Wild Blueberry Slab Cheesecake

This week, in classic mid-August Aimée style, I embarked on a few procrastibaking projects as a way to avoid my post-camping laundry and clean-up.

To be fair, I couldn’t wait to get back into the Simple Bites kitchen after a few weeks of travel. As is usually my custom when I road trip, I returned home with a stash of the most beautiful produce I encountered along the way.

This time I brought several pints of wild blueberries, for this Nova Scotia fruit grows wild all over the province and is free for the picking. Clara and I busied ourselves in a patch early one morning and produced enough for our buttermilk pancakes as well as a small store for the cooler.

Since then I’ve muddled a handful into a gin & tonic cocktail and topped a summer edition of my do-ahead muesli, but I saved the majority of them for a special baking project: cheesecake.

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Roasted Beet and Blueberry Salad to embrace the end of summer

Yes, I did indeed just use “embrace” and “end of summer” together. You see, the way I see it, June is for the planning, July the languishing, and August the embrace at the end. Think of it as a warm hug goodbye, until next year.

While I’m three weeks out until the official end of my children’s summer vacation and school commencing in September, I know that August is the last chance to really find that feeling I search for each summer. I am searching for an elusive moment when the kids are all smiling, still wearing their swimsuits from water play in the sunshine, the backyard table set for alfresco dining, piled high with fresh salads and roasted vegetables, the garden at the outskirts of the yard bursting with ready-to-be-picked produce.

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Blueberry-Plum Butter (in the slow-cooker)

Each visit to the market in August finds me with 4-5 pints of blueberries in my basket. I always have high ambitions for jam or pie, muffins or cake, and yet invariably, we always gobble them up in enormous handfuls (and the occasional smoothie) before I can work them into a recipe.

Last week, I had a busy day, but was determined to preserve some of their blueberry goodness in jars before the short season was over. With three kids at home and two separate meetings to attend, my day felt too busy for jam or pie. Fortunately I had a recipe for slow-cooker blueberry butter bookmarked in Marisa’s Food in Jars cookbook, and knew it would be something I could accomplish while highly distracted.

Puree fruit. Simmer in the slow-cooker for the day. Process it in jars in the evening. That’s exactly what I did.The next morning when I cracked open a jar and dipped a spoon inside, I just knew I needed to share the recipe.

This fruit butter receives high scores for simplicity, and is full on delicious; it’s hard to imagine a nicer way to start the morning.

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Blueberry Maple French Toast


This will be short as I’m packing for a mini-weekend getaway with Danny and I’m nowhere nearly ready.
I used to be an organized packer, but apparently motherhood has turned me into a scattered, last minute throw-it-all-in-the-duffel kind of packer. It doesn’t help to have the added pressure of remembering each child’s appropriate stuffed animal and sippy cup, OR ELSE. Heaven forbid they should show up at the grandparents without them.

Anyway! We’re off to travel Quebec’s wine route in the Eastern Townships on a much deserved break. It’s been two years since New York, our last getaway as a couple with no kids.

I wouldn’t leave you high and dry for a recipe so here’s a strong recommendation for your weekend breakfast: Deep-Dish Blueberry Maple French Toast. Yesterday I hung out over at Endless Simmer and shared this recipe with their readers, not to mention a personal glimpse into a weekend morning here at UtHC.

So jump over to visit the ES gang and be sure to bookmark this French Toast for your brunch! It’s PRI-tty amazing.

Tootles.

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner: Summer Inspiration

Potato, Sage and Pancetta Gratin with Fresh Garlic

Consider this post my own little TasteSpotting.

I’ve got several dishes- from breakfast to dinner and dessert-that I have been wanting to post about for a while, but because of time constraints they will never boast their own individual posts. So here they are in picture form with a few recipes to boot.

Perhaps you can glean a little inspiration for your lunch today, or maybe you’ll just scroll through and say “Had it. Had it. Made it. Over it.” Whatever you choose to do is fine with me, what do I care? Hey, I’m off to do some cooking over an open fire, have tickle fights in the family tent, build some sand castles and enjoy getting back to nature without a battery operated toy for miles around.
Ta Ta!

Breakfast: Blueberry Baked French Toast

I haven’t showcased many berry recipes yet this summer, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been scarfing them down by the bucket fulls. We’ve enjoyed them many ways like Mango-Blueberry Lassies and Chocolate-Raspberry Ice Cream Sandwiches (recipe coming soon!) I loved this breakfast dish because it is made up the night before and all you have to do in the morning is bake it off and whip some cream. Don’t leave your mixer beating the cream and go check your email, like I did, or your whipped cream will more resemble butter than a creamy topping. Tisk-Tisk.

Baked Blueberry French Toast
Adapted from
Fabulous Fairholme: Breakfasts & Brunches Serves 2

4 slices day old Italian bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup fresh blueberries (or raspberries)

2 oz cream cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

3 eggs

1 cup milk

2 Tablespoons maple syrup

The night before: Grease two 8 oz ramekins. Line bottom half with bread cubes. Cover with blueberries and cream cheese cubes and top with remaining bread. Mix eggs, milk and syrup together and pour over bread. Cover and let soak overnight in refrigerator.

In the morning: Preheat oven to 350F. (Make your coffee and wake yourself up) Bake for 25-30 minutes or until puffy and golden. Remove from ramekins and serve with your topping of choice and plenty more of that coffee.

Lunch: Smoked salmon and fixings

If you are lucky enough to get to one of Montreal’s fine bagel shops, those bagels are all you really need to enjoy your smoked salmon and cream cheese, but all the other fixings are pretty sweet to spoil yourself and your surprise lunch guests with, too.

Lunch Side Dish: Tempura Zucchini Blossoms

I know, I know, I couldn’t let these beauties from my own garden go to waste, so I overcame my fear of ingesting bugs and slugs (happened to me IN a restaurant), gave the blossoms a good clean and was so happy I did. They were amazing, as was the sherry mayo I made to go with them. Heavenly.

Dinner Appetizer: Slow Roasted Tomato Bruschetta

Everyone’s favorite snack, these ones are my Aunt Jenny’s specialty: crusty rounds of baguette, oven-roasted, über-ripe sliced tomatoes, sprinkled with fresh herbs and drizzled with olive oil and salt. Serve warm and make lots.

Appy Number Two: Pancetta-Wrapped Grilled Asparagus

For the bacon-lovers in your family. Toss asparagus in olive oil and season, then wrap with panchetta. Group into rows of about 5 spears each and run a skewer through them to bunch together for easier grilling. Grill over a low flame and serve warm.

Dinner: Grilled Lamb Chops with Salmoriglio, Young Courgettes and Purple Carrots

Thanks to copious amounts of oregano in my garden, Salmoriglio is a fresh herb sauce I whip up all the time to accompany grilled meats, especially lamb. These chops benefited from an overnight marinade of olive oil, tons of oregano, a touch of rosemary, some lemon zest and plenty of black pepper. The vegetables are picked from my little kitchen garden.


Salmoriglio Oregano Sauce

Recipe comes from the fabulous River Cafe Cookbook

4 level tablespoons fresh oregano
1 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons lemon juice

8 tablespoons olive oil

fresh pepper

In a mortar and pestle pound the herb leaves and salt until completely crushed. Add the lemon juice. Pour the oil slowly into the mixture. Add a little pepper. Drizzle over grilled meats such as lamb or beef.
Variation: Marjoram, thyme or lemon-thyme can be substituted for oregano.


Dinner Side Dish: New Potato, Sage and Pancetta Gratin with Young Garlic

I’m enjoying immensely the crop of garlic I planted last fall. If you’ve never tried growing garlic, you are missing out on one of the easiest and rewarding gardening experiences to be had. I forget exactly which month I planted the little cloves (guessing late October) but they were the first thing to poke up out of the ground this spring and now there are hardly any left because I can’t stop pulling them up and adding them to everything! You can see the tight, juicy bulb sliced in half in the photo above. It’s hard to buy garlic this fresh.

OK, this potato dish really deserves it’s own post, but lucky you are getting it now.
Seriously, don’t you feel like this post is a virtual Christmas stocking of great recipe ideas?? And there’s still more to come!

Every once in a while I come across a potato recipe that stops me in my tracks–the last one being Tartiflette–and this dish is a favorite in my repertoire. I’ve been making it for ages and meaning to share it…but you know how it goes, it usually gets gobbled up before I can snap a photo.
Oh, and would you believe it? This recipe is also from the River Cafe Cookbook. If you don’t own it already, put it on your Christmas List. The garlic and fresh sage is from my garden, the potatoes are not as I am patiently waiting for the plants to flower before I drop on all fours and furrow into the earth to collect my bounty.

Potato and Pancetta Gratin
The recipe suggests Roseval or similar yellow waxy potatoes, but I have made it with pretty much every kind of potato. Of course, new potatoes are ideal.

Serves 6

100g pancetta, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil

4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced

20 sage leaves

850 g Roseval potatoes

225 ml double cream

sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

Parmesan, freshly grated

Preheat oven to 375F. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the pancetta over a medium heat. Stir in the garlic, add the sage, cook for a minute and remove from heat. Slice each potato lengthwise (or in 1/2 inch wedges if you are using large potatoes). Place in a large bowl and add the pancetta and oil mixture and the cream. Season with salt and pepper and toss together. Put in a baking dish, making sure that the potato, pancetta and sage are evenly distributed, cover with foil and cook in the oven for 40 minutes.

About 20 minutes before the end of cooking, remove the foil so that the surface of the potatoes become brown. Add a little Parmesan 5 minutes before the end. Enjoy!

Dessert:Vanilla-Bean Panacotta with Quebec Strawberries

We haven’t been eating a lot of sweets around here (shocking, I know) but I am showcasing two of my favorite summer desserts from previous posts.
Picking a favorite recipe is like asking which of your children you love more, but these two recipes sprang to mind when I was thinking about fresh summer flavors in desserts. The best part is that they are both minimal effort as well as gorgeous!

So the first dessert is this pretty panacotta with strawberry coulis and fresh strawberries. In the original post I didn’t gush overly about my love of panacotta, but it’s a love affair that hasn’t wavered in many, many years. Originally created by the pastry chefs at Restaurant Toque! many years ago, this cute cone-shaped panacotta was my dinner party dessert of choice for some time. The tops bow and jiggle when you bring them to the table in a comical and inviting way. So cute! Of course any fresh berries would be lovely with this dish and I remember a cherry compote I once made that was a hit, too.

Dessert Number 2: Rustic Peach Galette


It is nice to have options and here is the second dessert that sums up the lazy days of summer. I created this peach galette to round out a fabulous dessert table for a party my siblings and I threw for my parents last summer. (Read all about it, see the sweet table and get the galette recipe) This rustic dessert was up against some big names in dessert show-biz like Dark Chocolate and Wild Strawberry Cupcakes and Citrus and Cointreau Cheesecake, but at the end of the evening was declared the favorite by many.
Of course, the accompanying whipped cream was in perfect peaks, so that helped!

So there you have it. Now go get cooking and if your tummy isn’t rumbling yet, you need help!