A Saturday Afternoon Backyard Picnic

Saturday morning the first thing my youngest ponytail said to me was: “when will you make my favourite chick pea salad ever again?”

How could I refuse a request like that?

So what started out as this…

Turned into this:

Which resulted in one happy ponytail:

Okay, make that two happy ponytails–even if one of them isn’t a big fan of my salad.

Since I didn’t have a chance to go grocery shopping before the picnic, I had to use the staples that I had on hand.   That is the great thing about this chick pea salad. It’s made primarily with ingredients that you quite likelyalready have in your pantry. Add in some celery and parsley from the garden and you’re off the races. This is one of the reasons that this salad has quickly become one of my favourites — and my youngest ponytail’s too!

I was also lucky enough to have some smoked salmon from New Brunswick that my longtime friend Carol brought me a few weeks back when she came to visit. (Thanks Carol!!!) I kept waiting to find just the right recipe to use it, but in the end I decided to prepare it simply with some cream cheese so that we could fully enjoy the flavour. 

It wasn’t a fancy picnic — just a few key things prepared simply. Isn’t that what a picnic is all about?

By the way, you need to grab yourself some bread right away, or else you’ll end up with none.

Italian Chickpea, Tuna and Parsley Salad

Slightly adapted from Two Dishes, by Linda Haynes & Devin Connell

  • 19 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 6 oz can flaked water-packed white tuna, drained
  • 3 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp red onion, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tbsp  freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 medium)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • pinch hot red pepper flakes
  • a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper

Mix the chickpeas, tuna, celery, onion, parsley, lemon juice, oil, salt, red pepper flakes and pepper together in a large bowl and allow to marinate for up to 30 minutes before serving.


A Simple Salad Two Ways

If there ever was a reason to grow a little patch of lemon thyme, this salad is it. The flavour of the lemon thyme really stands out — in fact I’d call it the star of the show.

This salad comes together really quickly–it just takes a couple of minutes to cut the niblets from the cob and make your zucchini ribbons. The combination of flavours is really fresh and flavourful. But I discovered that if you don’t have all the ingredients on hand, it is also good with a few minor adjustments. (Don’t you hate it when you discover that you missed an ingredient on your shopping list?) I swapped out the corn for some sliced grape tomatoes, edamame and voila, another tasty salad.

Okay, so I also forgot the yellow zucchini. But you get the idea, sometimes you have to go with what you have. It’s all part of what makes cooking so fun. Sometimes you land on a real winner when you make a substitution out of necessity.

Now, even though I’ve described the lemon thyme as the star of the show, this salad would still be good with regular thyme. 

Have you discovered any winning combinations out of necessity recently?

Zucchini Ribbon Salad

Adapted from Style at Home Magazine, August 2011

  • 2 green zucchini
  • 1 yellow zucchini
  • 1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cob corn
  • Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, preferably toasted
  • 1 tbsp lemon thyme

Using a vegetable peeler, shave long ribbons from your zucchinis–but discard the centre core of each. Lay the strips on a large serving plate. Holding the corn cob upright, slice along the cob with a sharp knife to remove the niblets a few rows at a time. Sprinkle the fresh niblets over the zucchini ribbons. Spinkle the salad with the lemon zest and juice, red pepper flakes, olive oil, sea salt, feta, pine nuts and lemon thyme. Serve immediately.


  • I highly recommend these swiss peelers for making the zucchini ribbons and for peeling potatoes or veggies.

Perfect Summer Meals

“This is the perfect summer meal!”

That is the way several friends have described the casual fare at our recent summer get-togethers. I’ve been serving a couple different salads along side some type of grilled meat or burgers at each of our summer barbeques. Salads are a great way to take in all the wonderful fresh flavours of summer and they help to ensure that you still have room for dessert!

I’m going to share some of my favourite summer salads over the next couple of weeks. As it’s the time of year when we are on the go–exploring cottage country and catching up with friends as much as possible–I’m going to be short and sweet in my posts.

So, getting straight to the point, here’s the salad that I made almost every weekend last year. It’s as flavourful as it is colourful–and if the truth be told, I could eat the entire bowl. I highly recommend this salad. I must warn you though, if you tell people that this is succotash, your guests may start to quote Sylvester the Cat (“Sufferin’ Succotash!”).

Summer Succotash — You’ll note that the photo was taken before I added the avocado

Summer Succotash

Adapted from In My Mother’s Kitchen by Trish Magwood

  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 4 ears of corn, cooked
  • 1 sweet red pepper, diced
  • ¼ red onion, diced
  • 1 ½ green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ cups halved grape tomatoes
  • 1 cup shelled edamame, blanched and cooled
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 avocado, cubed


Cut the corn off the cob. Add red pepper, red onion, green onions, tomatoes, edamame, olive oil, salt and lime juice. Stir well. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Add avocado just before serving.


  • To prepare the corn, I put the husked corn in a large pot, bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat and boil for five minutes. The original recipe included instructions to mix together the zest of one lime, with a bit of melted butter and cayenne — then brush this on the corn before grilling on the barbeque. I’ve simplified this and I don’t think the salad loses any flavour in the process. You could certainly try this if you have the time.
  • I’ve made this the same day in a pinch. It still tastes great.
  • Buying frozen shelled edamame is a huge time saver. I always use the frozen and I don’t blanch it.

O Canada Cobbler

To my fellow Canadians, a belated Happy Canada Day; to my American neighbours, an early Happy 4th of July; and to everyone else, a right-on-time Happy July!

It has been a glorious long weekend here in Toronto. We like to stay in town for the July long weekend as it’s a great opportunity to chillax and avoid the five- or six-hour drive on the clogged highways as thousands of Torontonians head for the hills.

For the past few years, we’ve gotten together with our good friends who live in “The Beach” (as it is known in Toronto) on Canada Day weekend. We met our friends Laura and Kevin as frightened first-time parents-to-be at our pre-natal classes when we were expecting ponytail #1. Our oldest girls are born a week apart and they’ve been getting together for playdates and birthdays since they were three months old. (We like to say that they were friends before they were born.) Now there are siblings and it’s fun to watch all the kids grow and see that they actually get along well whenever we get together.

I decided to make Cherry Cobbler for our annual get-together last night. Served with a scoop of good ole vanilla ice cream, this red and white dessert is the perfect way to celebrate our Canadian heritage. We ate all but one small scoop of cobbler–even the kids seemed to like it.

I first made this Cherry Cobbler for my friend Maryann when I stayed with her in Vancouver a number of years ago. She liked it so much that I made it about four times during my week-long stay. She raved about it to my other West Coast friend L’il Debs, so of course I had to make it for Debs and her husband Bruce the night I went there for dinner. Since then I’ve changed to a topping that is more biscuit-like, which I prefer.

If you decide to try this, you might find yourself making this again and again too!

Cherry Cobbler

Cherry base adapted from A Year in Niagara by Kathleen Sloan-McIntosh

For the cherry base:

  • 3 ½ cups cherries, stemmed and pitted
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 425°. In a sauce pan, cook the cherries, butter and water over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Blend together sugar and flour. Add the flour mixture to the cherries in the saucepan, stirring to prevent lumps. Return this mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and cook for a minute or two until the sauce is thickened slightly. Transfer the mixture to a shallow 4-cup baking dish.

For the biscuit topping:

From Gourmet, September 1999

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¾ stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • ¼ cup boiling water

Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarst meal. Stir in water until just combined.

Using large spoon, drop spoonfuls of the batter over the top of the fruit. Base for 25 minutes until golden brown.


  • I made this in a 10″ cast-iron pan and baked it in the oven (as this was more convenient for me yesterday than cooking on the barbeque). I popped the cobbler onto the grill on low heat as we were finishing dinner. It was bubbling and ready to serve in no time.
  • To cook the cobbler on the grill, follow my directions from my Bumble Crumble in a Skillet.