Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Gone Swimming!

Les grandes vacances are here, and we are travelling, hosting guests, and most importantly, goofing around.

How to make this plaque? Go here

Here's wishing for a high level of goofiness chez vous also. Souped-up Garden will be back before the end of summer, bien sûr!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Parfait Breakfast/Brunch: Layered Maple Cinnamon Granola, Yogurt & Blackberries

Figuring out what to do with our potager's largesse of plump, juicy, and zingy blackberries had me momentarily stumped. I first chose a colour scheme based on what is available and what would go together taste/texture-wise: a delectable brown=cocoa yogurt, a scrumptious gold=maple cinnamon oat granola, a passionate purple=blackberry coulis, a dramatic black=blackberries, and an alluring pink=yogurt mixed with a few drops of coulis. Then I mused about what kind of container? A fancy, tall dessert dish, replete with pedestal or a sturdy, hard-working canning jar which could easily keep its lid on if needed? The latter won, spoons down!

Our hibiscus bushes are in full bloom!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/177 degrees C. For one large serving -- I used a 200 ml jar -- mix several large handfuls of oat flakes with about 1/2 tsp of cinnamon.

Add about 90 ml/3 fluid ounces of maple syrup. Adjust to taste -- aim for moderate sweetness, a definite tang of spice, and an uniform light moisture.

Spread mixture on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake about fifteen minutes or until nicely toasted, stirring with a large wooden spoon or with a spatula every five minutes. Let cool and pour into a storage jar.

Wash several handfuls of blackberries. Reserve one third for the parfait, saving the best one for a garnish, and the remaining two-thirds for the coulis.

To make the coulis, roughly puree the reserved amount either in a blender/processor or with a hand-held mixer. Work the puree in a fine-meshed sieve placed over a bowl until the berries are more dry than wet. Discard the sieved material and reserve the coulis. Sweeten to taste with confectioner's/icing sugar.

If you just have regular yogurt, and not Greek-styled, then drain about 250 ml in a fine-meshed sieve placed over a bowl, cover, keep in the fridge for least a few hours and if possible overnight for the best results.

Divide it in two equal portions. Flavour one with unsweetened cocoa powder. Though it could be sweetened with confectioners sugar, be careful not to go overboard as the coulis and granola are already fairly sweet additions.

This tasted like pudding!

Tint the other with a bit of the coulis until pink and sweeten with icing sugar if so desired.

Assemble together all ingredients and jar(s).

When layering, make sure it touches well the inside of the jar without any air pockets so it can be seen from the outside. Start with the cocoa yogurt (keep aside a heaping tsp for garnishing).

Then comes a sprinkling of granola, berries which are pressed against the sides of the jar so as to be visible from the outside, and another scattering of granola. Drench it all with a good deal of coulis. If a more creamy texture is preferred, then use less granola.

Next comes the pink yogurt.

Repeat with the cereal, berries, and coulis. Top with a dollop of the cocoa yogurt and a nice fat berry on its side.

The parfait's pleasing combo of tastes is accompanied with a nice contrast in texture.

I ate just one vertical half, and the rest got lidded and put in the fridge. By next morning, the granola had softened and absorbed more of the flavouring. It was a delight!

À la prochaine!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Fresh Fruit/Veggie Pastry Rounds

The small ball comprised of pastry scraps in our freezer caught my eye. It would not be enough for a full-sized tart, but it could make several smaller ones. In the potager, there are berries, herbs, tomatoes, garlic, and mild hot peppers to be harvested. So a visual image begins...something crumbly, creamy, fresh, vibrant, and not lacking in the looks department so you are compelled to pop one or two or three in the mouth. These are versatile and can be served as appetizers/desserts or at a buffet or an informal gathering/party whether indoors or outdoors or in my case, lunch, well actually a second lunch.

1) First come the pastry rounds. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F/232 degrees C. Roll out about one-eighth-inch thick either scraps gathered into the size of a golf ball (made three 2-inch, three 3-inch, and two 4-inch rounds) or some made just for this occasion. Store-bought can be subbed. I used cookie cutters to make various diameters. 

Prick each round all over. Bake about ten to fifteen minutes or until bottom and edges are nicely browned. The smaller ones will get done faster unless you live in a different universe than I do and then all bets are off. Let cool with space between each pastry on a wire rack (I used an old oven rack).

2) The creamy foundation is next in line. Greek yogurt supplies both tang and body. You only have regular yogurt in the fridge like I did? Pour it into a fine wire mesh sieve held over a bowl, cover, and let it drain in the fridge for an hour. It's best if done overnight.

Since I was making both savoury and sweet rounds, I divided the amount into two, and flavoured one with a drop or so of vanilla extract and the other with finely and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

3) The toppings! Gather what fresh and prepared ingredients you have on hand and what you think will work together.

Strawberries, red & black currants, raspberries, blackberries, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, thyme & lavender

Don't worry if you can't use all the chosen ingredients or if you at the last minute realise, hey, I got this thing that would work just perfectly with blackberries, in my case, blackcurrant syrup (concentrated fruit syrups are very popular in France for making cold drinks among other things).

Green peppercorns, sherry vinegar, capers, raspberry & maple syrup, vanilla extract

Voilà! Raspberries beg to be filled if not with other fruit, then with chocolate chips, either dark or white, and butterscotch ones.

Blueberry-stuffed raspberry drenched in raspberry syrup

Strawberry half and well drizzled maple syrup

Blackberry half and rivulets of blackcurrant syrup

Plate garnished with black and red currant strigs

And the savoury...

Capers, fresh thyme, garlic sliver, half of a tomato slice, a drizzle of olive oil & sherry vinegar

The larger rounds lend themselves more to the veggie garnishes. All of them, however, were wonderful -- tasty, refreshing, and satisfying! The smaller ones easily could be eaten at one go, the others crumbled a bit, but nothing a napkin/plate held under them couldn't solve.

Tomato slice, pepper sliver, garlic, green peppercorns, thyme, fleur de sel, olive oil & sherry vinegar

In the potager, the blackberries are in full fragrance, ripeness, and toothsomeness.

Guide for ripeness: each drupelet needs to be plump and the berry comes off with a slight tug

This is the first season I am using fresh, uncured garlic. It has a lighter taste and when thinly sliced, has perked up many a sandwich.

Individual cloves, yes, papery outer covering, no.

The rain remains abundant.

The day lilies continue to delight.

Purple blur in background is lavender

The plentiful moisture perks up the weeds too! Weeding therefore is the main task at hand presently along with harvesting. The Abelia is flourishing, and the bees are showing their appreciation with much buzzing. There usually are around ten of them working this bush anytime I glance at it.

Early and mid season taters are now dug up and in storage!

À la prochaine!


Marla Spivak's excellent TED talk on why the bees are dying (one reason: less flowers!)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Rhubarb, Strawberry, Maple & Lavender Agua Fresca

As summer has arrived officially via the solstice, let's celebrate with a refreshing agua fresca, a light, fruity beverage. Taking advantage of the still juicy rhubarb stalks along with some lavender in the garden, frozen strawberries/coulis, and astonishingly, enough maple syrup to sweeten more than adequately, I concocted a thirst-quenching drink with a sweet tang and a distinctive pink cloudiness which imparted just the right amount of body.

Gather a medium-sized, washed, trimmed-of-any-poisonous leaves rhubarb stalk, several large strawberries, either fresh or frozen, a few lavender buds, maple syrup, and 16 ounces/475 ml of cold water of which I keep a few bottles in the fridge during summer.

Any nicely coloured bits can be reserved for garnishing

To increase the zing, deepen the colour, and to have as a garnish, I used a good amount of frozen strawberry coulis (link to how to make it is at the end of this post) made from berries harvested the previous season. That incredible abundance is nicely complementing the meagre one at present. Though being frozen for nearly a year, their flavour is still tremendous.

Put the fresh (rinsed and hulled) or frozen strawberries, one-inch chunks of rhubarb, lavender buds, and water in a food processor or blender. Mix for a few minutes until everything is broken down; the texture will be far from smooth.

Pour the mixture into a fine-meshed sieve positioned over a bowl. Using a wooden spoon, work it until nearly dry.

If using coulis, add it along with the maple syrup to taste.

If suitably cold it can be quaffed down right now, but the flavours do intensify and commingle when kept overnight in the fridge.

Left over from making Chicken Pot Pie, some pastry dough once it was rolled out, well pricked, and baked in a hot oven for about ten minutes made just the right companion especially when topped with frozen coulis.

The melting strawberry ice oozed ever so wonderfully into the crevices of the crumbly pastry.

As much as I love the alluring taste of this agua fresca, I equally love its resembling the palest pink shantung silk flecked with purple and red.

In the garden the calla lily is the Queen of Cool!

Though I appreciate the vivid colour of the bougainvillea's bracts, I adore its true flower, a tiny, delicate star twinkling in a blazing sky.

Shasta daisies never fail to make me smile when I am in their company.

These daisies are a fast way of filling up the bare parts of a garden.

That's English lavender in the background, which is almost finished blooming

The second blooming flush by the super fragrant climber, Falstaff, has this pair of quartered-roses caressing each other's velvety petals.

Though the sky overhead provides all the blue anyone could want, I still love when it manages to make an appearance in the garden. Right now, that job rests completely on perennial geraniums.

The sun setting behind this anemone dahlia infuses it with a muted glow.

Coral bells may not consciously use their wiry stems to touch tenderly a lavender bloom on the other side of the path, but there's no harm in imagining they do.

With summer, come consistently high temperatures and as the potager faces south, I only can tend the garden with any amount of effort before ten o'clock and after eight o'clock. The rest of the time I can be found indoors sipping agua frescas!

The first tomatoes are coming in on the lower right corner!

À la prochaine!


Iced coffee caramel float
Cantaloupe granita and caramel cream parfait
Carmelised blackberry ice-cream sundae
How to make strawberry coulis