On this the last day of August (sniff, sniff) I feel the need to share an in season, summer recipe. When I came across the recipe for a tomato polenta tart I was sold. First of all it was a tart with no egg filling, perfect for my egg hating self. Second it didn't have a pastry crust, not a huge fan of pastry. Third I had some beautiful, ripe, local tomatoes that were calling out for something special. This recipe does take a little time, but is well worth it. Celiac readers: it's gluten free.
Polenta is made from corn meal and is popular in Italy and other European countries. It seems to be popping up over here quite a bit too. I have had it a few times in the last few months and was ready to try making it myself at home.
4 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 cup cornmeal
4 tbsp butter
2 medium sized cobs of fresh corn (or about a cup of canned or frozen corn)
2 tbsp fresh basil, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 1/2 cups light ricotta cheese
1 large egg
2 large Heirloom tomatoes sliced
sea or kosher salt to taste
fresh cracked pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 F. In a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan, bring stock to a boil. In an even stream, pour in the cornmeal, whisking well as you do so. Lower to a simmer, stirring with a wooden spoon often (the more you stir the creamier the texture). Continue to stir and check on the polenta for the next 30-40 minutes. It will be very thick which is good. In another large saucepan, fill about half way with water. Bring to a boil, add in the corn and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove corn and run under cold water to make it easier to handle. Use a knife to remove the kernels. In a frying pan melt 2 tbsp of butter and add in the corn, basil and garlic. Sauté on medium high until the corn turns golden and the garlic is cooked, about 6-7 minutes. When the polenta is finished, stir in 2 tbsp of butter, some pepper and the parmesan cheese. Mix in the corn and basil mixture and set aside. Add an egg to the ricotta and mix until completely incorporated. Grease a 9″ round baking dish (preferably glass). I used a spring form pan which worked well. Line the baking dish with polenta, pushing it up the sides like a pie crust. Pour in the ricotta and smooth with a spoon. Top tart with tomato slices. Season with salt and pepper and bake for 60 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing. Serves 8. Adapted from here.
I was able to use local tomatoes and corn as well as basil from my garden. The results...perfection. I loved everything about it: the crispy edge of polenta, the creamy ricotta, real tomato taste all with an amazing blend of flavours. It was the prefect dinner. I served it with a green salad that included lettuce from my garden. Let's just say I was feeling the local food vibe and appreciating everything summer has to offer.
When I was younger my Mom would make jam. It seemed very laborious: sterilizing, special equipment, possibility of jars blowing up, wax seals, sweating, etc. I used to see jam in the store and think why not just buy it? Well we all know the answer to that, it just doesn't taste as good. That all said I still wasn't prepared for the full on jam making undertaking.
Welcome to my life freezer jam. So much easier, and in my opinion tastier. Because you are not cooking the fruit the jam can't be stored at room temperature, instead you store it in the freezer (hence the name). When you take a jar out to be used it can be stored in the fridge for up 6 weeks. I guarantee it won't be around that long anyways. It is still a good idea to use smallish containers, the 1 liter jar may be a little much jam for 6 weeks.
This all started when we went out to my uncles house to check on things while he was away, AKA pilfer his raspberry bushes. Hudson had a great time insisting on holding the bucket while eating like crazy. There was still more than enough berries to make jam with.
You need to add something to help gel the jam, I bought a package at the grocery store specific for freezer jam. There are a few kinds out there. I chose this one because I liked that the fruit to sugar ratio was a little higher. It is no secret that there is a lot of sugar in jam. It helps to preserve the jam along with making it taste sweet. Freezer jam has less sugar than regular jam, gotta' like that. I also find that freezer jam tastes more like the actual fruit because it isn't cooked. You do have to use great tasting, ripe fruit though because there is less sugar and cooking to hide behind.
glass or plastic containers with tight fitting lids (you don't need anything fancy)
4 cups of fruit
1 1/4 cups of sugar
I used raspberries so to prep them I just mashed them in a large bowl with a potato masher. I left some bigger chunks though. If you are using other fruit like strawberries or blueberries just chop finely (don't puree). Stir in sugar and let stand for 15 minutes. Slowly sprinkle in gelling powder while stirring for 3 minutes. Allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir again for 1 minute. Add jam to jars, leave enough room for expansion. It's ready to eat! Can be stored in the freezer for up to a year.
Your package might be a little different, but that is the jist of it. My package called for 1 1/2 cups of sugar, but I reduced it (of course) and it still turned out fine and was plenty sweet. You don't want to play around too much as the gel to sugar ratio is important. It was so easy from start to finish maybe 30 minutes, are you kidding? I didn't have time to make my jam right after picking so I froze the berries. It had no adverse effects on the final product just thaw your fruit before using. Blackberries are in season now, so get picking and jamming.
I can imagine opening a jar on a dark winter morning and being reminded of that perfect summer night picking berries and my son's chubby, berry stained fingers and cheeks. It doesn't get much better than that.
I have never been a great pasta maker, maybe it's because I don't have a sniff of olive skin. I am not talking homemade fresh pasta, just pasta. I am limited to a basic tomato sauce with turkey meatballs to really jazz it up. It doesn't mean I don't like it, just never been great at executing something more exciting. One of my roommates was a great pasta maker. She was the first person I saw use ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes, fresh herbs and different cheeses at home. That was pretty eye opening, but didn't cross over into my own cooking so much. I even had two weeks of inspiring eating in Italy, and man did I eat. Being pregnant in Italy had its down sides: no wine, but also upsides: gelato, pasta and pizza (in that order).
I guess my husband got board of the tomato sauce routine and came up with his own pasta recipe. It is now a staple in our house and I am proud to say I even make it (on my own). And FYI having a husband that creates dishes is pretty much my dream come true, but I think we have stagnated at this one. Not that I'm not appreciative. And I must say he has been finding recipes to try without my strong suggestion, like the fish tacos. Anyways enough making him look good...
1/2 box of whole wheat linguini
2-3 lean turkey Italian sausage cut into rounds or removed from casing
1 bunch of asparagus cut into 5 cm lengths
2 coloured bell peppers cut into thin strips
1/4 cup sliced and drained sun-dried tomatoes
A handful of fresh basil chopped
2 cloves of garlic crushed
1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup light feta cheese cubed
Cook linguini according to package directions. Cook sausage in a large deep sided frying pan. Drain off any excess grease. Throw in asparagus, crushed garlic and peppers and sautee until just tender. Add sun-dried tomatoes, pepper flakes and basil. Add drained pasta and enough olive oil to coat. Stir to combine. Add feta at the last minute then remove from burner and serve. Serves 4-6.
Turns out great every time and is loaded with flavour. It is also good with spinach that is just wilted. The whole wheat pasta is high in fiber which helps to keep you feeling satisfied longer (for the same calories as white pasta). There is also a fair amount of veggies in here and guess what? They include some dark green and bright orange and red veggies (depending on your pepper choice).
So, happy to report I can now cook a really good pasta, thanks to my husband. The title of this post means that was delicious in Italian.
My Mom recently had the Earl's West Coast Prawn Salad with Citrus Honey Vinaigrette and went nuts for it. I wasn't there to try it but it all sounded good to me. A quick Google search later and guess what? Epicurious has a copycat recipe. No choice here but to give it a go.
One of the key ingredients in the salad is quinoa which is pronounced keen-wa. I am sure you have heard of quinoa, it is kind of a big deal these days. Why? Well it is a grain like seed that comes in red, white or black. It's protein content is very high and it is also a complete protein which is unusual for plant based foods. It is also a good source of fiber, phosphorus, iron and magnesium. For bonus points it is gluten free and easy to digest. I like quinoa in salads and less so served as a replacement for rice. I have yet to try it in soup (but I think I would like it). It also makes a great filling for wraps. Make sure you rinse your quinoa before you cook it. The outside has a natural bitter tasting coating, most of it is removed in processing, but it doesn't hurt to give it a good rinse. Don't want you to be put off if it is your first time.
CITRUS HONEY VINAIGRETTE:
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp Dijon mustard
pinch of salt and pepper
2-3 dashes hot pepper sauce
8 cups mixed greens
8 cups baby spinach
2 cups cooked, cooled quinoa (recipe below)
8-12 large strawberries, quartered
1 carrot, peeled and finely julienned
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into cubes
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup toasted pecans
2 tbsp finely minced cilantro
20-30 grilled prawns, preferably awesome British Columbia spot prawns(recipe below)
favourite teriyaki sauce or rub, to taste
CITRUS HONEY VINAIGRETTE (may be prepared and chilled up to 1 week ahead):
Combine ingredients in a small food processor or blender. Chill until serving
QUINOA (may be prepared and chilled up to 2 days ahead):
1/2 cup dry quinoa
Wash quinoa in 4-5 changes of cold water until water runs clear, gently rubbing grains and letting them settle before pouring off water. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil; add quinoa and gently boil for 10 minutes; drain and rinse under cold water.
GRILLED PRAWNS (best prepared just before serving):
Preheat clean grill to high; oil grates just before cooking. Toss prawns with enough favourite teriyaki or rub to lightly coat. Grill 1-2 minutes per side, turning once, until prawns are light pink and barely cooked through.
Combine all ingredients except prawns in a large bowl; toss with enough Citrus Honey Vinagrette to coat. Divide between 4 large plates and top with grilled prawns.
Adapted from here.
This is a great entree salad with everything you need. We served it with some crusty bread. The dressing is very light and fresh tasting. Perfect to enjoy outside on a hot summer night.
Tiffany McFadden, RD