These last two weeks have been unexpectedly carefree and relaxing. I took a day off from work for Eid ul Fitr and two of my classes got cancelled because people didn’t sign up soon enough. Of course, on the day of the class itself, we had about 3 or 4 phone calls from clients wanting to come to the cooking class that evening. Uhhh…I need time to shop, prep and plan! There’s a reason for a RSVP. Oh well, the no classes meant I had some free time I wasn’t expecting.
My days off from menu planning and shopping aren’t any different from my regular days. I still plan menus and shop, but for the blog. Cooking for the blog is a lot more stress free and open to pretty much anything. Right now, I’m insane over all the fresh produce.
My mind goes into over drive when I’m at the farm stand or at the produce section of the grocery store. I search out Colorado grown produce as much as I can and we are very lucky to have many farms just within driving distance from us who supply their goods to Whole Foods and other grocery stores.
I often think that I may look a tad strange as I stand there amongst the produce aisles with my little pink notebook and pen and a faraway look in my eyes. I’m thinking, planning, imagining and tasting all in my head.
How about y’all? Do you like to create, improvise or follow recipes?
I’ve always had a problem following recipes as such. I think in my life, I’ve followed maybe a handful, and that was when I wasn’t a very good cook. These days, I skim a book or recipe and then completely change it. I think I enjoy coming up with my own flavour profiles these days. Maybe it’s because of the cooking events I do and the demos; I have to plan a menu that can showcase the many features of a brand and sometimes that means changing a recipe or method.
Last night for dinner, I threw together an idea of something I had in my head. I had a pile of turnip greens and beet greens that were leftover when I roasted beets. I threw them on a sheet tray with some olive oil and baked them, some turned crispy, some were still soft but they had a lovely chewy texture to them. I had two little turnips so I sliced them up and threw them into a quick pickle. Sautéed some broccolini with roasted garlic, boiled some pasta, opened a tin of garbanzos and fried up some Halloumi cheese.
The garbanzo beans were mixed with the broccolini and then tossed with the pasta with a few generous glugs of olive oil. I topped the plates with some baked beet and turnip greens, fried cheese and turnip pickles…..oh my goodness…SO good.
Coming up with dishes like this is what’s fun about summer and summer produce. I may not like the sun and the heat but I appreciate all that it produces, like this beautiful, stone fruit pavlova.
Pavlovas are great to make because I always seem to have egg whites left over. Whip up a meringue shell and fill it with seasonal fruit. This is summer right here. I filled mine with Colorado apricots and peaches, and some blueberries and strawberries for some berry colour. Plums would be great in here too, or some cherries. I didn’t want to make a trip to the store so I used what I had in my fridge.
Instead of filling it with cream, I filled the meringue shell with a great local, yoghurt we get here. In fact, I buy the milk from the dairy they use to make the yoghurt. I chose a cherry flavoured Noosa, and Noosa yoghurts are AMAZING. They are so creamy and dessert-like that you can definitely use them in place of cream in your desserts. I wanted the passion fruit flavour but they were out so I thought cherry would go well with the stone fruits. It did, it worked perfectly.
The stone fruit pavlova was pretty amazing too. We had no problem polishing if off.
Serves: Serves 6
- MERINGUE BASE
- 3 egg whites
- ¾ cup/150g sugar
- 2 teaspoons corn starch/corn flour
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- FILLING and TOPPING
- 1 or 2 apricots, sliced or halved
- 1 or 2 peaches, sliced
- or assorted berries,
- 8 oz/225g container of flavoured yoghurt
- MERINGUE BASE
- Preheat the oven to 300℉/150℃
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper and draw a 6"/15 cm circle on the underside.
- Set aside.
- Whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
- Add the sugar and beat until glossy and thick.
- Add the cornstarch and the vinegar and blend until just incorporated.
- Dollop the egg whites onto the parchment paper using the drawn circle as a guide.
- Make an indent in the middle to hold the filling.
- Turn down the oven to 250℉/120℃
- Place in the centre of the oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
- Turn off the oven and allow the shell to cool completely in the oven.
- Once cool, fill the meringue shell with the yoghurt or cream.
- Top with the sliced fruit, leaving some whole or halved for aesthetics.
Sunday had three of us packing a picnic and heading up to Rocky Mountain National Park for a spot of hiking. It was quite hot in Denver so we relished the thought of the cooler temperatures at the higher altitudes. We headed off only to get stuck in some festival traffic that was moving at a snail’s pace right outside of Estes Park. We took a longer route around and still managed to make our picnic.
So, this hike…yeah….we wanted to try a new trail to discover some of the hidden lakes of the park and all went well and we made it to the lake. It’s a pretty lake, quiet and calm. We ate our picnic swatting bugs and watching a mama duck lead her duckies across the lake. The dragonflies were out skimming the foliage with their fast moving purple wings, they are so beautiful. The hike to the lake was about an hour, through mountain forests and some rocky terrain. On our hike back, we decided to hike over to another lake that was a mile out and then catch the shuttle back to our car from there. Yes, my husband the navigator turned us around and we walked, and walked and walked….close to 2 hours through some of the worst rocky terrain. I just wanted to cry. It was exhausting, and all the good exercise I had had earlier for my knees was now replaced by the worst pain imaginable.
We made it back finally, but after taking a short cut where we saw the main road! After some leftovers for dinner, a hot shower and a much needed hydrocodone for me, I climbed into bed and was out!
Monday was a little slow moving after the rough Sunday 🙂 How was your weekend? Any gruelling hikes for you guys?
Hope your week’s off to a good start! Have a great one!