Fresh Pea Salad with Bacon and Cheddar

Fresh Pea Salad

I really enjoy the fresh sweet summer peas. I like to eat them raw and I normally just throw them into salads for a bit of sweetness and there is also the fresh pea pesto that I make fairly often. During the winter I came across the idea of a pea salad, sometimes called an English pea salad, which was basically peas and other bits in a mayonnaise based dressing. I liked the sound of the sweet pea and mayo combination and despite the fact that most recipes called for frozen or even canned peas I immediatly thought of making it during the summer with fresh peas. I admit that I have been procrastinating a bit now that summer is here as shucking 3 pints of peas sounded like a lot of work but I finally got around to it and it was worth the effort. The creamy mayo went really well with the sweet peas and red onions added a bit of bite along with the heat from the cayenne. Of course you cannot go wrong with adding bacon and cheese and the fresh mint was a really nice touch. One of the keys to this salad is letting it sit in the fridge for a while to let the flavours mingle. I enjoyed the pea salad the best when it was still cool from the fridge which is really nice on warm summer days.

Zucchini and Farro Gratin

Zucchini and Farro Gratin


One of my favorite summer vegetables is the zucchini also known as courgettes or summer squash. They are one of my favorites both because I like them and because they are always nice and cheap while in season. This weekend I finally noticed the locally grown zucchini at the farmers market and I picked up a bunch of them already knowing what I wanted to make first. I had come across a recipe for a summer squash and farro gratin on Cooking with Michelle that combined the zucchini with a whole grain. I have really been enjoying whole grains lately and I liked the sound of combining the zucchini with the farro, and the melted cheesy goodness was just the icing on the cake.

Sometimes I find myself worrying about the size of ingredients and this time I was thinking that it would be nice if the zucchini was cut to a size that was similar to that of the farro. Since farro is pretty small I decided to just grate the zucchini which also ended up being a lot easier than dicing it. Since the zucchini was grated into such small pieces I figured that I could just add it to the gratin without sauteing it first. I went with equal parts green and yellow courgettes to add some extra colour in the dish. Having to cook the farro, make the bechamel sauce , saute the onions and finally bake the gratin took a bit of time but it was pretty easy and the results were well worth the effort. The zucchini and farro gratin turned out really well! It was nice and creamy and ooey gooey and cheesy and good. The grated zucchini worked really well in the gratin and the farro added nice chewiness while the panko topping brought a nice crunch to finish it off. Despite the fact that is served this as a side dish I went back for seconds! I had a jar of salsa that needed finishing and I tried serving it on the leftover zucchini and farro gratin and it worked surprisingly well adding a nice touch of heat. What a great start to zucchini season!

Thai Cucumber and Pineapple Salad

Thai Cucumber and Pineapple Salad


While I was at the grocery store I noticed that they still had cheap pineapples and I remembered coming across the idea of a Thai pineapple and cucumber salad while I was researching the Thai pineapple fried rice that I made recently. Using pineapple in a salad had sounded like a good idea and I remembered wanting to try it out. I started with the base of the salad being the pineapple and the cucumber and from there I added a bunch of fresh herbs including some green onions, cilantro and mint. For the dressing I went with some pretty classic Thai flavours including fish sauce, lime juice, a birds eye chili and some palm sugar to round things out. I also had a large red chili that needed to be used so I threw that in as well though the birds eye chili certainly provided enough heat. The cucumber and pineapple salad turned out really nice! With both the cucumber and the pineapple being nice and cool and juicy this salad is perfect for warm summer days. The dressing was a really nice balance of salty, tart, and spicy hot and the sweetness of the pineapple balanced it out really nicely. The chopped up birds eye chili was one of my favorite parts of this salad as every once in a while you would get hit by and intense burst of heat but then the next bite would be full of juicy, quenching pineapple and cucumber.

Artichoke and Fava Bean Tagine

Artichoke and Fava Bean Tagine


I have slowly been getting into Moroccan cuisine and I have really been enjoying it. In particular I have really been liking the spice blends and flavour combinations in Moroccan tagines. A tagine is a dish that is made in a tagine clay cooking pot that is particularly good at braising. Despite the fact that I do not have an authentic tagine I have been enjoying all of the flavours that slowly braising the ingredients brings out. A while ago I came across a recipe for an artichoke and fava bean tagine on Elra's Cooking that sounded good. I have really been into artichokes lately and I had been wanting to do more with fava beans so it did not take much to get me to add this to my meal plan. The only problem was that the locally grown fava beans had yet to make an appearance so I patiently waited for them. This weekend I found the fava beans and immediatly picked some up.

I had really liked the chicken tagine with olives and preserved lemons that I had made a while ago so I decided to start with that recipe and treat it more like a vegetarian tagine with the artichoke hearts and the fava beans forming the base. Next up was the flavours of the olives, raisins and preserved lemons followed by a nice Moroccan spice blend and some harissa and honey for a bit of heat and some sweetness. I served the artichoke and fava bean tagine on some whole wheat couscous and I garnished it with some chopped parsley, mint and almonds. The artichoke and fava bean tagine turned out really well! What an amazing blend of flavours and textures! The tagine was just packed with flavour and the artichoke hearts and fava beans worked really well in it. I am glad to have found another recipe to enjoy fava beans and this recipe will definitely be on my list of things to make with fava beans in the years to come. I am now looking forward to exploring even Moroccan cuisine.

Cherry Crisp

Cherry Crisp


Cherry season is in full swing and I have certainly been enjoying them. With them being so cheap I have been getting a lot of them; perhaps too many and I needed to do something to go through them faster. The first thing that came to mind was a cherry crisp. I always enjoy crisps because they are so easy to throw together and they are always really good. While I was thinking about the cherry crisp I remembered that an almond flavour went really well with the cherries in the cherry clafoutis and I thought that it would also probably go really well in a cherry crisp. I decided to add the almond flavour to the crisp by adding a splash of amaretto to the cherry filling and by adding almond slices to the topping. Normally I would make a crisp in an 8 inch square baking pan but this time I thought that I would change things up a bit and I made it in individually sized ramekins. The cherry crisp was really easy to make (though, pitting all of those cherries took a bit of time) and it turned out great! The almond flavour worked really well in the cherry crisp and I rather liked the individually sized ramekin servings. Of course the scoop of vanilla ice cream finished off the cherry crisp perfectly. Overall it was a great way to enjoy the abundance of cherries!

Yakitori

Yakitori


The other week when I made the chicken souvlaki it reminded me of the Japanese version of skewered chicken, yakitori. It seems that many cultures and cuisines have a version of skewered grilled meat and one of my favorites is definitely yakitori. Yakitori is a Japanese skewered grilled chicken dish where the chicken is coated in a tare sauce that is pretty much a teriyaki sauce consisting of mirin, sake, soy sauce and sugar. You will find yakitori on many Japanese restaurants menus but it is also easy enough to make at home. It is pretty much as simple as marinating the chicken in the sauce, skewering it and then grilling it up. If you like teriyaki then you will definitaly like yakitori. When you grill the chicken up some of the teriyaki sauce caramelizes on it adding even more flavour. Although an actual barbecue type of grill is the best you could certainly use a grilling pan or even your ovens broiler. If you want to change things up a bit you can easily add other things to the skewer like slices of green onions.

How To Make A Header Image

Bowl of Cherries


A couple of months ago I guest posted an article about How To Make Printable Recipes Pages on Food Bloggers Unite and I liked the idea of food blogging how to posts. I wanted to start posting the how to food blogging posts right away but things got busy and it fell to the way side. For those of you that visit Closet Cooking regularly you may have noticed that I change my header image every couple of weeks and I was just about to change it again when I thought that it would be a nice way to start my how to food blogging posts. So today I will not be posting a recipe but rather a how to tutorial on creating a food blog header.

The first step in creating a foodie header for your blog is taking a picture of some food. The thing to keep in mind when taking your photo is that you are going to want to have text on top of the image and you want to be able to see the text. This means that you want an area of the photo that is not busy, a nice and simple area where the text will be visible. I like to try to take my header image photos on a white background so that the text can go over the white area and be clearly visible.

Once you have taken the photo, upload it to your computer and do any post processing that you want such as correcting the white balance or the exposure, etc.

Since I have been enjoying the fresh local cherries lately I decided to do a cherry header and the image above is what I started with after post processing.

Next you want to figure out how big your header image is if you already have one or decide how big you want it to be. My header image is 988 pixels wide by 92 pixels high so I will use those dimensions in this example. Open the photo in Photoshop or Elements and select the Rectangular Marquee Tool. Change the mode to fixed size and place the header image dimensions in the Width and Height fields like this:

Bowl of Cherries - Header Image


After you have set the dimensions when you click on the image a box the size of the dimensions that you entered will appear where you clicked. Whatever is in the box will become your header image. Normally the photo is much bigger than the header image so you are going to need to resize the photo and try to select what you want to appear in your header image. I usually have to resize the photo a few times until I get it just right. Below is a screenshot of what I selected.

Bowl of Cherries - Header Image


Once you have selected the part of the photo that you want to be your header image you can hit Ctrl + C to copy the selected area followed by Ctrl + N to open a new file followed by clicking on OK followed by Ctrl + V to paste the selected image into the new file followed by Ctrl + S to save it. At this point you are normally done and you can upload the image to your blogs header. (See below for instructions to upload the header image to blogger.)

I ran into a problem here in that when I selected what I wanted to be in my header image there was not enough room on the right and my header image was only 532 pixels wide when I needed 988 pixels. Not to worry there is a solution: I hit Ctrl + C to copy the selected area followed by Ctrl + N to open a new file.

Bowl of Cherries - Header Image


I changed the width to 988 pixels followed by OK and Ctrl + V to paste the selected image into the new one as follows:

Bowl of Cherries - Header Image


I now had the image above which wasn't really what I wanted either. So I selected the Rectangular Marquee Tool again and set the dimensions to the cut images size which was 532 pixels by 92 pixels and I selected the pasted image and hit Ctrl + X to cut the image and dragged the selected area to the far left and hit Ctrl + V to paste the image.

Bowl of Cherries - Header Image


Now I had a header image that was left justified but there was a line where the background of the photo ran out. This was easily fixed by selecting the Eydropper Tool and clicking on an area of the off white background from the photo and then selecting the Paint Bucket Tool and clicking on the perfectly white background of the new image to fill it with the same colour as the photos background. Then I just needed to save the file by hitting Ctrl + S followed by changing the file format to jpg and saving it.

I finally had my finished background image and all that was left was to upload it to blogger.

Note: If you do not have a nice solid background colour you could also add a new layer and add a gradient to fade out the image to white so that your header text is visible over the faded area.

How to upload the header image to Blogger:


Log on to Blogger and go to the Layout tab -> Click on the Edit link in the Header area -> Remove the old image if you have one -> Click the From your computer -> Browse and select the image header file followed by Save after it has been uploaded. You now have your header image.

The only issue that might remain is where your header text is. If the header text is centered or above the image part of the header image rather than the area that you set aside for the text then you will need to edit the HTML of your blogs template and set the header text to "text-align:right;" or "text-align:left;" as appropriate. Each template is different but for mine I had to edit the "#header h1" and the "#header .description" styles.

This post took a lot more effort to write than a recipe post! I hope that you find it useful. Please left me know by leaving a comment if you would like me to continue to post food blogging how to's in the future or if you would prefer that I just got to the food.

Grilled Portobello and Roasted Red Pepper Sandwich with Pistachio Pesto

Grilled Portobello and Roasted Red Pepper Sandwich with Pistachio Pesto


While I was doing research for the pistachio pesto that I made I came across the idea of using it in a portobello sandwich on Tung in Cheek . I often enjoy using pestos as a condiment or a spread in sandwiches and I had been wanting to try grilling up a portabello mushroom and throwing it into a sandwich for a while. I just had to make sure to remember to reserve some of the pistachio pesto for the sandwich. I was thinking that a roasted red pepper would go really well with the grilled portabello in the sandwich. Since I really like the roasted red pepper and balsamic vinegar combo I wanted to work some balsamic vinegar into the sandwich and I did so by brushing the mushroom with it before grilling it. I still had some of the spinach from making the pesto so I threw some of that into the sandwich instead of the more common lettuce. Of course it would not be a sandwich without the bread and my first choice was a nice ciabatta. The grilled portobello and roasted red pepper sandwich with pistachio pesto turned out really well! I liked the way that the grilled portobello worked in a sandwich. It was nice and meaty and filling all the while being a mushroom which is always tops in my books. The roasted red pepper and balsamic vinegar added a ton of flavour to the sandwich and the pesto added a really nice creaminess and freshness. I am now looking forward to experimenting with more portobello sandwiches.

Pistachio Pesto on Penne

Pistachio Pesto on Penne


After trying to use pistachios as the nut in the asparagus pesto that I made recently I was hooked! The pistachios worked really well in the pesto and I wanted to try making a more generic pistachio pesto. I decided to start with the classic basil pesto and just use the pistachios as the nut. A trick that I have learned about basil pesto is that adding a bit of spinach helps keep the pesto nice and green and I felt that a pistachio pesto should be very green so I added some. The pistachio pesto turned out great! It was nice and creamy and full of fresh summery flavours. The chopped pistachio garnish also added a nice contrasting texture.

One of the reasons that I like making pestos so much during the summer is that they are so easy to make and they always taste great. If you have some pesto on hand you can easily make a quick, light and fulfilling pesto pasta meal in the time that it takes to cook the pasta. Pesto pastas are perfect for warm summer days when you just don't feel like messing around in the kitchen. Pesto also freezes well so if you don't use it all you can freeze the rest for later. Of course pestos can be used for much more than just pastas so I rarely have any left over.

White Bean and Roasted Red Pepper Dip

White Bean and Roasted Red Pepper Dip


After enjoying the edamame dip last week I was in the mood for more dip and I was thinking that this time I would try a white bean dip. White bean dips are generally pretty simple with very few ingredients and they form a great base or platform that you can build on by adding flavour. I had an extra red pepper in the fridge and I thought that a roasted red pepper white bean dip would be a great idea. Roasting red peppers concentrates their flavour and they become a really nice savoury kind of sweet that would go well in a bean dip. This bean dip was as easy to make as pureeing every thing in the food processor and it turned out great! It was so nice and creamy and full of the roasted red pepper flavour! It is sometimes hard to believe that something so simple, with so few ingredients can be so good! I enjoyed the roasted red pepper white bean dip with some whole pitas but you could also easily use it as a spread or a condiment. I bet it would go great in a sandwich.

Tom Yum Baked Tilapia

Tom Yum Baked Fish


A while ago I made a tom yum goong or a Thai hot and sour soup with prawns that I really enjoyed. I made the tom yum soup from scratch but you can buy the hot and soup flavouring as a pre-made paste for quick tom yum soups. Once the tom yum is in a paste form it opens the doors for many other applications including this tom yum grilled tilapia that that I found on About:com: Thai Food . I liked the sound of using the tom yum flavours in something other than a soup and I was in the mood for some Thai! The original recipe called for grilling the fish but I have been enjoying baking fish lately so I decided to cook it that way instead. The recipe is pretty easy; you simply process all of the tom yum paste ingredients in a food processor, marinate the fish and bake. The recipe suggested saving part of the tom yum paste and simmering it in some coconut milk to serve as a dip for the fish but I thought that it would just be easier to pour it over the fish when it was done baking. The tom yum baked tilapia turned out really well! The fish was nice and moist and tender and covered in the amazing tom yum flavours. I really like the combo of hot and sour in this tom yum paste and I am especially fond of all of the fresh herbs which really brightened up the meal. (You can easily control the amount of heat in this dish by using milder or less chilies or more chilies if you like it hotter.) The coconut to yum sauce completed the meal perfectly. Continuing with the coconut theme I served the tom yum tilapia with some coconut jasmine rice topped with some toasted coconut flakes.

Naan

Naan


Very often when I see Indian dishes they are accompanied by freshly made naan. Naan is a yeast based Indian flat bread that is traditionally baked in a tandoor oven at very high temperatures. I thought that it would be nice to have some freshly made naan as a side for my palak paneer dinner. I have to admit that I had tried to make naan before and it did not work out too well. I baked it in the oven but it baked hard before it got all nice and golden brown so this time I decided to try something different. I figured that I would have more control if I pan fried the naan and since they were brushed with ghee or butter anyways they were all ready for pan frying anyways. The pan fried naan worked out really well! I was able to get the naan nice an golden brown on both sides! The tops and bottoms were also slightly crispy and the insides were nice and light and fluffy and moist and best of all still warm! I cannot believe how good, and addictive, freshly made naan is! I had a hard time resisting just eating my fill of naan despite the fact that the palak paneer was really good as well. I can't wait to make another batch of naan!

Palak Paneer

Palak Paneer


One of the recipes that I had bookmarked to try that used paneer was this one for a palak paneer . Palak paneer is a dish that consists of the paneer which is cooked in a spinach, tomato and onion gravy with Indian spices. Now that I had my own home made paneer I was ready to try making the palak paneer. In this dish the paneer is fried until golden brown on all sides before being added to the spinach gravy to simmer and absorb all of the curries flavours. The palak paneer recipe is pretty easy to follow though I did end up running into one problem. My mini chop 'food processor' was not up to the task of truly pureeing the spinach and my spinach gravy ended up being a bit chunkier than I had been hoping for but it was still really tasty. The homemade paneer worked really well in the curry having absorbed all of the tasty flavours of the gravy and it added a great texture to the dish. I served the palak paneer with some freshly made still warm naan which was also addictively good! One thing that I noticed about the palak paneer was that the leftovers tasted even better the next day as the flavours had a chance to mingle and develop a bit more.

Paneer

Paneer


For the longest time I was unable to find paneer and I had bookmarked a few recipes that I wanted to try that called for it. Though I recently found a source for paneer it was pretty far out of the way and I never seemed to have the time to head out and get some. Since I had come across several recipes for making paneer at home that sounded pretty easy I decided to try making some of my own. Making my own cheese had interested me for a while and I finally resolved to try it.

Paneer is dead simple to make! You just bring some whole milk to a boil, mix in an acid such as lemon juice and let the milk curdle. After it has curdled you drain the liquid, form the curds into a block in some cheese cloth or muslin and let it sit with a heavy weight on it for a few hours. At this point you have a brick of fresh paneer cheese just begging to be used!

Since you did not add anything to the cheese other than just enough acid to cause it to curdle, the paneer is pretty flavourless. This is normal and since paneer really absorbs the flavours of the dish that it is in, it will soon be nice and tasty in addition to having a great texture. I saw several posts where the authors suggested adding fresh herbs or other flavourings to the curds before forming them into a brick and weighing them down. Next I will have to try my hand at some flavoured paneers!

Since it was so easy and fun to make the paneer I will also have to look into making other cheeses at home.

Roasted Strawberry Saganaki Salad

Roasted Strawberry Saganaki Salad


When I was looking at cheeses in the grocery store I noticed some halloumi cheese which is used to make one of my favorite cheese treats, saganaki. Saganaki is cheese that is fried in a pan until crispy and then hit with touch of lemon juice. The halloumi is a nice salty cheese and when fried until crispy on the outside and warm on the inside with that touch of lemon becomes something that is just out of this world! I had not had saganaki in a while so I picked some up. While I was enjoying some saganaki I remembered thinking that saganaki would also go well in the roasted strawberry salad with baked goat cheese that I made last year. As luck would have it I also had a ton of strawberries and I set out to make a roasted strawberry saganaki salad. The crispy, salty, lemony, and squeaky saganaki when just as well in the roasted strawberry salad as I thought it would! The saganaki contrasted and complemented the sweet roasted strawberries very well. I am now looking forward to using saganaki in more salads in the future.

Dill Biscuits with Smoked Salmon, Watercress and a Creamy Dill Spread

Dill Biscuits with Smoked Salmon, Watercress and a Creamy Dill Spread


Smoked salmon, cream cheese and dill is one of those classic flavour combos and my ears perk up every time I catch wind of it. A common way to enjoy this combo is on a bagel but bagels are heavier than what I am looking for on warm summer days. But what would be lighter? How about some fresh homemade biscuits or better yet dilled biscuits for even more dilly goodness? That was exactly the combo that I came across when I was flipping through the last Food & Drink magazine and I knew that I would have to make them. I have made dilled biscuits before that I really liked but this recipe claimed that freezing the butter first would result in lighter and crispier biscuits and I was certainly game to try it out. These smoked salmon biscuit sandwiches are finished off with some watercress for even more fresh herby goodness.

Despite the fact that I don't really like to have the oven on in the summer it is really hard to resist the allure of light and flaky freshly made homemade biscuits still warm from the oven so I was willing to make an exception. The dilled buttermilk biscuits came together quickly and filled my place with and amazing dilly aroma while baking. It was hard to resist eating them straight from the oven but I managed to wait for them to cool enough to make the sandwiches with them. The dill buttermilk biscuits were great! I did not really notice the difference for having used the frozen butter over the just chilled butter but when they were as good as they were it is hard to complain. The biscuits were nice and light and they went perfectly with the smoked salmon, cream cheese, dill and watercress filling. Overall these biscuit sandwiches were a really nice light summer meal that showcased the amazing flavour combo of smoked salmon cream cheese and dill.

Edamame Dip

Edamame Dip


I have been seeing Alton Brown's edamame dip popping up around the food blogging sphere and it always looks good. The recipe looks like an Asian take on a hummus or a bean dip only it uses edamame beans. One of the first things that I noticed about this recipe was the inclusion of the miso paste. Miso is a salty Japanese fermented bean paste that I have come to really enjoy over the last few years and I am always looking for new ways to use it. The edamame dip was super easy to make; you just quickly cook the edamame and then puree everything if a food processor. I did make one slight change to the recipe in that I used some of the water that was used to cook the edamame instead of the oil that the original recipe called for. The edamame beans made for a really nice dip! I liked the way that miso worked in the dip adding a nice salty element and the cilantro added a nice freshness and brightness to the dip. One element that stood out in the dip was the nice touch of heat added by the chili sauce. I enjoyed eating this vibrantly green dip with some whole wheat pitas. You could also use this 'dip' and a condiment in a sandwich and it would also probably work well as a pesto on pasta.

Thai Green Bean and Crab Salad

Thai Green Bean and Crab Salad


I really like crab but I don't have it all that often as it can be a little on the expensive side. While I was looking through the latest Food & Drink magazine I came across this recipe for a Thai green bean and crab salad which combined crab with some of my favorite Thai flavours and I knew that I would have to try it. I had to wait a couple of weeks for the fresh local green beans to show up at the farmers market but as soon as they did I picked some up. As with many Thai recipes one of the things that I really like about this one is the use of all of the fresh herbs. Of course the use of the peanut butter and peanuts in a savoury dish really did it for me as well. I made a few minor changes to the recipe in replacing the chicken stock in the dressing with coconut milk and adding a chopped up birds eye chili for some heat. The Thai green bean and crab salad turned out great! It was so fresh and light and good! The crisp yet tender green beans and red peppers formed a really nice base to this salad and the peanut butter and coconut milk dressing was very tasty! All of the fresh herbs really brightened up the salad and the chopped peanuts added a great contrasting texture. The crab of course was the center of attention and worked well with all of the flavours of the salad. This salad my be a bit of an indulgence with the crab but it was certainly worth it!

Gooseberry Crumb Cake

Gooseberry Crumb Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream


Someone recently asked what you could do with gooseberries. Although I enjoy picking up some gooseberries every Summer I realized that I have never really done anything with them other than just snack on them. Given that gooseberries are tart the recipes that were coming to mind were rhubarb recipes as rhubarb is similarly tart. While going through my rhubarb recipes I came across the rhubarb crumb cake that I had made a while ago and really enjoyed. I figured that gooseberries would work just as well as rhubarb in the crumb cake and I pretty much just did a straight swap and used the recipe as is. This crumb cake recipe may be a bit long but it is pretty straight forward and easy. The gooseberry crumb cake turned out very nicely! The tart gooseberries went really well in the sweet crumb cake and I liked the bit of texture that the seeds provided. Of course a melting scoop of vanilla ice cream went really well with a warm slice of gooseberry crumb cake.


Chicken Souvlaki and Gyros

Chicken Souvlaki

Of all the great meals that I had on my vacation in Greece last year perhaps the most memorable one was the chicken gyros from a small shop in Plaka. The shop was so small that it was really just a window in the street where you ordered and then you got to eat while walking down the street. The gyro was easily the best that I have ever had! What stood out about the chicken gyros was that there was roasted red peppers layered in amongst the chicken.

Italian Sausage, Zucchini and Garlic Scape Pasta

Italian Sausage, Zucchini and Garlic Scape Pasta


Last weekend at the farmers market I saw some of the first of the zucchini for this year and on impulse I picked some up even though it was not on my list. Of course come clean out he fridge Friday and I find that I still have some zucchini in the fridge. I also had a few garlic scapes to finish off and after a bit of rooting around the freezer I came out with and Italian sausage. My first thought was a pasta as pastas are always great for cleaning out the leftovers in your fridge. I really like quick and simple throw together pastas like this as you never know what kind of great flavour combinations that you will come up with next. This is a pretty simple pasta that relies on a good tasting Italian sausage and the fresh garlic scapes for flavour. This dish came together in less time than it took to cook the pasta it turned out quite nicely. It was packed full of flavour and the garlicky goodness went really well with the fresh zucchini. I certainly am looking forward to the zucchini to come and this was a nice dish to start the season off with.

Beef and Garlic Scape Stir-fry

Beef and Garlic Scape Stir-fry


I was lucky and last weekend they still had garlic scapes at the farmers market and I could not pass up on picking up another bunch of them. When I was searching for recipes for garlic scapes earlier I came across several statements claiming that garlic scapes could be used as is, just like they were asparagus. After enjoying the garlic scapes using them chopped up like regular garlic and in a pesto I was ready to try them whole. Of the recipe ideas that I could find using them whole the ones that sounded most interesting were those that used them in stir-frys. I decided to go with a beef and garlic scape stir-fry and I started with the beef and asparagus stir-fry recipe that I had made a while ago. I left the chopped up garlic cloves in even though I was using the garlic scapes for even more garlicky goodness. I wanted there to be something more than just the beef and garlic scapes and I thought that some sliced water chestnuts would be nice. The last change that I made was in adding a bit of oyster sauce to change the flavour profile up a bit.

Despite the fact that the list of ingredients and instructions are a little long this stir fry was pretty easy to make. One tip that I can suggest for cutting your beef thinly is to put it in the freezer for 30 minutes before slicing it. I like to choose a nice and tender cut of beef for dishes like this as it is only briefly stir-fried and it will not get and more tender when cooked. Another tip for stir-frys is to prepare all of the ingredients before your start cooking as stir-frys cook fast. The beef and garlic scape stir-fry turned out really well. With both the garlic and the garlic scapes the stir-fry was nice and garlicky and good. The garlic scapes themselves mellowed out nicely when cooked so they had a nice mild garlic flavour. I really enjoyed using the garlic scapes whole in this stir-fry, and in fact I have enjoyed the garlic scapes every way that I have used them so far. I still have a few garlic scapes and I will definitely be looking for more at the farmers market this weekend.

Pistachio Asparagus Pesto on Penne

Pistachio Asparagus Pesto on Penne


With asparagus season fading and summers produce starting to enter the farmers market I wanted to try a few of my favorites asparagus recipes. Top on my list was the asparagus pesto pasta . I had discovered a while ago that asparagus makes for a really nice pesto and I have been making it every year since. Pestos normally include a nut and I usually use pine nuts as they add a really nice creaminess to pestos. Recently I had been wondering about using pistachios in a pesto and I though that now was the perfect chance to try. This is one pretty green pesto with the asparagus, pistachios and even a bit of spinach. Of course the first thing that I thought to try the pesto on was a pasta and my choice of noodles was a whole wheat penne making for a nice light and fairly healthy Summer meal. The pistachio asparagus penne was a breeze to make and it tasted great! The pistachios worked really well in the asparagus pesto and I am looking forward to experimenting with using them in more pestos.

Tod Mun Pla (Thai Fish Cakes)

Tod Mun Pla (Thai Fish Cakes)


I have been enjoying making my own fresh Thai curry pastes ever since I discovered how easy they were to make. Since they keep well in the freezer I almost always have some on hand. I recently made a new batch of red curry paste and I was looking for some new recipes to try using some of it in. One dish that I kept coming across was tod mun pla or Thai fish cakes that used red curry paste in the cake mixture. Some of the things that I liked about the tod mun pla recipes were that they included a green vegetable in the form of long beans and that they also used a lot of fresh herbs. The fish cakes promised to be really tasty all by themselves but I found that they were often served with a cucumber dipping sauce which also sounded good. Many of the recipes that I came across called for fish paste but I decided to just use some chopped up white fish which in this case was tilapia. The fish cakes were pretty easy to make. You pretty much just mix everything, form patties and fry them in oil until golden brown. You could deep fry the fish cake but I chose to shallow fry them as it would be easier. The tod mun pla were really tasty! I was right, they were packed with so much flavour that they hardly needed the dipping sauce but it provided some nice contrasting flavours and textures. The fish cakes had a nice crispy outside and the insides were nice and warm and soft and moist. I really liked the freshness that the herbs brought to the cakes and overall they were a really nice light meal.

Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream

Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream


Strawberry season is in full swing and I have certainly been enjoying it! Last year I tried roasting strawberries for the first time with great results and I was thinking that a roasted strawberry ice cream would be a good idea. Roasting the strawberries seems to concentrate and intensify their flavour and when they roast they release their juices which gets all nice and syrupy and good. While I was thinking about the concentrated strawberry flavour the strawberry and balsamic vinegar combo came to mind as the a splash of balsamic vinegar also helps to bring out the the natural strawberry flavour. As for the recipe, I started with my standard ice cream base and added the roasted balsamic strawberries so it was pretty simple. When roasting the strawberries I place them on a sheet of foil and fold the edges up to make sure to capture all of the strawberry juices that are released. The roasted strawberry balsamic ice cream was so good! I have been experimenting with the number of egg yolks that I use in my ice creams and I have found that the more that you use the creamier the ice cream is and this time I used 3 egg yolks and the ice cream was nice and smooth and creamy. The strawberry flavour in the ice cream was so intense and bright and vibrant and good! This was easily the best strawberry ice cream that I have had and I will definitely be making some more soon.

Wagyu Burgers

Wagyu Bacon Cheese Burger


It seems that I have been on a bit of a quest for the ultimate burger lately and I think that I may have found it. Last time I tried getting a nice high quality fatty ground beef and paying attention to the details when preparing and cooking the burgers. Although the burgers turned out great I had another idea to try; wagyu beef. Wagyu is a breed of cattle whose meat is predisposed to fatty marbling. The fat is important for burgers as it adds flavour and it helps to keep the burgers nice and moist and juicy when they are cooked. The wagyu beef promised to make a juicy and tasty burger indeed!

When making burgers I often spice them up a bit and one of my favorite ways to do that is with Montreal steak spice. This time however, I wanted to get the full wagyu beef experience so I seasoned them simply with just salt and pepper. Despite the simple seasoning the wagyu burgers turned out great! I enjoyed the first one topped simply with lettuce and tomato so that I could really taste the wagyu beef. (Of course if you prefer you can top the burger any way you like and certainly the bacon and cheese version makes for a much better photo.) The wagyu burger was nice and juicy and tender and it was easily the best burger that I have ever had! Because the wagyu beef is a bit more expensive I don't think that I will be using it all the time but it will certainly be making appearances for special occasions.

Garlic Scape Pesto Scrambled Eggs with Asparagus and Mushrooms

Garlic Scape Pesto Scrambled Eggs with Asparagus and Mushrooms


I had a bunch of the garlic scape pesto left over after I made the pasta and I was wondering what to do with it. While the asparagus has been in season I have been enjoying it for breakfasts combining it with eggs and very often mushrooms in various forms. While I was grabbing the eggs, asparagus and mushrooms for a scrambled egg breakfast I noticed the garlic scape pesto in the fridge and I thought, why not add some of it to the scrambled eggs? I decided to just make the scrambled eggs with asparagus and mushrooms the same as usual except that I would beat the garlic scape pesto into the eggs before adding them to the pan to cook. When I added the eggs with the garlic scape pesto to the pan an amazing garlicky aroma quickly filled the kitchen and I knew that it had been a good idea. The scrambled eggs with garlic scape pesto were really tasty and they went well with the mushrooms. The juicy asparagus cleansed the palate in between bites readying you for more garlicky goodness. I was quite pleased with how adding a pesto to the scrambled eggs worked and I am looking forward to experimenting with adding other pestos to scrambled eggs. I think that pestos would also work well in frittatas and breakfast egg casseroles.

Asparagus and Shiitake Mushroom Teriyaki Quinoa Salad

Asparagus and Shiitake Mushroom Teriyaki Quinoa Salad


Since discovering quinoa it has quickly become one of my favorite grains. It is a very versatile grain and I like to use it in salads, soups and even as a porridge for breakfast. I am constantly looking for new ways of enjoying quinoa and I recently came across a teriyaki quinoa that sounded good. Homemade teriyaki sauce is one of my favorite flavours and I immediately jumped on the idea of combining it with quinoa. The teriyaki quinoa that I came across was more of a side dish with just the quinoa and the teriyaki sauce but I was thinking that it would go better as a more substantial salad. Given that teriyaki sauce is Japanese I was thinking about Japanese ingredients and the first thing that came to mind was some teriyaki shiitake mushrooms. Next up was some edamame for a bit of green and a healthy kick and since asparagus was still in season and I had it on hand I threw some in as well. I then garnished it with some toasted sesame seeds and sliced green onions. The one critical element that I find really makes Asian inspired dishes is the smell of sesame oil and I always like to add a bit just at the end so that the aroma is nice and fresh as the dish is served. The asparagus and shiitake mushroom teriyaki quinoa salad turned out really well! The quinoa salad was so light and with the teriyaki flavour it was amazing. The toasted sesame seeds added a nice crunch and along with the sesame oil they added another great layer of flavour. Overall this turned out to be a really nice light Summer meal.

Garlic Scape Pesto on Fusilli with Garlic Scape Garlic Bread

Garlic Scape Pesto Pasta with Garlic Scape Garlic Bread


While I was searching for ways to use the garlic scapes that I picked up on the weekend the one recipe that kept coming up was a garlic scape pesto. Given that I am a fan of garlic, a garlicky pesto sounded really good! I was a bit concerned though as I did read a few complaints from people that had tried the garlic scape pesto and found it to be too strong. As a test I tried eating some of the raw garlic scapes and although they were fairly strong they were good and I decided to forge ahead. When I took a bite out of the garlic scapes I noticed that they were a bit stringy so I decided to cut the scapes into little pieces before pureeing in the food processor in an attempt to keep the pesto nice and smooth. Other than that bit of chopping the pesto was really easy to make and the pine nuts, parmigiano reggiano, and olive oil mellowed out the raw garlicky flavour nicely. When I make pesto pastas I normally pour a some of the boiling water into a bowl, drain the pasta and put it right the now empty pot and add the pesto and some of the reserved pasta water. The combination of the hot pot and hot pasta water also worked to further mellow out the garlic flavour. In the end the garlic scape pesto was amazing! Given my slight reservations before making it I was a bit surprised and now the garlic scape pesto is my favorite pesto!

With all the thoughts about garlic floating through my head one thing that came to mind was a garlic scape garlic bread. Since I had used the last of my garlic scapes to make the garlic scape pesto I decided to make a garlic scape pesto garlic bread and I topped it with some more parmigiano reggiano and toasted it until the cheese was melted and golden brown. The cheesy garlic scape pesto garlic toast was so good and it went well with the pasta! What a great garlicky meal!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie


One of my favorite things to do with strawberries is to combine them with rhubarb. Strawberries and rhubarb is one of those classic flavour combinations and with good reason. The tart rhubarb goes really well with strawberries and I could not let the summer go by without making at least one thing with them. Normally I like to go with a simple strawberry and rhubarb crumble or crisp as they are super easy to throw together but this year I wanted to try making a pie. I still have not mastered the art of pie pastry yet so I have been looking for excuses to practice and a strawberry and rhubarb pie was a perfect one. Pies are a bit more challenging to make and with this one I did alright with the crust but I did forget to add the cornstarch to the filling so it was a bit wetter than I would have liked. Despite the mistake the pie turned out great! The crust was nice and golden brown and light and flaky. The filling tasted amazing and of course the essential scoop of melting vanilla ice cream finished it off perfectly.