Monday, June 17, 2013

Halloumi, Asparagus and Watermelon Salad

Putting together healthy, fast and satisfying weeknight meals may very well be the Achilles heels of most cooks. I spend the better part of my professional days developing recipes and coming up with easy dinner solutions for Canadian Living readers, but I do often come home with the eternal, almost cliche, "what's for dinner?" question. Having a meal plan is one of the ways to make sure I stay on track and plan balanced meals for the week. I'd be lying if I said I always stick to the plan (because what would the fun in that be?) but it does help to have a list and an idea of how to make the week efficient. Sometimes, the unplanned gets in the way (a sudden desire for a night-out or a last minute work event) but having an overarching plan does help.

Halloumi cheese is my current mid-week saviour. If you haven't tried the king of squeaky cheeses yet, I urge you to get some next time you're grocery shopping! It's pleasantly salty, holds its shape when cooked and, with ease, transforms everyday side salads into hearty mains.

I love combining the cheese with chunks of watermelon and seasonal asparagus at this time of year -- it takes minutes to put together and helps welcome summer with open arms.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Rhubarb-Ginger Fizz

My second CSA box arrived last week and, with it, came a bounty of  rhubarb.

Well, actually maybe not a bounty, but 5 healthy pink stalks. There's this weird phenomenon with CSA produce where you both get a lot and not very much of one type of vegetable or fruit. Can you CSA endorsers relate?  But that is the challenge, and the fun of taking part in a CSA -- or Community Supported Agriculture -- program. It's a fantastically delicious way to take part in your community and to eat seasonally and locally. It's essentially like buying stocks in a farm, and getting a portion of whatever the farm produces that year as payment. I pick up a box or produce every week from now until the end of the summer, a couple blocks from my apartment. It means there is a lot of fresh cooking going on in my kitchen, but also a bit of a constant "what's for dinner" challenge because you can't fully plan your meals ahead of time!

The rhubarb we received didn't come in sufficient numbers to make a pie or tart as I would have hoped, but I turned into the next best thing I could think of: rhubarb simple syrup! If you haven't made flavoured simple syrup before, this recipe is a great one to start with. Simple syrup -- a, yes simple! -- mixture of sugar and water is great to use in drinks and summer treats, like popsicles. Once the sugar has dissolved in water, it stays at an eternal syrupy stage making it perfect to add to lemonades, ice tea or cocktails of any kind.

This version is simply topped off with carbonated water, but would be delicious as an evening cocktail with a little vodka or other strong liqueur. Even if your rhubarb doesn't seem that pink when you cook it down, rest assured, the end result will take on a lovely pink hue once strained.

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