Category: Fruit

Rhubarb Ginger Shrub

I LOVE this time of year. I love that my garlic is already a foot tall. I love that my herbs are sprouting new stalks. I love that the blueberry bushes are full of flowers. And I love that my rhubarb practically yells at my from the back yard, “PICK ME! PICK ME!”

And I have! I’m on my fourth picking of the rhubarb and there is still a bounty! I’m running out of new ideas of what to do with it but today’s idea was one of the best. I made a rhubarb shrub!

If you’ve been anywhere near a cocktail bar in the last couple years, I’m sure you’ve heard of it. Shrubs are basically fruit, sugar, and vinegar. A sort of simple syrup on steroids. And they’re delicious. You can use them in cocktails (this rhubarb one is amazing with gin) or simply stir a tablespoon or two into a glass of sparkling water and add a sprig of mint for a refreshing sipper on a sunny afternoon. You can even whisk a couple tablespoons with some olive oil and voila, instant salad dressing! The spent fruit doesn’t have to go to waste either. Add it to any loaf or muffin recipe (I use it to replace half the oil)… yummy!

The combination below is an attempt to use my delicious rhubarb before it disappears but most fruits will work. Try using blueberries and red wine vinegar, or peaches with white wine vinegar and thyme, or strawberries with apple cider vinegar and black peppercorns. Your only limit is your imagination.

For me, this is the ideal blend of sweet and sour (I’m not fond of overly sweet). You should adjust it to your liking. Taste the mixture while it’s still hot and add more vinegar or sugar if you wish. This makes one generous cup. Feel free to double or triple the recipe, you won’t regret it.

1 pound of rhubarb, sliced about 1 cm thick
4-6 slices of ginger
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
pinch of red pepper flakes

Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb has broken down, about 10 minutes. Pour into a fine strainer over a bowl and let sit for about 1/2 hour, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid has been released. Bottle the shrub (I used an old mini whiskey bottle) and store in the fridge indefinitely.

Quick & Dirty: Fennel Orange Salad

I haven’t always been a fan of fennel. The thought of that licorice-y flavour in my food just seemed, well, weird. In the past year, though, it has not been uncommon to find it in my crisper. Why? Because I tried it. Yep, me who preaches about trying everything really didn’t try fennel. I really started using it regularly after I made this… then this. Last week I made a yummy sausage, fennel and white bean spring stew. And last night instead of cooking the sucker I made a salad that I know will become a regular around here… fennel orange salad. I dare you.

This is a Quick & Dirty recipe so I didn’t measure exactly. And except for the two main ingredients (fennel and oranges) I really just tossed in what I had in the fridge. I had a large bag of oranges sitting on the counter but you could even substitute canned if that’s what you have. And I forgot to sprinkle the couscous over the first serving of the salad (Husband going up for seconds: “What’s in the pot?”… arghhhhhh) so I’m calling that optional. You can switch out the the arugula for another salad green, change the pepitas (pumpkin seeds) to another seed or nut, sub in a different cheese, and/or switch the grain to farro or quinoa. Whatever floats your boat.

I had planned on serving this with grilled squid for some protein but ended up searing a sous vide smoked pork shoulder steak that I had in my freezer and adding a couple slices on the side. Sausage would be yummy as well.

Throw the fennel, oranges, arugula, mint and cilantro into a large bowl. Toss with about half the vinaigrette, adding more to your liking. Sprinkle over pepitas, feta, and couscous. Serve with a protein to make a meal.

handful of cilantro leaves
TBS or so chopped fresh mint
2 large handfuls of baby arugula
3 oranges, zested (set aside to add to vinaigrette) then peeled and sectioned, each section cut in half
1 fennel bulb, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 cup pepitas
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1 cup cooked couscous (about 1/3rd cup from dry)

Orange Lime Vinaigrette
juice from whole juicy lime (2-3 TBS)
1 TBS orange zest, more or less to taste
1-2 tsp honey, more or less to taste
1 tsp dijon mustard
salt & pepper, to taste
pinch of red pepper flakes (I used Korean gochugaru which has a lovely fruity element)
good quality olive oil to emulsify (about 1/3rd cup)

Put all ingredients except oil in a bowl, whisk in oil in a thin steady stream until dressing starts to thicken. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Rhubarb Raspberry Galette

I have a boatload of rhubarb.

No, make that two boatloads.

Ummm, nope… make it three.

Yes, I have THREE boatloads of rhubarb! Want some? Come and get it! Got your own? I can’t help you.

Actually, yes. Yes I can help you.

I have been trying to get rid of testing rhubarb recipes for a few weeks. Rhubarb muffins, rhubarb cake, rhubarb crisp, and all of them were good (if you know me, you can hear me say “goooood?” with a sort of question mark at the end) but didn’t “wow” me. Yesterday I was “WOWED”. I’m not sure if it was the pastry, the addition of raspberries instead of the usual strawberries, how gorgeous it looked, or that it paired beautifully with a piece of cheese (yes!). But I have found it. Rhubarb Raspberry Galette… I love you.

A couple of things to note. My rhubarb was fresh from my garden but the raspberries were frozen from last year and worked just fine. I suspect frozen rhubarb would work as well. Also, I loved the addition of ginger to this recipe but I had another thought as I slipped this galette into the oven… rosemary! I think a couple teaspoons of fresh chopped rosemary instead of the ginger would be awesome. oh! OH! And what if you also worked some of that chopped rosemary into the pastry?!?! Holy crap. I could hug myself right now. Back to the kitchen…

For the dough:

10 oz (2 1/4 cups) flour
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
6 oz (12 TBS) butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/2 cup ice water

For the filling:

1 1/4 lb rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen)
1 TBS fresh grated ginger
1 tsp lemon juice
4 TBS flour
1 scant cup sugar (I used about 7/8 cup as my rhubarb was beautifully ripe but use a full cup if yours is not)
Melted butter or egg white beaten with a fork, for brushing the pastry edges
Sugar for sprinkling

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in the cold butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the ice water and gently stir just until the mixture holds together. Be careful not to overmix. Press the dough into a round disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Combine rhubarb pieces, raspberries, grated ginger and lemon juice in a large bowl. Mix the flour with the sugar and sprinkle over fruit. Gently toss until the fruit is coated and let sit for 10 minutes while you roll out your dough.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Place a piece of parchment (bit enough to cover the bottom of a sheet pan) on a large flat surface and lightly flour. Place the dough on the floured parchment and roll out to an approximate 13-14″ circle about 1/8″ or slightly thicker. Don’t worry if it cracks while rolling, just press the broken pieces together. Gently spoon the fruit mixture into the centre of the dough leaving a 2″ rim clean. Fold up the rim (to win!) gently pressing the folds to stay. Slide the piece of parchment (with galette) onto a sheet pan.

Brush the dough with melted butter or an egg white beaten with a fork and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until the fruit is bubbling and the crust is golden, 45-50 minutes.

Place on a cooling rack and let rest for at least 10 minutes before serving. I enjoyed this with a soft, mild cow’s milk cheese. Husband liked it with ice cream.

Pear, Ginger and Olive Oil Cake

I know. For someone who claims not to eat sweets this is the second sweet recipe in a row. I wouldn’t believe me either!

When I do indulge, I prefer a savoury element to my dessert. Despite its popularity I had never tried an olive oil cake and I have to say, I’m sold. The end result is tender and moist and has a lovely fruity grassy flavour from the olive oil that you just don’t get putting regular oil into a cake. I like extra-virgin olive oil for a more pronounced flavour but you can use regular olive oil for a milder cake. In this recipe (which hails from this tiny beloved restaurant in London) the ginger adds a spicy element and the pear is a perfect match with the cheese you should serve with this cake. Yes… cheese! Something sharp and tangy like a Spanish aged sheeps’ milk (Manchego!), or a creamy French blue (St. Agur!) or a runny, slightly salty, bloomy, buttery, somewhat pungent French triple cream (Delice de Bourgogne!). And I’m not even going to mention the amazing crispy crackly caramelized top which comes from a generous sprinkling of demerara sugar… nope, not saying a word.

The original recipe asks for a 2 kg loaf pan which I do not have so I used a 7” springform pan and it took an extra 25 minutes to fully cook the cake in the centre but the top did not overcook so don’t be afraid to leave it in as long as necessary. If the top starts to get too brown for your liking you can cover it with a piece of tinfoil until the cake is done. It will take closer to the recommended time if you use a loaf pan or a larger springform pan.

As well, I highly recommend using a weigh scale to measure the sugar and flour, but I have converted the measurements into volume amounts if you prefer.

3 medium pears, 2 peeled and diced and one skin on, cut into wedges
1 TBS lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
200g (scant 1 cup) sugar
160ml (2/3 cup) good quality olive oil (I prefer extra-virgin for a more pronounced flavour)
2 eggs
50g (1/3rd cup) crystallized ginger, finely chopped
350g (2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp table salt

To garnish:
pear wedges from the third pear mentioned above, skin on and cut in thin wedges
1 TBS demerara sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 7” or 8″ springform pan or a 2 kg loaf pan with parchment paper.

Mix the peeled, diced pears in a bowl with the lemon juice and zest and set aside.

Put sugar and oil in a large bowl and whisk until combined. Whisk in the eggs one at a time until the batter is thick and smooth. Add the diced pear mixture along with the chopped ginger and fold to combine.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, ground ginger, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir so the ingredients are evenly distributed. Add flour mixture into the bowl with the wet ingredients and gently fold until just combined. Do not overwork or your cake will be tough!

Transfer the batter to the lined springform pan. Top with the pear wedges and demerara sugar. Place in oven and bake for 40 minutes. Turn the pan and bake for another 25 minutes. At this point you can start checking to see if the cake is cooked through by sliding a toothpick or sharp knife into the centre. If there is wet batter, bake for another 10 minutes and check again. Mine had to bake for an additional 25 minutes because I used a smaller sized springform pan.

Remove cake from oven and place tin on a baking rack to cool. The cake will store at room temperature for a couple days in the fridge for 5 days. Serve at room temperature… with cheese!!! Or vanilla ice cream. :)

Watermelon Gazpacho (Summer in a Bowl)

watermelon gaz6I know some East-Coasters have been suffering through a very hot summer but I couldn’t help feel just a little bit jealous as I sat in the searing +18C degree heat (can you hear the sarcasm?) of a very mediocre June and somewhat mediocre July. Then suddenly, summer arrived the first few weeks of August. And although it’s gone again now (arrrghhhh fall… really?!?!) I am harkening back to the days of two weeks ago when all was merry and bright and beautifully WARM. I’m talking “no sweater required at 9:00pm WARM”. Not this ridiculous “oh the sun has gone behind a cloud where the heck is my jacket” weather.

The good weather was a blessing a few weeks ago when I planned an outdoor dinner that put many of my newly learned culinary school skills to the test. Six courses, several consisting of two or three separate main elements and a number of different garnishes. It was fun, stressful, and a good learning experience. The third course was my lifeline as it was prepared the day before (no last minute fussing) and simply garnished with toasted almonds. It gave me a breather in the middle of the meal and provided a wonderful palate cleanser. It is none other than… TA DAAAAAA… watermelon gazpacho!

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