Summertime meals need to be easy and delicious. This one is all that. Easy homemade flax crackers, savoury egg salad, and fresh asparagus with a tasty, nutty vinaigrette. Ahhhh. . .
It’s summertime and the livin’ is easy – or at least our meals should be. Who wants to fuss in the kitchen when the dragonflies are zipping around, the flowers are begging to be smelled (and weeded) and the sun is toasting the world golden?
As much as I am a kitchen frau and would much rather putter in my kitchen than do any housework – ever (though I force myself to do the bare basics), I want to be outside when the days are like this. It’s Canada Day weekend and promises to be the hottest July 1st in many years. Yay! Yay! Yay! I’ve got Jamaica tea a-chillin’ (more on that another time), the ice-cream maker bowl in the freezer, and light meals planned to feed us.
July 1st is also the last day to cut asparagus here in the north, so I am appreciating every sweet green spear we harvest. Last night’s dinner was a simple cold platter that filled us up and left a little room for the fun beer-sampling evening at The Underground Tap & Grill in Edmonton last night. (It even has a cider and 2 gluten-free beer options!) I must admit I’m not much of a beer drinker, but I did enjoy a lovely fresh Früli strawberry-beer and will admit to sneaking sips of Raymond’s Belgian St. Barnabus … a beer so creamy and caramelly that even I couldn’t resist it.
Early yesterday morning, before the house got hot, I boiled the eggs, toasted the hazelnuts, and made the crackers. These hazelnut and flax crackers are easy to make, but if you’re not in a cracker-making mood today – a slice of good seedy bread spread with fresh salted butter would make a mighty fine substitute.
Kitchen Frau Notes: While usually fresher is always better, in eggs – slightly older is better for ease of peeling. (Fresher is better for poaching and everything else.) Since my eggs are often only minutes old from my chicken coop, I like to keep them for at least a week before I use them for boiling and peeling.
Hazelnut oil can be found in specialty stores, and sometimes even in your supermarket. You can substitute it with walnut or almond oil, but if you can’t get a nut oil, don’t let that stop you from making this simple asparagus dish – just use grapeseed or olive oil instead.
The crackers have a lot of healthy flax in them, but if you don’t have flax, just use all nuts like in the original recipe from Green Kitchen Stories. Flax does tend to have a strong flavour but I love it, and knowing how healthy it is, I equate its flavour with goodness. You can buy it ground (keep it frozen or refrigerated) or grind the seeds yourself in a blender or coffee grinder.
Ham ‘n Egg Salad
- 6 large eggs, hard-boiled and chilled *see below
- ½ cup (80 gms) finely diced ham
- ¼ cup (60ml) greek yogurt
- ¼ cup (60ml) good mayonnaise
- ¼ cup (60ml) mince chives or green onions
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 4 lettuce leaves to serve
*To boil the eggs – place the eggs in a saucepan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Cover them completely with cold water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the water boils, turn it down to a simmer and set the timer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, drain the water from the eggs, and cover them with cold water from the tap. Drain and refresh with more cold water whenever you feel the water begin to warm up from the heat in the eggs. After about 10 minutes the eggs should be cool. To chill them thouroughly place them in the fridge for an hour or so.
Peel the eggs and mash them in a large bowl (I use my potato masher).
Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine.
It may not taste salty enough, but as the egg salad sits, the salt from the ham will flavour the mixture. Since different hams have different levels of salt, you are better to wait and see how salty it gets, and pass the salt shaker at the table when serving.
To serve, place a scoop of ham ‘n egg salad in a lettuce leaf.
Makes 4 generous half-cup servings.
* * * * *
Asparagus with Hazelnut Vinaigrette
- 20 to 24 spears asparagus
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) hazelnut oil (or other oil)
- 2 tablespoon (30ml) white wine vinegar
- pinch of red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup (40gms) hazelnuts
Preheat oven to 350°F. Toast the hazelnuts in a single layer in a small pan for 8 to 10 minutes, or until you can smell their nutty aroma. (Or toast them a few minutes longer in the 325° oven you use for baking the crackers.) Let cool, then chop coarsely.
Snap the tough ends off the asparagus spears, and lay them in a single layer in a large pan or skillet. You may need to cook them in batches. Add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan – less than ¼ of an inch ((.5cm). Cover with a lid and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil/steam just until the stalks get bright green – about 2 minutes. Do not overcook them. Immediately run cold water over the asparagus spears to stop the cooking process, then drain them.
Whisk together the oil, vinegar, red pepper flakes and salt.
Place 5 or 6 asparagus spears on each plate. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and scatter the chopped hazelnuts over them.
* * * * *
Gluten Free Hazelnut Flax Crackers
(adapted from Green Kitchen Stories)
- 1¼ cups (125gms) ground hazelnuts (hazelnut meal/flour)
- ½ cup (65gms) ground flax seeds, packed
- ¼ cup (45 gms) whole flax seeds
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 tablespoons (45 gms) water
- Sesame seeds or flax seeds for garnish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
In a mixer or by hand, mix all the ingredients to make a stiff dough.
Shape it into a ball and let it sit for 10 minutes up to an hour to allow the flax to absorb the water. Divide the dough in half, then roll out each half between two sheets of parchment paper until it is about 1/8 of an inch thick. Carefully peel off the top sheet of parchment paper.
Sprinkle the dough with water, spreading it around with your fingers. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds if using.
Leaving the dough on the bottom sheet of parchment paper, cut the dough into square or rectangular cracker shapes. They will be irregular in shape, but that is part of their rustic charm and what makes them look homemade.
Slide the whole sheet of parchment with the cracker dough onto a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining ball of dough.
Bake the crackers for about 20 minutes, or until the edges are starting to get golden.
Remove the pans from the oven, re-cut the crackers along the previous cutting lines, and remove them to a wire rack to cool.
Makes 30 to 36 flax crackers, depending on what size you cut them.
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