Headed for a Heatwave

  

It’s going to get hot here, in the next few days. At the same time, there’s a bounty of summer produce to experiment with. Here are a few early summer heatwave suggestions:

It’s still strawberry season, so make the most of them while you can.

Shortcake

Dorie Greenspan’s Double-Strawberry and Rose Shortcakes

Salad

Mozzarella, Tomato and Strawberry Salad

Ice Cream

Ginger-Honey and Strawberry Chèvre Ice Cream

And now, cherries have started appearing in the market.

Cherries

Roasted Cherries

Clafoutis

Whole-Cherry Clafoutis

Gateau Basque

Gâteau Basque

If hot-weather cooking doesn’t appeal, there’s lots to do around town.

The Vancouver International Jazz Festival runs until July 1st this year. There are concerts at venues all over town, but don’t overlook the free shows this weekend at David Lam Park. It’s a beautiful place to relax, picnic, and listen to some stellar music.

If you’d prefer to start your weekend indoors, Rain City Chronicles‘ latest show is at the Museum of Vancouver this Friday. It’s called GUTs and promises “stories of relying on your instincts, acts of bravery, and the organs inside you.”

There are two days left to catch the Festival d’ete francophone de Vancouver.

If you have kids, or if you still have the constitution of one, head over to Playland and test your stomach’s mettle with fair food and amusement park rides.

I prefer my thrills pedal-powered, so Velopalooza is right up my alley. I’m only sorry I missed today’s Tour de Book Exchanges.

Or you could hang out in your backyard (or patio, for you microunit dwellers) and work on developing Summer 2015’s signature drink.

I’ll be here hoping for a nice summer rain.

FFWD – Celebration Week #4: Grand Finale

Now that our group has, collectively, cooked through the whole of Around My French Table, we’ve moved on to four weeks of celebratory posts, reflecting on our more than four-and-a-half years of cooking together.

Our assignment this week:

For the improvisers among us, share an original recipe that was inspired by an AMFT recipe or do a recipe that you would like to Make-Up or just make again. We also suggest that you say whatever you wish to say in this Post. We intend to have boxes of tissues on hand when we read everyone’s posts.. Do your best with this one.

Salted Butter Break Ups

Cooking together. It’s one of the simplest expressions of caring that I know. Cooking for friends and family is nurturing, but cooking with someone develops camaraderie and involves more than a little synergy. It’s easy to see this at work as you move through a kitchen, working with a person or a group.

It’s not something I knew was possible to create by cooking through a book with a group of bloggers scattered across the world.

Each week, as the French Fridays crew worked on another selection from Around My French Table, we began by sharing our questions and concerns with one another, then ended by reading about each other’s experiences with the dish. That alone created solidarity, as we identified with difficulties, helped each other problem-solve, and congratulated each other on successes.

However, it’s what we wrote alongside the practical details that really created our community. We shared stories, in the same way that cooks in a kitchen together might. We learned about the markets and culinary specialties of the places each of us live, while we shared the challenges we faced in finding ingredients across hemispheres, regions, and seasons. We cheered each other on in trying flavours, foods, and techniques we might have been too intimidated to try on our own. As we got to know one another, the quirks of our palates (and those of our loved ones) became fodder for discussion. And as we moved through the recipes, we shared our selves.

So, yes – camaraderie, synergy, and friendship built along the pathways of the Internet. Offline, a number of us have met in person. And even though this part of the journey has ended, we’ll keep following each other’s adventures online, while taking the opportunity to meet up in real time whenever it arises.

None of this would have been possible without Laurie Woodward, who first created Tuesdays with Dorie, then launched French Fridays with Dorie. Mary Hirsch and Betsy Pollack became the administrators of the group a little later on and their warm, encouraging presence made the group feel like a circle of friends. And Dorie Greenspan herself has been the warmest and most welcoming one of all – her encouragement to us along the way has helped us to become better cooks and bakers. More importantly, her generosity of spirit has been the model for how we’ve approached our connections with one another.

  

Now, I encourage you to go back and discover this wonderful cadre of bloggers for yourself – not only the fabulous stalwarts who’ve made it to the end, but also those who cooked alongside us at various points along the way. And do think about joining Tuesdays with Dorie – many of us are over there, too. Then check back with French Fridays in the fall. Laurie and Trevor Kensey (who coined the term Dorista) have something in the works. Until then, I’ll lift a salted butter break-up in salute to every one of the wonderful Doristas.

As you can see, I’m determined that this is not adieu, but à bientôt.

Grab your tissues and read through the Doristas’ wrap up posts, here: Celebration Week #4: Grand Finale

Summer Slow Down

IMG_4369

Today, I’m sharing a few photos from the last few heat-wave-y weeks. Farms, festivals, and fun have been on my off-hours agenda. What’s been keeping you busy so far this summer?

  

    

Win one of two copies of Jill Colonna’s beautiful Teatime in Paris!

FFWD – Celebration Week #3: The Play-It-Again-Dorie Recipe

Now that our group has, collectively, cooked through the whole of Around My French Table, we’ve moved on to four weeks of celebratory posts, reflecting on our more than four-and-a-half years of cooking together.

This week, we were asked to:

Choose the recipe from the book that you have made the most often. Or, that you have made a variation of the most. It may not be your favorite or your AHA recipe but it’s the Repeater.

Strawberry Tartine

I’m going to choose a seasonally-appropriate answer to this week’s assignment. Dorie’s Goat Cheese and Strawberry Tartine has become an early summer ritual for me. The ingredients enhance the flavour of strawberries at their seasonal peak. And the freshness and portability of this tartine makes it the perfect summer food – whether it’s breakfast on the balcony or a picnic on the beach. So, this is my “repeater” in mid-June.

If you’d put this question to me in November, I might have answered with Roast Chicken for Les Paresseux or Leek and Potato Soup. Ask me in August and I might choose Salmon and Tomatoes en Papillote. On a day when I’m craving a treat, my choice might be Croquants or Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake, instead.

All of which is to say that there isn’t just one page that’s stained, worn, and in danger of falling right out of the book. There are many.

Which recipes had the Doristas coming back for more? Find out here: Celebration Week #3: The Play-It-Again-Dorie Recipe

Win one of two copies of Jill Colonna’s beautiful Teatime in Paris!

FFWD – Celebration Week #2: The Never-Doubt-Dorie Moment

Now that our group has, collectively, cooked through the whole of Around My French Table, we’ve moved on to four weeks of celebratory posts, reflecting on our more than four-and-a-half years of cooking together.

This week, we were asked to:

Choose the recipe that might not have been your favorite or even something you enjoyed making or even something you were skeptical about but which taught you a technique or gave you an idea or provided a lesson of some kind.

 

In any long-term learning experience, there will be moments of doubt and skepticism. But, we push through to find out if that doubt was warranted and often, minds are changed. Personally, I’d rather be happy than right. Especially when that learning experience is happening in the kitchen.

There were many moments that I found myself feeling skeptical as we worked through Around My French Table and I think that’s a very good thing.

Sometimes, it was the instructions that took me aback. How could flattening puff pastry possibly be a good thing? Turns out, it’s a delicious thing.

Tomato-Cheese Tartlets

Tartlets

Sometimes, it was my own abilities in the kitchen that gave me pause. Now I know I can stuff a pork loin, present a soufflé, and even spatchcock a hen.

Olive-Olive Cornish Hens

Spatchcocked

At other times, it was a flavour combination that made me hesitate. Oranges and olives in a salad? Olives or nori in a cookie? Consider my palate improved.

David’s Seaweed Sablés

Seaweed

What I’ve never doubted was how much I’d grow as a cook during this process, though if you’d asked me at the beginning if I’d grow as a person, I’d have scoffed. As I said, I’d rather be happy than right.

Find out which recipes quashed the skeptic in the hearts of the French Fridays crew, here: Celebration Week #2: The Never-Doubt-Dorie Moment

Win one of two copies of Jill Colonna’s beautiful Teatime in Paris!

Spring Book Reviews – Teatime in Paris!

Tart

This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Stephanie of Kitchen Frolic and Kathy of Bakeaway with Me – you’ve each won a copy of Jill’s book!

I received a review copy of Teatime in Paris! from Interlink Publishing. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

There’s something intoxicating about a bakery case. The aromas, of course, help. But it’s the visual feast that is dizzying. Delicate millefeuilles; macarons in all their colour-wheel glory; choux puffs and éclairs stuffed full of cream; cakes, cookies, and tarts in all shapes and flavours – how can one decide?

That’s why high tea is such a pleasure. You can fill your plate with bite-sized versions of all those pastries. The French have their own take on teatime – le goûter. However, unlike high tea, le goûter is an everyday occasion. Children go in for Nutella tartines, but adults take tea or coffee with delicate pastries.

It’s a much better habit than the to-go cups and monstrous, leaden scones that feature in North American afternoon breaks.

Jill Colonna is something of an expert on le goûter and teatime, too. A Scottish transplant to Paris, she’s explored all that city has to offer the discerning mid-afternoon pastry aficionado. So much so that she gives tours of the best pâtisseries and chocolatiers in Paris.

She started her blog, Mad About Macarons, when she began experimenting with making French pastries at home. Her first book, also called Mad About Macarons!, demystifies the process of making these quintessentially French treats. Her macaron recipes range from classic to playful, guaranteeing you’ll never get out of practice.

Her latest book, Teatime in Paris!, just released on June 1st, takes on the rest of the pastry case. There are chapters on choux pastry, millefeuilles, tartlets, and of course, macarons. Each of these begin with an illustrated, step-by-step recipe for the basic version of the pastry, then move on to all sorts of variations. The book also includes recipes for canelés, crepes, little cakes, and more. There are even recipes for a few full-sized desserts and the last chapter sets out recipes for an elegant French tea party.

My family was quite pleased to learn that I’ve got the book bristling with bookmarks and several of them have volunteered to taste-test while I master these pastries. I have to say, it’s started out very well. I made Jill’s Passion Fruit and Lemon Meringue Tartlets last week and they are everything I love about pâtisserie baked goods.

Jill’s pâte sucrée (sweet pastry or sweet tart dough) recipe yields the best pastry cases I’ve ever made. They’re sturdy enough for any filling, but just the right balance of crispy and tender when you bite into them. They also don’t get soggy over time.

Pastry

I could have stopped baking right there, I was so pleased with the pastry cases. I’m very glad I didn’t. The fruit curd filling has a little gelatin in it, giving it a sheen and substance that most homemade curds lack. The topping is a perfectly sweet French meringue that holds up in the oven and then in the refrigerator.

Filled Tarts

The tart, smooth filling contrasts so well against the texture of the pastry case and the sweetness of the meringue. They look beautiful, too. These tartlets are the closest thing to a pâtisserie sweet that I’ve ever made. I made them smaller than called for in the recipe, so that I could share them around in my extended family. It was also an excuse to use my grandmother’s butter tart pans, which are perfect for making tiny pastry cases.

Pans

Jill’s instructions guided me through the whole process easily. I’m looking forward to finally having some success with macarons under her instruction, though it’s her Chocolate-Earl Grey Tartlets with Orange-Liqueur Crumble Puffs that are next on my agenda.

I’ve gotten permission from Jill and Interlink Publishing to share the recipe with you. However, if you want the secret to Jill’s wonderful pâte sucrée, you are just going to have to buy the book. (You should.)

A note to Canadian and American bakers: if you haven’t invested in a digital kitchen scale, now is the time to get one. The ingredients are given in grams, for accuracy and an international readership. And really, what are you waiting for? You will be so pleased when your baked goods come out perfectly, consistently.

Passion Fruit and Lemon Meringue Tartlets

Makes 8 tartlets
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Chilling time: 2 hours
Temperature: 160°C/320°F fan (Gas 4), then 200°C (400°F, Gas 7)

Ingredients

  • 500g pâte sucrée (sweet pastry)

Filling:

  • Zest of an unwaxed lemon
  • Juice of 2 passion fruits and 1-2 lemons (100g fresh juice)
  • 100g sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 90g cold butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 x 2g sheet of gelatine

Meringue topping:

  • 60g egg whites (approx. 2 egg whites)
  • 90g sugar (normal sugar, not caster/super-fine)

Method

Tarts

  • Roll out the pastry to 3-4mm (1/8-3/16″) thickness turning regularly on a lightly floured surface. Cut out rounds that are 2cm (3/4″) bigger than your tartlet molds. Gently press each round into a tartlet mould, trimming off excess pastry. Prick the pastry all over with a fork.
  • Bake the tartlets for 10-15 minutes at 160°C/320°F fan (Gas 4). Allow to cool, remove from their moulds and set aside.
  • Soak the gelatine in cold water for 10 minutes and zest the lemon.
  • Strain the juice of two passion fruits using a sieve to remove all the seeds and make up to 100g by adding the juice of 1-2 lemons.
  • In a saucepan, whisk together the passion fruit-lemon juice with the sugar, zest and eggs over a medium heat until the sauce boils, bubbles and thickens.
  • Strain to remove the zest. Take off the heat and whisk in the butter and the gelatine (squeezed of excess water).
  • Pour directly into the tartlet shells and place them in the fridge until ready to serve.
  • To appreciate them at their best, remove from the fridge 10 minutes before serving.

Meringue

  • Whisk the egg whites at medium-high speed with an electric mixer in either a glass or metallic bowl. Just as they start to froth up, gradually add the sugar. Increase to a high speed, continuing with the sugar until the meringue forms strong, glossy, stiff peaks.
  • Spoon (or transfer to a piping bag with a large serrated or plain tip and pipe out) the meringue on top of each tartlet, spreading it as much as possible over the top. If not piping, using the back of a spoon, lift parts of the meringue up into little cones for decoration.
  • Bake in a very hot oven (200°C, 400°F, Gas 7) for about 5 minutes. Alternatively, brown with a culinary blowtorch.
  • Remove and chill until ready to serve.

Tarts

One last thing – don’t be surprised if you find yourself packing this cookbook on your next trip to Paris. One of the loveliest bonus features of the book is the illustrated appendix of Jill’s favourite sweet walks in Paris. It gives you advice about where to find sweets and pastries across a number of Paris’ famous neighbourhoods. And if, like me, you’re not going to Paris anytime soon, this chapter will help you visit vicariously.

You can see all this for yourself if you’re lucky. Interlink Publishing has been kind enough to offer two copies of Teatime in Paris! to my readers. You can enter to win one of them via the link below.

Teatime in Paris

Readers with US or Canadian mailing addresses (with the exclusion of residents of Quebec) can enter to win one of two copies of Teatime in Paris! You can find the giveaway, along with the rules and eligibility requirements, by following this link. The winners will be notified by email on June 20, 2015. Good luck!

That’s it for my Spring Book Review series. It’s practically summer now, after all. I hope you’ve treated yourself to a few of the titles I’ve told you about over the last few weeks. And if you try any of the recipes I’ve shared, I’d love to hear about it! Now, go out and enjoy all the good food summer brings.

In the Early Summer

Peonies

One of the nicest things about Vancouver Mini Maker Faire is that it runs the gamut from handcrafts to high tech, with all makers being accorded respect. There’s lots to see and do there this weekend.

Once you’ve made the most of Maker Faire, you can reward yourself with a cold brew at Vancouver Craft Beer Week’s Festival on Sunday.

Or you can just get in the mood for Italian Day on the Drive at The Rio. They’ve got a mini Italian film fest lined up in the week leading up to the big day.

Bard on the Beach is back, meaning that it’s well and truly summer. Their offerings this year include a steampunk-inflected version of The Comedy of Errors and a Jazz Age Love’s Labour’s Lost.

If it’s not sold out already, Vancouver’s Femme City Choir promises to put on a terrific show.

Or you can celebrate the oeuvre John Hughes with Hot Wet Art City.

If none of this seems exciting to you so far, maybe a Terminal City Rollergirls Double Header is more your speed.

There’s lots more going on, of course, but that gives you a starting point. There’s also a chance that I might kick back with a cool drink and admire the early summer flowers. They’re so fleeting, after all.