No-power-necessary strawberry, goat cheese and pesto bruschetta

Apparently Mother Nature does not like bruschetta.

Defying Mother Nature's wishes, I went ahead with dinner (and I'm certainly glad I did)

In the course of 15 minutes, yesterday night changed from a fairly sunny paradise to a Hollywood-action-flick worthy hellhole.  Most of you out-of-towners probably heard about the freak weather in the form of news reports about a little incident that happened at Bluesfest.

Anyways, the storm that wreaked havoc to the Bluesfest stage was the same one that kindly decided to knock the power out on my small, Old Ottawa South street block.  This put a kink in my evening plans. All day long I had been planning to make two types of bruschetta, using this amazing Parisian baguette I bought earlier in the day at Art-is-in Bakery (post to come in a few days).

I arrived home from a photo shoot with Anne from Hello Ottawa, only to find my kitchen engulfed in darkness.  I could have cried.  My bread was at its optimum freshness and needed to be used.

Then I made a decision: no man, beast or freak power outage was going to keep me from my bruschetta.

The oven was still warm from when my roommate and her boyfriend cooked a huge pot roast, so I decided to heat my bread in there.  It wasn’t toasted, but I figured the baguette was chewy and crusty enough already that it would suffice.

After about 10 minutes in the oven I took it out and, by the glow of a small tea light, spread pesto and goat cheese over my barely-visible pieces of baguette.  Thank heavens my strawberries were pre-cut, otherwise it’s highly likely I would have lost a digit.  I tossed the strawberries with a bit of balsamic vinegar and carefully added them on top of the goat cheese.

Taking the bruschetta outside into the 8:30 p.m. light, I could finally see the fruits of my labour.  Yes, the end product looked a little messy, but it was completely delicious.  I ate six pieces.  In minutes.  It was that good.

Our power just went back on a few hours ago.  To celebrate, I made my second type of bruschetta.  My life = officially made.

PS: since my power had been off for 12+ hours this morning when I left for work, I packed up all my cheese and frozen meat and biked them into the office to put in the fridge. Take that unholy lack-of-refrigeration diseases!
PPS: Even though I saw the original recipe that inspired this bruschetta on Tastespotting, it was also partially inspired by this amazing flatbread I had at the Ottawa restaurant Mambo the other week when I reviewed their patio scene for Local Tourist Ottawa.
PPPS: My new camera is leading to me taking even more pictures than before. I’m averaging about 50 per meal.  This is bad news.

Depth of field - you do exist! (even though you're looking a little sharp right here...)

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Summer Salad Series II: Quinoa strawberry salad with balsamic vinaigrette

Before I start, may I just say that I CANNOT spell “vinaigrette” to save my life.  I knew I was bad at spelling, but even I am impressed by my ability to spell the damn word wrong every single time.  Once again spell checker, you are a constant source of sanity.

BREAKING: The rumours surrounding the apparent deliciousness of balsamic vinegar and strawberries are true.  Completely, 100% true.

The other night was the first time I tried this fantastic blend, the likes of which can only be trumped by the combination of chocolate and strawberries.

But that wouldn’t be any good on a salad, now would it?

As you can tell from the blog title, this is the second salad in my new Summer Salad Series (alliterations are truly an underappreciated literary device).

A beautiful picture I saw on Tastespotting last week was what inspired the creation of this salad.  The blog Salad Pride features one new delicious looking salad a day, and will surely be the victim of much idea borrowing as the summer months progress.

Since normal couscous and I have a love-hate relationship (translation: to my dismay my couscous somehow always comes out resembling mashed potatoes), I decided to try out something new: Israeli couscous.

When I saw it in the Bulk Barn, I was intrigued.  It looked like the tiny noodles you used to get in East Side Mario’s Italian wedding soup.  Heck, maybe it was one in the same.

Turns out I didn’t love this couscous.  It had a strange sort of taste to it, and got clumpy when brought as leftovers the next day.  In the future I’ll probably stick to quinoa or just normal couscous, which I will hopefully develop some sort of ability to make.

On top of the couscous I, of course, had to add my favourite food of summer 2011: quinoa.  You can’t tell me I’m not getting my protein intake!  Topping it all off were freshly quartered strawberries, whose soft crunch and succulent juices provided the sweet contrast that only berries can offer.

All of this was piled on top of a bed of fresh baby arugula – a curiously spicy and tasty salad green.  I still have loads of it left, so watch for it making an appearance in upcoming dishes (arugula: I’ll be here till Wednesday!).

Also, I accidentally threw out the recipe I created, so the one you see below the jump is as accurate a rendition as I can remember… Apologies, friends.

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Spinach Strawberry and Pear Salad

On a warm, reminiscent of summer day, I rejoiced in the fact that I got to eat at a barbeque.  My attendance at this afternoon event meant that I could resist the delicious outdoor supper smells as I returned from my afternoon journalism story covering.  Since I was full of delicious hot dog and cotton candy goodness (I ate the latter on the bus, which is an extremely difficult task), I wasn’t that hungry for supper, so I decided to just make myself a light salad.

As of the late, I have discovered my favourite types of salad always involve baby spinach and some sort of fruit.  With this knowledge in mind, I decided to use these two key elements to whip up a quick and delicious spinach strawberry and pear salad.  The baby spinach I used was the stuff I had sitting in the fridge after I neglected to include it in my last blog post meal.  As for the strawberries, Britt and I went to the local farmer’s market at Lansdowne Park this morning, and had the most wonderful time browsing through the fresh produce and eating AMAZING macarons (the first time I’ve ever tried them).  The strawberries came fresh from the market (I also got peaches and carrots!) and cast a magical “fresh strawberry” spell over me.  I know I’ve been slacking on posting recipes lately, but here is the one for this salad:

Salad
– 1 cup of trimmed baby spinach
– 1/2 cup of strawberries, pitted and halved
–  Half a pear, thinly sliced
– 1/4 cup almonds, toasted (or not, since I burnt my first batch in the toaster oven and decided to settle with them un-toasted)

Dressing
– 1 tbsp vegetable oil
– 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
– 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
– pinch of salt and pepper

Toss and enjoy!

I hope this salad has the same magical effect on you that it had on me!

Oh, one more thing… I took this picture at around 7:17 this evening.  Please note that the sun now sets at 7:05, which meant that this picture was taken in the semi-dark at the end of my street under a streetlight.  People walked by and saw me crouched down beside the sidewalk, photographing my food.  I’m starting to think my entire neighbourhood thinks I’m off my rocker… I may have to think of alternative arrangements for darkened photography.