June 26, 2013

Strawberry Basil Tart

Whenever my mischievous and romantic French friend Marion and I get together (which is sadly not very often because of the small obstacle of an ocean dividing us), we spend most of our time talking about two things. Food and love.

I mean, what else is there to talk about really? I'm exaggerating a bit of course, we talk about many other things like the state of the world, and spirituality, and our deepest dreams, etc etc. But we do always seem to come back to food and love. And one day, many moons ago, when I had become completely infatuated with a certain Mr. Wrong, Marion tried to come to my rescue by sharing this recipe with me, swearing it was a tart to melt the heart of any man. Well. I never did end up making the tart way back then. And as everyone had predicted, things did not go well for me with that mister. But over the years, my mind often went back to that tart. Fresh strawberries and basil. Together. In a tart. Filled with custard. I mean. How can you resist making a dessert like that? I actually did resist, for many years, but this summer I couldn't hold back anymore. Besides, I had a very special someone to make it for. And while I am not a huge fan of Valentine's Day, I am a huge fan of strawberry season, which is so infinitely better in my books. So without further ado, I present to you dear reader, Strawberry Basil Tart.

Now, a very quick word of warning on strawberries. Strawberries, more than any other fruit or vegetable on the market, are routinely found to contain toxic residues well above the allowable limit. So if you're not too keen on eating a toxic cocktail of over 50 pesticide residues, I strongly recommend buying (or growing!) organic strawberries. The extra buck for your health is well worth it!

You can find my strawberry basil tart recipe right here at PBS Food. Bon appétit!

June 19, 2013

Rhubarb Cardamom Shortbread Bars

I know rhubarb season is nearing its last days (sniff!)... but before it goes, here's one last hurrah: chewy rhubarb cardamom shortbread bars. In fact, I've already filled the freezer with rhubarb so I can make these all through the year. 

This recipe was shared with me via a friend from Salt Water Farm who blogged about it last spring. Thank you Irene!! This one's a keeper! 

This recipe is totally unique because the dough is frozen and then grated into the pan! Which accounts for the delightful chewy crumbly texture of these bars.

If you don't have any rhubarb, you can substitute your favourite jam in this recipe.

I do hope you'll try these, they are quite irresistible! You can find my version of this classic recipe here on PBS Food. Enjoy!

June 12, 2013

Semolina Gnocchi Stuffed With Asparagus

I'm feeling more than a little giddy this evening. Because Kitchen Vignettes is now on PBS! I'm so excited to join the amazing team of chefs, bloggers, and show hosts at PBS Food... and also blushing a little and getting a kick out of having my photo alongside such talent, especially since I'm not actually a chef but just a girl who loves cooking and eating (and happens to make weird videos with dancing vegetables and such). Over the coming months, I'll be sharing a whole bunch of new recipes I've got up my sleeve on a weekly basis. Please come on over, check it out, and say hello!

To start things off on the right foot with this new blog series, I wanted to share an asparagus recipe that I hope you'll try.

I first had semolina gnocchi (also called Gnocchi Alla Romana) at Shepherd's Pie in Rockport, Maine and then I saw the light. It reminded me a bit of the velvety cream of wheat porridge my mom used to make for me as a kid, one of my favourites. Well it turns out when you add a little butter, egg yolks, and parmesan, plain old cream of wheat takes on a whole new persona. Who knew? I sure didn't. I love potato gnocchi too, but I'm a sucker for easy one-casserole dishes and I'm now a semolina gnocchi convert. Stuffed with asparagus, mushroom, and cheese, this makes a hearty comfort dish that is great for rainy days like today. And it makes tasty leftovers the next day. Have it for breakfast, lunch, or supper. Or all three.

While I pine and yearn to have my own asparagus patch one day, I'm not quite there yet and so my friend Diane from Sleepy Hollow Rag Rugs kindly made a little cameo in my video, picking the basketful that you see. Thank you Diane! And what a joy it was to see those asparagus pop up out of the earth and snap away so juicily!

You can find the recipe for my gnocchi stuffed with asparagus on PBS Food. Please let me know in the comments below, what are your favourite asparagus recipes?

And now I'm going to go back to doing my happy dance to this song which I am a little obsessed with at the moment. Bonne nuit mes amis :-)

June 07, 2013

Eggs Poached in Maple Syrup

It's been said we Canadians have identity issues. I heard someone say once that we're better at defining ourselves by who we're not (ie: we love to proclaim we are not American) than by who / what we actually are. And then there's food. Is there such a thing as Canadian cuisine? That's a hard question to answer. I was pleased to be asked to contribute to the Canadian Food Experience Project which has set out to answer that very question and to explore our Canadian food heritage.

OK so I know maple syrup is the obvious / cliché Canadian food... but as my first contribution, I couldn't help but share something kind of crazy I remember eating as a kid: eggs poached in maple syrup.

Although he denies it, I distinctly remember my dad making this for me when I was little. You may remember my dad. I've written about his passion for maple syrup before and made this video of him last spring when I joined him on his annual maple syrup making adventure.

This recipe is the ultimate celebration of maple syrup. And it's so easy it hardly qualifies as a recipe. There's not much to say about it other than you literally just poach an egg in a pot of boiling maple syrup. It's rich and heavenly, perfect for dipping warm toast into, or served on crepes for the ultimate brunch. If the yolk is soft, it will run and mix with the maple syrup and possibly dribble down your chin and the whole thing is a big sloppy and delicious mess. My mom used to say "c'est cochon, mais c'est tellement bon" (roughly translating as "pigging out in the best possible way"). Try it and let me know what you think.

I'm curious to know, what are YOUR favourite Canadian recipes?


1 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup water
About 4 eggs, depending on how many people you're feeding

Pour the maple syrup and water in a very small saucepan (the smaller the better as more of your eggs will be submerged in the syrup). Bring the syrup to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low. Crack the eggs directly into the gently simmering maple syrup (you may wish to poach 2 eggs at a time so they aren't too crowded). As they cook, spoon a little of the hot syrup over the yolks every now and again. Poach for about 3 minutes if you like your yolks soft, and longer according to your personal preference. Serve the eggs in a generous pool of maple syrup. Serve with warm crusty bread to use for dipping and mopping up. Bon appétit!

June 01, 2013

The June giveaway! And a Strawberry Basil Spritzer

June is here! Although today it feels more like a mid-August heat wave. In honour of this heavy weather, I have a cool summery drink for you. But first, Sara Casey you are the lucky winner of Fat Toad Farm's goat milk caramel gift package. Congratulations!! You are going to fall in love with their Salted Bourbon caramel, it's exquisite. Please send me a little note via my contact me page with your mailing address so we can send you your present.

And now my June giveaway, which I am so very very thrilled to announce. Madder Root is a Maine-based company that creates gorgeous eco-friendly screen-printed linens. Their products are beautifully handcrafted using water-based, solvent-free inks and organic fabrics. I am in love with oh, only every single thing that they make.

Janyce and Christina are the creative team who cut, print, and sew everything by hand in small batches using hand drawn designs inspired by the ocean, forest, and mountain vistas of Maine. You can see all their stylish kitchen linens on their etsy page.

I recently treated myself to a set of their tea towels: these ones with the mason jar prints.

When the package came in the mail, it was such a joy. I found myself savouring every moment of opening it because it was so caringly and elegantly wrapped. I love everything about how this company designs and packages their product with attention to every detail. I especially appreciate that they use organic fabrics because the cotton industry actually uses more pesticides than any other crop. So finding organic alternatives is a move for a better planet.

Madder Root is generously giving away a beautiful set of 4 hand-printed organic linen produce bags to a lucky Kitchen Vignettes reader. Next time you go to the farmer's market or grocery store, you can avoid using plastic altogether and shop in style. I absolutely love the designs on these bags, check them out! (My favourite is the honey jar.) 


To be eligible, you need to be a resident of Canada or the United States and there are two ways you can enter the draw: 
  • Leave me a comment below saying why you'd like to win this giveaway (please include your email address). 
  • Or go to my Facebook page and share the giveaway photo on your page.
I will select a name at random at the end of the month and announce the winner on July 1st.

Now, here's a cool drink for you to help you get through this heat wave. 

You'll have to excuse me today for dabbling in an area I know next to nothing about. I've never really made cocktails (except for a few parties I threw in my twenties) but this heat had me craving an icy summery drink to lounge around with and sip in the evening sunshine last night. And I had some strawberries and basil syrup kicking around, so it seemed like a no-brainer. The result of mashing up a few strawberries with basil syrup, crushed ice, vodka, and soda water was delightful. Actually dangerously good. Like I could have drank a bucketful. So be careful. You can also leave out the vodka altogether for a kid-friendly version (or if you want to drink it by the bucketful, this is also a good idea).

Makes 2 glasses

10 medium-small strawberries
4 oz vodka (1/2 cup) 
1/4 cup basil simple syrup (see easy recipe below)
Crushed Ice
Seltzer water to top up the drink
Basil leaves for garnish

Chill 2 glasses and your cocktail shaker (mine is a mason jar) in the freezer for about 20 minutes. In your shaker, mash the strawberries (I used the end of a large wooden spoon). Add the basil syrup, vodka and ice and shake it well. Pour into your cold glasses and top with a bit of seltzer water (to taste) and garnish with basil leaves. Alternately, you could put the strawberries, syrup, vodka and ice in the blender and then pour into the glasses, adding seltzer water. Enjoy and stay cool out there!

1 cup cane sugar
1 cup water
1 cup chopped basil (see here for my favourite primer on how to properly chop basil)

Boil the water and sugar until all the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat. Pour syrup over basil leaves. Let this rest overnight. Strain out the leaves. Jar up and refrigerate.