This meal only sounds complicated. The truth is that it’s ridiculously simple and quick to prepare, but don’t tell anyone. Let your family think it took hours to make when the reality is far less than that. I dare you to serve this and have any leftovers. Not going to happen.
The asparagus alone is so good I sat alone at my kitchen counter eating and rhapsodising out loud about it. Really loudly. So loudly that I probably frightened our new neighbours and expect to see a For Sale sign any day now.
During asparagus season I buy lots of asparagus for my family and then eat it…alone. They’re not fans, so I’m always trying new ways to get them to clue in and realize how delicious asparagus is. And finally, success! The secret ingredient is cheese, of course.
I used chimichurri, a green sauce from Argentina, to season the meat and toss with the eggplant before cooking. Its base is parsley mixed with garlic, various herbs, olive oil, and wine vinegar. The recipe we’re making today uses store bought chimichurri, but I’ll share a homemade one soon.
With a handful of fresh ingredients you can whip together a complete meal in less than thirty minutes and have time to enjoy a cup of coffee that you’ll question the wisdom of when bedtime has come and gone. I’m not alone in this, right?
Mix 1/4 cup chimichurri sauce with thinly sliced eye of round steak. Buy it pre-sliced from your grocer. Coat the meat and set aside while preparing the vegetables. This allows the steak to marinade for approximately 15 minutes.
Wash and pat dry the vegetables and basil.
Slice unpeeled eggplant into ½ centimeter thick rounds. I use Asian eggplant because it has a mild flavour and thinner peel. Toss eggplant with 4 tablespoons of chimichurri sauce. Set aside.
Chop 1 small bunch of basil, enough to loosely fill 2/3 cup. Set aside
Combine 5 tablespoons olive oil and 4 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar. Set aside.
Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus. Do this by gently bending the asparagus near the bottom of the stalk until it snaps.
Place the asparagus in an open steamer insert, add 1 – 2 centimeters of water to the bottom of the pan, and cover. Cook asparagus over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes, or until tender. Test using a fork.
While asparagus is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet, and add the eggplant. Cook eggplant over medium heat for 4-5 minutes, turning over half way through the cooking time.
Once the eggplant is half cooked, heat 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet, and add the steak. Turn over the pieces of steak after 1 minute and remove from heat after another 45 seconds.
The three parts of the meal will finish cooking at approximately the same time.
Drain the asparagus and place in a serving dish. Top with the olive oil/Balsamic vinegar combo, feta, and basil.*
Combine the cooked eggplant and steak in one dish.
Makes enough for 4.
Serve with a warm baguette, which you can use to soak up the sauce and rogue pieces of feta.
*The asparagus can be eaten cold, so there’s no need to worry about keeping it hot as you serve the rest of the meal.
Chimichurri steak adapted from DairyGoodness.ca.
While many of us are willing and able to tackle even the most outlandish recipes—there was the great garlic soup debacle of 2011—making jam remains a bit scary for amateur chefs.
All that cleaning and boiling and sterilizing, and what purpose does pectin even serve? For the record: pectin, a natural plant substance, shortens the cooking time when making jam, as it helps the fruit and sugars bind. Less cooking time, more fruitiness.
What this boils down to is that I decided to tackle jam making a few years ago and haven't looked back. My family has practically stopped buying jams, because I keep them supplied. The internet experts agreed that strawberry jam was a good place to start. Since then I've added peach, mango, and apple vanilla jam to the repertoire, but today we'll begin with strawberry jam.
'Tis the season after all.
Wash and core the strawberries. Halve the larger berries.
Place the strawberries into a deep cooking pot along with the sugar, pectin, and lemon juice. Simmer over medium heat. Stir frequently, and occasionally skim the foam from the top of your mixture.
Use a potato masher to break the strawberries down to the desired consistency. If you prefer larger pieces of fruit in the jam, lightly mash the berries.
Add Balsamic vinegar and keep stirring. The Balsamic vinegar adds a slight tang to the recipe.
Keep a rolling boil going for about 30 minutes. Test the consistency by chilling a plate in the freezer then placing a small amount of jam onto it. Allow the jam to sit for one minute and determine if the texture is to your liking. If it’s too runny, keep boiling.
Towards the end of the cooking process give the jam a hard boil for 5 minutes then remove from heat. Stir it through again and fill your sterilized* jars using a ladle and funnel to just below the rim on the neck of the jar.
Wipe away any spills from the opening, close the lids tightly, and submerge (using tongs) in boiling water for 15 minutes.
Once you remove the jars from the boiling water, let them sit and within 15 minutes to several hours you should hear the lids POP. This seals the jars and they can now be stored unrefrigerated for up to one year.
Let the sealed jam jars stand overnight. Make homemade labels or use pre-made ones and, congratulations, you’re now a Jam Maker. Easy as that.
(Makes 12 250 mL jars and enough on the side for breakfast for the next week or so.)
* To sterilize new or pre-used jars, wash them thoroughly, place clean jars and lids into boiling water so that they're submerged, and allow to boil 10-15 minutes. Remove the jars from the water using tongs, dry them off, and they're ready for use. There are dishwasher and microwave methods for sterilizing that work too, but I haven't tried them yet.
We tested the jam with peanut butter and the official verdict was . . . DELICIOUS! Try it with pancakes or as a topping for vanilla ice cream, too.
Is there anything more reminiscent of summer than the scent of peaches warming in the sun on your kitchen counter? Maybe peaches baked into a favourite dessert can top that smell.
Soon the trees will bloom and the fruit will grow and we can head out to local orchards to pick fresh peaches and blueberries to enjoy at home, but until then take a left at the butter section of your local grocer and head down the frozen fruit aisle. Frozen fruit is a great alternative to fresh when the seasons don’t align with our cravings. The fruit is generally picked when ripe and quickly flash frozen so that most of the nutrients are preserved.
We celebrated our daughter’s tenth birthday recently—one month late—much like our growing season this year, and she requested her favourite dessert. No chocolate cake for this child, she’s all about the fruit crumble. Any fruit will do and this recipe can be made with whichever one you like best. In this case I used peaches and blueberries because they’re my daughter’s favourites.
Crumble is one of the simplest desserts to make. Throw the fruit together, blend a few of the ingredients, and pop it in the oven. You can’t miss.
Preheat oven to 375F/190°C
Butter the baking dish to prevent the fruit from sticking. I use a 13.5” x 9” (34x23 cm) casserole dish.
Pour in the frozen peaches followed by the blueberries.
Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of brown sugar over the fruit.
In a food processor or bowl combine the remaining brown sugar with the flour and butter until coarsely blended. The mixture should be crumbly.
Transfer to a bowl and add the vanilla, cinnamon, and rolled oats. Stir well using a fork.
Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the peaches and blueberries.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the crumble is golden and the filling starts to bubble.
Let stand for 15-20 minutes and serve with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.