Posts Tagged ‘summer’

Supersize Tomato

Supersize Brandywine tomato -- 840 grams!Generally I’m not into supersizing, but this Brandywine tomato, an heirloom variety, is an exception. The seed packet promises fruit up to 700 grams, so I grew a whopper at 840 grams!









One slice of tomato from the middle of the fruit seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper and touched with some mayonnaise made a great sandwich: flavourful, juicy, meaty.

Tomato steak sandwich made with a supersize Brandywine tomato

"Tomato steak sandwich" made with a supersize Brandywine tomato.

These tomatoes mature slowly (last year, they never ripened), so hopefully we’ll get several more before the end of the season.

Brandywine tomato on the vine

It's amazing how the vine supports the weight of these supersize tomatoes.


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Summer Lentil Chili

It’s the time of year when fresh produce is plentiful. My vegetable garden (and the farmers’ market) is a riot of bright colours and peak flavours. It’s also the time of year we stuff our freezer with all this goodness, so we can benefit from it year-round. Some of it “unprocessed” and some of it “processed” into ready meals.

This year though we have an extra incentive to have prepared meals at our fingertips. In as early as a couple of days, at the latest within a couple of weeks, we will be three! In anticipation of the busy and sleepless time ahead, we have been busy cooking and baking. I’ve been balancing the heat outside with the heat of the kitchen, and have pulled chocolate zucchini cakes, banana breads, oatmeal-chocolate-walnut-cranberry cookies and sunflower butter cookies out of the oven.

Meanwhile, David has been the master of the main meals, making turkey pot pies, lasagna, beef and tomatillo stew, sausages, lentil chili. Lentil chili is something we make every year at this time. It’s the perfect way to use the many zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and herbs growing fast and furious in the garden, and makes a colourful and healthy meal.

Recipe: Summer Lentil Chili

The vegetable measurements need not be precise. A little more or a little less garden goodness won’t make a big difference!

2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium-large carrot, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp chili powder
1 generous tbsp each ground cumin and ground coriander
2 cups brown lentils, rinsed and cleaned
5 cups vegetable stock
6-8 cups tomatoes, roughly chopped
2-3 medium zucchini, sliced/cubed
4 red peppers, chopped
4 cobs of corn, kernels removed
1 hot pepper (depending on how much heat you want, slice in half and remove seeds or pierce skin with a toothpick before adding)
2 generous tbsp each fresh thyme, oregano and basil, chopped
Salt to taste

Heat vegetable oil in a large pot. Sauté onions, garlic and carrot until tender. Stir bay leaf, chili powder, cumin and coriander into onion mixture. Add lentils and vegetable stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes or until lentils are tender and liquid is reduced by half. Mix in tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, corn kernels and hot pepper. Cook 10-20 minutes. Remove bay leaf and hot pepper. Stir in herbs. Season to taste.

We freeze our summer lentil chili in 1L yoghurt containers and get approx. 4 containers per recipe.

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Birchermüesli is a superfood! A healthy and easy-to-digest combination of fresh fruit, oatmeal, yoghurt and nuts.Birchermüesli is a combination of fresh fruit, oatmeal, yoghurt and nuts. It was created around 1900 by a Swiss physician who promoted eating raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains (instead of bread and meat) for maintaining health and encouraging healing.

Now that I’m eating for two – yes! 🙂 – Birchermüesli has become my pregnancy superfood. It’s full of the vitamins and minerals recommended for pregnant women. In addition, the combination provides protein and fiber, and is easy to digest. I’ve also noticed that I feel more like cooling fresh foods than I normally would, especially for this time of year, and Birchermüesli perfectly satisfies the craving. (Usually I reserve Birchermüesli for the summer when fresh fruit is plentiful, the days are hot and I don’t feel like cooking – I’ll eat it for dinner.)

The beauty of this recipe is its flexibility. It’s easy to adapt it to what’s in season and to personal taste. Lately I’ve been using fresh mango and blueberries and strawberries that I froze last summer. Another nice winter version would be with raisins and/or other chopped dried fruit, ground or chopped nuts and banana (add just before serving). In fall, chopped pear and dried cranberries. In the summer, the options abound with fresh berries, melon, peaches, nectarines, apricots, …

Pregnant or not, Birchermüesli is one of those things I feel good about eating. I’d actually consider it one of my comfort foods.

Recipe: Birchermüesli (Swiss Raw Oatmeal Yoghurt “Porridge”)

The ingredients listed below are the basic combination. Seasonality and creativity can dictate the details. I have to admit that I don’t measure the ingredients, so they are approximateadjust proportion of oatmeal vs. yoghurt to suit personal preference. I often make it in the evening to eat the next morning. This method allows the oatmeal to soften. If you have issues with leaving cut fruit sit overnight, then add just before serving. Serves 2-4.

2 cups oatmeal (old-fashioned, not quick cook)
2 1/2 cups yoghurt
1 apple, finely grated
1/2 orange, juiced (could also be lemon, grapefruit or a combination)
1/2 cup ground nuts or hemp hearts
1-2 tbsp maple syrup
3 cups fresh fruit, chopped if necessary (frozen berries work well too)
1/2 cup raisins, chopped nuts (toasting the nuts adds nice flavour) or dried fruit (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Let stand at least one hour (or overnight) before serving.

In addition to the standard apple, orange juice, yoghurt and oatmeal, mango, blueberries, strawberries, maple syrup and hemp hearts made it into my most recent version of Birchermüesli, but this recipe is so easy to adapt to personal taste.

These ingredients made it into my most recent version of Birchermüesli, but this recipe is so easy to adapt to personal taste: switch up the fruit, add ground or chopped nuts, raisins or other chopped dried fruit. My dad likes to enhance it with a bit whipped cream! Note the special grater for the apple. It’s a special “Bircher” grater and reduces the flesh to a pulp (most likely to make it even easier to digest).

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In July, I was dealing with a pea jungle. Now it’s a pole bean jungle. It’s a scavenger hunt every time I go to pick beans. Lesson learned for next year: give them taller stakes. I’d also plant them somewhere they can’t put a choke-hold on the smaller plants growing in the same bed.

Regardless, there are lots of beans! What to do with them all?

Green beans

Green beans, lots of them. I’ve picked at least two piles like this!

When I was growing up, Bohnen and Speck (green beans and bacon) would appear on the dinner table as of mid-August, when the beans were ready to pick and the tomatoes ripening. I haven’t found a cookbook recipe for Bohnen and Speck, but this one-pot meal is firmly anchored in the Swiss home-cooking repertoire. The recipe probably has as many variations as there are Swiss dialects; the one below is from my mom. I’ve respectfully renamed it “Swiss Summer Stew.”

Recipe: Swiss Summer Stew (Green Beans and Bacon)

This is one of those recipes that doesn’t require precise quantities, so I’m not going to give any either!

Swiss Summer Stew (green beans and bacon)

onion, chopped
garlic, minced
green beans, topped and tailed
tomatoes, halved/quartered depending on size
hot pepper (optional)
smoked bacon, or any other smoked meat (I’ve tried bacon from several good butchers in Ottawa and beyond. My favourite is the double smoked bacon from Saslove’s)
summer savory
potatoes (1-3 per person, depending on size), halved/quartered depending on size

Saute onion and garlic over medium heat in a Creuset(-like) pot with a lid (or pressure cooker) until translucent. Run the beans quickly under water and add them to the pot. Toss them with the onions and garlic. Heat for several minutes before mixing in the savory and hot pepper (if using, leave whole). Place the tomatoes, potatoes and piece of bacon on top of beans. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with the lid and turn the heat down to medium-low/low.

The tomatoes should generate enough liquid to prevent sticking and burning, but check periodically to make sure. If the pot is dry, add a little water and make sure the heat is on low. Cook 45-60 minutes until beans are meltingly tender (if using a pressure cooker, adjust cooking times according to pressure cooker guidelines).

En Guete!

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This summer’s food discovery was without a doubt smoked tomatoes. My first taste of this flavour sensation was at Town where smoked tomato butter topped corn in a bag. Not long after that, we had smoked tomatoes in a dish at Murray Street.

That evening at Murray Street, David and I were seated on its fabulous patio. On the way out, we spoke briefly with Chef Steve Mitton at the kitchen pass. He asked us how our meal was. “Delicious!” as usual. Then David asked how he smokes tomatoes. “Slit them and smoke them,” he answered. “We do them in a stove-top smoker.” Not much to go by, but enough to give it a try!

David’s the grill guy, so this is how he interpreted those instructions:

  • Use perfectly ripe, but still firm plum tomatoes. They will stay whole throughout the process.
  • Mark the tops (opposite of the stem end) with an X and place them stem end down in a dish. I would suggest using an aluminum dish to avoid ruining a dish of better quality—we now have a dedicated smoking dish.
  • Smoke the tomatoes for 1-1.5 hours over indirect heat. David smoked them over apple wood on a Weber charcoal grill.
Smoked tomatoes

Relatively easy to do, smoked tomatoes add interesting flavour and complexity to dishes.

Back in the kitchen, the tomatoes were easy to peel once cool. Aside from freezing some—I think they would can well too—I used them in beef chili and paella. But their subtle and unique smokiness came through best, was truly showcased, in this smoked tomato gazpacho.

Recipe: Smoked Tomato Gazpacho

Start this recipe 24 hours before serving. The ingredients need to marinate, then the flavours need to meld. Serves 6.

Smoked tomato gazpacho600g orange cherry tomatoes (aka “garden candy“—these tomatoes lend the soup a beautiful sweetness), sliced in half
400g smoked tomatoes, peeled
1/2 cucumber, peeled (and seeded, if necessary)
1 red pepper, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
8 leaves purple Thai basil, roughly chopped
100mL good quality olive oil
salt, pepper and Tabasco to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and let marinate overnight. The vegetables will draw water as they marinate and create the liquid required for the soup.

The next day (8-12 hours before serving), blend the marinated ingredients until smooth. Pass the mixture through a chinois or mesh strainer to remove the tomato seeds. Add some water or vegetable bouillon if the mixture is too thick for your liking. Adjust seasoning. Return to refrigerator.

Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes prior to serving. Garnish with basil leaves, finely chopped red pepper or something else that is tasty and pretty to serve.

This smoked tomato gazpacho was part of a delicious end-of-summer dinner that included smoked shrimp, velvety paella and creamy caramel flans.

Cooking paella

Family watches David cooks paella on the grill.

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Carp Farmers Market

Carp Farmers Market

Local is the way to go!

Fresh garlic

Beautiful fresh garlic.

Garlic braid

Super long garlic braid at Acorn Creek Garden Farm stand. Value: almost $300!

Rolis Rolled Sausages

Roli's Rolled Sausages' Roland Wilhelm grilling his fresh sausages.

Roli's Rolled Sausages

Roli's Rolled Sausages are made with all local ingredients.

The Carp Farmers’ Market is one of my favourite markets. It has over 100 registered vendors ranging from vegetable and meat producers and specialty food makers to artisans and craftspeople. There are vendors I don’t find anywhere else like Dobson’s Grass Fed Beef, Pork of Yore, and The Girl with the Most Cake and favourites like Rainbow Heritage Farm and Take Charge Tea, who are at Carp on Saturdays and at Lansdowne on Sundays.

The market is busy. People come to stock up on fresh foods, to chat, to exchange tips and recipes, to eat. It’s a meeting place. A happy, healthy place. Truly what a market should be. On a festival day, it only gets better.

The Carp Garlic Festival is a two-day event that happens mid-August every year. There are more vendors and more people than a usual Saturday at the market. There’s garlic, lots of garlic, in many varieties, and products like garlic fudge and garlic scape pesto. There are food demos, garlic tasting events and garlic growing workshops. It’s fun!

Of course, I bought some Russian Red from Glasgow Garlic Farm to add to the Musik I already bought at Silver Spring Farm and the garlic I grew myself—this fall, I’m planning to plant even more garlic than last year! David honed in on The Elk Ranch‘s garlic summer sausage. Available exclusively during the garlic festival, the sausage has fine texture and delicate garlic flavour.

I also enjoyed a very tasty breakfast sausage from Roli’s Rolled Sausages. What a great discovery! He makes three kinds of pork sausage and beef sausage with Dobson’s grass-fed beef. The sausage was served on sweet potato flatbread with a very fresh tomato salsa. A great breakfast (and, I must admit, even better than the market’s “classic” Bacon on a Bun).

The Carp Farmers’ Market is a great outing any Saturday, but especially worth it on a festival weekend.

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Garden Candy

Bowl of cherry tomatoes

The orange cherry tomatoes growing in my garden are like candy. Sweet, so sweet. These vines are great producers too.

Spaghetti tossed with roasted cherry tomatoes

Spaghetti tossed with roast garden candy. The orange cherry tomatoes are the sweetest, the red ones add nice colour. This time, I also added a clove of homegrown garlic, always a good thing!

When I have a bowlful, I like to toss them with olive oil and fresh herbs (in my case rosemary and basil), then roast them in the oven. The heat concentrates their sweetness and they release their juices to create a sauce. Finally I combine them with pasta, some quartered fresh cherry tomatoes (for contrast) and more fresh herbs (basil). Simple and delicious.

Calabash tomatoes

Since we're talking tomatoes, here's my first real harvest of Calabash tomatoes, a thin-skinned, flavourful heirloom variety. There are also some orange garden candies mixed in!

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