Category — Seasonal

How to Make a Perfect Salad 0

February 20, 2018

 

Summer was made for salads. Or is it that salads were made for summer? Our summer has been incredibly hot, tropical and steamy; far too hot for cooking. I seem to be able to bear the heat for cake making (like this one, summer fruit skillet cake) but not for regular cooking. Priorities? 😉

 

So, what’s the secret of a good salad? In my opinion it’s all about balance. Here are the flavours and textures you want to include, with examples:

 

Neutral base: Greens or rice or pasta or beans

Sweet ‘n’ juicy: Cherry tomatoes, apple, pear, roasted carrot, roasted eggplant

Protein: Chicken, bacon, feta, mozzarella

Salty: Shards of parmesan, tiny slices of preserved lemon

Sour & Pickled: Capers, pickled ginger, quick-pickled radish

Herb: Mint, oregano, dill, parsley

Texture: toasted pine nuts, croutons, toasted rice, crushed peanuts

 

You could add some of these aspects by throwing on a sauce or dressing, but I think the best salads have these components as direct ingredients. Plus, nothing worse than a soggy, overdressed salad.

Finally, make sure to season your salad. If it needs it- taste first! – add a bit of olive oil and vinegar.

 

So, with that “formula” in mind, here is my current favourite summer salad –

 

 

Beetroot, Feta, Caper-berries & Fennel Flower Salad

 

Base: Cooked beetroot cut into quarters

Sweet ‘n’ juicy: apple cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks

Protein: soft feta, broken into chunks

Salty: a couple of pieces of preserved lemon, sliced

Sour & Pickled: caper-berries, stalks removed and cut in half

Herb: Mint leaves, torn + a few soft fennel fronds

Texture: Fresh fennel flower tops (tear the tops off small, soft ones)

Season: salt + pepper

 

My fennel is giving me more flowers than I know what to do with and I love the little pops of aniseed flavour they give to this salad. You’ll need to use the small, soft, baby flower heads as the more mature flowers can be too overpowering. If you don’t have fennel flowers in your garden you could try toasted cumin seeds or sesame seeds, toasted pinenuts or croutons. Apple cucumber can be substituted with regular cucumber. Preserved lemon can be left out if you don’t have it but if you do – please use it! Preserved lemon – salty, jammy and tangy – is my new addiction.

 

What is your “formula” for a perfect salad? What is your current favourite salad?

H x

 

In: Food, From Hannah, Includes a recipe!, Seasonal

Look Back, Step Forward 4

December 20, 2017

In keeping with the end of old things and start of new, we have an announcement here at Fork & Fiction. After almost six years of collaboration, inspiration and fun, our team of two will soon be one. Ria is stepping away from her part of the blog to focus on her writing, career and other mystery projects. It’s the end of an era and we’re both very sad, but also excited for what 2018 holds for both of us, and for Fork & Fiction. So here’s Ria with one last collection of thoughts to round out an eventful year and a beautiful, powerful partnership in words.

 

 

I’m going to miss you all so much. Working on the blog, creating posts, thinking about things by writing them down here, has been a blessing and a joy. We’ve had babies, bought/sold houses, moved to new cities and countries and written and published numerous books, all while recording it here. That’s no small thing.

So I thought I’d take a look back at a few of the posts I most enjoyed, whether it’s for the writing, photos, event that inspired it, or the conversation it sparked. Those are the things that matter to me most, and the things that I will carry with me forever.

Lavender Honeycake. This was such a pleasure in all ways—I was alone in the house (can’t recall why), the summer air was hot and sweet, I made this delicious cake and got to enjoy it before everyone else came home. Luxury. I can’t wait to make it again next summer.

To Life. I admit, I love an excuse to take pictures of piggies. And caterpillars. But this one was also unexpectedly sobering (which I think comes across in the post). It was that great balance of bittersweet that DH and I love so much. Which is just the way life is, right? And there were some thoughtful comments and conversations afterward that really made me think. Love that too.

Our whole How She/He Does It series was so much fun, but I especially enjoyed interviewing Hannah. It was back at the start, when we were just figuring out what we were doing (or have we ever??) and it was a way to introduce ourselves and also learn more about the other. And reading it now is also a trip because we’ve changed! Our families and locations have changed! Life has really moved on, but the foundation, the truest parts of us, are still the same. And what a great way to go forward into 2018, with a look back and an understanding of where we’ve come from.

So with that I want to send out the HUGEST hug to my fantastic collaborator and wonderful friend, Hannah, with whom I’ve been so honoured to create this blog. I know you’ll do amazing and creative things with it in the coming months and years and I look forward to seeing it evolve.

As for me, I’m off to do some scheming and planning for a new website and finish the lovely labour of my latest novel, out in 2019. I can always be found on twitter and Instagram as @riavoros and for now, through my soon-to-be-replaced website www.riavoros.com . Thank YOU, our readers, for giving us your time and thoughts and good energy. It’s been wonderful connecting with so many of you.

 

With much love and hope for 2018,

Ria

 

 

In: Food, From Ria, How She (or he) Does It, Includes a recipe!, Interviews, Kids and Parenting, Seasonal, Writing

HOW TO MAKE CHRISTMAS CHRISTMAS-ER WITH ONE SHEET OF PAPER 0

December 7, 2017

Yes, really. One sheet of paper. But, before we begin, some introductions. You might remember my sister, Kendall, from our series on the Tiny House she built with her husband, Steve (part one and part two).

 

 

Tiny’s adventures are ongoing and so are my sister’s. In the time since we last flashed her smiley face here on Fork & Fiction she has produced another gorgeous babe, my nephew – Pax. This year Pax and Elvie (big sister) join my tribe for a family Christmas frenzy at our house. Think tents on the lawn, a “present bandit” who makes the kids complete a treasure hunt to find their hidden gifts, a glazed ham as big as a toddler and a lot of lolling about, fruit mince pies and glasses of bubbly firmly in hand. If all of that sounds lovely but also frenetic and complicated, here is the antithesis: some Christmas fun with one simple ingredient: a plain white sheet of paper. Kendall, oh crafty sister, please take it from here…

 

Last Saturday Mum had all the grandkids over to put up the Christmas tree at her house. It was outrageously delightful and sparked all the Christmas feels. Kids ate too much, carols got sung and arguments raged over which ornaments were the best.  With good reason too – Mum has a ton of ornaments and they are all packed with memories; there are rainbow doves passed down from her mother, grandkids’ and grown kids’ first christmas decorations, a very nineties angel that has spent 20 years perched lopsidedly in prime position, and multiple nods to passing trends – e.g. a Troll santa (from the first time they were cool). With all these treasured ornaments from over the decades, the resulting tree was both wonky and very crowded.

 

Returning home I realised my wee family’s tree was, well, pretty naked. While Christmassy – in a “everything bought in a five minute mad dash at Kmart” – kinda way; it did look a wee bit sad. But this is because it is our first tree as a family. In fact, it’s my first tree with my husband! I can easily make excuses for a lack of tree – “we move a lot”, “we lived in a tiny house”, “we just couldn’t really be bothered” – but this year we finally decided it was time to adorn a lonely corner in the lounge with a bright shiny tree and Elvie (our four year old) could not have been more thrilled. But how to cover the bare thing?! The four year old and I hunted the house for materials for decorations and found…white printer paper. Hmm. Thank goodness for google. Here’s what we discovered:

[Read more →]

In: Kids and Parenting, Seasonal

On Beauty 0

October 19, 2017

 

 

From where I’m sitting, October just got serious. Waves of storm fronts are sweeping down from the Gulf of Alaska and the puddles are toddler-splash-worthy on the driveway.  But the sudden shift to dark, wet, autumn weather feels a little harder to take this time. I’m not talking about the seasonal shift from summer to fall I went on about before. Apple cake fixed that right up.

I’m talking about this new, deeper, more inward shift, one that still happens every year with the rains, but feels…less stitched with hope now. Yesterday we learned that a Canadian music and culture icon died. Women everywhere are having to be brave in ways that make my heart ache. Environmental destruction seems to be so ever-present that it keeps jumping up the list of chronic stressors. I won’t go on.

I found myself staring at a spear of kale this morning. It was about to be chopped up for a soup, but the onion I’d diced had left its noxious fumes in the air and my eyes were watering, so I left the kitchen with the kale leaf in one hand and blinked away the sting by the feeble grey light of the back door.

This leaf. Dinosaur kale. Lacinato. Brassica oleracea sabellica.  Tall with a slightly sad tilt to the top. Rippling bubbles of chorophylled tissue. I held it up to the light. What a revelation, I thought. What a strange piece of matter this is.

How beautiful.

I wasn’t sure why. There was something about its absurdity, its prehistoric-ness, it’s unexpected tastiness, that made it striking. Which made me think: what is beauty? Yes, it’s personal, yes, it’s culturally seeded in us, yes, we are biologically drawn to it. But what if it’s something I never thought about before this moment with this piece of kale?

What if our perception of beauty is a kind of hope?

 

 

I thought about the reasons I found this stalk of a plant beautiful–this thing we’ve bred into existence. This leaf that looks diseased and genetically doomed. This combination of atoms from long ago stars that I will feed to my family later. There’s hope in all of that. A wish for the future.

Could that be part of why it’s beautiful to me? Its own improbable, magical existence?

Hope is something that’s been flagging in me lately. (See above non-inclusive list of this week’s terrible news.) The biggest hope machines I have are my kids, who haven’t yet learned to doubt or be cynical or let the world get them down. That’s part of their beauty too. So, hope makes me happier. It protects me from the darkness. When I think about how hope makes me feel–the warm upward tug of it in my body, it doesn’t feel very distinguishable from the experience of beauty. Maybe not at all. A field of red poppies. A puppy. A perfect story. A stack of pancakes. Beauty and hope. Hope and beauty. Maybe it’s better to talk about them both as part of the same thing. Maybe.

And the soup was delicious, by the way.

XO

Ria

In: Food, From Ria, Seasonal

A Brave Apple Cake 3

October 3, 2017

 

 

Early the other morning, Little E and The Tiger rushed into our room to report that one of the windows was broken. Broken? we asked. Yes, it’s all wet on the inside, maybe the inside-inside, they said.

 

Hmm.

 

So we dragged ourselves into the living room to find our picture window all fogged up. And it did look like it was on the inside-inside. For a moment DH and I wondered if the seal on the window had broken.  I felt a sleepy kind of pride that the kids might have got it right without any knowledge of window anatomy. So we sent Little e outside (no shoes necessary, she insisted) to check from that side, and when she couldn’t give us a satisfactory report (It still looks broken!), D went out (also barefooted) and jumped like a basketball player to reach the window with his finger.

 

Nope. Not broken. Just dewy on the outside. The outside-outside.

 

 

Just the undeniable start of autumn.

 

I have to admit I don’t love it. It’s not that it’s not gorgeous and colourful and full of a season’s worth of fruit and veggies. It’s that it’s not summer anymore. Okay, so maybe I should say, I don’t love the end of summer, and I blame autumn for it. There’s dew on the house and grass and car. It’s funny because once I get used to the idea of sweaters and cold mornings and darkness coming down swiftly after dinner, I’m alright. Autumn’s a great season, once it gets going (well, maybe until the endless rain hits…). But the start of it? Ugh, that’s tough for me. It feels a little broken on the inside-inside.

 

And what makes me feel a little less seasonally broken? Yup, baking.

 

 

I have a list of late summer/early autumn recipes I make just this time of year, and as you can probably guess by the huge number of seasonal delights on this site, those are where our hearts lie.

 

 

I’ve shamelessly tinkered with Deb Perelman’s awesome apple cake recipe because I can’t not tinker when I bake—it’s a compulsion. I used a mix of white, whole wheat and oat flour, added rolled oats, and in the one I made last week I used pecans instead of walnuts and it was GLORIOUS for all except Little e, who gives nuts a wide berth on Tuesday afternoons and Thursday mornings and any other time when you start to think she’s reverted back to liking them. I also bake the cake in a rectangular pan, not a tube pan, which the recipe calls for. It wasn’t on purpose. I just cannot find my tube pan.

 

 

Apple Cake

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s recipe

 

6 apples (I used macs from our tree), peeled and chopped into small bite-sized pieces

1 tbsp cinnamon

3 tbsp brown or granulated sugar

1 cup whole wheat flour

½ cup oat flour

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup rolled oats

1 ½ tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 cup vegetable oil

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

¼ cup orange juice or buttermilk

2 1/2 tsp vanilla

4 eggs

1 cup chopped nuts, such as walnuts or pecans

 

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a tube pan like Deb does, or a rectangular cake pan like I do. Toss the apples with the cinnamon and 3 tablespoons sugar and set this bowl aside. Combine the flours, baking powder, oats and salt together in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl or jug, whisk together oil, juice or buttermilk, remaining sugar, vanilla and eggs. Stir wet ingredients into dry, and then fold in the nuts.

 

Pour the batter into the cake pan and top with the apples, pressing them down into the batter so it rises up a little around them. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, but do take it out when the toothpick tester is just a little damp with cake–otherwise it may be too dry when it cools. Let it cool completely in the pan and then cut into squares (I keep mine in the pan and serve from there).

 

XO

Ria

In: Food, From Ria, Includes a recipe!, Kids and Parenting, Seasonal