Covetousness is probably not the most noble of things to admit, but I am guilty nonetheless.

I have, at some point or another, yearned for the following:

• Eyeglasses. I do not wear them, but I have often thought that a well-chosen pair can make the wearer look instantly infinitely more interesting. I have a love of sunglasses for this same reason.

• A pair of slouchy, winter-white suede boots with layers upon layers of fringe and little silver beads adorning said fringe that would click as you walked. I thought them fabulous, and my heart tightened a bit every time I heard the distinctive sound they made as my classmate skipped about the playground. How I would have skipped had those boots been mine.

• Curly hair. Or straight. I had curls when I was an infant, fairly-straight hair in my teens, and now it falls somewhere (infuriatingly) in between.

• A jaunty accent. Or a mysterious one. Or a charming one, even. Now I know I have an accent, a Canadian one, and could easily move to a foreign country and attain this aspiration. Problem is, I like living in Canada. And, if we are being honest, I do not often hear comments on the lilting tone of the Canadian manner of speaking. Give me a good, rich Irish brogue or something equally melodic.

• The set of wicker Barbie doll furniture (loveseat, two chairs and a table) owned by my friend who lived up the street when I was six years old. How I wished it was mine. Looking back, I assume that this set was not an officially-branded Barbie product, as all of her furniture was molded plastic and this, this was the real thing. Delicate rattan interwoven into pattern upon pattern, with twists and arabesques and florets as decoration. My friend would bring her set over to play, which was fun, but deep down I wished it was mine. I imagined that my Peaches n' Cream Barbie, renamed Scarlett or something fittingly-dramatic, would flit gracefully about the verandah of her Dream Home as best as one without fully-operational joints could flit, only to finally alight upon the edge of the wicker settee as she entertained her gentlemen callers.

• Gorgeously-ripe, local strawberries in March. Crimson to their cores, such jewels that if you strung them on some silk you could wear them as a necklace. Juicy, luscious fruit, tasting of sun.

As you might surmise, dear reader, that last object of desire is my most recent fixation. My preoccupation developed when I looked at Helen's site a few weeks ago. Ooof. That first photo brought all my want for springtime into one perfect image, and it hit me with the weight of all the snow we have had this season. The mint is so green, the soup so vivid, the berries so vibrant, they belong in a jewelery box.

My longing was only exacerbated by two gloriously-sunshiney days that came that same week; the wind had turned mild, carrying the kiss of spring to our cheeks. Sadly, it was not long lived, and we were back to a windchill of -17°C by the weekend. But although the warmth was gone, my desire for strawberries remained.

I could not ignore the cold, and so I looked to make something that would appease my craving, but still took its inspiration from my meteorological circumstance. I settled on oatcakes, ones that incorporate cooked steel-cut oats, griddled little cakes that are substantial without heaviness. The oats contribute not only a slight chewiness and nuttiness, also a cobblestoned texture.

Of course I needed to have my strawberries. This was one of those occasions when the habit freezing local berries when in season comes in handy. A scarely-sweetened sauce, simply crushed fruit, a sprinkle of sugar and a squeeze of lemon, brought zest and brightness and smacking sharpness to the pleasantly-stodgy oatcakes. The most modest drizzle of maple syrup rounded out that edge, with a mellow sweetness that worked with both the berries and the oats.

Breakfast done, I could not help but smile in the knowledge that both our appetites and my want were satisfied.

STEEL-CUT OATCAKES WITH QUICK STRAWBERRY SAUCE

FOR THE OATCAKES

  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour

  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup of prepared steel-cut oats
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup yogurt (I use nonfat)
  • 1/2 cup milk (I use 1%)
  • 3 tablespoons melted clarified butter or neutral oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

FOR THE SAUCE

  • strawberries, frozen in my case, fresh if you are lucky
  • freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • granulated sugar
  • salt

TO COOK AND SESRVE

  • melted butter, optional for cooking
  • maple syrup, optional for serving

METHOD

In a large bowl, whisk or sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together the oats, egg, yogurt, milk, oil and vanilla. Stir these wet ingredients into the dry, mixing until incorporated but not completely smooth. Allow to rest while you make the strawberry sauce.

For the sauce, take a few handfuls of strawberries, and put them in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkling of sugar. Cook, until the berries begin to soften and release their juices, about 5 minutes. Crush the berries using a potato masher or the back of a fork, until you have a coarse, chunky sauce. Taste, adding sugar accordingly and a pinch of salt if desired. Bring to a simmer and cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the juices have reduced to your liking. Take the sauce off the heat and allow it to cool slightly while you prepare the oatcakes.

To cook the oatcakes, preheat a non-stick or cast iron griddle over medium high heat. Lightly brush with melted clarified butter if desired. Ladle about 1/4 cup of the batter onto the pan. Cook until the edges become dry and bubbles begin to form in the centre, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side until golden and puffed, about another 2 minutes. Remove to a platter and keep warm in a low oven if needed. Continue until all batter is used. Serve the oatcakes with the strawberry sauce and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Makes 20 small pancakes, serving about 4-6.

Notes:

This blueberry sauce (scroll down) would also be a fine accompaniment. And congratulations to Carrie and Andrew on their 50th post.

• For those with fresh berries, you might want to forgo cooking the sauce entirely, instead crushing the fresh berries and allowing them to soak in their juices, along with the sugar and lemon.

It hailed yesterday.

I’m sure this might not seem odd to some of you — those who live in colder climes, those who seek out such weather, or those who live on top of a really tall, and perpetually snow capped, mountain. But to me, in Southern Ontario, where daffodils are proudly lifting their golden heads and blossoms are blooming, hail was not what I expected on the second day of May.

I should probably explain something. I don’t like cold. Yes, I know, Canada. I have no problem with winter, per se; I love having my hands wrapped around a mug of hot chocolate, I cannot get enough of the smell of evergreen and I wish I could capture the magic of the world under a blanket of snow. Furthermore, let me tell you, I am nothing short of adorable in a snappy parka and mitts combo. But, I hate the state of being cold.

Yesterday was a crisp and gorgeous day, with blue skies and that amazing smell of damp soil, all herbaceous and green. It was like the landscape was about to burst. But instead, the skies did. Not a little hail, but a veritable avalanche of hail (I may be exaggerating a bit). Either way, it was pinging off sidewalks, pinging off of windows and pinging off my not-at-all-suitable-for-this-sort-of-freak-weather spring jacket.

By the time I got home, my hair was matted and wet, my teeth were chattering and I was not amused in the least. And, I was cold. After some general pouting about the unfairness of it all, I found solace at the bottom of a bowl of miso soup and some green tea. The world started to slowly become right again.

Today has brought lower than seasonal temperatures, overcast skies and a 40% chance of rain. And yet, I’m somehow rejuvenated. The daffodils are still outside my window, market stalls are starting to fill with local produce, and spring doesn’t seem too far away. There must have been something magical in that miso. I’m completely prepared to wait.

But that won’t stop me from conjuring the season with food.

This salad simply tastes like spring. With bright and clear flavours, you can’t help but be happy when you eat it. Ever since delectableposts on the topic of asparagus started popping up with the crocuses, I have been nothing short of obsessed with roasting it. This recipe makes use of leftovers from a staple meal in our house: roasted potatoes, salmon and asparagus, with variations on aioli. I have now taken to purposely making too much salmon and asparagus, just to guarantee tomorrow’s lunch.

SPRING SALMON SALAD WITH ROASTED ASPARAGUS

My own creation, but inspired by the chickpea salad from Bistro by Laura Washburn

FOR THE SALAD

All quantities are simply guidelines — I usually make this salad with whatever I have on hand

  • 3/4 cup diced zucchini
  • 3/4 cup diced cucumber
  • 1/2 cup diced roasted red pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced roasted yellow pepper
  • 1/3 cup julienned sundried tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon capers, chopped roughly (left whole if small)
  • Handful of snow peas, blanched and julienned
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, whole (simply picked from stems)
  • 1/2 cup parsely leaves, whole (simply picked from stems)
  • 5 roasted asparagus spears, cut into ½ inch lengths, approximately 1/2 cup
  • 8 ounces roasted salmon filet

FOR THE VINAIGRETTE

  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • Zest from 1/2 a lemon
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

METHOD

Combine all salad ingredients, except salmon, in bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together rice wine vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, shallot and lemon zest. Drizzle in oil, whisking constantly.

Pour as much vinaigrette as you’d like over the salad, tossing to coat.

Flake the salmon filet, add to salad and gently combine. If you toss too enthusiastically the salmon will continue to flake — I like to add the salmon last, so that I can preserve larger pieces.

Variations

• Omit capers and salmon from above recipe. Add one can of chickpeas and a 1/2 cup of crumbled feta to the salad instead. For the vinaigrette, replace the rice wine vinegar with red wine vinegar, and add 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon oregano and a 1/3 teaspoon of ground cumin.

• Omit capers and sundried tomatoes from above recipe. For the herbs use only cilantro and add in one finely sliced red chili. Replace the vinaigrette with one made with 2 tablespoons lime juice, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, a few drops of toasted sesame oil, 2 teaspoons fish sauce, 2 teaspoons hoisin sauce and 2 teaspoons Chinese chili-garlic sauce. Just before serving, sprinkle a tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds over entire salad.

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Authortara