A Canada Day compromise

Ottawa is broiling today. According to the Weather Network, it’s 33 degrees Celcius, with a Humidex reading of 45. We’ve been under an Extreme Heat Warning since Friday. While there’s a breeze, there isn’t much relief from the blazing sun. They said on the news last night that today is projected to be the hottest Canada Day since 1963.

Thankfully, we don’t have to go anywhere today. My husband’s on duty this weekend, which means that he has to keep his eye on his work email and be prepared to go to work on his laptop if needed. It’s been quiet so far, but one never knows. Still, it puts the kibosh on making any big plans for the weekend. But the heat and humidity have clinched it.

I’m grateful as well that we have central air in our house. We weren’t as fortunate in either of our previous apartments, which made summers brutal. We stuck to cold food and sitting around the house in as little as possible, or took refuge at the mall or the movies for a little while, knowing that they could only provide temporary relief. Now, we hunker down at home, keep the hot air out and the cool air in, and use the oven and stove as little as possible. The basement is the coolest, of course, and the top floor is this side of comfortable.

And yet, I spent part of this Canada Day morning baking. You may ask why on earth I’d deliberately heat up the house on such a day. It’s a concession I have to make if I want to partake in one of the summer’s delights: local strawberries. We bought a litre’s worth yesterday from our local produce stand, and they are a beautiful ruby red. It would be so easy to pop one into my mouth. But that’s a joy I can’t indulge in anymore. The potential risk is too high.

Last fall, I was diagnosed with oral allergy syndrome (OAS), a consequence of my having developed allergies to certain trees and grasses, in particular, the birch tree, grass, ragweed, etc. There’s no test for OAS aside from the test that confirms your seasonal allergies. I found out the hard way, which is the only way to be 100% certain: by having an allergic reaction to fresh cherries. Fortunately, it wasn’t anaphylaxis, but it was serious enough that my doctor sent me to an allergist to confirm. The allergist gave me a list of foods to avoid as much as possible and a prescription for an Epi-pen. Strawberries are part of that list, along with all stonefruits.

But here’s the interesting thing about OAS. Cooking these foods alters the protein enough that I shouldn’t react to it like I could if it were raw (celery and nuts are exceptions). Which means that if they are baked, there shouldn’t be an issue. And, I happen to have a recipe for Strawberry Butter Tart Squares.

Butter tarts are something of an Ontario tradition. Done properly, they are gooey, sweet things encased in flaky pastry. My mother passed along the recipe that my great-grandmother used (one of my father’s favourites), and I’ve made them several times to great success. The tart squares recipe was one that caught my eye several years ago when it was printed in the newspaper. I had been looking for a way to use strawberries that was a bit less work than making shortcake, and this recipe fits the bill.

It’s made up of a shortbread crust, with a butter tart-like filling, with the¬†addition of a cup of strawberries, and it’s meant to be served with vanilla ice-cream. (There’s a tub in the freezer especially for this) The strawberries give the dish a cheery red colour, which makes it ideal for Canada Day. And best of all, for a day like this, it only requires a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven.

Here’s what the final result looks like in the pan:

A grey metal baking tin in the shape of a square with flat handles on each side. Inside is a golden brown and red dessert. The red is pieces of strawberry baked into the batter.
Yum! Ready to be cut up and served!

For those of you who’ve never had a butter tart, it may not look like much. An unfinished cake, perhaps. But those who have know that the brown colour is an integral part of the experience. So, I’m really looking forward to this. And so is my husband, who’s also looking forward to polishing off the rest of the strawberries that I can’t have.

Happy Canada Day!

Copyright 2018 Jessica Allyson




Author: JAllyson

Jessica Allyson is a pen name derived from a fictitious twin (the doctors were mistaken). During the day, I work for a national members association, at night, I unleash my trivia-loving choir-singing fangirl self. I live in Ottawa, with my husband and our cats, who are our most vocal critics.

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Copyright Jessica Allyson 2018