When I was a kid my Mom, as most moms do, drove me crazy. As soon as tomato season started every time she would bite into a tomato, and I mean every time, she would swoon. Really. Not just get a bit excited, but the “do you need smelling salts’ kind of swoon. She would take one bite and in a fit of slight rapture she would exclaim “oh….. this is sooooooo good”. “Yes Mom, we know. They are good.” we would say. “No.” she would say, ” but these are SOOOOOOO good”. Sigh. As a teenager it was mortifying.
I think I can, without jinxing myself, say spring has officially arrived in Vancouver. The morning air is still a bit cool, and there will still be monsoon rains to come, but the sun has a warmth to it that we have been missing for a long, long while. Trees and flowers are blooming, the birds are devouring the seed from the feeder daily and neighbours are stopping to say hello as I dig in the dirt. Yes. Hooray for spring.
Summer is an easy time to entertain. Food is fresh, nights are sultry and most people aren’t craving the heavy rich meals of the colder months. Summer also means more casual and outdoor dining. It couldn’t be simpler than to light up the barbeque, make some salads and serve fruit for dessert. Perfect.
If you’re looking to celebrate this August long weekend here is my cook(those)books roundup of a few of my recent favourite finds from cookbooks and magazines. Packed in a picnic basket, spread on the picnic table or schlepped to the cottage, these three recipes are absolutely easy and delectable.
Breakfast. We’ve all heard it before. It’s the most important meal of the day.
Break. The. Fast.
Fitness and health advice aside, it only makes sense that if you’ve gone several hours without eating (as most people do while they are sleeping) the next meal you eat should be nutritionally sound and psychologically satisfying. That said, I am completely not a breakfast person. Given the choice I would have my cup of green tea upon waking, followed by some coffee, and then food about 5 hours later. For years that is exactly what I did. Ah youth. Then, in my early years of personal training and fitness competing I got a bit smarter. Getting up at 430 in the morning I would swallow down a protein shake to start the day and then a few hours later be ready to eat real food. Yuck.
It should come as no surprise then that I’m not really the breakfast person in my house. I make a killer porridge, a nutritional protein smoothie and great fried egg sandwich but that’s where it ends. Although, I should note at this point that I’m obviously I’m not including bacon in my ineptitude. Of course I can cook bacon. But it’s a separate food group. “Vitamin P”. It doesn’t count. Bacon aside, if you visit, and want a good breakfast, make friends with my husband. He’s the man for the job.
All that said, it’s the holidays, I have no need to be awake at the crack of dawn and I have a house guest. When a friend egg sandwich or shake just won’t cut it, there’s only one other thing in my repertoire. Baked eggs. They look far fancier than they are and they are easily adaptable for almost any cheese, vegetable or protein you might have in your refrigerator. And, if you’re one of those brave enough souls to invite people over for brunch they are a wonderful protein addition to your menu.
(makes 2 small and 1 medium ramekin, or 4 small)
- 2 whole eggs
- 4 eggs whites
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- 4 tbsps extra old cheddar, grated
- 1/4 cup spinach, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp cream (completely optional, but adds a wonderful richness)
Other great options: carmelized onions, pancetta, mushrooms, havarti/blue/goats cheese, arugula, oven roasted tomato, thyme, basil, oregano, curry powder…. the list is endless!
- Lightly oil or butter small to medium size ramekins. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a small bowl lightly beat all eggs. Whisk in dijon mustard.
- Add a touch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Evenly divide half of the cheese and spinach between the ramekins. (place on bottom).
- Whisk remaining cheese and spinach (or other vegetables) into eggs.
- Pour egg mixture into ramekins.
- Place ramekins in a baking dish with about 1-2cm of water.
- Place in oven and bake until cooked. Depending on oven this will be 15-30 minutes. My gas oven at 350 takes about 20 minutes.
The best part is, these really don’t just have to be for breakfast.
It was a short summer season here in Vancouver and while I had a bumper crop of tomatoes (yeah!) there is one small problem, many of them are (still) green. Very green.
Several pints of green tomato salsa, relish and chutney later I decided I needed to make something that was edible now. The answer was obvious (not fried) green tomatoes and onion. Easy beyond belief and a great addition to your dinner table. Continue reading
There are days the sun is shining and you bound out of bed ready to scale mountains (or whatever your equivalent). There are other days when it is cold and gloomy out and it seems as if those mountains keep growing with every step you take. On those sort of days most people have their go-to comfort food. I am no exception. Not so surprisingly, mine includes noodles (with french fries being a very close second).
As a trainer and nutrition coach I shouldn’t admit this, but my absolute down in the depths meal is spaghetti noodles, with butter and sea salt (or truffle salt if I feel like splurging). I blame a high school friend with a ridiculously fast metabolism for introducing me to that. As an adult who knows a bit better I still go to pasta, but try to clean it up a bit.
I’ll be honest, the last few weeks the so called mountains have felt quite large. The butter and truffle salt are calling, but instead, this is what I had today. Buckwheat soba noodles with oven roasted onion, tomatoes and anchovies.
Sauce (for 2 people)
- 1 small sweet onion (vidalia), finely chopped
- a handful of small sweet cherry tomatoes cut in half
- a few glugs of olive oil
- 1 tbsp dried oregano or a few fresh sprigs
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 can oil packed anchovies, well drained and chopped (optional, but so tasty!)
- 2-3 tbsp white wine
- enough noodles (your choice) for 2
- shaved parmesan cheese and freshly torn basil leaves for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350degrees.
- Spread onions onto a rimmed baking sheet.
- Spread tomatoes in a layer on top of onions.
- Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and oregano.
- Place baking tray in oven for approximately 45minutes until tomatoes and onions are soft but not browned.
- While tomato and onion mixture is baking, place drained anchovies in a large bowl and add a glug of wine and some fresh cracked pepper.
- When tomato mixture is cooked, turn off and let rest in the oven. Meanwhile boil some well salted water and cook pasta as per package instructions.
- When noodles are cooked, drain and add noodles, tomatoes and onions to anchovy mixture.
- Toss well.
- Serve with fresh parmesan cheese, freshly ground pepper and torn basil. (a glass of red wine doesn’t hurt either)
In my continuous quest to have summer last all year one of my favourite ways to preserve the taste of the season is oven roasted tomato paste. Looking for a weekend project? Making it isn’t difficult, just a bit time intensive. I assure you though your winter meals will thank you for it.
- as many ripe roma tomatoes as you wish. (A full baking sheet makes about one ice cube tray worth of paste.)
- olive oil
- sea salt
You will also need:
- large sheet pan(s) or cookie sheets
- parchment paper
- food processor / belnder
- ice cube tray
- Head to local farmers market and buy a ridiculous amount of tomatoes.
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
- Wash the tomatoes and cut them in half.
- Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit your sheet pan(s).
- Place tomatoes cut side up on the paper. Don’t worry, they can be packed fairly close together. The more the merrier.
- Drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes.
- Sprinkle with sea salt.
- Place in oven.
- Allow to cook for 3-4 hours. At about the 3 hour mark make sure you check that they haven’t started to burn on the edges.
- When they are cooked, remove pans from the oven and let them cool.
This was not the post I planned for today. But then something happened.
Yesterday, as I was prepping 40lbs of beautiful field tomatoes for the freezer a friend innocently asked “is that how you peel tomatoes?”. It was then that I realized that every year when I freeze tomatoes (or peaches) I get the same question.
So folks, here ya go.
First. Get some tomatoes.
Next, boil some water in a large pot and set a large bowl of cold water next to the stove. When the water is boiling use a slotted spoon and place them into the water.
Watch them until the skin splits. As soon as the skin splits use a slotted spoon to remove the tomatoes and place them in the cold bowl of water.
Place the bowl in sink, and if the water has warmed add more cold water. It is important not to let the tomatoes actually cook at this stage. You just want to be able to peel the skin.
Peel off the skin.
That’s it. You’re done.
What you do now is up to you. You could leave them whole, core them, slice them, quarter them, mash them, seed and puree them, your options are endless. This batch I just quartered and put into freezer bags.
Now they just sit in the freezer and wait for the winter rains as a little mealtime reminder that summer always comes back.