Strawberry-rhubarb crisp 1

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.

rhubarb
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blender chocolate mousse

When we were kids, dessert wasn’t part of our weeknight routine – my parents tried to pass off fruit as dessert, the same MacIntosh apples we’d get in our lunches if you can believe it – but on nights when my dad went squirrely hunting through kitchen cupboards for something chocolate, she’d whisk up a pot of pudding on the stovetop.

Cocoa-sugar-cornstarch-milk makes a simple pudding of the sort you can get in a box (only better), but I’ve come across a few formulas that call for pouring warmed milk over chopped chocolate in a blender, then whizzing it up to melt the chocolate and incorporate just enough air to give it a sort of mousselike consistency. As a kid, I obsessed over chocolate mousse – it was chocolate in its purest form, I thought, with its airy-smooth mouthfeel, knowing it was an emulsification of two of my favourite things – chocolate and cream. I can’t recall the last time I made chocolate mousse – it seems like such an eighties thing now – but tonight when I needed to share some dessert therapy and wanted to minimize oven time, I gave it a go. It worked beautifully – even plain, without chocolate curls or whipped cream garnish – because who has cream and the gumption to whip it unless there’s pie involved?
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roasted salmon

People often ask if W is a picky eater. He must be so adventurous! they say, but he’s not, really. Although he went straight from boob to barbecue ribs and one of his first meals was Pad Thai, he regressed and went from loving black bean soup to hating it, and thinking all vegetables were pure evil – such a clich√©, I know. He somehow knew at two to be ecstatic at the sight of a pizza box, and wanted anything that came in a colourful package. We had one dinnertime standoff that involved grape tomatoes and both M and W sitting at the table for (what seemed like) hours before it ended with tears and a whole lot of dramatic gagging. (To this day raw tomatoes are the one thing he gets a free pass on.)

The thing about kids is that they’re a lot like grownups. They may have more sensitive palates and a more limited idea of what they like and what they don’t, but they’re all selective in their own ways. W balks at mashed potatoes (the most benign food ever) but adores pesto. He loves saucy pasta but likes his salmon plain. He’d eat shrimp for dinner every night if I let him. He loves sweets, but always says no to pie.

(I know! – if the photo evidence wasn’t so strong I’d wonder if he was switched at the hospital.)
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rhubarb scones

When it’s summer, or spring enough that the rhubarb has begun to poke through, there should be rhubarb scones on weekend mornings, but perhaps more importantly, on Monday mornings. When the sun is out at six and the birds start their noisy rave an hour earlier, my favourite thing to do (second to sleep, of course) is go downstairs, open the kitchen windows (the storms are off!) put on the coffee and turn on the oven, and bake some scones. It’s the perfect blank canvas, really – a carbohydrate pedestal on which to present whatever happens to be in season. Tart things are the best, I think – they provide a good contrast to the sweet dough. It’s especially nice when those tart things are free.

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Ceviche Tacos 1

The problem/great thing about fresh corn tortillas is when you buy a pound of them, they last all week (or so). They freeze well, but once thawed I inevitably wind up using them as many ways as possible before wrapping and returning the whittled-down stack to the freezer.

Ceviche probably sounds like something you’d order in a restaurant, or on a beach in Mexico, but not something you’re likely to whip up at home. However. If I told you it required only chopping of seafood and marinating it in citrus, might you change your mind? There’s no need to turn on the oven or grill – the acidity of the lemon and lime juice alters the proteins in the seafood, cooking it without heat. You can actually see it change from not opaque to opaque – it’s very cool.

Ceviche Tacos 2
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asparagus pizza

Spring has been crazy early this year, and now so is asparagus – by like a month. They started picking mid-April at Edgar Farms by Innisfail, and the norm is around the middle of May. It’s a short window – they typically pick (by hand, from their own homemade motorized picking carts) from mid-May until the end of June, so at this time of year I eat as much asparagus as I can handle. Our sunny days and cool nights make for particularly sweet asparagus with purply tips – I know I’ve said it before, but just a reminder: thinner isn’t necessarily better. Thick stalks are every bit as sweet – you just don’t want the bendy and woody ones.

And YES – they are fab on a pizza. You don’t even have to bother shaving them into thin ribbons, although that does look pretty. Toss them on whole!

asparagus pizza 2

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flour tortillas 1

You may have heard about how easy it is to make your own flour tortillas, and rolled your eyes, thinking of how cheap they are (and they are), but considering that most bready things are infinitely better when they’re freshly baked, and if you find yourself with a myriad of taco stuffing possibilities but nothing to wrap them with, it’s worth the fifteen minutes of effort to set a stack of warm tortillas on the table. There’s nothing wrong with nibbling on one straight-up, for that matter – if you have little kids around, they aren’t crumby, and can be easily carried around and gnawed on. And if you spread one thinly with butter (while it’s still warm, if possible) and sprinkle it with cinnamon-sugar – well. Roll it up, even, for a slightly breadier version of a crepe. Or spread it with peanut butter and wrap it around a banana, housecoat-style. So much potential in a soft round of bread.

making flour tortillas
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black bean tacos 3

It’s hard not to get drawn into the Mexican food love-in happening all over the internet this week – the power of suggestion is strong with me and all things edible, and so my mind started to wander down south and I pulled a stack of corn tortillas out of the freezer and went to the store to squeeze some avocados.

What I love about black bean tacos: I almost always have a can of black beans, which cost about a dollar, and which need minimal dressing up (chili powder, cumin, red onion, cilantro, lime, no particular measure) before being mashed, as-is, with a potato masher or fork. Feta or queso fresco or whatever kind of cheese you have or love acts as a deliciously melty, salty glue to hold the crunchy pockets together, which cook in less time than a grilled cheese sandwich. They’re far more stable than the yellow boxed kit version, reminiscent of both pizza pockets and hand pies, and if you were so inclined, you could load one up with an impressive amount of salsa/avocado/sour cream/all of the above.

black bean tacos 2
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Grilled Satay 1

Food on a stick, right? Feels like summer. The thing I love most about satay is that it makes me feel on the ball – it provides an excuse to buy meat in a bigger (read: cheaper) package, then divvy it up, slicing half to freeze in a quick marinade that will protect it from freezer burn. It goes ahead and marinates in the freezer until you’re ready for it, and thaws quickly on account of already being in pieces. And then cooks in just a few minutes, too. Also? You can dip them in peanut sauce. I would happily dip a pencil in peanut sauce.

Grilled Satay 2

I’m usually a thigh girl; skinless, boneless chicken breasts don’t do much for me, but they do work well here if you’re a fan. Chicken thighs have more flavour, but are trickier to work with – cut them into chunks or strips and thread them on any which way. There’s no need to keep them neat, and in fact mashed-together pieces will cook evenly and stay moist. If you want smooth, S-shaped satay, go for the white meat.
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