Grown-Up Snow Cone #3: Cucumber & Basil Granita

Today, we bring to an end our exploration of those grown-up-style snow cones, granitas. Having already gone in for ingredients like tart fruit, bitter alcohol and strong coffee, there seemed only one adult-inspired avenue left to explore:

Vegetables. 

(I can only imagine the number of traumatic childhood memories that trace back to the then-much-maligned phrase: zucchini cake.) 

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And what better vegetable for battling the summer heat (she writes, as the temperature dips to a postively toasty +2°C) than the quintessentially-cool cucumber? Throw in a bit of savoury-but-sweet basil and you get:

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Sophisticated colour: Pale, sparkling green, flecked with tiny shards of emerald basil. 

Unbeatable texture: Clusters of delicate crystals that melt away to leave behind only freshness and flavour.  

And finally, of course, the flavour: cool, clean, super-refreshing and…well, a bit like salad, actually. A perfectly-sweetened, desserty salad to be fair, but still: kinda salady.  

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Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing; when the temperature climbs, I imagine a not-so-sweet cucumber-based granita will be welcomed by all with open, sweaty arms. But I just don’t know about that basil, guys. I mean, I’m not a basil fanatic, so that may be part of the problem. But I can’t help but feel that our pal cucumber would be more comfortable as a dessert if it were hanging with its old buddies, mint and gin.

So next time around - and there will be one; I don’t give up so easily! - I’d switch up the herbs, add a shot of gin, and adjust with fresh lemon or lime juice until it tastes just so.  

And then probably follow it up with an ice cream sandwich and a nap. Because - who are we kidding? - that’s what grown-ups do.
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Cucumber & Basil Granita
Adapted from Gourmet and CNN
Makes ~3 cups

Ingredients
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp white sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp water
1.5 cucumbers, peeled, seeded* and roughly chopped (enough for 3 cups)
1 tbsp (not-quite-firmly packed) basil leaves

Directions
1. Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat, let cool. Combine cucumbers, basil and sugar syrup in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. 

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2. Transfer mixture to a shallow metal baking pan** and freeze, breaking up ice chunks with a fork every 30 minutes, until firm but not frozen solid, 2-3 hours. Once firm, give granita one last fluff with a fork, freeze for 30 minutes more, then serve in chilled containers (to keep it frozen longer). 

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*To remove seeds, cut the peeled cucumber in half length-wise and use a teaspoon to scoop out the seeds (check out the first photo!). 
**I used a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan and it took mine 3 hours - final fluff included - to freeze.  

A Speedy, Savoury, Delicious Detour!

Change of plans!

After a week focused entirely on frozen treats, you’re probably battling a bit of brain freeze. So I’ve decided to push back the final grown-up snow cone to later this week and today am sharing something that’s neither slushy nor sweet, and - bonus! - is ready to go in a near-instant. 

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In retrospect, it may have been a bad idea.

Because in place of a good(ish)-for-you-granita, I’ve decided to pass along a simple recipe for transforming an already-delicious cheese into a ridiculously-delicious cheese: a lemon-and-thyme-tinged-and-topped goat cheese spread. And, if you’re anything like me and consider cheese to be synonymous with “balanced meal”, that’s dangerous. 

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Truly, if I didn’t have some self control, the entire five ounces would have been but a memory. A good memory, undoubtedly. But I mean, five ounces. That’s like eating a cell phone made of cheese.

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Now, supposedly - supposedly - five ounces is enough to share between eight people. But if you have seven fellow cheese-for-supper sympathizers in your group, you may want to double the recipeOr maybe just don’t serve it as a main course.

But I can’t be sure on that last point.

See, it’s hard to hear the voice of reason over the other voice in my head whose violent coughs sound a whole lot like the word “hypocrite”. 
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Lemon & Thyme Goat Cheese Spread
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Makes about 3/4 cup 

Ingredients 
5 oz. (~3/4 cup) soft goat cheese at room temperature*
2 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
fresh-ground black pepper
3-4 tsp extra virgin olive oil

Directions

1. In a small bowl, mix together lemon zest, thyme, garlic and a big pinch of pepper. In a separate bowl, mix together goat cheese and half of the zest mixture. Stir olive oil into the remaining zest mixture.  

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2. Shape goat cheese mixture into a ball and flatten to disc roughly 2.5 inches across. Pour zest-oil mixture overtop goat cheese. Serve with toasted slices of baguette, crackers, veggies, etc. - ooh man! 

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*If you’re not into the flavour of goat cheese, ask your local cheese expert to recommend a mild goat cheese or try substituting a soft, tangy, spreadable cows-milk cheese. 

Grown-Up Snow Cone #2: Espresso Granita!

I thought I had it all figured out.

See, in deciding which grown-up snow cone to send your way next, I figured few flavours could be more mature than that bitter brew loath to anyone under 18.

So I did it: I made espresso granita. 

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And, well, I was wrong. Because this sweet and sparkly vanilla-scented summer treat is nothing like the sharp shots we throw back in the name of efficiency, effectiveness and adulthood. No, a scoop or two of these cool crystals will have even the oldest of old feeling young at heart. And not just because of all that caffeine. 

(Bonus points if you layer it with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Seriously. Your 13-year-old-self will thank you.)

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But if you’re looking for something more downtown than playground, simply scale back the sugar and/or throw in a shot or two of your favourite liqueur. The alcohol will slow the freezing process by an hour or two, but my guess is that the hint of Kahlua, Baileys or Cointreau mingling with the cold, crystalized coffee will be worth the wait. And anyway, you’re super-patient now that you’re grown up, right? I know I sure…well, I’m working on it. 

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Just make sure that, whatever you do, you resist your inner-child’s desire to sneak a few sizeable scoops from the freezer right before you head to bed. Your grown-up self will thank you in the morning. Trust me.
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Coffee Granita
Adapted from Gourmet
Makes ~3.5-4 cups

Ingredients*
2 cups hot espresso or strong coffee
½ cup granulated sugar**
2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions
Whisk hot espresso/coffee and sugar together in a bowl until sugar is dissolved, then whisk in vanilla. Pour mixture into a shallow metal baking pan and pop pan in the freezer. Freeze, stirring with a fork every 30 minutes to break up ice chunks, for 1.5-2 hours or until mixture is firm. Once firm, fluff mixture with a fork, freeze for another 30 minutes, and serve in chilled bowls (with a bit of whipped cream, if you’re feeling fancy)! 
 
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*Given that you’re only using three ingredients here, use the best ones you can! 
**Again, if you’re not big on sweet desserts, you may want to scale this back (a good bet is to start small and sweeten until you find it to be super-tasty). Next time, I’ll start with 1/4 cup.  

Grown-Up Snow Cones!

When baby snow cones dream, they dream of becoming granitas.  

Because granitas, well, granitas have it all.

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They strike the balance between sophisticated and fun: The Italian origins of these slushy summer treats give them that cool factor, while their snow cone-like consistency will transport you back to the midway days of your younger years.

Their sweetness goes beyond the surface: Unlike snow cones, which tend to be made by pouring artificially-flavoured syrups over crushed ice, granitas are made by freezing real ingredients - things like fruit purees and juices, nut milks, coffees and liqueurs. Go for a granita, and you’ll never be left with a half-empty cone of unflavoured ice or the tell-tale blue lips that come from consuming the elusive-in-nature-but-semi-permanent-on-your-face blue raspberry.  

They’re enviably easy-going: If you’ve got a pan, a fork and a freezer you can make a simple granita. Add a pot and a blender, and your options expand. (And truly, most granitas are so simple to make that a toddler with a step ladder would find the process a breeze.) So long, sketchy snow cone machine!  

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To help you get started on realizing your granita dreams, I’ll be sending three grown-up granita recipes your way over the course of the week, starting with little-bit-boozy grapefruit and Campari version below. 

But the web is full of granita recipes for kids and kids-at-heart alike - and they’re easy enough to invent - so don’t limit yourself to what you find here. Live more than a snow cone life: get your granita on! 
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Grapefruit & Campari Granita
Adapted from Gourmet
Makes ~7 cups 

Ingredients
1⅓ cups granulated sugar*
1 cup water
3 cups freshly-squeezed pink grapefruit juice with some pulp (I used 4.5 grapefruits to get 3 cups of juice)
¼ cup Campari  

Directions
1. Combine sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat, let cool, then stir in grapefruit juice and Campari. Transfer mixture to a shallow metal baking pan.**

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2. Freeze mixture, stirring with a fork every 30 minutes to break up ice chunks,*** for 3-4 hours or until it’s firm but not rock-hard. Once it’s firm, give it one last scrape with a fork to fluff up crystals and serve in chilled containers (they’ll keep the granita icey longer)!

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*I found this to be quite sweet - next time I’ll try using 3/4 cup of sugar. 
**I popped mine in two pans - an 8-inch round pan and 9-inch loaf pan - to speed the freezing process. 
***For a smoother consistency, stir more frequently; for a coarser consistency, stir less frequently.  

How to Roast a Tomato + 8 Ingredients to Inspire Your Creation!

It’s almost time.

Tomato time, that is. In just a few short months, the markets and stores will be overflowing with so many sun-ripened tomatoes that you’ll think the city is taking some serious action against scurvy. Glorious.

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But we’re not quite there yet. So while we wait for the sun to do its thing, I want to share with you a super-simple technique for roasting tomatoes that’ll make those less-than-ruby romas so flavourful you’ll be eating them long after your neighbour’s ribbon-winning beefsteaks come in. Nice.

I’ve also given a shout-out to eight classic, easy-to-find ingredients that’ll make your tomatoes even more amazing. Use them individually or in combination (when it makes sense; I’m not advocating serving pasta on toast) to come up with your own take on pizzas, pastas, soups, sandwiches, salsas, sauces - the world is your tomato!

Tank running low on inspiration? Not to worry — I’ve also included a few tasty combinations at the end of the post.

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Now let’s get to it! 

Eight Ingredients to Inspire Your Roasted Tomato Creations!

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Fresh Herbs
A handful of chopped fresh herbs (like basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme, oregano - the list goes on!) scattered overtop the tomatoes once they’re out of the oven provides contrasting freshness to the rich tomatoes, while a few slices of garlic placed overtop the tomatoes before baking will infuse them with garlicky goodness. 

Cheese
Tomatoes + cheese = classic (and awesome!). Roasted tomatoes are packed with flavour, so choose a cheese that can hold its own (I like either a creamy feta, a sharp pecorino-romano or pamesan, or a tangy blue, but don’t be afraid to give another cheese a try!). Top the tomatoes with a good sprinkle of cheese 20-30 minutes before they’re done roasting or once they’re out of the oven - either way’s delicious.

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Dried Herbs
Dried herbs pack a bit more of a punch than their fresh counterparts and are great for adding flavour while baking (and don’t have the downside of turning wonky-looking when baked the way fresh herbs do). I’m a big fan of oregano with roasted tomatoes, but spicy and smokey flavours work well too.

Oils + Vinegars
Oils and vinegars can add a ton of richness and depth to an already amazing tomato! Toss tomatoes in 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil or top with a good drizzle of balsamic vinegar before baking for extra-decadent results, or simply drizzle a bit of either (or both!) over the tomatoes once you’re ready to serve them. 

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Pasta
If you’re looking for a blank canvas to paint with the flavour of roasted tomatoes, this is it! 

The Bread
A slice of crisp, Italian-style garlic bread topped with sweet, roasted tomatoes has got to be one of the tastiest, easiest snacks around. Oh man!  

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Greens
As with the herbs, greens are fresh! The slightly bitter, peppery bite of arugula plays particularly nicely here! 

Beans
Creamy white beans are the perfect complement to slightly acidic tomatoes. They also pack more of a protein punch than any of the other ingredients up here, so if you’re looking to take your tomatoes into the realm of a full-on meal, beans are a great way to go. I like cannellini beans, but any white bean should do just fine! 
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Roasted Tomatoes
Adapted from Gourmet

Ingredients
6 plum tomatoes*
3/4 tsp salt**
1/4 tsp black pepper
Olive oil 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut tomatoes in half length-wise, remove stemmy bit, and place cut-side-up in a shallow (3-inch-ish) oiled baking dish. Season with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil (olive oil is optional, but tasty!). Bake for 60-90*** minutes or until skins have shriveled and tomatoes have reached your preferred flavour and consistency. Serve warm or at room temperature.    

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*Plum tomatoes have less moisture than a standard tomato, which means that they’ll get juicy without totally turning to mush when roasted. Cherry and grape tomatoes are also great for roasting, and take about half as much time!
**Remember: the snazzier the salt, the tastier the tomatoes. I used Maldon salt - it’s pricier than table salt, but when you consider how far a box of salt goes, I think it’s worth it! 
***I baked mine for 90 minutes, which gave me sweet, drip-down-your-chin-juicy tomatoes. If you’re looking for something firmer and with an extra-sweet, roasted flavour, bake the tomatoes at 275°F for 2-3 hours or until they’re as you want them to be! 
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Tasty, Toasty Tomato Ideas
the bread + greens + cheese:
top a piece of the bread with arugula, a few roasted tomatoes, and a small handful of your favourite cheese (I used Stilton - it was perfect!). 
beans + oil + herbs: toss tomatoes with 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil before baking, then toss baked tomatoes with an equal amount of cooked white beans and a big handful of chopped fresh basil. Season to taste and serve warm. Or try out a similar recipe here
fresh & dried herbs + pasta + cheese + greens: toss tomatoes with 4 cloves of chopped garlic and 3/4 tsp of chili flakes prior to baking. Once tomatoes are done roasting, toss with 1 lb of hot cooked pasta, 1/4 cup of pasta water and 6 cups of arugula, stirring to wilt arugula. Top with 1/2 cup of crumbled feta. Or try out a similar recipe here!

A Week's Worth of Amazing Oatmeal: Seven Simple Variations!

Oats are awesome. 

Because, in addition to making an awesome addition to cookies and breads, oats stand up on their own as one of the quickest, cheapest, most filling and nutritious breakfast cereals around. But unless you’re an oat aficionado, a plain bowl of the stuff can get old, fast. 

seven_days_of_oatmeal (13 of 16).jpgSo to help you get on board with this good grain, I’m passing along seven super-simple variations that’ll make your standard bowl - and morning - a whole lot sweeter. And, unlike the preflavoured stuff, these variations let you decide exactly which ingredients make the cut (no guar gum or calcium carbonate for me, thanks!). 

Each variation is scaled to work with the single-serving oatmeal recipe provided below, and can be made using either the stovetop or microwave method (save for the eggy version, which should be made only on the stove). 

And don’t be afraid to come up with new combinations of your own; oatmeal is mild in flavour, so think of the bowl as your canvas! But if you need more guidance than those awe-inspiring words, check out the oatmeal-making tips at the end of the post! 

Now, without further ado…
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Seven Simple Variations for Amazing Oatmeal All Week Long! 

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Berries + cream + almonds
The idea:
Fresh, sweet, and a little bit luxurious. 
The method: Top cooked oatmeal with a generous handful of fresh berries, a tablespoon of cream, and a small handful of toasted slivered almonds. If your berries aren’t super-sweet, you may want add a drizzle (~1 tablespoon) of honey too! 

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Peanut butter + banana + honey
The idea: Like the sandwich you ate when you were little (or, if you’re me, last week). You’ve got to try this one! 
The method: Stir 1 tablespoon of peanut butter into hot, cooked oatmeal. Top with a sliced/diced banana and a drizzle (~1 tablespoon) of honey. 

Chocolate + strawberry
The idea: Chocolate and strawberries? No explanation necessary!
The method: Stir 2 tablespoons of grated dark chocolate into hot, cooked oatmeal and top with a big handful of sliced strawberries (raspberries would be awesome too!). 

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Cinnamon + raisins + egg + brown sugar
The idea: Kind of like custardy rice pudding, only way faster.  
The method: Add 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon and 3 tablespoons of raisins at the beginning of the cooking process. When the oatmeal is 1-2 minutes away from being done, stir in a beaten egg. Continue stirring until the oatmeal has reached your preferred consistency (constant stirring will ensure that the egg makes the oatmeal silky and not scrambly). Top with a bit of brown sugar and milk. 

Banana + nutmeg + brown sugar
The idea: One of my favourites! This one packs tons of flavour with minimal effort. 
The method: Top cooked oatmeal with a sliced banana and a good grating of fresh nutmeg (grating is totally worth it!). Add a splash of milk and a bit of brown sugar (or honey), if you so please! 

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Nutella + fruit + hazenlnuts
The idea: Is it dessert? Is it breakfast? It’s breakfast, I say!
The method: Stir 1 generous tablespoon of Nutella into hot, cooked oatmeal. Top with a generous handful of sliced/diced strawberries and/or bananas and small handful of chopped toasted hazelnuts. 

Cinnamon + walnuts + candied ginger + brown sugar
The idea: Warm, sweet, crunchy - perfect for a chilly morning! 
The method: Stir in 1/4 tsp of cinnamon at the beginning of the cooking process. Top cooked oatmeal with a small handful of toasted walnuts, chopped candied ginger, and a bit of brown sugar (honey or maple syrup would be great too!).  
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Basic Oatmeal
Makes 1 serving (enough to get me through to lunch no problem) and can be easily scaled up to make more! 

Ingredients
1/2 cup of quick-cooking oats (the 3-5-minute kind)
1 cup of water, milk or equivalent**
1 big pinch of salt 

Directions**
Combine all ingredients in a small pot and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently (constantly, if you can). Once at a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 3-5 minutes or until oatmeal has reached desired consistency, stirring frequently (constantly, if you can). Eat as is, or add in all kinds of tasty! 

Step_1_2.jpg*You can use any sort of thin liquid, like soy, almond or rice milk - just remember to adjust the amount of sweetener (like honey) you add if you use a pre-sweetened liquid. And if you like your oatmeal wetter or drier than the oatmeal in the photo, add more or less liquid! 
**You can make oatmeal in the microwave by combining all ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl and heating it on high for 90 seconds, stirring halfway through. I think the stovetop method produces a nicer consistency, but the microwave method is great when you’ve got little time to spare! 
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Extra Oatmeal-Making Tips: 

- Make it your own: add your favourite spices, raw/toasted/candied seeds or nuts, nut butters, fresh/cooked/dried fruits, sweeteners, etc. - the possibilities are endless!
- Up the health factor: Choose your additions wisely (skip the Nutella, maybe?) and toss in a handful of ground flaxseed, wheat germ, or other health-food favourite! Swap sugar with a natural sweetener like honey, agave, or a fruit-based molasses. 
- Sweeten with fruit: Adding dried, cooked or fresh fruit at the beginning of the cooking process will sweeten the oatmeal more than if you add it at the end. Toss in a mashed banana, a grated apple or big spoonful of applesauce, a handful of chopped dried apricots - you get the idea! 
- Rehydrate dried fruit: Adding dried fruit at the beginning of the cooking process gives it time to plump! If you’re adding a lot of dried fruit, you may want to up the amount of liquid you use. 
- Reheat leftovers: Leftovers can be reheated over the stove or in the microwave with a bit of extra liquid. You’ll lose a bit in texture, but if you’re the type who needs every extra morning minute possible, the convenience factor of making a big batch and reheating through the week may be worth it! 

An Incredible Breakfast in No Time Flat!

You know how the saying goes: breakfast is a big deal.

(Er, maybe it’s a bit early for quotes.)

So when you guys decided that you wanted today’s post to be about breakfast - a sweet and savoury morning meal - I wanted to give you something worthy of Big Deal status.

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After an appropriate amount of hemming, hawing, and experimental trials with taste-testers, I’ve got it: a simple, speedy, nutritious, delicious, sweet and savoury meal that, if you’re like me, you’ll be eating anytime of day for the rest of eternity. 

Enter: Breakfast Couscous.

In breakfast-sized bites, here’s why I think you’re going to love this:  

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1. It fits the bill! A semolina-based grain-like dish, couscous is traditionally used in savoury North African, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine as a base for soaking up stews. But, being super-nutritious, ridiculously easy to prepare, and eager to mingle with other flavours, it’s exactly what you want to start your day with. Especially when you pair it with, say, sweet spices, toasted nuts and dried-fruit compote

2. It’s quick and easy! Making couscous is as easy as pouring cereal and milk into a bowl and takes the same amount of active time. If you’re like me and wake up with just enough time to get ready for the day, you’ll be happy to hear that everything can be made in advance. You can even portion it out ahead of time so that all you have to do come morning is grab and go! 

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3. It’s infinitely adaptable. Want to skip Step 1 of the couscous recipe? Go for it! Not into the spices or dried fruits I’ve listed? Switch it up or skip the compote entirely and top your couscous with nuts and fresh fruit. Worried about wielding knives before noon? Use fruits - fresh or dried - that don’t need to be chopped. Want richness? Go all in and use butter and milk. You get the idea! 

4. It beats a box of cereal any day! The refined sugars and preservatives you find in most prepared breakfast products aren’t most-important-meal-of-the-day materials. Couscous, on the other hand, is free of sugar and grouchy fats, and is packed with protein, fiber and all sorts of other nutritious things. The compote gets its sweetness, flavour, and a jolt of caffeine from things like fruit, honey, tea and fresh lemon juice. Combine the two, and you get a tasty meal that’ll keep you full and energized all the way until lunch, with no mono-di-tri-glyco-phospho-whatevers in sight! 

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5. It’s certified delicious. Well, by these guys at least! But I mean, when you’ve got a bowl of warm, cinnamon-infused sort-of-cereal, studded with bite-sized jewels of stewed fruit and topped with crunchy toasted almonds, how can you go wrong? And porridge-haters, fear not - couscous isn’t gloopy in the least. (Porridge-lovers: give this a try - I bet you’ll love it too! And I’m all about the gloop, so I’ve got something coming your way soon!

Now, I’m off to sort out my muddled mind with a bowl of couscous and a cup of good coffee - I hope you’ll join me! 
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Breakfast Couscous with Dried-Fruit Compote
Adapted from Gourmet
Makes ~2.5 cups of couscous and ~2 cups of compote (4 servings total)
Note: I’ve listed the couscous recipe first in case you want to skip the compote and serve your couscous with something else. But if you plan to make both, start the compote before you get on with the couscous!  

Couscous!  

Ingredients
2 tbsp unsalted butter (optional)
1 cup couscous (whole wheat or regular)
1½ cups boiling water (or simmering milk, soy milk, or equivalent)
½ tsp cinnamon 
1 large pinch of salt 
Dried-fruit compote and toasted slivered almonds for serving

Directions

1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add couscous and stir to coat. Cook over medium to medium-high, stirring frequently, until golden, roughly 2 minutes. (NOTE: This step is optional! It adds flavour for sure, but if you’re watching your waistline or the clock, or are topping the couscous with something super-flavourful, you can skip ahead to Step 2!)

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2. Combine couscous, boiling water (or equivalent), cinnamon and salt.* Give everything a quick stir, cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Remove lid, fluff couscous with a fork, dish out, and top with compote and toasted almonds! 

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*
You can do this a couple ways. You can boil water (or equivalent) in a saucepan, remove the pan from the heat, quickly stir in the couscous and spices, cover and wait. Alternatively, you can put the couscous and spices in a heat-safe bowl, pour boiling liquid (say, from a kettle) into the bowl, quickly stir, cover and wait. Whatever works for you! Just be super-careful if you’re adding hot liquid to a hot pan, as it’ll steam like crazy and steam can burn!
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Compote!

Ingredients
1½ cups mixed dried fruit (I used apples, apricots, cherries and cranberries), chopped if large
1¼ cups water
1-2 tsp honey (optional)
1 black tea bag (English Breakfast, Orange Pekoe, or something similar)
3 tsp lemon juice

Directions

Combine fruit, water and honey in a small saucepan and simmer over medium heat until fruit has plumped and water is becoming syrupy, 8-10 minutes. Remove pan from the heat, drop in tea bag and let steep for about five minutes (while you make the couscous!). Remove tea bag, stir in lemon juice, and spoon compote over couscous! 

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Whether or not you give the couscous a try, remember to start your day off with a nutritious, delicious breakfast. Need ideas? Stay tuned - I’ve got another simple, satisfying and customizable breakfast recipe coming your way!

A Poll and a Pasta!

Today, I’m sharing two tasty things with you!

First, a poll!

Check out the awesome ideas below - chosen randomly from the suggestions you submitted as part of Dinner Democracy - and vote for your favouriteVoting closes Saturday, May 7th at midnight. 


Thanks to everyone who submitted an idea - they were tons of fun to read and, as always, I’ll do my best to get to all of them soon!

Now on to number two: a recipe! 

Requested by lovely friends I made while studying in Cortona, Italy, this traditional Tuscan pasta dish, fumo, is a doozy. Made with delicious things like rosemary, garlic, tomatoes and heavy cream, it’s sure to put a spring in your step. Er, figuratively speaking, of course.  

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Now, I’ve got to admit to something kind of silly. See, fumo - Italian for “smoke” - gets its name from the addition of a critical ingredient: Italian-style bacon. Given that my vegetarianism spans pre-Italy times to present day, I’ve never actually tried the dish. 

But in the name of friendship and authenticity, I’m passing along the recipe - meat included - anyway. And while I can’t vouch for the meaty version, the recipe I’m sharing comes from Cortona itself (!) so I’m guessing it’s legit!  

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Now, I can vouch for the meat-free version, having made it twice (so long, skinny jeans): think of a rich, rosemary-and-garlic-infused tomato cream sauce that begs to be ladled over a substantial pasta and eaten with gusto, and you’ve got the idea!
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Whether you go all in or skip the bacon, I hope you find the results to be molto bene

Happy cooking, and I’ll see you on Tuesday when I’ll reveal the recipe for the dish you guys most want to see!
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Pasta con Fumo
Adapted from the recipe used at Trattoria Etrusca in Cortona (!), which was recorded and very kindly shared with me by Janet. Thanks too to my mom for patiently painting word pictures over the phone to me as I tried to find the perfect pasta substitute for pici.
Serves 4-6 

Ingredients
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1.5-inch sprig of rosemary, cut into three equal pieces
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
100 grams pancetta or smoked bacon, cut into a small dice
2 oz vodka (1 generous shot)
1 small can of tomato paste (~6 oz or 3/4 cup)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup water
2.4 cups (600 ml) panna***
1 lb of pasta (like pici, bucatini, or penne)
Salt to taste

Directions

1. Place olive oil, 1 piece of rosemary, and garlic in a medium saucepan. Turn heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is golden. Remove garlic and rosemary**, and add pancetta/bacon*** and remaining rosemary. Cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes or until pancetta is golden-brown. Remove rosemary. 

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2. Add vodka and cook until the smell of alcohol is gone (don’t take a strong whiff right away - it’s potent!), then stir in tomato paste and water. Bring to a low simmer.  

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3. Stir in red pepper flakes and panna (or equivalent) and bring back to a simmer. Simmer for 30-40 minutes or until sauce is thick and deep orange in colour. While sauce is simmering, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water (time the pasta to finish around the same time as your sauce). Once sauce has finished simmering, taste and adjust with salt as necessary.**** Toss together drained pasta and sauce and serve! 

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*Panna is a thick, Italian-style cream. If you can’t find it or don’t want to shell out for it, use either an equivalent amount of heavy cream, or a combination of 450 ml of whipping cream and 150 g (3/5 of a standard package) of plain cream cheese instead. I went for the latter and it was delightful! Letting the cream cheese warm up a bit and cutting it into smallish pieces will help it to melt into the sauce better. 
**If you’re making this vegetarian, I’d recommend sauteeing all of the garlic and rosemary together until golden, and leaving them in the pan as you simmer the cream, etc. together to give the sauce more oomph. Next time, I’ll also add a handful of diced sundried tomatoes at this stage to provide the sauce with a bit of the salty richness you’d otherwise get from pancetta.
***Again, I skipped the pancetta, so there aren’t any photos of it. Silly, but there we are!
****I used roughly 1/2 tsp of salt in the vegetarian version. If you’re using the pancetta, which will add saltiness on its own, you’ll likely need considerably less. 

Get Your Vote On with Dinner Democracy!

Today, it’s all about democracy.

And I’m not talking about the Canadian federal election that wraps up tomorrow! 

I’m talking about giving you more say on what shows up on FoodHappy; about starting a Dinner Democracy!

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Two months ago, I asked you to tell me what you’d benefit most from seeing on FoodHappy. And man, was it fun! (And I’m still working on your requests!) But I found myself guessing at which requests would be best for the majority of you. And since the point of FoodHappy is to help get people cooking, I don’t want to miss the mark. 

So I’m changing it up to make it better for you! Now, you get to submit requests AND vote to determine which one shows up on FoodHappy first. 

So long, tyrannical recipe-choosing Stephanie. Hello, Dinner Democracy!

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Here’s how it works!


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Submit your requests - via comments or email (steph@foodhappy.ca) - from now until 11:59 PM (MST) on Wednesday, May 4th.  

Nominate anything - a dish, an ingredient, a technique, a history lesson, a question - that will help get you cooking! And while I’m a vegetarian, I’ll do my best to accommodate anything you suggest. 

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I’ll choose five unique nominations at random and post them in poll-form by 6 AM on Thursday, May 5th(More popular suggestions will have a higher probability of being chosen. Oh, math.) 

Now you get to vote to decide the winner! If you’re keen on seeing a particular idea win, get your friends and family to vote too!  

Voting closes at midnight (MST), Saturday, May 7th.

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Once you guys have elected a nominee (!), I’ll compile the post. As long as the project doesn’t require days to complete, the post will be up on the morning of Tuesday, May 10th. 

Then it’s time for you to get in the kitchen! 

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Like I’ve said, FoodHappy is about youSo I want to give you a chance to show your fellow voter-cooks what you’ve created! 

Snap a photo of your version of the winning idea and upload it to the FoodHappy Facebook page! If you’re not a Facebook user, send it my way and I’ll post it - along with your name, if you so wish! - here for all to see and admire. No deadline on this one!
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That’s it! Now get your democratic juices flowing early and tell us: 

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What Would Have Been the Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie

These were going to be some of the best chocolate chip cookies ever. 

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(A bold thing to say, I know, given that there are hundreds of recipes for this standard sweet. But this isn’t just a recipe; it’s the culmination of six months of research on the part of the recipe’s creator, award-winning food writer, David Leite. After the recipe appeared in the New York Times, bakers pretty much everywhere said the same thing: Leite had created chocolate chip cookie perfection.) 

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But then I came along. 

Between getting ready to move and working what-feels-like eight zillion hours a week, I haven’t had a ton of time for, you know, sleep. But my sister and brother-in-law are on their way home from a month in Argentina and I wanted to make them something homey to ring in their return. And what better to do the job than a classic, comforting cookie that promised to be perfect?

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So I pushed fatigue aside and made some. Properly. Sort of.  

  • I sought out the cake and bread flours that would lend the cookies both tenderness and chewiness.
  • I splurged on as many Valrhona couverture chocolate disks - to create melty chocolate-stratification deliciousness (the official terminology) - as my bank account could bear.
  • I ditched my measuring cups and opted for the more precise method of weighing ingredients. 
  • I let the dough rest for the recommended 36 hours - a bakery trade secret that improves the flavour, texture and colour of the cookie substantially.
  • And, as instructed, I made behemoth cookies large enough to provide three key textures: a crispy edge, a chewy middle, and a soft, gooey centre. 

And I forgot a cup of sugar.
And I forgot to sprinkle sea salt on most of the cookies.
And I burnt a few.  

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My sleep deprivation-induced errors left me with little chocolate chip cakes rather than blow-your-mind crispy-chewy-gooey cookies. Impressively though, they’re still good. 

But because of all of the research that went into the recipe, and the wave of extraordinary reviews that followed its release, I’m pretty confident that if you whip up a batch of these properly (they’re dead simple, by the way), you’ll surpass good and find yourself in chocolate chip cookie nirvana 

And as soon as I’ve managed to sleep, I’ll be doing the same. In the mean time, you can find me napping at the Arrivals gate of the airport with a jar of pickles and a handful of muddled cookies in hand.

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Safe travels, Lauren and Rob - I can’t wait to see you!
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David Leite’s Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Leite’s Culinaria 
Makes 18-24 gigantic cookies (Doesn’t sound like much, but the recipe makes pounds of dough. Extra dough/cookies can be stored in the freezer!)

Ingredients*
2 cups minus 2 tbsp (8.5 oz) cake flour
1⅔ cups (8.5 oz) bread flour
1¼ tsp baking soda
1½ tsp baking powder
1½ tsp Kosher salt
1¼ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
1¼ cups (10 oz) firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tbsp (8 oz) white sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1¼ lbs bittersweet chocolate disks/fèves (min. 60% cacao content) (I used a mix of disks and good-quality chocolate chunks and chips)
Sea salt 

Directions

1. In a large bowl, sift together flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or with a handheld mixer), cream butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla and mix well. Turn mixer off.  
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2. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture. Turn mixer onto low speed and mix just until dry ingredients are fully incorporated into the butter mixture. Remove bowl from mixer and stir in chocolate just until chocolate is evenly dispersed through batter, taking care not to break the discs. Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24-72 hours.** Step_2.jpg

3. Preheat oven to 350°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a non-stick baking mat. Remove dough from fridge and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes or until it’s just soft enough to scoop. Form dough into six 1/3 cup-sized balls (3.5 oz or 100g, to be exact), evenly space on prepared baking sheet, and sprinkle each ball with a pinch of sea salt. Bake for 16-20 minutes or until edges are golden brown but centres are still soft. Cool on the baking sheet for 5-10 minutes (less time if you’ve made smaller cookies), then transfer to a wire rack to cool some more. Repeat with remaining dough. Step_3.jpg

*The ingredients in this recipe were carefully selected to deliver an incredible cookie, so I don’t want to start suggesting you change things up. That being said, it looks like people have had success substituting the cake and bread flours with ~3.75 cups (17 oz) of all-purpose flour, and the chocolate disks with more accessible kinds of chocolate, from high-quality bars to standard chocolate chips. But when perfection is up for grabs, I’d recommend trying the original recipe at least once!
**If you don’t intend on making all the cookies at once, I’d suggest divvying up the dough into a few separate batches at this point. In the next step, you’ll be letting the dough warm up a bit and if you start re-refrigerating it over and over, you’re bound to end up with food safety issues on your hands. Not fun!