I’ve been known to be lazy in the summer. And a byproduct of this malaise is that I cook less…a lot less. I can’t bring myself to prepare anything more than a salad or a frozen veggie burger on a day that’s hotter than 25 degrees. Mostly this is because I want to be outside, enjoying the sun and doing fun things. It may be as simple as having a glass of wine (or two) on my patio with a book, meeting a friend for a walk, or going for a bike ride, but the end result is always the same on these long summer days. Food is not cooked.
I go through phases based on the seasons, and in the summer, as soon as the days get longer and the air gets warmer, the social butterfly in me comes out. Beach after work? Beer on a patio? Dinner with friends? I just can’t say no in the summer. It’s like I stop thinking about how much sleep I want, or how much money I’m spending, or the fact that if I go out I will inevitably have to buy lunch the next day. I just say yes! A friend of mine told me about her ‘summer of yes’ a few years ago and I quite like the idea of having a couple of months a year where you just do what feels right!
But, lately, as the summer days are starting to get shorter (it’s dark now at 9pm, le sigh) and the air is a little cooler I’ve been incredibly inspired in the kitchen. It’s like I’m a lost little puppy who found its way home! In the past couple of weeks I’ve been cooking, and baking (which is rare for me) up a storm. My fridge is always full and I haven’t had an excuse to go for lunch in a while. My husband is in heaven!
Now don’t worry, I’m not going to use the f word just yet, because we still have 4 more weeks of summer to go, but I will say that the days of just salad satisfying me for dinner have officially passed. So in case you’re wondering, here’s what’s been going on in my kitchen.
I made a split pea soup for my husband to have as an afternoon snack at work (yeah maybe it’s weird, but he likes it). Just a little something simple I threw together the other day. 2 cups of dried split peas, 4 cups of veggie stock, diced carrot and onion (which I sauteed a bit), a couple pinches of herbs de Provence and I let it simmer for about an hour before I pureed it with my immersion blender. Easy peasy (literally)!
I also made an awesome grilled vegetable ratatouille the other night. I grilled up zucchini, these funny looking round light green squash (not sure what they are called), a couple peppers, eggplant and tomatoes and once everything was cooked to my liking, I sliced it up and threw in some crushed garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar, herbs de Provence (yes, this is a theme), and seasoned it with some salt and pepper. It was even better cold the next day!
Since I clearly have France on my mind, I also made my own version of a French potato salad. I used mixed white and red nugget potatoes, thinly sliced fennel and green beans. My vinaigrette was simple too, grainy dijon, champagne vinegar (vive la France!), and olive oil of course. That with a glass of rose and a Peter Mayle book and you might as well be spending a year in Provence!
I’ve also rekindled my love for Deb Perleman’s blog (Smitten Kitchen). I’ve made her barley, corn and haricot vert salad, as well as her chickpea and roasted pepper salad. Both were hits with friends at BBQ’s. And as we speak, I’m waiting for her herbed potato and summer squash torte to come out of my oven. I had fun making it so even if it’s terrible it’s not a loss! Getting a little more comfortable with my mandoline over here…no big deal! Let’s hope I still have all my fingers at Christmas though!
And on to the piece de resistance. The baking. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it’s usually pretty good…and not too sweet. I hate overly sweet, sugary things. I see kids at sporting events with cotton candy stuck all over their hands and faces and I have to look away, like I’ve seen a snake or something.
Every August with zucchini is in abundance I make this chocolate olive oil zucchini bread. Who are we kidding, it’s a cake, but it’s a healthy cake!. Simply amazing! I also adapted a recipe from my new Turkish cookbook for a fig and walnut cake. Here’s my version:
- 8-10 fresh figs, quartered
- 2 T semolina or corn meal
- 1 1/2 C sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 T orange juice, or zest of an orange
- 1/2 C olive oil
- 1/2 C buttermilk
- 1 cup yogurt (I used goats yogurt as it’s more Turkish)
- 2 C flour
- 1 T vanilla
- 1 T baking powder
- 1 t baking soda
- 1/4 t salt
- 1 cup walnuts chopped
Preheat the oven to 350. Butter and flour an 11″ spring form pan and set it aside. Mix the figs together with the semolina and 2 T sugar in a small bowl. Beat the remaining sugar with the eggs until smooth. Add orange juice, olive oil, buttermilk, vanilla and yogurt. Mix until smooth and then add the walnuts, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and stir until incorporated.
Spoon half the batter into the pan, then sprinkle the figs on top. Top with the rest of the batter and bake for 40-45 min. depending on your oven.
So there you have it, I’m back in the saddle after some summer shenanigans. I’m feeling inspired and happy back in my kitchen where I belong. Soon enough there will be posts about football and stew and red wine, but for now, I’m enjoying this beautiful lazy summer here in Vancouver!