Celebrate Kitchen Daily Canada and Summer, with Roasted Asparagus with Garlic and Spruce Tips

roasted asparagus, garlic and spruce tips

It’s here! Have you heard the news?

Kitchen Daily Canada has launched and it’s a great new place to hang out! Have you seen it? It’s a brand new Canadian food site, filled with daily menu plans, videos, interviews, food facts, new trends, great photos, and of course oodles of the best recipes. When I was asked to become a contributor to this site, I was thrilled!

There is an amazing line up of guest editors who will lend their expertise and food insights – check out the current interviews with Susur Lee, as well as all the other guest editors and contributors (click ‘View All’). The launch, earlier this month while I was away, kicked off with a virtual potluck of mouth-watering recipes brought by us contributors. You can join Kitchen Daily Canada and have your own recipe box to save your favourite recipes from the site with a simple click. How handy is that?

KD’s Twitter blurb says “The next seven days in your kitchen, one day at a time. Kitchen Daily Canada has simple recipes for every meal, easy ideas for dinner tonight and cooking tips”. I love checking out Kitchen Daily Canada every morning to see what’s new and trending on the Canadian food scene. It’s fun exploring the nooks and crannies of the site to find things like the kids cook sectionhow to properly cut a cake so it doesn’t dry out, 5 ways to add flavour to vegetables, or 9 foods that originated in Canada.

You can also find Kitchen Daily Canada on FacebookPinterest and Google+.

Come join us at this great new Canadian Food Site – we’re in for an awesome and mouthwatering summer, and that’s just the beginning!

* * * * *

spruce tips, June 2014

And for my own summer celebration, I have a recipe for you from my asparagus patch. Here in northern Canada (our asparagus season is later), the last day we should be cutting asparagus is July 1, to allow the plants time to store energy for the next year. So we are enjoying this favourite green vegetable as often as we can. A favourite way is  to oven-roast it with garlic and spruce tips. The roasting works magic on robust garlic cloves, turning them mellow and sweet, so don’t be afraid to throw in a generous handful. The citrus tang of the roasted spruce tips is the perfect foil for garlic’s richness and asparagus’s earthiness.

spruce tips

remove the papery husks from the spruce tips

In our yard, the spruce tips burst into glory at the same time as the asparagus pops from the ground, so this flavour-marriage is meant to be. If your spruce tips are earlier, check the shady north side of your trees, and you might still be in luck with a few usable tips. The prime size for use is when the spruce tips are just bursting from their papery wrapping, but they are good even up until they are a couple inches long, as long as they are still tender. Check by biting into one – you will be surprised by the piney/citrusy flavour.

asparagus, spruce tips and garlic

you can still use the spruce tips even when they are larger, but still tender, like the one on the right

Kitchen Frau Notes: If you are not familiar with the flavour of spruce tips, start with ¼ cup (60ml). If you love them, like we do, use ½ cup (120ml). Their intense flavour also mellows with roasting to add a pleasant tang to this dish. It’s a wonderful side dish with barbecued meats and can be prepared ahead and served at room temperature.

*If it is late in the season and your spruce tips are longer (you can use them as long as they are still lighter green than the rest of the tree, and tender) just chop them up to use for this recipe.

roasted asparagus, garlic, and spruce tips

Roasted Asparagus with Garlic and Spruce Tips

  • 1½ lbs (700gms) asparagus spears (about 1 lb/450gms trimmed)
  • 1 large head garlic (about ½ cup/120ml garlic cloves)
  • ¼ to ½ cup (60 to 120mls) spruce tips
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • a good grinding of fresh pepper
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1 lb. asparagus trimmed and ready to roast

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Trim the asparagus spears by snapping off the tough bottom ends where they break naturally. Cut each spear into 2 inch (5cm) lengths.

Peel the garlic cloves and slice any large ones in half lengthwise.

Trim the spruce tips of any papery coverings.

Plunk the asparagus pieces, garlic and spruce tips onto a large baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Toss well with a spatula until everything is evenly coated with the oil. Spread out into a single layer.

asparagus, garlic and spruce tips ready to roast

Roast the vegetables for 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through.

Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar while hot and toss to mix. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 4.

Guten Appetit!

For more fun and tasty spruce tip recipes:

Buttery Sauteed Mushrooms with Spruce Tips and Chives

Spruce Tips and Potatoes and Cream

Spruce Tip (or Basil) Baked Rhubarb Compote over Silky Swedish Cream

To leave a comment:

Posted in Asparagus, Spruce Tips, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Back Home from Europe and Ready for Summer with Refreshing Agua Fresca de Chia (Chia Limeade)

agua de chia limeade

Oh, it was a wonderful trip and it’s also wonderful to be back home again.

Travelling around five countries in four weeks has left my brain playing a constant reel of overlapping images – castles, sun, strawberry tortes, lattés, walking, canals, rain, walking, french fries, mussels, white cliffs, walking, macarons, Eiffel Tower, markets, walking, town squares, lavendar fields, garlic, walking, hilltowns, vineyards, wine, walking, mountains, cows, villages, braised frog legs, cathedrals, boat rides, walking, walking, and more walking . . . . plus a whole lot of great eating. I love that kind of mind-movie. It will keep me entertained for a long time to come.

Dresden, Germany

the beautiful town of Dresden, Germany

dome in the Frauenkirche, Dresden, Germany

the painted ceiling of the Frauenkirche cathedral in Dresden

hackepeter and rye bread in Dresden, Germany

hackepeter, or gehacktes, a delicious kind of pork tartare enjoyed in Germany

Seeing the former Berlin wall was an emotional experience. The mirrored column in the Reichstag parliament building is like modern art.

Berlin wallar the Reichstag Dome in Berlin

sausages at the KaDeWe in Berlin

a selection of sausages in the huge KaDeWe shopping center in Berlin. You know you’re in Germany

We spent a few wonderful days in Bad Hersfeld, Germany, picking up Andreas and meeting his exchange family.

roses at the ruined abbey in Bad Hersfeldfachwerk house in Bad Hersfeld

view from Checkpoint Alpha, outside Bad Hersfeld, Germanyjaeger cutlets in hilltop at Bad Hersfeld

Then we headed for Holland.

Where it rained the whole time.


parking along the canals in Amsterdam, Holland

How would you like to park like this, along the canals in Amsterdam?

In Belgium the weather cleared up again.

Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium

the stunning Grand Place in Brussels when it’s lit up at night

beer in Brussels, Belgium

every kind of beer must always be served in its proper glass

The little Mannekin Pis statue in Brussels attracts hordes of visitors, (though nobody is really sure why)

stained glass in Brusselsthe famous, but underwhelming, Mannekin Pis in Brussels

canal tour in Bruges

Bruges is a quaint city, unchanged for centuries

A lovely way to see Bruges is by horse and carriage. The sound of hooves clip-clopping on the cobblestones can be heard everywhere, taking you back in time.

carriage ride in Bruges

this friendly little dog was our carriage driver’s faithful companion

rooftop view of Bruges from the brewery

the rooftops of Bruges

The Eiffel Tower and the Sacre Coeur on Montmartre are two familiar sights in Paris.

Eiffel TowerSacre Coeur, Paris

As are boats along the Seine.

Seine River bridge with lovelocks

another bridge adorned with love locks in Paris

I spent a great morning exploring the market and taking a cooking class. Mmmmm.

market in Parischerries at the marche Marchand in Paris

macarons at Laduree in Paris

and of course we needed to stop at Laduree on the Champs Elysees and sample some macarons

My dream come true – a wonderful afternoon exploring Claude Monet’s beautiful gardens and waterlily ponds at his home in Giverny, France.

Monet's house and gardens at GivernyMonet's water gardens at Giverny

cathedral at Rouen. France

the cathedral in Rouen, France

stunning beaches at Etratat, Normandy, France

and the stunning cliffs and beaches along the northern coast of Normandy

Then we drove from the top of France, right down to the bottom, to spend some time in Provence. What a country!

Gordes, hilltown in Provence, France

what a view of the hilltown of Gordes, in Provence

lavender is almost blooming in Provence

the lavender fields in Provence weren’t quite in full bloom yet, but the heavenly aroma was there

stayed in a real castle in Davingy, in the Savoie area of France

we spent a night in an lovingly restored castle in Devingy, in the Savoie area of France. It had a drawbridge, and towers, and stunning views all around

beautiful boat ride in the lake at Lucerne. Switzerland

a boat ride on the lake at Lucerne was a memorable way to see the beautiful mountains of Switzerland

angled bridge over the lake in Lucerne

the city of Lucerne is so beautiful, with its lovely buildings and flower-adorned angled foot bridge

Then it was back to Germany for the last leg of our trip.

small toll castle on an island in the Rhine River

Pfalzgrafenstein Castle is a small 14th century toll-collecting castle on a little island in the middle of the Rhein River

castles and vineyards all along the Rhine River

the banks of the Rhein River are filled with vineyards and dotted with castles

It was an amazing trip. We travelled 6,500 kilometres by car, and walked several hundred on foot (that’s what it felt like, anyway!). We slept in everything from hotels, apartments, friends’ homes, bed and breakfasts, youth hostels, to a night in a castle. The food was memorable, from the sausages to the mussels, fresh strawberry cakes, waffles, macarons, frog legs, schnitzel, cheeses and wonderful wines, and beers, to the french fries.

But it is also just lovely to be home again, puttering in my kitchen, back in the classroom, and back in the garden. Those weeds have been calling and there’s a wonderful satisfaction in digging until I’m sweaty and have a heaped wheelbarrow of dandelions and chickweed to toss onto the compost pile. We planted our garden the day before we left, and it’s up and thriving. If I look at the yard and all our flowerbeds as a whole, I feel overwhelmed, but if I just tackle one small section at a time, I’m rewarded with a feeling of accomplishment. The fragrance of the lilacs as I work is my reward.

my lilacs, June, 2014my lilacs, June, 2014 my lilacs, June, 2014

To keep me hydrated while slogging away at the garden, I’ve been enjoying frosty glasses of Chia Limeade – the Mexican inspired agua fresca (fresh water). Super healthy chia seeds are also my secret weapon when travelling. I always pack a small ziplock bag of the seeds in my suitcase, and add them daily to my bottle of drinking water. I fill a one-litre bottle half full with water, add about 1½ to 2 tablespoons of chia seeds, shake vigorously for a minute or so, then fill the bottle with more water, or some juice for flavour, if I have it.

The chia seeds have no taste, but add a lovely texture to the water, and since the seeds absorb so much water, they help keep me hydrated and add fiber and extra nutrition to my diet, which is often missing with all the restaurant food and lack of fresh vegetables when travelling. I mean, french fries (especially wonderful in Belgium, where they were invented) and lattés, and gelato and wine are absolutely essential to enhance the travel experience, but don’t exactly provide a balanced eating plan. A daily hit of chia seeds helps fill the nutritional gap a bit.

Plus, chia seeds make drinking water, or lemonade, or limeade, much more fun.

 * * * * *

 agua de chia limeade

 Agua Fresca de Chia or Chia Limeade

slightly adapted from a recipe by Christine Sanchez-Enkerlin (as promised, from my Mexican cooking class)

  • 3 juicy limes or lemons, plus more for garnish if desired
  • 2 litres (2 quarts) water
  • ¾ cup (165gms) sugar, or other sweetener, like honey or stevia, to taste
  • ¼ cup (40gms) chia seeds

limes and chia seedsSqueeze the juice from the limes (either using two forks, or a citrus reamer) into a large 2 litre pitcher.

squeezed out limes for the agua de chia limeade

Add half of the water, the sugar, and the chia seeds. Stir for one minute, until the sugar has dissolved and the chia seeds are starting to swell. If you don’t stir during this initial contact with water, the seeds can stick together and form clumps. Add the remaining water, taste, and adjust the sweetness if needed.

Stir or shake the agua fresca before pouring, to distribute the seeds. Some of the lighter seeds will float on top and some will sink. After the agua has been stored in the refrigerator for a day or more, most of the seeds will sink to the bottom.

Serve well chilled, or over ice cubes.

*Note: If you serve the drinks with drinking straws, you can use the straw to stir up the seeds as they settle – kind of like a mini-micro bubble tea. I forgot to use straws in the photos I took.

Guten Appetit!

You might also like:

Back Home Again with Wonderful Memories and a German Potato Salad

Blueberry Sangria

Blood Orange and Elderflower Sodas

Cantaloupe Creamsicle Smoothies

Orange and Grapefruit Syrup with a Little Hit of Cardamom


Posted in Drinks, Grains & Seeds, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Apple or Rhubarb Crisp – My Canadian Food Voice: What is it?

The Canadian Food Experience Project (June, 2014)

apple crisp

The Canadian Food Experience Project began June 7, 2013. As we, the participants, share our collective stories across the vastness of our Canadian landscape through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity through the cadence of our concerted Canadian voice. Please join us.

This month’s topic is:

Identifying my Canadian Voice

I can’t believe I’ve already written a whole year of posts about Canadian food. Where has the year gone?

I have spent a lot of time thinking about what Canadian food is and what it means to me, and honestly, I think I’m further from a clear definition than I was before I started. How do you clarify and encapsulate the quintessential food culture of a country as vast and diverse as Canada?

Canada is known as a melting pot of cultures. The variety is Canada. I see our food identity not so much as the smooth sauce that would come of a melted amalgam of cultures, but rather as a stew pot, where the separate ingredients are still visible. The individual integrity of each flavour is present and distinguishable by taste, but the ingredients have simmered together long enough to absorb and complement the flavours of the other components in the stew – unique but beautifully and deliciously blended.

apple crisp

So the cooking of my German family’s heritage has been thrown into the stew pot of Canadian food. It has kept a lot of its original character, but has been enhanced and altered by all the other cultures we’ve come in contact with over my lifetime. When my mom married my dad, she learned a whole different style of German cooking from her in-laws because my dad came from a different part of German Eastern Europe than she did. When she was newly married she cut recipes from magazines and learned how to make ‘Canadian’ foods from neighbours.

When we lived on the sugar beet farm in southern Alberta, my mom traded recipes with our Japanese neighbours, learning to use ingredients she’d never heard of. She spent hours visiting with her Dutch friend down the road, learning new dishes that became our family’s favourites. Mom took a Chinese cooking course and got pointers from the Chinese owner of the grocery store in our small farming town. Years later, when my parents lived on Vancouver Island and my dad was a commercial fisherman, many recipes were shared over coffee with mom’s new friend who was Italian. Mom learned to prepare freshly caught seafood from the other fishermen’s wives. Then, when they moved to northern B.C. she became friends with a Filipino lady and has learned new cooking methods and tips from her.

Her German cooking style was the core, but it was constantly evolving.

apples in a bowl

My dad was not one of the typical ‘meat and potato’ stereotypes of men of that generation. He liked variety in his food and encouraged my mom to cook different dishes and try new ingredients. I remember grocery shopping trips with my mom when I was young. If she saw a new fruit or vegetable in the bins that she didn’t recognize, she would pop a few into the shopping cart and we’d all taste them at home. If she didn’t know how to cook them, she’d ask other shoppers she saw buying them. That’s how we came to know and love eggplants, and mom started planting them in her garden. I remember when kiwi fruits and pomegranates were real novelties – those strange new fruits arrived later to small prairie town grocery stores than the city supermarkets. Fresh pineapples were a rarity – we thought they only came in tins – what were those big prickly funny fruits?

Now I love nothing better than shopping in ethnic markets and coming home with strange new foods to try. I thank my mom for that food adventure streak. She and I still like to do that when we get together. All of my mom’s cooking experiences were passed down to me and my four sisters, to become part of our own food story. We added to the legacy as we learned new ways to cook from our connections in life.

So, while I think Canadian food is a wonderful mixture of each person’s ethnic background, mixed with the influences of all the people they’ve learned from in their lives, it is also at its best, the food that brings comfort and happiness to individual families.

apple crisp with vase of squills

Canadian food is the food we’ve each grown up with, the recipes written by hand in splattered notebooks, passed on from mother to daughter to sister to friend, adapted and altered to fit each family’s tastes.


I’ve tweaked this recipe over the years, using less butter and sugar, more oatmeal, more rhubarb, adding alternative flours, different fruits, sometimes adding chopped nuts, or coconut . . . .

I was going to put a beef stew recipe up for this post – you know, trying to be all coordinated after using a stew as my analogy for Canadian food, but when I polled my family for which recipe they remember most from childhood and which they thought typified Canadian food in our family – the answer was apple or rhubarb crisp.

So, if Americans can have their apple pie, maybe we Canadians can have our apple crisp . . . at least in our family – and that’s what Canadian cooking is all about: each individual family and its stew pot of cooking, combining influences from the array of cultures cohabiting in this huge country and the foods that bring us fond memories of childhood comfort.

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: This is a very basic crisp recipe that can be adapted in many ways. When I make it with apples, I like to use tart apples. If my apples are a sweeter, I cut the brown sugar down to ½ cup. With rhubarb I sprinkle an additional ¼ cup sugar over the fruit. Sometimes I make a big batch of the crumbly topping, then freeze it in a sturdy zip-top bag, and scoop out the amount I need to make a quick dessert on busy week nights or for unexpected company, spreading it over whatever fruit or berries I can find in the freezer or fruit bowl. So handy.

apple crisp and ice cream

Apple or Rhubarb Crisp

  • ¼ cup (55gms) butter or coconut oil
  • ¾ cup lightly packed brown sugar (½ cup for sweet fruit)
  • 1/3 cup (50gms) flour (all-purpose, or a gluten-free flour like buckwheat, millet, brown rice or sorghum)
  • 1 cup (100gms) rolled oats (gluten-free if necessary)
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 6 peeled and sliced apples, or 4 cups diced fresh or frozen rhubarb plus ¼ cup brown sugar.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cream together in a mixing bowl, the butter and brown sugar. Or cut it together by hand with a pastry cutter.

Mix in until crumbly: the flour, rolled oats and cinnamon.

crumble topping for apple crisp

Peel the apples, cut them in quarters and core them, then slice them crosswise. In a greased 9×9 inch pan, arrange the sliced apples or diced rhubarb (or whatever other fruit you are using).

assembling the apple crisp


Spread the crumble mixture over the top.

put the crumble topping on top of the sliced apples

Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes.

Serves 6.

You can double this recipe and put it into a 9×13 inch pan, baking it for 1 hour.

Serve warm with ice cream. Or eat it cold for breakfast with a spoonful of yogurt – it’s pretty darn delicious either way (a good reason to make a double batch).

Guten Appetit!

serving the apple crisp


View past Canadian Food Experience Project entries here:

June, 2013: My First Authentic Canadian Food Memory: Buttery Sauteed Mushrooms with Spruce Tips and Chives

July, 2103: A Regional Canadian Food: Saskatoon Roll or Saskatoon Cobbler and How to Freeze Saskatoon Berries

August, 2013:  A Canadian Food Hero in Northern Alberta, and Pickled Beets and Creamed Vegetables

September, 2013: My Cherished Canadian Recipe: Evans Sour Cherries in Brandy

October, 2013: Preserving, Our Canadian Food Tradition - Sweet and Spicy Apple Butter

November, 2013: The Canadian Harvest: Quinoa Harvest and Recipes (Quinoa Onion Frittata & Honey Vanilla Quinoa Pudding)

December, 2013: A Canadian Christmas: Gumdrop Fruitcake

January, 2014: A Canadian Resolution: Wild Rice and Mushrooms

February, 2014: My Canadian Love Affair: Kransekage, a Danish Wedding Cake and a Canadian Love Story

March, 2014: Another Regional Canadian Food: What Else is a Canadian Food? Pancakes – the Thick, Fluffy Kind

April, 2014: A Canadian Farmer or Producer: Super Easy Bison Roast Technique – and a Profile of a Canadian Bison Farmer

May, 2014: The Canadian Garden: Minted Green Pea Hummus, Morphing into Green Pea Tartines and Green Pea & Shrimp Pasta, and a Look at my Northern Canadian Garden

Posted in Canadian Food Experience Project, Desserts, Puddings & Such, Rhubarb | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Off to Europe! and our Favourite Simple Way to Eat Strawberries

 sour cream and brown sugar dipped strawberries

I am so excited – we’re heading off on a European adventure! Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, and Switzerland. How lucky are we?

We’re leaving this weekend and gone for four weeks, renting a car and seeing where the adventure takes us. We plan to visit some of the sites where Raymond’s dad spent a lot of time as a Canadian soldier in World War II, and also visit the places my mom spent her childhood in Germany after being displaced from her homeland of Bessarabia (currently Moldova). We plan to see the canals in Holland, and eat chocolate in Belgium. I’m taking a market and cooking class in Paris, we are meandering through the D-Day beaches in France and the wineries of Provence. We’ll take a boat trip on the lake by Lucerne in Switzerland and another one on the Rhein. It is all so exciting.

And best of all, we will pick up our errant teenager who has been on a 3-month-long student exchange in Germany. I’ll be glad to have all our offspring back on home ground again. My mom will be travelling with us, and my sister and nephew are joining us for the first two weeks.

bowl of strawberries

I won’t be posting much while we are gone (I do have a post set to be auto-published for June), but I have been playing around with Instagram, and hope to post regular pictures of our trip – or at least some of the great food we encounter there. If you wish to follow me and keep up with our trip: here is the link to my Instagram account. I’d love to share a few photos with you.

I was thinking of a quick and simple recipe I could leave you with, since I’m in my usual last mad dash of packing, planning and procrastinating. I told myself a zillion times I should get more things crossed off my list earlier, but then where would the fun be in that last frantic week before we leave? And the sheer joy of leaving all the unfinished stuff behind wouldn’t be quite so sheer and joyful, would it?

I almost didn’t use this recipe (well, it’s not even a recipe, really), because I thought it so simple that the whole world probably knows about it. But just in case you are one of the few people who were out sniffing daisies or doing Big Important Things and missed this when it was floating around everywhere a few decades ago, here is my family’s favourite way to eat strawberries.

I’ve served it to guests many times as a brunch side dish, or as a light dessert after a big, can’t-eat-another-bite dinner, the kids have rustled it up as after-school, or mid-morning or late-night snacks, and we’ve enjoyed dip-dabbing bowls of fresh, sweet, juicy strawberries while sitting around having drinks on the deck with friends on warm summer evenings.

sour cream and brown sugar dipped strawberries

dip the strawberry in sour cream, dab it in brown sugar, and bite. . .

sour cream and brown sugar dipped strawberries

dip, dab, repeat. . .

sour cream and brown sugar dipped strawberries

. . . and yum

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: You can serve this two ways – either set out communal bowls of sour cream and brown sugar for everyone to happily, messily share, or let every person take a blob of sour cream and little mound of brown sugar onto their own plate to dip their strawberries into.

Use the dark brown sugar (but not demerara) if you can find it, but the golden brown is fine if you can’t. Make sure the sugar is soft (keep it overnight in a closed container with a few orange or apple peels to soften it if it’s gotten hard).

I use full-fat regular sour cream and can’t imagine using anything lighter. You need the cream here, in my opinion. Something about simple ingredients at their best.

sour cream and brown sugar dipped strawberries

Dip & Dab Strawberries

  • sour cream
  • brown sugar
  • sweet juicy strawberries

Wash the strawberries and let them dry as much as possible. Dab with paper towels to help speed it along if you don’t have time to let them drip dry.

Stir the sour cream to make it smooth and creamy. Set out bowls of sour cream and brown sugar. Guests can put a spoonful of each onto a small plate, or dip communally (works better if the berries are small and there’s no need to double-dip).

Holding on to the green cap or hull, dip each strawberry into the sour cream and then dab it in the brown sugar. Bite off. Repeat.

You could be more elegant and call these ‘Snow and Sand Strawberries’.

Serves as many as you want it to.

sour cream and brown sugar dipped strawberries

Guten Appetit!   and   Aufwiedersehen!


You might also like:

Strawberry Meringue Pie

Strawberry, Almond Flour and White Chocolate Muffins

Chocolate-Dipped Apricots

Luscious Lemon, Almond Flour and Olive Oil Cake


Posted in Breakfast & Brunch, Desserts, Puddings & Such, Fruit, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 18 Comments

Minted Green Pea Hummus, Morphing into Green Pea Tartines and Green Pea & Shrimp Pasta, and a Look at my Northern Canadian Garden

The Canadian Food Experience Project (May, 2014)

minted green pea hummus

The Canadian Food Experience Project began June 7, 2013. As we, the participants, share our collective stories across the vastness of our Canadian landscape through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity through the cadence of our concerted Canadian voice. Please join us. This month’s topic is: The Canadian Garden

kitchen frau garden, 2013

 Gardening in Zone 3, Northern Alberta

You have to be an optimist to garden in northern Alberta.

This is what our yard looked like this weekend:

yard in spring, May snowfall, 2014

Nice, huh? It’s only the beginning of May, though, so why should I be expecting more? Sunshine, green grass, unfurling buds, cheerful blossoms? That’s all for those lucky souls gardening south of us, or in coastal Canadian climes.

. . . and we intrepid gardeners on the Canadian prairies? We buy our seeds, wash out our gardening gloves, haul the box of garden tools out from under the sleds and toboggans in the garage, clean the wet leaves out of the wheelbarrow, pour over the weather forecasts, and sit and impatiently twiddle our green thumbs.

We fervently hope that this might really be the last snowfall of the season, and that the nights will warm up enough to start melting that frozen winter soil. We can’t concentrate on things we should be doing indoors, since all we can do is walk from window to window, waiting to get out to the garden again. (I speak for myself here – since that’s the excuse I use for my lack of interest in housework at this time of year.)

This is where being an optimist comes in. I know spring will eventually have to happen. It always does.

first squills

it starts with the first squills to pop out of the ground in blue glory

And when it does, it comes in a glorious wave. Here in the Edmonton area, spring and fall are spectacular – compressing all the thrills of a full season into a two-week period. No kidding – we can go from freezing winter, snow, and mud to fully-opened leaves on the trees, birds singing, flowers blooming and green growth busting out everywhere in such a short time.

first pear blossoms, 2013

the first pear blossoms could appear

Which is why we gardeners have to be ready. The snow may still be swirling about, but I could be planting my garden next week.

planting the kitchen frau garden 2012

And two weeks from now we could be eating rhubarb and asparagus.

rhubarb 2103

new asparagus shoots popping up, 2013

I love to snap off fresh asparagus spears and munch on them as I work in the garden – delightfully delicious

The lovage could be knee-high and the sorrel ready to jump into the soup pot. I’m flexing my (green) thumb muscles in preparation.

out pops the lovage, 2012

out pops the lovage

sorrel, 2013

. . . and the sorrel

Things start to happen pretty quickly in the garden after that . . .

kitchen frau garden 2013, bean teepee and weeds

the weeds grow fast, too. I’ll need to dig around the bean teepee to find the beans

Strawberries will be ripe soon.

strawberry beds, 2013

looking for any ripe ones

IMG_1992akitchenfrau garden 2014

 We mulch our garden with grass clippings. It works wonders to keep the weeds down and means we don’t have to water.

kitchen frau garden in all its glory

IMG_8341akitchen frau garden, 2013, Egyptian walking onions

harvesting fava beans and yellow tomatoes

a tasty harvest of fava beans and yellow tomatoes

harvest of herbs, 2013

. . . and lovely fresh herbs

borage, 2012kitchen frau garden 2014

Zucchini, flowers, herbs – the garden produces a bounty we can hardly keep up with.

zucchinidill in the garden

kitchen frau garden 2014

it seems like the summer is so short – the first frosts hit

The busy gardening summer flies by.

harvest of cherry tomatoeskitchen frau garden after the first frost 2013

kitchen frau garden at the end of the summer

Pippa waiting to help dig carrots – her favourite vegetable

. . . and then it’s already time to harvest.  Apples,

Red Sparkler apple tree loaded with fruit

Red Sparkler apple tree loaded with fruit


Evans cherries 2013

bumper Evans Cherry crop

Evans cherries, 2013

There are wheelbarrows of weeds to bring to the compost pile . . . .

harvesting the garden, 2013

. . . and some goofing-off with the dog while washing the carrots and potatoes.

harvesting potatoes and carrots, 2013

And then it’s time to put the garden to bed for the winter again!

But I don’t want to think of that yet – my mind is on spring, and those wonderful fresh spring tastes – like the first green peas, and the fragrant mint that pops up everywhere.

The beauty of this light, flavourful minted green pea hummus is that it makes a lot, but that is a delicious and time-saving bonus. This is one recipe that can be served three handy, dandy ways:

     1. Enjoy it as a fresh and tasty dip with corn chips, pita triangles or fresh vegetables. Wonderful as an appetizer before a spring barbecue meal. Your guests will rave about it.

     2. Slather the leftover hummus onto lightly toasted bread and top it with a wide variety of yummy ingredients to make lovely and elegant luncheon tartines (a fancy French word for open-faced sandwiches). Let your inner artist shine and make colourful still-lifes that are almost too pretty to eat.

     3. Thin the leftover green pea hummus with a bit of stock, add some plump shrimp or ham, and toss it with pasta for a quick and absolutely divine dinner.

* * * * *

minted green pea hummus

 Minted Green Pea Hummus

  • 3 cups (450gms) fresh or frozen sweet young peas (sweetlets or petits pois)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons (40gms) tahini paste
  • grated zest of one lemon
  • ¼ cup (60ml) fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup (20gms) tightly packed mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

If using fresh peas, blanch them in boiling water for 1 minute, then drain them and put them quickly into ice water to keep their colour. If using frozen peas, place them in a strainer under cold running water until they are thawed, about 1 minute. Drain well.

1 lb of frozen peas

Place the drained peas and all the other ingredients in a food processor and whiz until almost smooth, but with a bit of texture remaining.

minted green pea hummus

Garnish with a few peas and a mint sprig. Serve with tortilla chips, toasted pita triangles, or fresh vegetable sticks for dipping.

Makes about 2½ cups.

  * * * * *

Use the leftovers to make:

green pea hummus tartines

Green Pea Tartines

leftover green pea hummus

rustic bread slices, gluten-free if necessary, lightly toasted

toppings such as: sliced boiled eggs, smoked salmon, ham, cucumber slices, thinly sliced radishes

garnishes such as: chopped or thinly sliced red onion, crumbled feta cheese, mint leaves, dill sprigs, cooked peas, freshly ground pepper, sliced pickled peppers, strips of red or yellow peppers,

Let your imagination go wild! Anything tastes great on top of that delectable green pea hummus.

* * * * *

green pea and shrimp pasta

Kitchen Frau Notes: About 2 cups of diced ham would make a nice substitute for the shrimp. Just don’t salt the water for the pasta then.

A sprinkle of crumbled feta cheese makes a tasty garnish if using the shrimp (would be too salty on top of the ham.)

Green Pea Pasta and Shrimp

  • 1 lb (454gms) spiral shaped pasta – gluten free if necessary
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 lb (450gms) fresh or frozen shrimp, raw or precooked
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen small sweet peas
  • 1 cup (240ml) chicken stock
  • 1 to 1½ cups (240-360ml) leftover green pea hummus

Cook the pasta in lightly salted water, according to package directions, until al dente.

Meanwhile, chop the onion and saute it in the olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp. Cook until it is just pink (about 5 minutes) if raw, or until heated through, if it is pre-cooked. If the peas are fresh, add them with the shrimp, if they are frozen, add them with the chicken stock.

Add the chicken stock and green pea hummus, bring just to a boil, and toss quickly with the drained cooked pasta.

Garnish with chopped fresh mint, if desired.

Serves 5.

Guten Appetit!

 minted green pea hummus tartines

Posted in Appetizers, Canadian Food Experience Project, Dairy-free, Gardening, Pasta, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments