Cherry Pavlova

I know the first few frosty weeks of winter isn’t the best time to present late summer cherries, but although I made this in August, my freezer is still loaded with the remains of this same case of now pitted and halved dark BC cherries, and it’s occurring to me that it would make a pretty fab holiday dessert. I mean, look at it – the meringue and cream all billowy and snowy, with brilliant red, juicy cherries on top – it could be raspberries or cranberries, or a combination of any or all of the above, you just want berries that are juicy and tart to contrast with the sweet, soft and crunchy cream and meringue. And although these are fresh cherries, tossed with just enough sugar to help them release some of their juices, I typically simmer fruit just briefly enough to start it breaking down, and releasing more juices, then setting it aside to cool (or refrigerate ahead of time) before pouring it over the pavlova.

Cherry Pavlova 7
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Jason's Grandma's 2 hour buns 3

Our across-the-street neighbours moved away a few years ago. They were fun to hang out with on our front step, our collective little kids playing on the sidewalk. They were good eaters, and toward the end of one summer shared the recipe for the soft, sweet buns he told us his Grandma used to make. Homemade dinner rolls made with a recipe procured from someone’s grandma are my favourite. For awhile, I made these with my niece across the street, and she’d bring them to school in her lunches.

Jason's Grandma's 2 hour buns 5

Homemade buns on the dinner table is about as old-fashioned as it gets, and yet immensely satisfying – this is one of the recipes we included in the new Best of Bridge Sunday Suppers, which hit store shelves a few weeks ago. If you like, you could pay closer attention to how you shape them, forming them into smooth-ish balls, then bake them on a sheet instead of in a tray, spaced apart so that they don’t snuggle up to each other in the pan and instead bake into stand-alone buns with tanned sides, perfect for homemade burgers. (If you do this, brush their tops with a bit of water or milk and sprinkle with some sesame seeds before you bake them. It’s positively glee-inducing to pull a pan of homemade sesame-topped burger buns out of the oven.)

Jason's Grandma's 2 hour buns 4
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Braised Beef Short Ribs with Lentils

With the launch of the new Best of Bridge Sunday Suppers book a couple weeks ago, I’ve been talking a lot on TV, radio and various interviews about the idea (and significance) of Sunday supper – of getting as many people as I can around the table for dinner to regroup and reconnect and get ready for the week. It’s an idea I always intend to get behind – to put out a standing invite for everyone, every Sunday forever – but haven’t quite managed to. This Sunday we cobbled together a quick sit-down around the table and although we could collectively only manage an hour between this and that, it did the trick.

I feel like not enough people know beef short ribs, or recognize them in the grocery store – they’re short and square, unlike typical ribs, and are best braised (cooked low and slow) to break down the tough connective tissues. I often throw on a pot of beef short ribs when there’s leftover beer in the house – which is to say there’s been a party, and as we’re doing the minimum kitchen sweep before bed, putting away chunks of cheese and filling the dishwasher, we come across a few nice craft beers that have been cracked open but not drank. Because I hate to waste nice beer, this always means beef stew or short ribs in our immediate future – and I like having flat beer to work with as it it seems equally odd to crack a nice cold, fizzy one straight from the fridge and pour it into a Dutch oven to braise with beef and onions.
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Caramelized Apple Pies

So I got it into my head that I wanted to make pies. Not regular, full-sized pies you eat by the slice, but the kind you eat out of hand. The seed was planted back in (on?) PEI, when a friend and I went on a 3 day road trip and stopped at the Handpie Company as soon as we pulled onto the island (I oddly love that they made handpie all one word) and ate two ridiculously delicious pies, stuffed half-moons you could eat straight from the paper bag, the buttery pastry loaded with meat and potatoes and other things. I know hand pies are not new, but somehow it was like a reawakening regarding the possibilities of pie.

Also, it’s apple time. I haven’t managed to make a pie yet. Somehow, these pockets seemed like less of a production.

Pastry + apples

So this afternoon I turned on the oven to make pies. (My new-ish oven takes forever to heat up.) I did some things, and did a bunch of editing, and made a porchetta, and made the pastry, and turned the oven off for a bit because it was getting hot and I hadn’t sautéed the apples yet. I like sautéing apples for pie, but it seemed a particularly good idea for these-cooking chunks of apple in a piece of butter caramelizes them, cooks them down so that they’re more concentrated, with less juice to release in the oven. You don’t need a shake of flour in the filling if you cook the apples down a bit first, adding some brown sugar and a shake of cinnamon at the end. And there’s nothing like cooking apples, butter and cinnamon to make your house smell delicious.

Caramelized Apple Pies 6
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Pasta all’Amatriciana

Who needs some comfort food? I do. Even if I have to make it for myself.

It’s been a nutso day/week/month.. year, really. For all of us? A couch and some slouchy socks and a big bowl of pasta is a realistic salve when sleeping in isn’t an option. This is one of those recipes that I know, that I glaze over when I see because it’s just too familiar and I know how to make pasta and give me a more unique idea already, but occasionally I just stick to the directions and am amazed at how delicious something is. My friend John Gilchrist sent this to me as I was gathering recipes for the Calgary Food Bank that uses ingredients on their wish list, and having half a package of bacon and half a can of tomatoes in my fridge, I gave it a go.

Pasta all’Amatriciana 2

Pasta all’Amatriciana is traditionally made with guanciale and Pecorino, but bacon is just fine. And you can use any type of tomato It was crazy delicious, and cooked in the amount of time it takes to boil the pasta. Cheap, fast and easy – that’s my kinda dinner.
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Babka 7

It’s time for some chocolate babka, I think. To celebrate the time of year when you can turn the oven on to warm the house. If you’re only familiar with babka thanks to Seinfeld, it’s a sweet, rich yeasted dough that some call cake—but really it’s a loaf of sweet dough with the texture of a soft cinnamon bun, rippled through with so much chocolate (or cinnamon, which is considered a lesser babka, but it’s on my list to make next—who wouldn’t love a loaf-shaped cinnamon bun?) as to make slicing the rolled log (which you do lengthwise, before twisting it into the pan) a challenge.

Babka 12

I took babka for a spin a few times to get a feel for it, in the name of research of course—the soft, rich dough is lovely to handle, and it’s like assembling a cinnamon bun, up until the dough is filled and rolled into a log. Some of the chocolate fillings out there are crumbly, others smooth, which I found easier to handle when it comes to the twisting part, which I find ridiculously satisfying.

Babka 13
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Cold + Creamy Beet Soup (Chlodnik)

Making soup is simple, but there are some who make truly fantastic soup, and my friend Dorata is one of them. She’s been doing my hair for over 20 years, and every time I see her we spend all our time talking about food. Eventually I convinced her to invite me over, and she fed me this brilliant pink chilled beet borscht (and a thick, creamy white borscht too, and peroghies, and croquettes, and crepes…), something you can make by just throwing stuff in, she says. Except that hers somehow comes out tasting unbelievably delicious. I’ve never really appreciated the appeal of cold soup, until I tried Dorata’s on a 30 degree day – it’s like a creamy bowl of salad I just wanted to pick up and drink like a savoury smoothie.

Dorata & beets
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Rhubarb Plum Crumble Pie

Do we have time for one more pie? Thanksgiving is early enough in Canada that I can often squeak by with the last of the stone fruits, and often plums, which make a mighty fine (yet mostly overlooked) pie. They get along well with apples and berries and of course rhubarb, and so when we had an impromptu pie party on a recent Sunday morning (I invited some pals over for coffee and pie), I rummaged through the fridge and came up with this combo. It was a winner. I am a huge fan of sweet-tart fruit pies, still warm enough that the ice cream or whipped cream creates rivulets of melted cream finding their way through the nooks and crannies of fruit, landing in pools on the plate.

plums & rhubarb

These two – they really get along. And if you have some plums in your fridge that are starting to go squidgy, you won’t be able to tell at all once they’re cooked. And if you want to skip the pastry part and call this a crumble, that’s cool too. I really love having the best of both worlds – and it excuses the baker from any obligation to make the top lid of pastry look pretty.
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Chocolate Zucchini Snack Cake

Hey, hi. I figured you, like me, might need some chocolate zucchini cake to help get you through the week. The moist, not-too-sweet kind you just stir up in a bowl and bake in a pan and nibble from when you need it – a cake you could get away with having a chunk of with your coffee in the morning, for filling up lunchbags and the after-school gap. And here’s some good news: if you also have far too many zucchini in your kitchen, you can grate a bunch, as if you were going to make brownies or muffins or a loaf or this cake, and just freeze it in ziplock bags, pushed flat to get the air out and so that they barely take up any space, to use in the aforementioned baked goods at a later date.
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