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Is it just me, or did the long July weekend just sneak up on us much too fast? I so excited to see the picnic and BBQ season get into full swing!. So for this weekend I’ll be bringing out one of our most popular al fresco recipes as well as some special treats to share with the family over the holiday.

This recipe was always one of our most requested back when we had the storefront in Kitsilano – it’s incredibly easy to make, multiplies perfectly, and is great as both a side salad and lunch-time main. Don’t be daunted by the polenta, it’s actually really simple to do – just keep stirring, and be sure to cool it completely (even chill it in the fridge) so that it firms up enough to mix in. Perfect picnic food never tasted so good!

Serves 4-6

  • 2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup polenta
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley plus some leaves to garnish
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1/3 cup chopped scallions
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced in 1″ pieces
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped in 1″ pieces
  • 2 Tbsp. grated Asiago
  • 2 Tbsp. red onion, 1″ diced
  • 1/2 cup vinaigrette

Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. dijon
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • sea salt and fresh black pepper

Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan, then add the polenta in a slow steady stream. Boil gently for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in cheddar cheese and sour cream, parsley, sea salt and black pepper: continue to cook for 5 to 7 minutes more. Pour the mixture onto a parchment lined sheet and cool until firm.

Turn the polenta out onto a chopping board and cut into 1″ cubes. Combine all of the remaining ingredients in a bowl and mix. Gently toss the polenta into the mixture. Adjust seasoning to taste.

 

 

Hellllloooo strawberries! Is there any greater jewel in summer’s berry bounty? Juicy, sweet, packed with vitamin C, these ruby red delights have it all. Pop them in your mouth straight from the vine or dress them up in a million ways: doesn’t matter how you get them, strawberries are nature’s way of saying, “dessert is OK!” This is one of my favourite variations on the classic Strawberry Shortcake – the balsamic and pepper add a twist that takes this from the deliciously ordinary and raises it to the extraordinary.

What’s your favourite way to eat strawberries? Drop us a line in the comments, we’d love to hear how you’ll be eating yours this summer.

Makes 6 dessert servings

Strawberries

  • 4 cups fresh strawberries
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
Biscuits
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  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. medium coarse ground cracked black pepper
  • 6 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1tsp. water
  • crystal or granulated sugar 
Combine the strawberries, vanilla, sugar, orange juice and cornstarch in a large bowl, mixing well. Put the filling into a non-reactive pot and heat just until mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat and let cool while preparing biscuits.
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Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. (200 C.). Make the biscuits by combining the flour, sugar,baking powder, salt and pepper. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Using a fork, stir in the cream until a shaggy dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently until smooth. Do not overwork the dough or the biscuits will be tough. Pat the dough down to about 1/2 inch thick. Using a 3 inch biscuit cutter, cut out six biscuits. (You can gather the scraps and press together; repeat until dough is used up)
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Whisk together the egg and water to make an egg wash. Place the biscuits on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush the biscuits lightly with egg wash and then sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown and noticeably risen.
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To assemble: slice warm biscuits open and spoon a serving of balsamic strawberries onto bottom layer. Place top layer on and serve with a dollop of fresh whipped cream. Enjoy!

 

This is a perfect mid-week pasta dish that is light enough to eat even in the height of summer. The key here is to use the freshest and best ingredients you can get – good olive oil and spaghetti along with fresh herbs and garlic will make all the difference! Serve along with a nice dry pinot blanc or rosé and you have simple supper perfection!

dl_acken_photography_0407Serves 4

  • 1 pound dried spaghetti
  • ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper, plus more for serving
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • ⅓ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and add the spaghetti, cooking until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain, reserving a little of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, in a large pan, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown. Add the crushed red pepper and season with salt and pepper. Add the drained spaghetti to the pan and toss, adding a little of the pasta water, until the spaghetti is thoroughly coated.

Remove the pan from heat, add the parsley and Parmesan and toss well. Check for flavor, adding more salt if necessary. Add the lemon juice, garnish with more Parmesan and serve with lemon wedges and crushed red pepper.

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