blue rodeo pumpkin pie 2
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I’ve never been particularly fond of pumpkin pie – and certainly not as overjoyed by it as most people seem to be – and so I’ve always had my usual I don’t bother to stray from. People like it, and so I make at least one a year to appease the pumpkin pie lovers, not really thinking to change it up a bit – inspired more by the apple pie I make for myself. But I think I might have a new usual – a deep-dish extravaganza courtesy of Blue Rodeo, towering higher than a cheesecake on a crust of – get this – maple sandwich cookies. This is a Very Good Idea.

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Plums are in. Not in fashion, but in the market. Although my tongue for food is far more developed than my eye for fashion, and I’d love a pair of pants or some wallpaper in dusty prune plum. Right? These came to be the morning after a particularly late night, when a small group of fun people gathered for a cooking class and sleepover at a beautiful retreat out in the foothills, and I was in charge of feeding everyone breakfast. We fired up the pizza oven, which was still warm from the night before, and baked a frittata, and roasted plums with butter, sugar and rosemary from the pot outside the window, and sliced a few more to turn into tarts just by baking them on squares of puff pastry, with a bit of sugar and sliced almonds as a buffer in between.

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Apparently not having a kitchen is not keeping me from making stuff. We were clearing out the fridge to move it, and I became obsessed with the use of three quarters of an English cucumber. We couldn’t just eat it – I had to transform it. I almost made fattoush, which would have utilized a couple pitas in the freezer (extra points! It’s like the culinary version of Scrabble) but the gin won. And besides, I needed to get that ice cream machine insert out of the freezer too – those things take up some serious real estate. W was not pleased when he heard the machine going and learned I was making cucumber ice cream. It’s the easiest sorbet ever – chop a cuke into your food processor, add mint, gin, and a simple syrup made my warming sugar and water – which you can totally do in the microwave. It deserves a good gin, like Hendrick’s – something smooth and herbal. Puree +Continue reading

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We’re still out in Tofino, where I’ve settled into a routine of walking into town for coffee, then quickly emptying my cup in order to fill it with the first ripe blackberries of the season. Usually we miss the boat, blackberry-wise, but they seem to be starting earlier this year, a handful on each bush ripening far before their siblings. I love this design feature – the berries ripen in a staggered schedule, even on the same branch, doling out a few juicy berries a day to keep you going through August. When the first truly black berries arrived, I quickly picked enough to make jam; these days I manage a cup or two full, depending on my perseverance – enough for a batch of scones or a galette. My dad always requests a crumble, which is easily obliged; every summer I toss berries and stone fruits and rhubarb in pie plates or baking dishes with sugar and a spoonful of flour, then rub togetherContinue reading

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Just when I thought straight-up cherries by the handful couldn’t be improved upon. Applying heat to just about anything – but particularly juicy fruit – makes it better. You can roast cherries, of course. They get along well with balsamic vinegar, and a sprig or two of fresh rosemary, and a good grinding of black pepper. And the heat of the oven until the slump over and into each other, and give up their juices, which then caramelize on the parchment papered-pan.

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I have a bit of a rhubarb problem. The problem is, when I see an enormous crown of it in someone’s back yard, or if I’m offered up an armful of it, I can’t resist – even though we’re trying to clear out the kitchen and whittle the contents of the fridge down into the little bar-sized one in the garage and the already-full chest freezer in the basement. And yet I keep cramming our newly excavated spaces with freezer bags full of chopped rhubarb. Because it’s there. And it’s free. And it just keeps on growing. I could easily live on pie for these 8 weeks of summer, but daily pastry is not the best choice from a time and waistline perspective. And so often I resort to crumble – which is almost like pie, with all its best elements in easy-to-bake, scoopable form. And if you haven’t had cold crumble with a big spoonful of thick Greek yogurt on the back porch withContinue reading

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Fiddlestix 1

I thought I was prepared for summer, the end of school and the start of Stampede this year. I was not. I’m not even used to it being June yet, and it’s well into July. (I see a recurring theme here…) But. Priorities: I have figured out how to make those iconic midway treats I always picked as a kid, when my sisters would opt for cotton candy (mostly air) and candy apples (just a whole fruit, disguised with sticky red stuff – suckers!). The teenage summer staff would make Fiddlestix onsite in their box-sized concessions, opening up a box of vanilla ice cream, slicing it into bars, then dipping each piece into chocolate and rolling it in peanuts before handing it through the window in exchange for $2. I’m sure there’s a more mechanized, streamlined version out there now – but I still hold on to a scrap of nostalgia for ice cream that was sliced instead of scooped. I came across a recipeContinue reading

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bacon butter tarts 1
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It’s Canada Day Eve! Which means, traditionally, I’m baking butter tarts. This year I decided to make bacon butter tarts. Maple bacon butter tarts, even. I know, it’s been said that bacon has jumped the shark. But this makes sense – salty bacon with sweet maple syrup and brown sugar – this is a perfect fit, and oh so Canadian. I’ll be bringing a large batch to our friend’s annual Canada Day party tomorrow. If the reaction at the CBC studio this morning was any indication, they’ll go fast. A few ways to up the bacon ante: replace some of the fat in the pastry with chilled bacon drippings, or drizzle some into the filling in place of some of the melted butter. Although I usually default to my grandma’s butter tart recipe, I decided to use the one from the Five Roses Cookbook, which I recently learned was on the shelf in 650,000 Canadian households back in 1915. Of course, this tart is asContinue reading

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This would be pretty for Canada Day, don’t you think? (I knew better than to attempt to arrange a maple leaf out of raspberries.) It looks pretty enough that people asked me where I bought it, but in reality if you can stand a raspberry upright, you can cover a cheesecake with them. The truth is, here they’re covering a gaping chasm of a crack in the top – something so common in cheesecakes it’s traditional to cover the plain ones with a sour cream topping to conceal any flaws. Cheesecake was my dessert of choice back in the 90s – it was Mike’s birthday cake of choice for decades – and yet I never think to make them these days. They’re pretty low-maintenance, as far as desserts go – once baked, it needs to sit in the fridge to firm up, so it may as well just hang out in there until you’re ready for it. A plain cheesecake like this – a classicContinue reading

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