It is beautiful out.

No wait, let me say it again for those who feel differently about heat than I do. It is hot. It is humid, with clear sunshine interspersed with rather-impressive thunderstorms and torrential rain.

Now I'll admit, I am a lucky one; I am one of those sorts that lives for heat and revels in temperatures others may consider rather sweltering. Dry heat or sticky with humidity, I will always choose a day that is blistering over a day that is remotely cold.

I even take particular joy the dramatic tendencies of our climate. There is something wholly romantic about a midday thunderstorm. The day suddenly turns to dusk, the air heavy and thick with moisture; and afterwards, who cannot enjoy the green, green, green smell of wet grass and soaking leaves, and the reward of a cool breeze. Even as I write this, rain is pouring through trees alight with sunshine and I can hear not-so-distant peals of thunder.

But, even though I consider the weather to be lovely and sultry, I can see my loved ones virtually wilting as the days go on. And so I feel compelled to aid as only I know how - with food.

While I will admit my days have been busier as of late, what with the arrival of our newborn son and the constant entertainment that is his big brother, I have still managed to get back in the kitchen. Like the lovely familiarity of a tune you've hummed for a lifetime, getting back to cooking and baking has brought me the satisfaction of beloved habits. In this mood I have been looking over my cookbook collection, rediscovering old favourites that somehow seem new again.

With that in mind, I have brought together a few of my best-loved recipes I hope will keep you cool for the summer nights ahead.

While it is lovely when expectations are met, the greatest performances are sometimes those that are stumbled upon and steal the show entirely.

To more succinct in this particular case, stumbled upon means came home in our grocery bag.

I had intended to make something to satiate a craving for smoked salmon. I had decided upon a sandwich. I had thought I would thinly slice some red onion, sprinkle over some capers and be done with it.

But then the tomatoes arrived; Sean had gone to the store for provisions, and came back with some of the most gorgeous little beauties from the market. Golden yellow, sunset orange and robustly red, the pint of mixed varietals demanded the spotlight.

Their delicate scent courted centre-stage status; a paltry sandwich seemed too gauche for their charms. And so, the smoked salmon was relegated to the chorus line, providing the backdrop to a tomato salad-crowned tartine.

Like any good production, this light lunch offers a play of dramatic contrasts. Heavily silken folds of salmon are undercut with the twang of fresh chèvre and astringent lemon. Juicy tomatoes rendezvous with their long-time companion sweet basil, and take a tumble with saline capers and spiky, fiery red onion.

While I refrained from a standing ovation, an encore is surely deserved.

Smoked salmon and tomato salad tartine
Please forgive my lack of truly specific quantities; you can treat the list as if each item includes the modifier "or thereabouts". This is one of those dishes for which personal taste is paramount. Choose the proportions that work with your taste to best balance the salty, sour and sweet elements.

Ingredients

For the tomato salad
1 1/2 cups small tomatoes (cherry, grape, strawberry), cut into halves or quarters
1/3 cup small diced red onion
2-3 tablespoons capers, rinsed
Basil, cut into chiffonade
Fresh parsley, minced
Lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sandwich
4 tablespoons cream cheese
4 tablespoons chèvre (unaged, fresh)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 slices country bread, or 2 slices halved if large
4-8 slices smoked salmon, depending on the size
Lemon juice, freshly squeezed

In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the tomato salad. Toss gently and season with salt (judiciously) and pepper.

Combine the cream cheese, chèvre and Dijon mustard. Beat until fully-blended and light. Season with pepper.

Lightly toast bread slices under a preheated broiler.

Spread cheese mixture over bread. Top with sliced smoked salmon and a squeeze of lemon juice. Pile tomato salad over all and enjoy.

Makes 4 pieces.

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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