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strawberry rhubarb pies 4

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 spare surface, but mostly the dining room table. It was dark by the time we finished. (Can you tell by my moody, brooding and buttery iPhone pics?)

strawberry rhubarb pie 1

In 3 hours, we made 25 pies – and each of us went home and played our own version of freezer Tetris to get them in.
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cheesecakes in jars 8

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.)

cheesecakes in jars 1

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 to turn on the oven!
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kimchi pancakes 1

Yes! Because it’s officially summertime (yes, I know it’s still 8 degrees some places – sorry about that) and there will need to be picnics, and why not pack up some kimchi pancakes and a wee jar of dipping sauce to nibble in the grass? The thing about picnicking, besides being awesome, is that really most food is portable, and you don’t need to stick to baguettes and cheese and cold pheasant, not that there’s anything wrong with that. I had a big jar of kimchi in my fridge that wasn’t going to eat itself, and since there are not a ton of opportunities to use kimchi from day to day (I know there are, it’s just not one of my default condiments), I decided to use a bunch of it in a batch of pancakes. Which, by the way, are different and delicious, even if you don’t love kimchi.
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strawberry rhubarb ice cream 5

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.

Strawberry-rhubarb-ice-cream 11

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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Shrimp scampi

If you asked him, W would tell you his favourite foods are shrimp and pasta – and it occurred to me recently that for some reason, I’ve never thought to combine the two. Which is ridiculous for reasons beyond the fact that together, they are better than the sum of their parts – when it comes to pasta sauces, shrimp and garlic sautéed in butter is about as fast as you can get. Quicker, I think, than heating up a jar of sauce. Also – I generally have butter, garlic and Parm, and shrimp are easy to keep in the freezer, dry pasta on the shelf.
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manicotti 5

There are nights that call for big pans of cheesy baked pasta, plunked on the table with a stack of plates and a big salad for everyone to dig into. Pasta is classic Sunday supper fare, but also works on rainy Wednesdays, when the week is dragging on and you need a meal that will wrap you up like a warm blanket. This Wednesday I knew pasta was in order, and so rummaged through my various drawers and cupboards of boxes and bags in order to use up some of the shapes that have been lying in wait for far too long. I came up with a box of manicotti – something I’m quite sure I haven’t made in a decade. There was ricotta in the fridge, and bacon, and that decided it.

manicotti filling 1

Bacon + onions + kale (just a bit) + ricotta. And good tomatoes. When you’re stuffing things, anything goes.

manicotti filling 2
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Nettie's perogies

It’s okay, I think, to adopt other families’ culinary traditions when it suits you. Having not grown up with a Ukrainian baba, and having married into a Ukrainian family that ironically doesn’t cook (!!!), I’m perfectly happy to learn the art of perogy making with a friend who learned from her own baba Nettie, who was the type to turn out thousands of them with her crew for a church supper or fundraiser in Saskatchewan (someone needs to bring back the perogy supper, I think) or just to fill the freezer to feed her family from week to week. I love the idea of gathering a few of my favourite people in the kitchen to mass-produce handmade perogies while catching up on what’s going on with who, and having a bunch of almost-made dinners – and from scratch, by hand, yet – to show for it.

You can use just about anything to fill a perogy – most often it’s mashed potatoes with cheese and/or crumbled bacon and/or caramelized onions and/or sauerkraut, in no particular ratio or order – but I’ve stuffed mine with leftover roast chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy (just yes) and sweetened saskatoons and the last of the pulled beef short ribs. They don’t all have to be the same (perogy roulette is fun!) and because each one is self-contained, there’s no reason to care about following a particular formula. With perogies, it’s all about the dough.

Peroghy ingredients
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Rhubarb Custard Pie

A rainy weekend + a freezer too full to accommodate any more rhubarb can only mean one thing: pie. I picked up a copy of The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book (from the Brooklyn pie shop of the same name) at the Calgary Reads book sale – I showed some restraint, I think, and only came home with ten books – from this one, I want to make every single pie. It was only a matter of time anyway, with all this rhubarb, so I thought I’d get the first pie out of the way before the strawberries showed up. (Or the raspberries – I love a raspberry-rhubarb pie.)
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Parker house rolls

I’ve had it in mind to make a batch of Parker House rolls for some time, and a rainy long weekend (with temperatures dipping to 2 degrees) plus two boys out at a superhero movie provided exactly the right opportunity to turn on the oven, poke around the house while dough rose on the countertop, then bake and eat half a pan of sweet, buttery-warm rolls with butter and jam in the company of only myself – and Netflix.

parker house dough

It was so rainy on Sunday morning, it felt like dusk. On mornings when I don’t have to be anywhere, I love being able to turn out some dough that I know won’t be ready to eat for awhile – not until we’re good and hungry – just in time for second (or third) coffee.
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