Hiding from the heat and eating flatbread

Zürich is having its second heatwave of the summer and it’s making me more than a little aggravated. I am not a fan of hot weather. (That’s an understatement!)

Weather in Zurich: Wed 8:20, sunny and 24.6°C
Almost 25°C before 8:30 in the morning!

Thankfully, this round of high temperatures isn’t quite as extreme as the +40°C days and 22°C nights we had back in June. And most of Europe is seeing the mercury climb, so I can take comfort in the fact that I’m not suffering alone—but I’ve still become somewhat obsessive about keeping our flat cool.

In addition to blocking out the sun’s rays and keeping the windows closed to prevent the hot exterior air from seeping in (vampires would probably feel right at home in our nearly permanently-darkened flat), I’m also completely opposed to turning on the oven or having anything bubling away on the stove. That makes cooking a little more of a challenge.

Bring on the grill! Lighting up the barbecue avoids raising the kitchen temperature, although standing on the patio can get a bit toasty, and produces a lot of yumminess without a lot of fuss. The summer weather has also pushed me towards to crisp greens, fresh herbs and bright citrus flavours. And, of course, ice cream, which isn’t part of this recipe, but I do have a post about making ice cream cake.

Grilled flatbread with arugula

This recipe is quick, easy and highly customisable. The one we made last night featured basil and prosciutto, but I’ve also done it meat-free with mushed up peas and mint. And you could use just about any topping you’d like, as long as they’re not too moist—soggy flatbread is no fun.

Ingredients

Grilled flatbread topped with arugula, red onion, basil and prosciutto
  • A small roll of pre-made pizza dough (ideally, get a variety that’s not round as it’s easier to cut into nice-sized pieces)
  • 150g creme fraîche (mascarpone or ricotta also work)
  • Zest from 1 lemon and half of its juice
  • A handful of fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 150g arugula (a few handfuls), roughly chopped
  • Half a red onion, thinly sliced
  • Six slices of prosciutto, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 10g parmesan (or pecorino or another hard, flavourful cheese), finely grated
  • Sea salt & pepper

A clove of chopped garlic is nice in the sauce, too, and other herbs (oregano, mint, thyme, whatever) would be perfectly lovely mixed in as well.

Method

  • Preheat the grill to medium heat
  • Make the sauce by combining the creme fraîche with the lemon zest and juice and half of the finely chopped basil; season with sea salt & pepper
  • Cut the pre-made pizza dough into easy-to-handle pieces, about the length of your hand from wrist to the tip of your fingers and as wide as your palm
  • Grill the pizza dough pieces for 3-4 minutes per side, checking to make sure there are beautiful golden-brown grill marks on the bottom before flipping
  • Take the flatbread off the grill and spread one side with the creme fraîche mixture, then top with arugula, red onion and prosciutto
  • Garnish with the extra basil and parmesan cheese, then season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Serve warm while the flatbread is still crispy

Off-season travels

Crowds at VersaillesSummer is just around the corner and spring has brought with it warmer weather, longer days, brighter sunshine… and far more tourists. I already miss the off-season.

When we were in Paris in April, it was clear that tourist season had started. A morning at the Musée d’Orsay and a trip to Versailles confirmed it (see photo on the right).

I know that Paris is pretty much always busy and that the Easter holidays probably pumped up the number of visitors, but I found myself bemoaning the crowds.

From November through April, we enjoyed exploring new places with very few other travellers – lower prices, less waiting, more available tables. No jostling with tour groups, no line-ups for museums, no concerns about squeezing onto a train, no problems finding parking.

Of course, the tradeoff is generally colder, rainy-er weather but it’s hard to complain about the temperature outside while gaping at the Ghent Altarpiece in an almost deserted room, leisurely strolling through the Rijksmuseum, or joining vinters for a private tasting. Hailstorms and the necessity of mittens are concessions I’m generally willing to make.

But throughout the summer, there will be no mittens and lots of other travellers.

One of our goals with our grown-up gap year is to explore as much as possible and that means joining the throngs of tourists visiting Europe during high-season. I’m hoping we’ll be able to find a few places that aren’t so hectic in summer (like Strasbourg outside of Christmas-market time, the Alps without the skiing crowds), but I know I’ll be waiting for the colder weather of fall to help the crowds to dissipate!

Vive le hors-saison!

Summer camp sukasana

Summer campers sitting cross-legged - with Laura in neon pants!For a few summers, this time of year meant going to camp on Gambier Island. I discovered a bunch of photos from camp a while back (including the one to the right), which triggered a memory of my first exposure to yoga.

One of the camp counsellors was obviously a yogi; she led the cabin in meditations and would help us prepare for sleep by doing guided relaxation. Summer campers sitting in sukasana (easy pose or cross legged) now seems a little silly (or maybe that’s a reaction to my crazy neon pants!), but that introduction to yoga obviously sparked something.

Summer camp was likely where my appreciation of yoga nidra stems from and the childhood connection is probably part of why teaching and practicing this form of guided conscious relaxation is so powerful for me.

The yin yoga class I’m teaching tonight at Bound Lotus Meditation & Yoga Centre taps into that summer camp spark: a short sequence of yin poses, 20-ish minutes of guided relaxation, then a long savasana.

Join me at 6:30pm tonight and say farewell to any stresses you’ve accumulated in July with a deeply relaxed practice. I might even wear neon for a little nostalgia 🙂

Sweet pea solstice

Magenta and periwinkle sweet pea flowers with water dropletsSweet peas mean summer to me. And while the grey skies in Vancouver (and the flooding in Southern Alberta) might suggest otherwise, summer has officially begun.

The day of equinox or solstice that marks the division between winter, spring, summer, and autumn rarely feels like the actual commencement of the season. This summer solstice is no exception.

But at least the grass is green in the Pacific Northwest, the flowers are out, and we don’t need to worry about watering gardens and lawns!

There are lots of summer solstice celebrations happening today – including one at Bound Lotus Meditation & Yoga Centre that preempts my regular yin yoga class tonight. No yin bliss tonight… and next Friday is the last of the month, which brings with it a sublimely soothing yin yoga session with guided relaxation and an extra-long savasana.

Hope the first day of summer is treating everyone well and that you’re able to join me for some relaxation on Friday, June 28 at 6:30pm!