I Had a Picnic (and Got Married): The Pesto-Mayo Roasted Corn Edition

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What’s better than fresh corn? Maybe fresh, local, organic corn roasted in pesto veganaise?

When you’re on a limited budget (I liked to joke I wanted to feed 40 people for $40, but we ended up spending about $400 and my sanity on food) fresh corn fits right in. Add to that the picnic motif and it really does make sense. I couldn’t serve it hot, obviously, so to maximize flavour they were roasted. 13 plain, 13 pesto veganaise. Easy as it sounds, I promise. I didn’t have the time to individually wrap 13 cobs of corn in foil, so take note of my short-cut. Listen up, if you can’t find pesto Veganaise, use your favourite vegan mayo with a spoonful of pesto added, or vegan mayo with your favourite spices added.

Pesto-Mayo Roasted Corn

13 cobs of corn, shucked and cleaned, ends snapped off
1 1/4 cup pesto Veganaise

Preheat oven to 425 F (220 C). You’re going to want enough aluminum foil to cover the bottom of a large baking sheet, as well as all of the cobs of corn,  so just over double the size of it. Cover the bottom of the sheet with the foil and arrange the cobs of corn on it, keeping the excess foil off the side and out of your way. It’s going to get a little messy here, so have some fun with it. Massage the Veganaise evenly into the corn. Cover tightly with the foil and bake for an hour.

For the plain ones, I did the same thing minus the mayo for the plain corn. It was so delicious, no salt or butter needed to be added.

Serve hot, cold or at room temperature.

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Drunken Plum Tartlets

I had too many yellow plums. I had too many plums because I got excited as I’d never seen yellow plums in Winnipeg. I had Scotch. I don’t really drink so I thought maybe something delicious could be made from the two of them. Summer is (thankfully) winding down and I’m sick to death of cupcakes. They’re really quite dull, no? Pastry was the only answer. And oh, what a revolutionary solution it was.

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I made 12 tartlets. You can find my standardpâte brisée here. It’s based on Martha Stewart’s and I never stray far from it; save a touch more or less sugar depending on the end goal.

Pear Filling

6 small plums, halved and pitted
2 tablespoons non-dairy margarine
3 tablespoons sugar
100 ml Scotch Whisky
1 teaspoon high quality vanilla (such as Madagascar Bourbon)
Pinch of cinnamon (optional)

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Heat margarine in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add plums, cut side down. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. You’re waiting for some caramelization to happen, so leave the plums alone. After about 5 minutes, give the skillet a shake to mix up the juices the fruit is releasing and the sugar. Add the Scotch and vanilla to the pan and swirl it around. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer until the plums are tender and the whisky has reduced and turned into a wonderful sauce.

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Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C). Roll out your prepared and chilled pâte brisée to about a 1/4 of an inch and cut out the appropriate 12 tartlet rounds. Fill mini-muffin pan with tartlet shell and then carefully spoon a half plum, with whisky sauce, into each one. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.

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Edamame Falafel (and One Fixin’)

My husband is allergic to chickpeas. Chickpeas, people.

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Having done homemade falafel for the first time for our wedding, and having them turn out so delicious I could have cried (had I not been too busy sobbing over the damn cupcakes) I was even sadder than I normally am that he can’t have this wonderful street food. His allergies to everything, including legumes are far-reaching and confusing but soy has always seemed safe. Cilantro is out, but I wasn’t sure it would extend to coriander (the spice which is made from the seeds of the cilantro plant), so I figured this was worth a shot. I made two versions of this recipe, one which was safe for him and one which is merely a twist on the standard falafel. I bake mine, but you could totally fry these up, if you wanted to. This recipe can also be easily cut in half, but I was making two separate batches, so I have a large amount.

These really are wonderful: so fresh, just a hint of spice from the pepper and a great (not far off chickpea) texture.

Edamame Falafel

Makes 48

4 cups edamame, thawed under cool water
2 tablespoons ground coriander (optional)
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 cup cilantro, stems included (optional)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
2 small onions
8 cloves garlic, minced
Handful of green onion tops (optional, I did it to bring a rounder flavour to the ones without cilantro and coriander)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup all-purpose gluten free flour
Canola oil, for baking sheet

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Preheat oven to 400 F (205 C).

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor, until well incorporated but not overly mushy. You can do this part by hand, just be sure that the other ingredients are cut small enough to be mixed in fairly evenly. Give the mixture a taste and adjust the spices or lemon juice, as you wish. Grease a large baking sheet and drop falafel mixture onto it in one tablespoon measures. I use a small ice cream scoop for convenience. Bake on each side for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

Roasted Cauliflower

1 head caulflower, chopped into large florets
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Pinch of red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 400 F (205 C). Toss cauliflower in a large bowl with all ingredients. Roast in a lightly greased baking dish for about 30 minutes or until the tips of the cauliflower start to brown. Delicious hot or cold.

Serve with salad, pickled turnips, tahini and whatever else you like with your falafel. Obviously hummus is a no-go here, but you totally should.

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I Had a Picnic (and Got Married): The Herb Infused Picnic Drink Edition

Further to my last post on grilled vegetables and that weird wedding thing, I had the other crazy idea of making sure I made the drinks interesting (and myself), as well. We didn’t have endless amounts of money to spend on food and fancy vessels to serve that food, so my goal was to make everything was colourful and vibrant as possible and still serve about 40. In addition, I had no interest in really having cut flowers (or carrying any because what even is that?! I’m not an ornament; I’m a human being – even on the day I was a bride), but decoration was still important to me. The answer was obvious very quickly and clearly:  fresh herbs! They’re beautiful, fragrant and delicious.

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So herbs, it was. The season was perfect for large bundles to be available from the Farmer’s Market (The down-and-dirty Jean Talon, specifically) for more than reasonable prices. When I selected the dozens of bundles of herbs, the farmer was curious if it was for a restaurant. My trusty maid of honour and attendant were nice enough to run translation from English to French for me and explain it was a wedding. The man assured us we could exchange the herbs if they didn’t hold out until the day of the wedding and then began piling free herbs and vegetables into our hands. Ahh, the market was already my favourite place to go, but this was above and beyond anything I’d expected. I did go back last weekend (for basil to make pesto) and showed a picture or two of the presentation and was gifted with even more free produce, including the most super delicious tomatoes ever. I didn’t have my translators this time, so the conversation was, um, difficult. Damn it, my French is the worst still and I’ve been here a year and a half. I’m going to jot down their name next time because I want to add it to this post. Right, so back to the wedding (which is far duller than farmer’s market talk, let me tell you) and those herb infused drink recipes.

First, here, have a picture of my maid of honour and her love, our attendant (and photographers and driver and bodyguards and saviours) :

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OK, right back on track, when one thinks of a picnic, one may think of iced tea and lemonade. I also thought they were complimentary to my menu and each other. I picked rosemary lemonade and a strawberry-basil iced tea. I needed drinks I could make a couple days beforehand and I wanted 6 litres of each. I bought a box of a dozen 1 litre mason jars and everything worked out dandy. Combined with a couple of cases of bottled water, and everyone was well hydrated. The thing about having your wedding in a park, is you don’t really know what your set-up is going to be until you arrive and you see what’s free. I was pleased as possible with what we were able to accomplish. It ended up being a drink station and the cupcakes on two separate barbecue stands and all of the food on a round-ish picnic table, including the seats.

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Rosemary Lemonade

Makes 1 litre

1 cup sugar
7 cups water
4 sprigs rosemary
4 – 5 lemons, the juice of

In a small saucepan, add 1 cup of water and the sugar to a boil. You’re making a simple syrup here; nothing fancy. Once the water is boiling and all the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat and put 2 sprigs of rosemary in the syrup. You’re going to let the syrup cool with the rosemary in it. This will infuse the simple syrup with plenty of fresh herb flavour.

Juice the lemons into the container you plan on serving the lemonade in. Once the syrup has cooled, remove the rosemary and add it to the lemon juice. Top with water, mix well and garnish with more fresh rosemary. Also, please taste before serving because I like a nice tart lemonade, but I sweetened this more than I normally would because it was for guests whose palettes I was not familiar with.

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Strawberry-Basil Iced Tea

Makes 1 litre

1 cup sugar
1 large fresh basil, plus more leaves for garnish
8 black tea bags (something strong; I used Red Rose, like a good Canadian)
4 cups (just under) boiling water
2 1/2 cups cold water
1/2 cup frozen whole strawberries (cut them in half if they’re large)

Again, simple syrup: bring 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar to a boil. Once all the sugar has dissolved, take off of the heat and add the fresh basil. Let it infuse and cool together.  Brew double strong tea, 8 tea bags to 4 cups nearly boiling water. Let the tea steep for 5 minutes and then let it cool. In the container you are serving it in, add the steeped tea, strained simple syrup, cold water, frozen strawberries and 5 or 6 large fresh basil leaves.

From the leftovers I can tell you, this tea keeps getting better the longer it sits.

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I leave you with another view of my much-loved herbs, taken sometime at the beginning of setting up.

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I Had a Picnic (And Got Married): Roasted Vegetable Edition

For no other obvious reason, other than insanity, I decided to cater my own wedding. OK, to be honest, I hate wedding and never anticipating having one of my own to plan, so I knew that to make it tolerable, it would have to be to my standards – simple, warm, no creepy patriarchal traditions, and focused on who my now-husband and I are.

I couldn’t be happier with how things went, and I’ll be interspersing ordinary recipes with posts about the wedding – especially the food. The spread was gorgeous; strangers snapped pictures.

For today, roasted vegetables!

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Roasted Asparagus

1 bunch asparagus, ends snapped off
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

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Preheat your oven to 400 F (205 C).  Place asparagus in a large bowl and drizzle the oil, garlic and salt over the vegetables. Toss with your hands, to make sure the asparagus is evenly coated. Arrange asparagus on a large baking sheet, so they are laying mostly flat. I knew mine were going to be served at room temperature, so I crowded them a little more than usual. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until your desired level of browning is reached.

Roasted Onions

6 onions, any kind you like
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

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Preheat oven to 400 F (205 C). Cut off ends and peel onions. Slice lengthwise and then into wedges that are about half an inch at the thickest spot. The size is not important, you’ll simply have to watch them in the oven and adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Lightly grease your baking sheet with olive oil. Arrange the onions in a single layer on the baking sheet and pour the remaining olive oil over the onions. Evenly pinch the salt and thyme over the onions. Roast for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until the onions are a beautiful caramel colour.

Roasted Herby Yams

4 medium yams, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes

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Preheat oven to 400 F (205 C).  In a large bowl, combine the yam rounds with the other ingredients and toss to coat evenly. Arrange the slices so they are flat on a baking sheet. Roast for about 45 minutes or until the slices are tender and starting to brown. Serve at room temperature, for optimal deliciousness.

Roasted Zucchini

12 small zucchini (I did a mix of yellow and green because that’s what the market had)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
6 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

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Move one rack of the oven up to the top rung. Preheat oven to 450 F (230 C). In a small bowl, mix the olive oil and garlic. Slice the ends off the zucchini, then slice them into quarters, lengthwise, then in half. Place skin side down on baking sheet. Brush the oil mixture on the tops of the zucchini. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, so they start to release some of their water and they get a little colour. Remove from the oven and toss with herbs and salt and pepper.