The first time I went camping, in my whole life, was only two short years ago. Our family holidays always saw us on a beach or at an amusement park in the winter because summertime was just too busy with gardening, work and being happy with the sun-dappled walls and rich soils of home. I had been with my man for almost a year when he proposed a little canoe + camping jaunt for a weekend in the summer. I was coming off of about 6 years in the city at that point. I didn’t really know if I was a wilderness enthusiast/type yet, but when I started to think about wood-fired breakfasts, the sheer density of trees, and when Mark mentioned offhand that the whole thing would be pretty romantic, I was all in.
I bought some hippie-dip s’mores fixins, some cheap-o water shoes at Mark’s recommendation, worried about staying hydrated, made up little batches of homespun instant oatmeal, packed a Malcolm Gladwell book for extra lightness and some other things. We woke up way before the sun to start on the 5 hour drive. There were road stops. I drank a coffee (rarely, if ever, drank coffee back then). I ate a doughnut (same rarity of occurrence–went for sprinkles, duh). I couldn’t believe that even the little Tim Hortons shops were surrounded by conifer-draped cliffs. All the rough trucker dudes just having their first coffee were probably weirded out by the wide-eyed, jorts-clad little lady in the parking lot taking pictures of everything. We weren’t even close to the park yet.
We eventually got to the park entrance. The little shop that sold firewood also had a particularly rich selection of bear figurines and bacon. We set the canoe in at the launching point. The water was shallow, clear and cold. There were two mountainous hills covered in foliage straight ahead. Mark had told me that the 3 hour canoe trip we were about to embark on was pretty much rookie-level. I got a quick tutorial on paddling technique, but I mean I had prepared by doing some dry strokes at my desk informed by Wikipedia, so was basically pro at that point. Once we had been going for a bit and had separated from the other boats, this comment just spontaneously came out of my mouth: “It smells like mulch everywhere!”
So my initial brush with wilderness had me comparing its overall atmospheric greatness to that pre-bagged shredded business that you can buy for your garden to keep the moisture in (and the weeds out, HOLLA). Totally normal.
I was hooked after that trip though. The quiet, the simpler mode of living, the romance of it, the warm glow of fire for hours at night, the growing optimistic hunch that maybe the whole world could be covered in trees. The experience and mindset wouldn’t have even entered my realm of possibility if Mark hadn’t (handsomely) strolled right into my life. I always bust out that crucial chorus from the 90’s Salt ‘N’ Pepa CLASSIC “Whatta Man” when he does something particularly great, but actually? He is kinda mighty(, mighty) good.
This green drink isn’t exactly optimal camping food, BUT. It’s been keeping me energetic while I sort out and check off what I need for our little wilderness jaunt this weekend (!!!). I go in phases where I absolutely love this stuff for breakfast. It’s green, sure, but it’s also minty, punctuated with a nice hit of lime, cold from frozen peaches/mango and lightly sweet. Sometimes I’ll tote one to work if I haven’t had enough time to rustle up a little meal pre-shift and it most definitely hits the spot. Anyway, I know there’s a lot of green drinks and smoothie recipes out there, kale is the new beef, for your health!, yadda yadda–but this one is my favourite because it really does taste great and I feel like a million bucks once I finish up that last sip. Whatta drink, whatta drink, whatta drink, what a mighty good draaaank. (Had to.)
the green drink recipe
notes: I generally aim for milder greens here. I love kale, but it can be a touch strong in this particular application. Chard, spinach, romaine and beet greens are preferable, friends. If you’re opting for filtered water instead of coconut water, I would add some more frozen fruit to make up the extra sweetness.
1 1/4 cup cold coconut water or filtered water
juice of 1 lime
1 1/2 cups rough chopped greens, lightly packed
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, cilantro, basil or mint leaves, or a combination
1/2 an English cucumber, rough dice
1 small apple, cored and rough diced
1/2 cup frozen + diced peaches or mango
1-inch piece of peeled ginger (optional)
Combine all of the ingredients in the blender in the order specified and blend on high for a minute or so. Once the greens are fully incorporated/non-chunky, you’re good. Drink it up!
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.