Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Fish, A Wine, and a Ma

My mom and I are exceptionally close. Nowadays, as it has been for awhile, we are as likely to describe ourselves as best friends as we are mother daughter. Besides her tendency to interrupt, her stubborness, her petit frame, her inability to just sit and relax and her love of tulips, I have inherited her interest and, as a former chef herself, her career in food. She is the one who encouraged me to pursue the apprentice route and move back to the Okanagan, and I have her to thank for where I am at today. A bummer is not being able to share each day with her or have study sessions where we create fantastic classic dishes, yèknow, for practice...I have alot of wish you were here moments in the kitchen without her.

I do have tricks though, for when I miss my ma when it is simply not possible to just call her up or (better yet) share a hug. And, naturally, such tricks involve food. Besides making the cream of wheat of my childhood, I might poach eggs atop thick slices of tomato; eat a whole bowl of popcorn with lots of butter and watch Mama Mia or old episodes of Gilmore Girls; drink mint tea with gingersnaps (I miss her alot at Christmas, so naturally I go through alot of ginger snaps); or make rice pudding, enough for breakfast the next day. But most often, I open a bottle of Gewurtz and start cooking Halibut.

Gewurtztraminer is my mas favorite wine. A self proclaimed, and proven, wino, she loves the smell as much as the taste, as if you are sitting in a garden of pungent peonies (I like the same wine, but heavy on the lychee nut). On a recent wine tour together, we sample three different gewurtzès from the same vineyard, enjoyed the same ones, then shared a bottle that night. When she comes to visit, I am sure to have a bottle chilling, and buy ones to save just for such occasions.

As for Halibut--if it is on the menu at a restaurant, she cannot not order it. She loves it unabashedly, raves about it. Cannot even begin to describe why, or how much, just that she does--the raving comes in the way she swoons over the first bite, melting right into it. On the night of said wine tour, we cooked some together in my place, mimicking an Indian spiced recipe from David Tanisè A Platter of Figs Cookbook, with sauteed yellow tomatos and summer squash and barley jazzed with green onions and loads of garlic (another ingredient my ma is wild about). The bits of bad of the day (weèll just say a sick friend, sick puppy, and ma sick of my sisters momentary attitude), evaporated with the scents and taste of the meal, were washed down with the wine. And I got to cook again with my ma. Perfect.

So needless to say, when I miss her, want her close, feel like life is falling apart in a way that only a mom could fix, I eat and drink her favorites and wish, or pretend, that I am sharing it with her. That is what I did tonight....and last night. No, life is not shattering, quite the opposite. So good that this is my way of sharing it with her, a toast to her in a way. For, again, I wouldnt be where I am without her.

Halibut on Green Beans with Cumin and Mint

This dish can be as easy or as complicated as you want it to be. Sure you can sear off the fish and finish it in a hot oven, meanwhile blanching, then roasting to carmelization your beans, but after a long night at work, I prefer the one pot (or pan, in this case) method: quick, simple, and only one dish to wash.

Trim as many green beans as you think you can eat. Place them in a small pan with thinly sliced shallots, a fresh bay leaf, some water (not nearly enough to cover the beans) and a good slosh of olive oil. Lay the halibut on top and season with coarse salt and pepper and a sprinkling of cumin. Cover and steam (water should be simmering) for 6-8 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish. Top with chopped fresh mint. Pour some gewurtz, hug your mom, enjoy.

oh-and I should give credit where credit is due, the inspiration for this dish comes from another lady I quite like (one I have never met, though I would be happy to share this dish with her too, especially over a bottle of Joie Rose), Heidi Noble. In her cookbook From the Orchard Table, Heidi offers a recipe for Roasted Green Beans with Cumin and Mint, amoung many other wonderful things, especially desserts. More on her later.

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