Consider this a recipe dump for all things regarding baked goods. At a recent St. Jean bbq at work, I may have gone slightly overboard, featuring:
This cardamom-scented upside-down strawberry cake from Joy the Baker…
This (quite lopsided) raspberry-rhubarb galette from Lottie + Doof…
This stupendously rich chocolate cake with raspberry compote from David Lebovitz, via Cucina Nicolina…
And this lemon cake from Vitae Curriculum, with my own lemon curd recipe (use lots of yolks, no sugar, and more zest than you think you need).
And with leftover lemon cake batter and leftover chocolate ganache, I made a pan of cupcakes, too. And finally, a bit of homemade whipped cream, made by whipping a cup of heavy cream with a few tablespoons of sugar.
Sorry for the brief radio silence. There was an…. incident late Saturday night.
I was preparing a simple, fresh dinner for my friend Himo’s birthday party. The meal I had envisioned was going to be perfect. There was a translucent shavings of fennel with wild, peppery arugula, thin discs of zucchini, chopped dill, toasted walnuts, purslane (my favorite!), and mustard greens. There were slender, crisp radishes that we halved and served with blanched radish greens and sauteed bacon. There was an tremendously easy pasta dish with my chopped garlic scape and garden basil pesto, no blender needed. And, of course, there was a birthday cake, a light lemon cake with fresh, oozing lemon curd and a delicate vanilla buttercream, using a combination of this recipe and that recipe. (I also made it for this work party). There was rum that we brought back from Jamaica, and cigars for the boys.
But somewhere along the way, I slipped. To be precise: I slipped a knife, while chiffonading basil, right through my thumb, slicing off half a fingernail and a good bit of flesh. And because I love birthday parties and I was deep into the wine, I actually waited a full day before Adam finally convinced me that I had to go to the ER. I’m fine, of course — and I suppose that anyone who works in a kitchen everyday should expect a few accidents — but it’s stilll a drag (my whole right hand hurts, so I had to type this post with one hand only).
My one consolation — dinner still rocked. And that’s all that matters, right? The show must go on, etc etc and all that.
At a recent dinner we hosted, my partner was in charge of making the pasta (linguine with stinging nettle pesto), while I was in charge of the salad. Our dinner duties divided, I was determined to blow his mind. (I’m extremely competitive). I love salads with mixed temperatures — this one had medallions of golden baby beets, tiny charred coins of zucchini, gently toasted walnuts, micro arugula, dried apricots, roasted broccoli rabe, wild dandelion, and perfumed nasturtiums (from here) — and every bite was a heady mix of hot and cool. What’s more satisfying than watching people go back for thirds?
Hot resort collection. Wish I could see a detail of those flower-flecked shoes, too. There’s a small shop downtown that stocks quite a bit of Erdem. The stuff is perfect, every dress fit like a glove.
I don’t know if it’s the rising temperatures, the creeping hem lengths, or the sudden abundance of proper produce, but I’ve been cooking less and less. The typically powerful cravings — cheese, butter, cream, meat — haven’t disappeared, but they haunt me much less. (As if I could ever give up cheese). But some nights, all that takes to make me happy, apparently, is a rosy trout filet, a few fat spears of asparagus, one big handful of fresh spinach, and lemon draped over everything.
Best style of summer eating: Head to market, buy a lot of whatever looks incredible (occasionally a dangerous tactic), bike home, teetering dangerously with the weight of new goods, and happily mix everything up with the most minimal of actual cooking or heat.
This tomato water-infused chopped vegetable dish was Patricia Wells-inspired, and would really work with any vegetables at all. Because everything is cooked so briefly, the key is stupendous vegetables that you would be happy to eat raw, and a really fruity, high-quality olive oil. Baby swiss chard, green garlic, carrots, spring onions, tomato, celery leaves, and fresh green chickpeas all made it into the pan, lit by the warm punch of good olive oil. It tasted like pure sunshine.
A final note about the asparagus: I find that fresh spears have a wonderfully pronounced nuttiness from a quick high-heat oven roast, but the more delicate and tender white varieties — like the ones shown above — feel more appropriate in a quick and virginal steam, and finished with a dusting of salt.
And one more thing: I typically like a little something “more” in my meals — maybe a heel of bread, a fried egg, some chopped sardines, or a crumble of bacon — but the vegetables had so much body and life, it didn’t need anything else. If only I ate this healthfully the rest of the year!
1. As per my ongoing backpack obsession, I finally bought one of the Shabd x Baggu backpacks and I love it. Tons of roomy space, sturdy thick canvas, lots of little pockets, the perfect shade of seafoam green.
2. My favorite piece of jewelry, a present from Sasha. I’ve only recently gotten into astrology, ever since discovering that my partner and I are both Libras. (It’s a heavy match). This pendant is ideal. Totally witchy and with a serious weight and presence.
3. Bought a beautiful new lipstick for summer. My Nars Heat Wave has been a great standby for nights, but I wanted something less intense for daytime wear, especially for stuff like work. Dior’s Rare Amber is the perfectly creamy matte rose hue. (Apologies for the beyond-chipped fingernail polish).
Some photos from our recent workshop with Patisserie Rhubarbe’s Stephanie Labelle. I soaked up every second we had with this insanely talented pastry chef, and this workshop was probably the most advanced one we’ve done yet. Not a single person in the room had ever made a panna cotta or marshmallows by scratch, and the workshop was full of people madly scribbling notes as Stephanie explained the complex recipes. There was also an almond tart, tangy rhubarb compote, and rhubarb-spiked lemonade — I was buzzing on sugar until about 2am that night. More photos at Le Pick Up’s site.
The first picnic of the summer. Is there anything better, really? I like to do things properly: the proper soundtrack (a tote full of cassette tapes), the proper food (cheese, baguettes, fruit, nuts, four kinds of salad), the proper drink (prosecco, pellegrino and elderberry liqueur cocktails), the proper setting (a sparkling river) and, of course, the proper, perfect friends. This is my first summer in Montreal, and I couldn’t be more stoked.