines of a fork into the edges.
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Allow them to cool slightly before serving.
vegan chocolate hazelnut ice cream recipe
with guidance from A Couple Cooks
serves: makes 1 litre
notes: This churns up a lot better if the mixture is cold when it goes into the ice cream maker. You could always just make sure to chill the cans of the coconut milk overnight too.
2 cans of full fat coconut milk
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder would be fine!)
2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of fine sea salt
pinch of ground cinnamon
pinch of xanthan gum (very optional)
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted + chopped
Whisk or blend together all of the ingredients except for the hazelnuts. Chill this mixture down properly if you need to. Pour it into your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s directions. In the last couple minutes of churning, sprinkle in the toasted + chopped hazelnuts. Once fully churned, scrape the ice cream into a container and freeze until ready to use.
IT IS. So hot. We celebrated the first weekend of summer pretty hard, so some raw and fresh fare is much needed this week for other reasons–so that we can go about the day a little lighter, a little more energetic, a little more hydrated, maybe even sleep a tiny shred better. Oh, and a little less on the reeking of bourbon front would be awesome too, thanks.
So yeah. This week’s been a little more quiet and calm with plenty of fresh food. I’ve been sinking into a lovely new magazine called Good Company in the mornings (when it’s still cool + lovely) with coffee or an earl grey, and I happened to stumble onto a little piece on the Green Kitchen Stories crew and some of their favourite kitchen items. There was a charming drawing of this little notched peeler. I scanned over the description and saw “life changing,” sort of half believing it… But seriously? If you spend a five’r on anything this summer, maybe you should make it a julienne peeler (I have this one). If you follow me on Instagram, you know I’m all about #fancyladylunch with noodle-y vegetables lately. It just feels so irresistibly clever. A couple seconds of peeling and you have a bowl full of noodles that won’t make your stomach feel grossly full. The flavour building potential is kind of neat too. Lots of possibility.
In the magazine there’s a beautiful zucchini noodle and pesto dish, but I’ve been feeling these cucumber ones the most. They’re so hydrating and crunchy. A little sweetness, chipotle powder for heat, plenty of salt, pepper and lime juice. There’s barely a slick of oil and heaps of arugula, mint and basil. Avocado and pumpkin seeds fill the tangle out. Then you toss the whole thing and drop it on top of a sea-salted wedge of cool watermelon, which acts like a dessert-y afterthought when the noodles are gone, all completely juicy from the salt and extra lime. I kind of feel refreshed just talking about it. Anyway, summer! Days of beaches, bike rides and walking out back to pick dinner at the end of it all. Go after it, friends :)
chili lime cucumber noodles on salted watermelon w/ mint + basil
notes: If you don’t want to spring for a julienne peeler (I use this Zyliss one), just use a regular vegetable peeler for some beautiful ribbons of cucumber instead. Also, when making the noodles, I usually stop just short of the center where all of the seeds are.
2 flat pieces of watermelon, about 1 inch thick
juice of 1 lime, divided
chipotle chili powder, to taste (or other variety of chili powder)
fat pinch of flaky sea salt, divided
1 english cucumber, peeled into noodles with a julienne peeler
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
little squeeze of raw honey or agave nectar
2-3 handfuls of arugula
2 sprigs of mint, leaves chopped + extra to garnish
3 sprigs of basil, leaves chopped + extra to garnish
1 ripe avocado, peeled + diced
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
ground black pepper
Place the watermelon wedges on two plates. Sprinkle them with a bit of the lime juice, some salt and chipotle powder. Set aside.
Combine the cucumber noodles in a large bowl with the remaining lime juice, more salt + chipotle powder, olive oil, honey/agave, arugula, mint and basil. Toss to evenly mix. Divide the noodles between the 2 plates, placing them on top of the watermelon. Garnish the noodles with the avocado, pumpkin seeds and some fresh pepper. Serve with lime wedges if you like. Eat immediately.
“And then on May fifteenth, a balmy sweet day if ever I saw one, my seeds went into the warm, welcoming earth, and I could agree with an old gardening manual which said understandingly, “Perhaps no vegetable is set out in greater expectancy…for the early planting fever is impatient.”
A week later I put in another row, and so on for a month, and they did as they were meant to, which is one of the most satisfying things that can possibly happen to a gardener, whether greenhorn and eager or professional and weatherworn.
Then came the day with stars on it: time for what my grandmother would have called “the first mess of peas.””
When I settled on the title of this site, I had been poking around some works by M.F.K. Fisher quite a bit when I hit on that little passage in An Alphabet for Gourmets. It was perfect. Tracing that little slice from her life that would come every year. It said everything that I needed it to. Sure, it nods to the embrace of change in the fields, bringing that shift into your home and being grateful for what you can grow right where you find yourself in this world (total freedom, in other words). It says a lot more about how I find myself here, traipsing along with all of you too.
I generally eschew the designation of “expert” in any context, including food and food preparations. I screw things up a lot: not getting a recipe concept nailed in the initial trials, adding too much salt, forgetting that something is under the broiler, swearing at the waffle iron in a predominantly chill brunch setting. I post things here that people straight up tell me they do not like. I value that engagement too. If you recognize me on the street and tell me that some salad recipe from here was shit, I will have that conversation candidly. First attempts, first forays, first fuck-ups, first harsh criticisms, first rationalizations… They all have their place here and in life.
Any instance of mess means having your feet on the ground, and your hands in the work. That one was obvious, but hey.
It addresses this weird spot I’m finding myself in, worrying that buying and owning a home to make many future meals in will change my brain on a cellular level. Those rooms and floors that can hold us up, the land that we’ll find ourselves on… they might force a protective response. I worry that my scattered idealism will fade and stretch towards obsessive safeguarding of what will become undoubtedly 100% ours, that any ideas on what can be in a future sense will be scratched out. Mostly, that we will change fundamentally, that it will be observed.
It weirdly highlights my preference for a Coors Light in some casual drinking situations. Sometimes I want to slowly drift into hot-messyness over the course of an afternoon with marginally hydrating refreshment, rather than volunteer tasting notes on some Mercenary Vortex Triple IPA that’s been exposed to wild yeasts in upstate New York. I’ll take a relaxed sinking-in over instances of who’s-drank-what when it comes to beer-hangs. Read also: french fries, iceberg lettuce, Nescafé, ZZ Top and Jim Beam. All of those things are great in context and you know it.
It also points to creative engagement for me. I started this project after much deliberation, all with high intention because, seriously, if people are going to let you into their lives in some tiny sense you better make it good. I seek other channels to fuel inspiration for this space often, and it helps tremendously. A real-life scheduled job, music, books about alternate realities, films about wars, travel, extreme landscapes; there’s always something there. Right now, I’m certain that if I abandoned the site, I would be a person without dreams (is that corny/dramatic? Whatever.). When you push yourself to live and die by the project, the approach feels new and refreshingly frenzied every time. It’s helped me grow a lot.
Anyway, all of this is just to say thanks for sticking with me. Two years of many kinds of messes later, and it feels like we’re doing just fine :)
a salad with all of the peas, potatoes, acidulated shallots + creamy dill dressing
notes: The dressing is your homie here. It’s so good. Tangy, lightly sweet, flecked with dill, creamy but not in a ew-it’s-still-coating-my-tongue kind of way. Make it for this salad or make it for other stuff, seriously. I also “acidulate” the shallots to soften their bite a bit–just covering them in vinegar while the rest of the salad happens. Super simple technique, super delicious results.
acidulated shallots ingredients:
1 small shallot, cut into thin half moons
1/4-1/3 cup red wine vinegar
creamy dill dressing ingredients:
1/3 cup mixed raw cashews + sunflower seeds (I’d say 3/4 of that should be cashews), soaked in water for at least 2 hours
juice of 1/2 a lemon
splash of the vinegar from the shallots
1 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp – 1tbsp raw agave nectar/honey
splash of water (enough to get the motor of your blender moving–like 3 tbsp-ish)
fat pinch of salt
lots of black pepper
3-4 sprigs of dill, leaves removed and chopped
1 small shallot, cut into thin half moons
1/4-1/3 cup red wine vinegar
8 small new potatoes
4-5 big handfuls of pea shoots
1 cup shelled fresh peas
1-2 cups snap peas, cut in half down the center
handful of snow peas, chopped
additional sprouts if you feel it (I added some radish sprouts)
extra dill to garnish
more salt + pepper
Place the sliced shallots in a small bowl and cover them with the red wine vinegar. Let the shallots soften up in this until you’re ready to serve the salad.
Make the dressing: throw all of the ingredients except for the dill into a blender and blend on high until you have a creamy, homogenous mixture. Thin out with additional water until you get an appropriate dressing consistency. Pour the dressing into a jar and stir in the chopped dill. Set aside.
Place the potatoes in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Place them on the stove over medium heat and bring to a boil. Simmer until potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes, run some cold water over them and set aside to cool.
Arrange the pea shoots on the base of your serving platter. Scatter the acidulated shallots, shelled peas, snap peas, and chopped snow peas on top of the shoots. Cut the cooled potatoes into quarters and arrange them on top. Season the whole thing from up high with salt and pepper. Drizzle the dressing over top. Garnish with additional sprouts and extra dill sprigs and serve it up.