Most often, backyard barbecues are fired up to cook meat – burgers and steak, generally – and almost always used at dinnertime. It’s a shame that such a useful cooking tool rarely sees its full potential – outdoor grills provide high, direct heat that’s ideal for cooking much more than burgers. The fact that cooking outdoors doesn’t heat up the house makes me want to use it all times of the day – including the morning, on weekends when we linger over breakfast.
All types of bread work here, but make sure it’s cut thick – sourdough, multigrain, challah and raisin bread are all delicious, or try cinnamon buns, cut in half crosswise. Whichever bread you choose, it should be at least a day old – fresh bread tends to make mushy French toast. To top it off, grill some peaches, mango or other juicy stone fruit – cut in half or in wedges, pit them and place cut-side down on the grill until softened and grill-marked. Slice overtop, letting the juices mingle with the maple syrup.
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla (optional)
- 4 thick slices day-old bread
- Cinnamon (optional)
- In a shallow bowl, stir the eggs, milk and vanilla together with a fork. Brush the grill with oil and preheat it to medium-high.
- Dip each slice of bread in the egg mixture, coating both sides well and letting it soak in. Pick up the slices and let the excess egg drip off; then place them in a baking dish to take them outside. Sprinkle them with cinnamon if you like.
- Grill the French toast until it’s until on both sides, about 2 minutes on the first side and 1 minute on the second, flipping as necessary. Close the lid to create an oven environment, which will help them cook through. Serve them right away with syrup and fresh fruit, or keep them warm on the top rack of the grill or in a 200°F oven while you cook the rest.
- Serves 4.
Granitas sound like they may be fancy, but in reality, all a granita is is a homemade slush. It’s a refreshing option for a summer dessert — the icy treat will cool you down on a hot summer day, but it’s lighter than ice cream or frozen yogurt. We like just eating granita out of a bowl with a spoon like a sorbet or serving them in a cocktail glass with a little bit of vodka or gin as a cool summer cocktail.
Watermelon is a classic granita flavour because the melon is so full of liquid that you don’t have to add any extra water or juice to make a slush. All you have to do is puree it, pour it into a pan, and freeze it. You’ll need to scrape it up with a fork as it’s freezing so you don’t end up with a big watermelon ice cube, but other than that, this cool treat requires very little work. Which is exactly how we like it in the summertime. Read More
If you live on the prairies, chances are you’ve had saskatoons in something – pie or jam, probably, and maybe even in sweet peroghies. Saskatoons (the city was named for them) are hardy shrub berries, less juicy but similar in look, shape, colour and flavour to a blueberry, with more pulp and slightly thicker skins. Botanically, saskatoons are in the same family as roses and apples; the wee purple ones come into season sometime around August, and if you don’t have a secret picking spot, keep an eye out for them next time you’re out on a hike or at the dog park. Some local grocery stores sell them frozen, too.
There is perhaps no dish more prairie-influenced than peroghies stuffed with saskatoons. Eat them for dessert, boiled and then cooked until golden and crisp in a hot pan with butter, topped with sour cream, crème fraîche or vanilla yogurt. They’re also delicious for breakfast or brunch.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 3/4 cup milk
- 2 Tbsp. butter, melted, or oil
- 1 large egg
- 1/3 cup water
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 2 cups fresh or frozen saskatoon berries
- butter, for cooking
- sour cream or crème fraîche, for serving
- In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl stir together the milk, butter and egg; add the water about a third at a time, until you have soft, slightly sticky dough. Knead it about 10 times, then cover with a towel and let rest on the countertop for 20 minutes.
- To make the filling, stir together the sugar and flour; shake over the saskatoons and toss to coat. On lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a scant 1/4-inch thickness. Using a 3-inch round cutter, cut into rounds. Stretch each round slightly; fill with a spoonful of the saskatoon mixture, ensuring you get some of the sugar-flour in there as well. Pull the dough over filling into semicircle; pinch edges together to seal. Cover with tea towel. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Freeze in a single layer or cook immediately.
- To cook, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil and cook the peroghies (fresh or from frozen) in batches, until they float to the top and the dough is tender, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, set a heavy skillet over medium-high heat and add a generous dab of butter. With a slotted spoon, transfer the boiled peroghies to the hot pan and cook until golden and crisp on each side. Serve with sour cream or crème fraiche.
- Makes about 3 dozen peroghies.
Pimm’s No. 1 Cup is a gin-based liqueur with an herbal flavour. It’s particularly popular in England, where it’s typically served in pitchers with lemonade (or, if you’re feeling less traditional, ginger ale) and chunks of fruit and cucumber. It’s a cool and refreshing drink that remains ubiquitous in the U.K. during the summer and also has a growing number of fans in Canada.
With blueberries so abundant in mid-summer in Canada, a jug of boozy punch that utilizes BC blueberries seemed to be in order. Blueberries work will with the herbal and citrus flavours in the Pimm’s and it’s always nice to have a fruity snack right inside your cocktail! Read More
BC blueberries are here! To celebrate, we made a batch of easy cream shortcakes on BT Calgary this morning, with berries in the dough as well as simmered to spoon over the split biscuits. Add some whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and you have a dessert that tastes like summer. All the berries are coming into season now, and would be fantastic piled on a freshly baked, crunchy-topped shortcake – here’s the recipe!
A bubbly fruit crisp is the ultimate summer dessert – easy to assemble using whatever fruit happens to be in season, no fussing with pastry in the heat, and a sweet, crunchy topping that’s easy to mix together. It makes the very best vehicle for ice cream.
Berries are perfect contenders – strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries – whatever grows well where you are. We love all of them paired with rhubarb, which makes for a sweet-tart crumble. You can even assemble the fruit and bake it when you’re sitting down to dinner, so that it’s warm when it’s time for dessert.
Dried lavender — the kind that can be added to baked goods to give it a distinctive flowery taste — is becoming more and more readily available across the country. But once you’ve got your hands on a jar of these little purple buds, what do you do with it? A little bit of lavender goes a long way; the flavour is strong and you have to make sure it complements your other ingredients. That said, if the flavour appeals to you, a pinch of lavender can take an otherwise ordinary dessert from plain to special occasion-worthy.
We’re big fans of blondies. Like brownies, they’re chewy and delicious, but without the fudgey-ness there’s more room to play with different flavours and add-ins. These blondies combine lavender with good ol’ butterscotch chips for an easy, but slightly fancier treat. Read More
During the summer months, I tend to overload on the greens – my fridge is always packed with asparagus, broccoli, kale, chard, spinach, and all those good things that grow so well (and are so cheap) at this time of year. Inevitably, some of those things get wilty and wind up in the freezer, and once in awhile I pull a bunch out and simmer it into soup. After all, salads aren’t the only way to get your greens! I particularly like making this with aged white cheddar – and a handful of kale or spinach would do well in it, too.
During the summer months, I’m all about easy appetizers that can be pulled together in a minute and a half and brought out to the patio with a cold bottle of rosé. Cheese is almost always my go-to, and we have so many amazing Canadian cheeses to choose from. I’ve even been known to slide a small wheel of Brie or Camembert into the oven while it’s hot for us to nosh on with a chunk of baguette and plate of charcuterie for dinner al fresco. It’s real fast food.
I thought of this because of the abundance of herbs currently in my garden – you don’t need a recipe so much as an easy formula: slice the top off a small wheel of Camembert or Brie, put it into any sort of ramekin or heat proof dish, top with a few sprigs of fresh herbs (like rosemary and thyme), a drizzle of oil and a good grinding of black pepper.
Slide it into the oven (or onto the back shelf of the barbecue, where you keep buns and such warm) until it’s gooey, and serve with crusty bread, tiny potatoes, or really anything you might eat with cheese. It’s even amazing as a side with a grilled steak. It’s easy being cheesy!
Cauliflower is such a great vegetable — it’s substantial enough to anchor a vegetarian meal and also makes a hearty side to go alongside a piece of grilled fish or meat. The other handy thing about cauliflower is that the flavour is mellow enough that you can use it as a vehicle for a number of different sauces, be it a classic cheese sauce or something hot and spicy. We love cauliflower with a garlicky tahini dressing, made even more flavourful with a dash of hot cayenne pepper. Read More
Summertime is beverage season, and while I’m not against the occasional slurpee, there’s too much in the way of Kool-Aid, pop and other sugary drinks that are so heavily consumed throughout the hot summer months. My standby is homemade lemonade, jazzed up with fresh herbs, ginger or sliced cucumber. Lemons are classic, of course – but limes and even grapefruit can be added to the mix to shake things up a bit, so to speak.
To make your own lemonade concentrate, bring equal parts freshly squeezed lemon juice and sugar to a simmer in a small saucepan. (I usually do a cup of each.) Stir to dissolve the sugar, and if you want to add flavour, grate in some fresh ginger, toss in a few stalks of chopped rhubarb, or a handful of mint, rosemary or thyme, and strain before serving.
Your lemonade concentrate will keep up to a couple weeks in the fridge; to make a pitcher or glass of lemonade, add water or sparkling water to taste, and a handful of ice. (This concentrate also works well with lime juice, and makes a fine mojito or addition to a gin & tonic.)
There are few summer salads I enjoy as much as one made with chunks of cool, crunchy, sweet watermelon and salty, briny feta, punctuated with leaves of fresh mint from the garden. It’s as easy as salads get, and looks amazing on a shallow platter on the table. Because watermelon has such a high water content, the salad is refreshing – and easy to get on your fork, unlike spring greens on a hot day.
I like to drizzle mine with a balsamic reduction, which you can make yourself by simply reducing balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan until it reduces by about a half, or buy by the bottle at most grocery stores. It holds onto the watermelon and feta better, without getting runny like straight up vinegar can.
The extended family came over for an impromptu dinner tonight – my nephew made burgers, and I scoured the house for something to make a salad out of. We had no greens, or kale, or anything green, really – but we had tons of carrots, and I remembered a grated carrot salad we ate at various events when I was a kid, and so I tried to recreate it. It was easy to grate two large carrots, dice an apple, add a handful of raisins and dress the whole thing with rice vinegar, salt and pepper, a pinch of salt and a spoonful of mayo. And it turned out to be delicious on burgers, too.
This time of year we crave things that are fresh and green and it doesn’t get any fresher or greener than a homemade herb-packed pesto. This pesto is made of easy-to-find ingredients and can be whipped up in a matter of minutes — whenever you need a little something extra to go with a springtime meal. Serve it with grilled chicken or fish, with hot pasta (or in a cold pasta salad), as a sandwich spread, or even as a dip. Read More