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I’m always intrigued by other peoples’ birthday cake choices. There are those who stick with tradition and get the same thing every year, and then those who are more opportunistic, seeing it as their one annual chance to request the most extravagant ice cream cake/croquembouche/peanut butter pie/tower of brownies/cupcakes/crepes/cream puffs (all previous choices of mine, yes) imaginable. Yesterday was my nephew’s 26th, and being a salty-over-sweet kind of guy, he thought about it for a few minutes, then remembered a coconut lemon tart he had had at a dinner out at Feast Tofino earlier this year, and not being able to find the source of said tart, I decided to come up with one based loosely on 1) his memory, and 2) our favourite Key lime pie out here at SoBo. And here’s something else: did you know you can whip coconut cream the same way you whip heavy cream? It’s true. And it tastes like coconut. It’s true. I’m sorry you’re welcome.

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How is it that I’ve never made a maple syrup pie? Such a Canadian thing and somehow, I hadn’t. I’ve corrected this. Maple pie is not super summery kind of pie in that it doesn’t incorporate berries or stone fruits, but it would be if you added a tumble of raspberries or blueberries over top. And it is when you consider the fact that you make it ahead and chill it in the fridge, then serve up cold slivers (or big wedges to share – it’s pretty intense) with ice cream or vanilla-scented whipped cream. Also, it’s about as easy as it gets to whisk together the eggs, cream, brown sugar and maple syrup and pour it into a crust. It could even be a store-bought crust – I won’t tell.

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Oh this week. So much rain. So much sad. From where we are right now, summer holidays seem like an insurmountable obstacle course away, and so I made a key lime pie. It’s been one of our favourite things to eat out on the west coast, in Tofino, at SoBo ever since it was a little purple food truck in the back of a gravelly parking lot (where Tacofino is now) and when it occupied the restaurant space at the botanical gardens I was pregnant with W, and the only thing that seemed even slightly palatable was wedges of their tangy-sour pie. We still stop to pick up pieces to go – unassuming wedges of pale yellow on graham crust in little cardboard carryout bowls, topped with whipped cream. When I slid a slice across the table to Mike the other night at dusk, he took a bite and said, “this tastes like the ocean”.

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It’s July, and cherries have arrived. The big, plump ones we all eat too many of – if that’s possible – and a wee bowl for spitting pits (although it’s infinitely more satisfying to spit them into the grass) has been on my counter all week. My fingers are perpetually red. Most people buy cherries (these come from BC) to eat them by the bag; rarely to bake with. I seek out those who own cherry pitters and make their own pies and try to become their best friend, but those people are few and far between. If you, like me, aspire to be a cherry pie baker but never quite get around to it, a clafoutis might make a good first step. (Or last step – who needs a pie when you have clafoutis?

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I want to do too many things. Most of the time I let ideas run rampant in my brain, sometimes I let them loose into lists, and occasionally I tackle them in real life. But my favourite ideas are the edible kind – the small culinary projects that don’t require a big time commitment, that you can dream up (even if you weren’t the first to do so) and start pulling out bowls and spoons and be done while you still have an appetite for it, before your mind wanders on to something else. Early every summer, when BC blueberries finally come into their own, I buy vast quantities of them to eat and freeze and bake with – they’re just about the best things in the world to nibble on, my mom taught me to throw handfuls into salads (even potato salads – for real), and of course they’re naturals in pies (with other berries and stone fruits) and crumbles and smoothies and muffinsContinue reading

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On Monday, five friends gathered in one kitchen with three bottles of prosecco to tackle the monstrous rhubarb currently taking over one friend’s garden. It’s beautiful – thick and solid red, and I pilfer it as often as possible; when we pluck stalks from the crown (which is the size of a VW Beetle) it never seems to get any smaller. But this time she went in determined, and there was enough rhubarb to fill three of her biggest stock pots, and then some. We each brought strawberries, and pounds of butter. We nibbled on cheese as we chopped and trimmed, and got flour everywhere doubling up my grandma’s standard formula for pastry for a double crust pie (you don’t want to multiply this kind of thing too many times – plus pastry for ten pies in one bowl becomes rather unwieldy) and mixed, chilled, rolled, filled, almost managing a sort of assembly line by the end, with finished pies getting deposited on every spareContinue reading

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BC cherries are in! Which means a) summer is here, and b) we must celebrate this fact by eating as many cherries as possible. I know food in jars is so three years ago – unless you’re my sister, who came up with the brilliant idea one September that she could tackle two surpluses at once, and send the kids to school with lunch in a jar, tucked into a spare sock. (Don’t worry, she didn’t actually.) I find a myriad of uses for those small half cup jars – I shake up dressings and dips in them, and melt butter to chill and clarify, and make crème brûlée (OK, I’ve only done this once) and little cheesecakes in jars, which can be sealed and tossed into your picnic basket or work bag. Cherries braised with sugar and their own juiciness is classic, but inspiration will present itself all summer – stewed rhubarb, strawberries, blueberries, peaches, saskatoons. It’s all good. And there’s no need toContinue reading

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I don’t know if you know, but ice cream is my jam. My desert island food. I used the heat of the last couple days as an excuse to make a batch – strawberry-rhubarb, since the best part about the pie is the ice cream pairing. You can skip the pastry and the baking and get the job done all in one go. Also – there’s something about pure pink ice cream that digs deep into the best part of your childhood. It reminds me of digging the thick stripes of strawberry and chocolate out of the tub of neapolitan. I sometimes roast strawberries and rhubarb for ice cream, but that would require turning on the oven, and it hit 31 degrees at dinnertime last night. You can use fresh, uncooked strawberries, lightly mashed, but I find those combined with heat and sugar become the best form of themselves, and are easier to distribute throughout the cream. Bonus: it’s easy to simmer some rhubarb alongside.

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Warning: it’s going to be all rhubarb, all the time around here for awhile while we eat our way through the first couple armloads. This week I’ve eaten them stewed, in Eton Mess, in scones and a crisp – I’m a firm believer in rhubarb for breakfast, and its ability to get along well with all fruits, from mangoes to blackberries, makes it the ideal candidate for an easy crisp, into which you can toss whatever fruit you happen to have or need to use up because it’s starting to go wrinkly. Also it uses up armloads of rhubarb.

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