Eggplant ragĂą with creamy polenta, chasing rainbows, beautiful sunsets and Bittersweet moments

SCN_0001The end of summer is usually a time in the season that I love. Fresh fruits and veggies abound, evenings get cooler. Cozy evenings call for warm and comforting dishes and a better nights sleep for being more comfortable! This year, because of our weird summer, it feels like I’ve been cheated out of this. I’m enjoying the cool evenings and the market, but I’m not quite prepared to let go of the summer. Where were the heat waves, most of all, who stole our sun??? Cross my fingers that autumn isn’t dismal and grey… On a more positive note, after a big rainfall last week, a beautiful rainbow appeared. I always wonder if there is a pot of gold at the end of it…! 🙂 We’ve also had some beautiful sunsets recently, take a look!

I’m slowly edging towards filling and comforting foods. Eggplant can be so boring, and totally spectacular. It all depends on how you cook it, olive oil and garlic LOVE eggplant. A very simple and delicious side is to sautĂ© some garlic in olive oil then add cubed eggplant. Allow the eggplant to caramelize , stir, continue until golden brown. Delicious! This ragĂą is a version of that, with eggplant and tomatoes to finish it off. It’s beautiful with polenta but would also do nicely with some fresh Pappardelle topped with flaked Parmesan and a light drizzle of olive oil. Happy cooking! 🙂

RECIPE

1 medium size Fond May eggplant (or small eggplant), cubed

1 custard marrow, quartered and sliced

1 shallot, thinly sliced

3 Roma tomatoes, cubed

2 large cloves garlic, crushed and sliced

1 sprig fresh oregano, thyme and basil, shredded, keeping top of basil for garnish

1/2 cup polenta

2 cups broth

Parmesan

Salt & pepper to taste

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INSTRUCTIONS

Bring broth to a boil, add polenta, whisking constantly. Continue to stir regularly, meanwhile heat a skillet on medium heat. Add oil to coat, add garlic and shallot, stir occasionally until golden. Add marrow, eggplant and herbs, stir to blend. Allow to caramelize, stirring only to distribute colour evenly, When well browned add tomatoes and stir to coat. Allow to reduce lightly, remove from heat. Verify polenta is cooked, then plate, coating polenta with ragĂą. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and garnish with basil. Makes 2 portions. Both polenta and ragĂą can be frozen separately. Enjoy!

 

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Peaches & Cream Gelato with toasted almonds

FullSizeRender 3August is the beginning of the bountiful harvest at the market. The stalls are packed with fresh fruits and veggies, in every colour of the rainbow. I’m like a kid in a candy store, wanting to buy everything in sight. Those are the moments I wish I had a large brood of children to feed, giving me an excuse to cook up a storm! Every summer I give myself a challenge. A few years ago, I realised I only ate raspberry jam, not really enjoying any other fruit jams, so I made myself cook up fruits as they came in season. Strawberry vanilla, sugar and spice plum, cinnamon peaches, concord grape jelly, crabapple jelly, apple butter… The pantry was stocked and I very proudly offered my jewels to friends and family. I have to say, I really did like other fruit jams, I just didn’t like the commercial variety! This year’s challenge is fruit ice cream. I am not a huge fan… But then a few weeks ago, I made that awesome strawberry gelato and this week, peaches with toasted almonds. YUM! Super simple, wash, cut, place in blender, then into ice cream machine and presto, superb summer treat! I didn’t even bother removing the skins, so bonus, extra vitamins and beautiful specs of colour. Wait till you see what I’ve though up for this weekend. Hint? It’s yellow and it’s sweet….. Ha! 🙂 So enjoy these precious moments while we’ve got them, gorge yourself with all those beautiful fruits and veggies, it’s the one time of year simplicity is where perfection lies…. Happy end of summer!

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Recipe

4 cups ripe peaches, rinsed and cubed

2/3 cups simple syrup (1/3 cup sugar + 1/3 cup water, bring to a simmer for 5 minutes then cool)

2/3 cups cream

1/2 cup toasted almonds

1 teaspoon grated nutmeg

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Instructions

Place peaches and syrup in blender. Add cream and nutmeg and stir to blend. Place in the fridge until thoroughly cold. Place in the ice cream maker as per manufacturer’s instructions. When ice cream is almost completely frozen, add toasted almonds. Store in an airtight container in the freezer. Ice cream keeps for roughly one month, if you can resist the urge to eat it all up before! Enjoy 🙂

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I scream, you scream, we all scream for Strawberry-Vanilla Gelato!

SCN_0001We are close to the end of strawberry season, and I’m eating them every chance I get! A true Montreal summer has hit us, heat and humidity and best of all sunshine 🙂 And who doesn’t associate ice cream as of th best hot summer enjoyments? Maybe because we all  associate this cold desert with our childhood memories of excitement and anticipation. My favourite ice cream flavours generally tend toward chocolate and nut flavours, but as everything food related, I like to challenge myself and make things I wouldn’t necessarily order at a restaurant or cafĂ©. At first I wasn’t thinking of making ice cream, as I bought this big basket of strawberries , I was going over the dessert options using strawberries in my mind, eliminating all those that would be too heavy. I also am not very enthusiastic about turning the oven on in the summer heat. And being in surgery recovery, I don’t want to deal with weight issues because I’m eating all these rich foods and not really moving about much. Then, looking over different recipe books, i started to compare classic ice cream recipes versus gelato. The gelato is kind of a cross between a sorbet and ice cream, that kind of sold it! If you have an ice cream maker, it makes it very simple, it’s a matter of making a light syrup, blending ingredients, cooling them and then putting them in the machine. I must say, I am very pleased with the results. Now I’m imagining all the different gelato flavours I can make with the fruit coming into season soon… Stay tuned!!!!IMG_0885IMG_0887IMG_0888

INGREDIENTS

4 cups strawberries, rinsed and hulled

3/4 cup sugar

2/3 cup water

3/4 cup cream

1 vanilla bean, scraped

Juice of 1 lemon

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INSTRUCTIONS

Place sugar and water in small saucepan over medium high heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. When syrup comes to a boil, remove from heat, add vanilla pod and let cool to room temperature. Place strawberries with lemon juice and vanilla seeds in bowl of a food processor, pulse to blend then add syrup (careful to remove vanilla pod) and pulse until blended with small pieces of fruit remaining. Chill in the fridge for 2 hours. Place in ice cream maker as per manufacturers instructions. Makes 1 quart. Enjoy without reserve!

 

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Lemon & Pea Risotto and impatient to be back on my own two feet!

IMG_0875Half way through my six week post-surgery recovery. For someone like me, hyperactive (!), it can be difficult remembering to take it slow, especially when you feel fine. When fever strikes, your body just takes over and stops you in your tracks! I’m missing the market so much, I try to console myself by remembering that when my recovery is over, it will be the best time for all the beautiful fruits and veggies. Cucumbers, tomatoes, peaches, plums, apricots and did I mention, Peaches? Can’t wait 🙂 In the meantime, my mom has graciously offered to go for me, although I’m happy for fresh fare, it’s not the same as seeing it all. To me, the market is like a candy store for a kid! It’s also a struggle creatively, the market is inspirational, it’s totally different making a list for someone else to go with the hopes of finding what you want, sometimes you see something you hadn’t thought of or something you wanted just doesn’t look quite ready yet… Plus the weather has been quite strange, mostly grey, some sun, lots of rain. I am happy that evenings are cool though, as it’s easier to sleep in the cool than in the heat 🙂

Risotto is not something I make frequently, I like mine with just one or two star ingredients, like the fresh peas for this one. Some lemon zest adds a lot of brightness and keeps the dish light. You could certainly make this with frozen peas, the peas won’t be quite as firm under tooth. The most important thing to remember is that you just can not make risotto with another type of rice such as Arborio. It absorbs a lot of liquid and has a decent amount of starch to create that creaminess that risotto is famous for. I use my spanish Bomba rice with success, it has the same basic qualities, but in an ideal world, Arborio should be used. Here’s to enjoying summer, whatever shape it may take!

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1/3 cup Arborio rice

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup peas

1 medium shallot, diced

1 tablespoon tarragon, minced

1 cup stock of your preference

1 tablespoon lemon zest

Salt & pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat pan over medium-high heat, add butter and when sizzling, add shallots. Stir until glassy and add peas, mix well then add rice and stir to coat rice. Slowly add stock ( 50 ml at a time) and stir often, add tarragon and reduce heat to medium-low. When rice absorbs most of the liquid, add more stock. Continue this way, stirring and adding  small amounts of liquid until creamy and rice is cooked, maybe 20-30 minutes. Add lemon zest and parmesan, rectify seasoning if needed. Serve in bowl or dish. Serves 2. Enjoy!

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Sunday Paella

 

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As a child, I grew up with my grandparents preparing paella at the cottage every Sunday in the summer. The dish is a fond memory of both the season but also my grandparents and the cottage. Later on, as I spent some time in Valencia, it was also a confirmation of a celebratory dish, as for the Sunday during the village feria, a large group of friends shared this beautiful dish served on tables set in the streets specially for the occasion. There is usually a fair amount of wine involved as well, in the form of sangria, it is summer after all (!) and maybe that’s what helps create such a festive aura 🙂

At our house, there was also a regulatory argument between my grandmother and grandfather, surrounding the making of the fire, the cornerstone of any true paella. You can make it on the stove, but you’d be missing the whole point! So as I was saying, the fire, which has to be just right, the coals need to keep for a good 30 minutes, but not too hot, or you’ll burn the paella. Next important part of the dish is the ingredients. The dish came to be in Valencia, in the Albufera region, where rice is grown and was made by peasants, so all the ingredients are what they had on hand.  Rabbit, seafood from the ocean nearby and local produce.  There is no one recipe as you will make with whatever you have on hand.  The dish is actually named from the actual pan you cook everything in. It could be a vegetarian paella, seafood, with meat, there really are no limits to your imagination! As we have fresh peas right now, those went in. The one constant is the Bomba rice, tomatoes, garlic, paprika. While cooking, the aroma is spectacular and the finished result is spectacular. Bonus? No dishes, everyone eats directly from the paella! Just have a few small dishes to collect meat bones or seafood shells. Now if that doesn’t spell fun, I don’t know what does! 🙂

Recipe

1 large tomato, diced

1 small onion, diced

2 pieces chicken

10 large shrimp

1/3 cup Bomba rice

3 cloves garlic, crushed & minced

1 red pepper, sliced

1 cup peas

1/2 cup garlic shoots, sliced

2 cups stock (seafood, chicken, I used a combination of both)

I tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Pinch saffron

Salt to taste

Instructions

On a well lit charcoal fire, heat paella with a tablespoon of olive oil. Place chicken and cook until golden. Remove and put aside, add garlic and paprika to pan and toss, add onions, toss, add tomatoes and blend well. Add peppers and toss, then peas and garlic shoots, toss. Add rice and stir to combine and allow flavors to meld. Place chicken then add stock. Place shrimp in a circle around dish. Allow to cook for 30-40 minutes. When you think dish is ready, continue cooking for 5-10 minutes as this is when the rice will caramelize at the bottom. Remove from fire and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Serve with lemons to squeeze over rice. Serves 2. Enjoy!

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