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Rhubarb Pimm's Cup

Shack really is the chick in this relationship - in a great way, of course. He is the one who LOVES to talk on the phone, loves to shop, loves to buy shoes and absolutely loves lady drinks. Give that guy a blender, some fruit and assorted bottles of booze and look out. He is a true blender artist.

Last winter we went to a wedding in Montreal and our hotel was right down the street from a great bar, The Dominion Square Tavern. These are real bartender mixologist magicians, complete with old timey mustaches, white tuxedo shirts and long, white half aprons. For some reason, known only to him, Shack decided to order a Pimm's Cup despite the fact that he had never had one and had no idea what was in one. Even though it was the first Pimm's Cup either of us had ever had, I know that it was probably the best Pimm's Cup on earth. It was a bit tart, a bit sweet, had almost a bitter edge to it and it was full of cucumber flavour. It instantly became his favourite drink and we vowed to come up with a recipe we could handle at home on our own since Montreal is a five hour drive away and so it's not really reasonable to go all that way every time we want a cocktail.

I finally came up with this version that just seemed to be the right balance of sweet and tart. I am sure it would be delicious with plain simple syrup but the rhubarb simple syrup gave it a little extra something something that put it over the edge. This might be the official drink of the Canada Day weekend!

when I say jigger, I am referring to one of those bartender measures that have a small cup on one side and a larger cup on the other - I used the larger cup. The most important part is the ratios, not the actual measures - if you use 2 oz of pimms then use 4 oz of lemon juice and 1.5 oz of simple syrup. It's up to you how big you need your cocktail to be, just keep the ratios the same.

Rhubarb Pimm's Cup

2 jiggers of Pimms #1
4 jiggers lemon juice
1 1/2 jiggers of rhubarb simple syrup (of course you can use plain old simple syrup too)
orange slices

So, the first thing I did was to put a few chunks of cucumber into a martini shaker and mash it up. I don't have a proper muddler so I just used the flat handle end of my jigger thing or you can use the end of a wooden spoon. You mash that up and then add the Pimms, the lemon juice and the simple syrup and a couple of ice cubes. Shake that baby up for 20 shakes. Fill a tall glass with some ice, an orange slice, a strawberry cut in half and some cucumber slices and strain the Pimm's mixture into the glass. You really should garnish it with a nice, long cucumber spear that you can dip and munch as you sip your cocktail

Cherry Chocolate Almond Ice Cream

I bought two pounds of cherries this week, planning to make a double batch of boozy cherries but then I changed my mind. I am allowed to change my mind. I am an adult. I do it all the time.

Instead, it felt like it was time to make some ice cream. Last August, I made a key lime pie ice cream using the whipping cream and condensed milk thing that was all over the blogs. Since I don't have an ice cream maker, this method was very appealing to me. It's certainly not a light treat - consisting of nothing but heavy cream and sweetened condensed milk and add ins, but it was ridiculously easy and really, really delicious. If you can whip cream and you own a freezer, you can make this stuff.
When I think cherry, I immediately think dark chocolate and so I used some tiny dark chocolate chips and then threw in a few tbls of toasted, slivered almonds for good measure. When I tasted it before it froze, I was afraid I couldn't taste any cherry and was worried that it wasn't going to turn out but after a day in the freezer it had just enough cherry in there and I don't know if I would change a thing.

Cherry Chocolate Almond Ice Cream

2 cups of whipping cream
1 can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup chopped cherries + 2 tbls pureed cherries
1/2 cup tiny dark chocolate chips or chunked up dark chocolate2 to 3 tbls toasted almond slices, crunched up

whip the whipping cream until stiff peaks form.
Meanwhile, mix the cherry puree and chopped cherries into the condensed milk. Make sure to taste it at that point to see if you want it have more cherryflavour. Remember you are going to dilute the flavours when you mix it into the 2 cups of whipped cream so if it's too subtle before  you mix it into the cream, it's going to be way too subtle after.
When you are sure you like the balance of flavours, fold the cherry and chocolate condensed milk   into the bowl of whipped cream.
Pour this delicious goodness into a freezer container of some sort and freeze if for at least 5 or 6 hrs.
it won't look pretty at this point
much prettier once everything is folded together and ready for the freezer

Boozy Cherries

I have been participating in the Gastropost challenges hosted by the National Post for the last couple of weeks and really enjoying myself. I missed the very first challenge but I am hoping to be able to keep up and enter every week from here on in. Now that my no reEATS year is finished, I feel ready to take on another regular challenge and doing one thing a week is much more appealing to me than a daily challenge.
This week, the challenge was to join team cherry or team strawberry and defend your case. The "secret" challenge that was given to members was to do make some sort of berry preserve and one of the examples was to make either a Pimm's Strawberry jam or some brandied cherries. I just happened to buy a bottle of Pimm's yesterday so although the jam was tempting, I didn't feel like making jam in this weather and we all really love summery cocktails (hence the Pimm's) so brandied cherries made more sense. I didn't use their recipe but loosely followed the recipe on Food 52 because it didn't require all that sugar and it was easier and faster, frankly and I have done something similar before.

Stay tuned for cocktails using these cherries.

Risotto with Fresh Peas

I am not sure what possessed me to make risotto today since it was about 30C out and that is about 93F for you Americans. It's certainly not risotto weather but I had these fresh peas and it was either this or carbonara, which is also not much of a hot weather dish is it?

In the end, risotto for The Kid won out over carbonara for Shack so, loving mother that I am, I stirred over a hot stove, slaving for my offspring and it was totally worth it. The bit of bacon added a nice meaty, saltiness and let the freshly shelled peas do their thing. Next batch of fresh peas will be turned into a carbonara for Shack. Promise.

The Rhubarb love affair continues with Rhubarb Simple Syrup

Okay, we are now full on all about the rhubarb. Today I made some rhubarb simple syrup so that we can have rhubarb lemonade, rhubarb mojitos, rhubarb popsicles  and whatever other rhubarb drinks we concoct. It is a great syrup to keep in the fridge because it's prettier than plain old simple syrup and it's just got that bit of sour edge to it so it's not quite as cloying as a straight ahead simple syrup.

Don't throw that pulp that you strained to make the syrup either - keep it and eat it like a compote over ice cream, in some greek yogurt, slathered on a crumpet or straight out of the jar. The rhubarb might give the simple syrup a beautiful red colour but that rhubarb mash is a pretty unappealing beige colour. Don't throw that ugly step sister out just because she isn't as pretty as the syrup though because what she lacks in beauty, she makes up for in flavour.

Rhubarb Simple Syrup
3 cups chopped rhubarb (3 stalks)
2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups water

bring to a boil, lower the heat and let it simmer for about 20-25 minutes - the rhubarb should be falling apart completely. Take it off the heat and let it cool for about 20 minutes and then strain it into a bowl. You can use cheesecloth or do what I do and strain it twice through a fine sieve.
I kept the discarded rhubarb mash and The Kid ate it of course.

Fizzy Rhubarb Lemonade

3 tbls rhubarb simple syrup
juice from 1 lemon
2 mint leaves, julienned
soda water

mix the lemon juice, mint leaves and rhubarb syrup together in a tall glass. I fill the glass half way with soda water and then I taste it to see what adjustments need to be made. The Kid likes his lemonade quite tart so this is the ratio of syrup to lemon juice that works best for him but it's totally up to you. If you don't like the idea of having chunks of mint in your drink, which some people don't like, you can add the mint to the simple syrup about 20 minutes before and strain it out when you make the lemonade.

Strawberry Rhubarb Sundae Cakes

Ahhh, it's rhubarb season again. When I was a kid, every house I ever lived in had rhubarb growing wild at the back of the yard against the fence. Every single house, I swear. To me, it was an edible weed and my mom would let me take a bowl of sugar out on the back porch and dip a stalk of rhubarb into the sugar and munch happily away on it, disregarding the fact that it was most likely covered in dog pee. My mom was cool like that.

Nowadays, rhubarb is $4 a stalk at the market and has become super trendy and I no longer live in a house with a yard so I can grow my own wild rhubarb by the fence for the dog to pee on so I have no choice but to pay $4 a stalk for it, hopefully dog pee free at these prices. The Kid adores rhubarb so I whipped up a bit of strawberry rhubarb compote for him to eat all week however he sees fit.

Beware, this recipe is a bit tart because he likes his rhubarb a bit on the sour side so feel free to add another 1/4 cup of sugar if you like it sweet. He eats it on ice cream, in a bowl with a drizzle of maple syrup over some greek yogurt or on toast. If I let him, he would most likely just grab a spoon and it straight out of the jar. I would let him do that if I had free dog pee rhubarb.

Let's be honest here. Apart from the strawberry rhubarb compote, this is not a home made, super woman cooking it all from scratch dessert. I am sure I could make the sponge cake myself and if I wasn't going to use the PC dulce de leche, I would still most likely just simmer a can of condensed milk forever and go South American style but Shack does love those little cakes and we all love the PC dulce de leche and it makes a really fast, easy, delicious week night dessert this way. It's not pretty but it is really good and The Kid has had two of these for dessert every night this week.

Beet Salad with Arugula

Summer like weather is here, even it it's not supposed to be this hot yet and that means we have already started to eat like it's July. Last summer, I was knee deep in my no reEATS challenge so The Kid and I were pulling our hair out, trying to come up with things we felt like eating in the hot weather. Generally speaking, I keep all sorts of dips and salads and condiments in the fridge and then we will grill some fish or sausages or a bit of meat and that will be dinner night after night. Some nights we might have some greek pita, other nights a bit of pasta salad, a little chunk of cheese and olives to round out the platter but we are all pretty happy eating basically the same meal night after night.

 You know, I was fine with the no repeating a recipe during the cold winter months, but the summer almost killed me. I won't tell you how many nights I broke down and cried in my kitchen because all I wanted was some dip, bread and a bit of grilled salmon but I had to make something brand new because that would be embarrassing to admit, wouldn't it?
Beets are much beloved in this house and there is something about the mixture of walnuts, walnut oil and beets which makes so much sense to me. To me, the two best ways to eat beets are with walnuts or with oranges and thinly shaved fennel and one of these salads is always in heavy rotation during the summer.

Golden Beet Salad
*4 or 5 small golden beets  either roasted or steamed, peeled and cut in wedges
big handful of baby arugula
chopped walnuts

1 tbls white balsamic vinegar
salt to taste
2 tsp honey dijon mustard
2 tbls walnut oil
2 tbls canola or other flavourless veg oil

whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing and toss with the beets, walnuts and arugula

*to roast beets, I wrap whole, cleaned beets in some foil (do not peel them) and roast them in a hot oven - 375 to 400F. Of course, if you are already making something in the oven, throw them in there and cook them at whatever temp the other dish is cooking at. If it's lower than 375F, just crank the heat up after your take out your other dish because it can take a couple of hours to roast them if the heat is lower than that. If your beets are HUGE, half them before you wrap them in the foil.

They are ready when they are fork tender and you just take them out of the oven, open the foil and run each one under cold water and the skin should just slip off with a bit of a gentle rub. Set them aside in a shallow bowl and let them cool to room temp.

To steam them, wash them but don't peel them, cut them into halves or quarters and arrange them in a steamer and steam them for at least 20 minutes. Just check them every five or ten minutes after 20 minutes and stop when you can pierce them with a  fork. 
Run them under the cool water and slip the skins off, set aside to cool to room temp.

Corny Clam Chowder

I sent Shack and The Kid off to their boy's cottage weekend with a cooler full of lobsters, corn and other delicious things. I think it was an all flesh all the time kind of weekend and I have a feeling that nothing that didn't once draw some sort of a breath made it to the menu because the cooler came back with all the corn still in it.

So, what to do with all that corn? Make corn chowder of course. We all love corn chowder and even though it was really hot today, I liked the idea. When I went to the store I spied some fresh looking clams so those went into the basket too. The Kid really likes clams and he has been on a bit of clam chowder kick lately so it was a no brainer. The addition of sweet potatoes adds a bit more nutritional integrity and a nice hit of colour in an otherwise very white looking soup. 

Because I don't really like the classic,  super thick clam chowder that you often get, I didn't use any thickening agents in this one and in place of heavy cream, I used my handy, dandy evaporated milk with perfect results. If you like a really thick chowder, you are going to have to thicken it up with a slurry or something but if you are good with a thinner, really flavourful soup, this is your recipe.

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