Saturday, November 27, 2010

Dec 1st. That is the commencement of all things "Christmas" to me. Until then, no eggnog, gingersnaps, decorating, or gift shopping. Until then, lights and carols annoy me; I will leave a store if it is play "The First Noel" before the first of the month. I am by no means a scrooge, rather wait pensively to kick off my familys and my own traditions. But i am horribly susceptible to xmas over kill.

Once I start, I cannot get enough gingersnaps dipped in mint tea, spiced rum and eggnog; if i start too early, i bake too many things, buy gifts only to find something better later, and the music really begins to irritate me, so that by Christmas i am either sick to my stomach or just plain sick of it all. Not even my favorite holiday (that honor is reserved for Thanksgiving--see tomorrows entry...), Christmas is so immensely overwhelming and often overrated that it goes quickly from "Joy to the World" to the "Song that Never Ends." So I hold off, perhaps even until a week or so before, and really enjoy the day itself, and all of the excuses to indulge, to really do so.

Tonight, however, November 27, i slipped. We are starting our Christmas baking at Quince, and today was a trial run for Chef Andreas German stollen. And i had some...with spiced rum (my Christmas cocktail pre-requisite). Im having it right now, actually, hypocritically three days before go time. And it is good. Very good.

But not as good as tomorrows last pumpkin pie will be. Or the remainder of the pumpkin desserts i plan to make before gingersnaps and date square devotion begins, before fall turns into winter, and thanksgiving into christmas, and sanity into hypnoticism...

This post hardly makes sense, i am sure, but that is just the pre-december rum, and it probably wont get any better...

Monday, November 15, 2010

so you can eat great, even late

I have a new cooking job; i've told you this. But did i tell you that this new cooking job would mean evenings off? That's right, no restaurant dinner service, just prepping food for catering platters and a "quality foods line." Did i tell you that i was looking forward to having dinner at the reasonable hour that most people dine at, or at least sometime before ten o'clock? Picking something inspirational up on the way home to turn into something tasty. Partially digesting my dinner before falling asleep; not falling asleep in my dinner. Good thing i did not tell you all of these things, because i would have been lying.

The truth is: even though i am supposed to be finished my shift at four thirty, i am often there at least an hour, sometimes two, past then (unpaid, by the way). And even if i am off at my designated eight hour mark, i cannot board the skytrain with my bike until after six. And why would i want to? You see, no matter what time i finish up, the thought of climbing into that stuffy transport system where people pretend eachother doesnt exist is depressingly exhaustive. I need to spend a little time outside first, have a little break from the constant feeling of, well, commuting. And so i get home after the time i looked forward to having dinner at.

And then i go for a run. And then i shower. And then, as i am cooking again, i scold myself for not just coming straight home to the stove. It is where i am happiest, and easiest able to unwind anyways, so why the procrastination? No idea. I know my habit is entirely preventable, and horribly unhealthy, and yet night after night, the pans heat up well after they could be.

Another question? Why the pans, why cook at the time of night? why wait another half hour or so for dinner when it could be done in the swipe-swipe two seconds of a peanut butter sandwich? That question i can answer: because i love it. And because my day is spent waiting for it. And because the vegetables in my fridge will go bad if i dont cook them.

So here i am tonight, my screen telling me that it is 10:57 pm. I am just finishing off a pasta of roasted kale with anchovies, shaved sunchoke, beet , fennel and walnut salad, and a chunk of my own baked baguette. Later on yet, i will dessert on the last of the plum cake i made last night, make some tea and plan to, yet again, eat earlier tomorrow. And just as tastily--even half asleep it was great.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

"Holiday" Feast

Happy Halloween everyone! But doesnt it feel so strange to wish someone happiness on a day that celebrates death, or, if anything, the stimulation of cavities and erratic bloodsugar levels? Nevertheless, it is a "holiday" of good spirits, no pun intended, and one that i tend to partake in thematically.

What i mean is i too use the day as an excuse to indulge in copious amounts of candy, and though i may not dress up, i befittingly wear orange and black, and cook in the same colors.

This time i may not have made my own (you'll recall my obsessive need for molasses candies last year, which, i might add, are in great abundance here in Vancouver, including in a giant bowl at a coffee shop i like but couldnt take one from because i didnt even order anything, just checked out the pastries for a plum cake of desire--long story...) but i have a bag of black licorice waiting for me, after my black and orange dinner.

Thats right, i cooked a dinner in halloween colors. Not so lame really; my ma used to make homemade macaroni and cheese halloween morning, cool it in a large bowl in the refridgerator so that by dinner time it was set, inverted, stabbed with her chefs knife, and served as "stabbed brains," ketchup streaming onto the plate from the wound. Less gory, try this:

Eggplant, Pumpkin, and Cauliflower Curry
with currant pine nut rice pilaf and minted yogurt

In a cast iron skillet over medium heat, toast:
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black cardamom seeds

Loosen toasted seeds with olive oil (a good glugglug) and stir together with:
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp smoked paprika

Drizzle over and roast in the same castiron pan, covered, at 325F:
1 lg eggplant, cut in chunks
1/2 head cauliflowed, in large florets
1 small pumpkin (or other winter squash)
2 dried bay leafs
1 cinnamon stick
coarse sea salt

Meanwhile, bring to boil, then reduce heat and gently simmer:
2 cups water
1 cup brown basmati rice
sea salt

Stir into finished rice:
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup currants (or sultana raisins)

Top rice with finished veg, and serve with plain yogurt and freshly torn mint leaves to top.

a side note--i miss Torrance the pumpkin ale and molasses candies from last season (though the latter could probably have lasted til now), but got to take my little second cousins trick or treating, so another good "holiday."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Years from now

My goals in this career, this life, may be small--but to me, they are, like my food, simplistically satisfying.

In no set time:

1-- To leave inspiration, gratitude, and recipes behind in places that i learn; to learn from these places, yes, but also to give back memorably

2-- To plan, cut, and cook with unabashed confidence

3--To taste, experiment, and learn with unabashed passion

4--to have 'signatures;' recipes that are mine

5--to have a place that is mine to share such in; family and friends and familial, friendly strangers to share such with

6--intimacy with food, farming, and those who love and appreciate food and farming

7--a line of purchasable foods; stamattina in logo

8--my ideal bread

9--to be "home" for dinner

10--a sense of pride in what i do from me. my food, my choices, my art, my heart, just a something that is mine; and tasty

Thursday, October 7, 2010

its not what you know, but who

The last two wee...nonono: the last month and a half, has been stressful, to say the least. Ive already explained how exhausting competitions are, but add that to moving, not once, but twice in two months-- the second time to a big city a ways away from my new-to-become-comfortable farm-life (stress+desperate excitement here)--re-ignited/continuing, and trying to un-ignite relationship drama, and finally a week straight of coming into work 4 hours early first for competition prep, second for a sick coworker, and you get me: sleeping in until nine (three hours later than normal) and running out of milk with no time to go pick some up.

I managed to get milk today, actually, with fourteen minutes to spare before the produce shop closed. Thank goodness, because tomorrow actually has to start at six, and it needs to start off right. Milk included.

Wine Fest event tomorrow. Though it happens every year, this particular event, and always ends with much dancing, drinking and "good shows," until it is actually over will inevitably be a continuance of the stress of...oh, gosh, it feels like forever, actually...

But i am not writing to complain and moan about life as a cook; quite the opposite. I want to say that life as a cook would hardly be possible if not for all the people living the same, or very similar lives. The people that i work with are beautiful; my life source, my reasoning, my caffiene, more important than the milk i picked up for tomorrow.

I feel sad for my friend/relationship trying to un-ignite (side note: what the hell is the word for dousing the flames or putting out a fire...???) who loves the product he gets to work with, the cooking he does and the food he makes, but not the people he does it all with. i can handle the mexican produce and not being able to choose brule flavors because there is always a sympathetic shoulder and someone to send or recieve a silly note to or from, to laugh with, to empathize.

And lately that is nearly everyone in that restaurant. We laugh alot lately. And there is nore freedom with brules, more time to explain before being spittingly yelled at. I am surrounded by people who routed for me the entire two and a half months that i obsessed over competing, who still love me in the end. Who will be there next year. For another season of sleep depravity, fighting over red peppers and overbaked cookies, stress-induced poor skin, and a number of well deserved (but not permitted) staff drinks. love you all; four more days.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Yep: done. Done with this season; done with this routine.; with Kelowna; with competitions...

The last of all the 'done-withs' i should never have been 'doing.' I have said this before, not too long ago, actually, but i do not enjoy, or willingly partake in, competitions. So there was Italy on the line, how could i not, but tonights event, why did i?

To help out the boss-chef, who covered the stress factor for the both of us, organizing the event to the very last minute (including my plating...) it seemed. He needed another competitor, and i said i would help. This would not be as big a deal as the last, after all: there was no secret blackbox, most could be prepared ahead of time, and there would be wine, right beside me. It was $750 up for grabs, half a penny--if that-- in comparison to a life in Italy. Honestly, i did not mind competing this time, just doing it to lower his blood pressure, and looking forward to a night off, seeing dave and cheffrey and sampling wines.

I didnt win, and to be honest a second time, i am hardly phased. I received enough second helping admittances, and chef pats on the back (and self satisfaction; that was, eventually--three hours later--a tasty dinner)What i am tired of, what has brought me to write here, then, is sheer and utter exhaustion with life; doneness.

Being involved in such competitions is all-consuming. Even if you have your dish one hundred percent thought out, supplied and prepped, it is still the only thing you can think about. Minutes before and (if you do not win) long moments afterward, yout htink of what you could (a) do (ne). Sleep is lost, aimless pacing is done, and a few days of life simply dissipates unil you are just done.

like me, now. done.

no more cooking for a prize, how about jsut cooking again. and please, no more goatcheese polenta.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


I've always been a planner--laying out my days so as to prevent boredom, mindless doings, and feeling like I've accomplished nothing (I am a work-aholic planner to boot); also to keep from forgetting important events and 'to-do's' and to ensure i eat healthily and enjoyably throughout my busily overbooked but planned out days.

I cannot plan a day at work though (sometimes i dont even plan to be working, but one call changes that quickly), as something as every day as the weather can change when i go home, and how tired i am when i am leaving.

Take yesterday for example: with summer over and business slowing down, we have cut down from two Garde Mange shifts (a lunch and dinner cook) to one, who starts a bit later, works both meal time rushes, then leaves first of everyone; If there are few reservations at night, they leave even earlier, setting up for dinner, but not needed to see it through. That was me on Tuesday, home at the very lovely hour of four o'clock. I expected more of the same yesterday, as we had no one on the books for that night, and planned to bike home, do some grocery shopping and orchard hopping, and can the last of my tomatos. Bad idea, that planning. A party of twelve called to come at 5:00 (no big deal, i would leave after appies went out); they didnt all arrive until six, didnt order until just before seven. Then there were all of the other walk-ins and last minute reservations that decided a sunny evening is best spent on our patio, and before i knew it we had sixty people to make dinner for, and me without a light on my bike to make it home. Plus, i had spent the afternoon practicing my next competition dish (no i have not been bitten my some bug, i am helping out my boss whose putting the whole event together) in the lunch that cleaned me out of all my dinner prep, so was scrounging to re-fill before five, plus make (and souffle to uselessness) mini-chocolate brules for a set wine fest menu. No tomatos were canned, and i rode home at 8:15 with a flashlight in the bike of my basket, hoping no deer would run me off the uphill track home.

The only thing keeping me going through this day taht just kept going was fresh halibut from Codfathers that we just got in, and i planned to have it for dinner. But the same sixty people who kept me working four hours longer than expected ordered the hali special for dinner. No fish for me. Instead i had the leftovers from my competition prep, and not the way taht i planned to serve it that day. It was better, so much better, coming together under a desperate need for comfort and sustanance and for just one thing to go right. I plan to share this recipe after the competition...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

No Time to Eat

I work in a very busy restaurant; in the summer there are days where you really do not have time to eat, days when you stuff a piece of bread in your mouth, or, if you are like me, start an apple, and then hours later, discover the warm brown fruit and in a state of desperation, finish it off. It is not healthy, and we all try and find ways to avoid feeding 120 strangers and starving ourselves.

After being told many, many, times that it is important to stop once in awhile, that you can take a break, eat something, make time for your own health and sanity, I am only just beginning to listen and understand. There is nothing wrong with needing to eat and then feeding yourself, no matter how busy: Willi is persistant about this, Monika the baker lives by it, and recently, Andrea insisted on it. Urs however...

I have been working at the Farmers Market in Kelowna since April, and every Saturday morning when we finished setting up, served a rush or two, did a little shopping, and served another rush, i would bring out my breakfast: a couple of old mustard jars of homemade mueslix with fruit and yogurt. I'd sneak bites between customers, scarf during short free moments on crazy days, the cereal generally lasting til the near end of the market, and hardly put before customers, rather resembling the afformentioned apple, plus soggy.

It keeps me going throughout, having those jars to munch on, and none of the customers seem to mind (in fact, some have offered to buy it off me). Besides asking what it is and how to make it, the most common reaction to me with a the jar up to my mouth--at times shovelling--is to carry on: "eat your breakfast girl, go ahead".

Yet Urs, in a message left on my phone tonight, said that my market schedule had changed, and that he would need me to eat my breakfast at home, before i came because it was so busy there lately. .... ????? Besides the fact that that would mean eating at 6 am and not again until 1:30 (not physically possible-- or even humanly, actually-- for me), eating breakfast (like a normal person, i must emphasize) has never interrupted my work there, or let things slide. It is not as though i sit down and let the chaos pile up as i take a half hour break (which, technically i am entitled to in a six hour shift), but i eat as i go, a bite here and there keeping me going. What would effect my work is being starving halfway through--which i would inevitably be having had to eat so early in the morning--and not allowed to eat. Can you actually tell someone that they cannot eat? Ok, sure, with a "not on shift" to follow, but then you get a break to prevent yourself from dying of starvation. i do not get a break at the market, a quick jaunt around to do my own shopping, but i get scorned if it is longer than ten minutes. He has been so funny lately, and this is just...

Granted, i am not the type of person who wakes up and has breakfast second to whatever happens in the washroom. I go for a run, i start picking tomatos on farm days, or baking dessert on days off, or serving customers at the market; my body needs time to wake up and get excited about the day, then ask for energy to tackle it. I would rather warm soggy cereal it too, then force it down when it isnt wanted or needed, no matter how busy i expect the day to be. Besides, it is not like i am pulling out a hotplate and whipping up pancakes...

Am i wrong? Is it just me that telling a person when to eat seems a bit strange? I know Urs is, but this is different, even for him. Then again, maybe he would understand if he ate once in a while...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A tomato graveyard

I just, just wrote of the surprising abundance of BC sockeye,and now i must tell you about the awful lack of tomatos.

last year was tomatos' time to shine. Entirely because the sun did its own shining. There were more than we could possibly keep up with on the farm or in the restaurant: green zebras, orange bananas, black crims, garden peaches, striped romas, and tons, literally tons, of little cherry varieties. I developed cold sores in my mouths for so much lunchtime tomato acid. Just dipped in salt they were liek a fix to me. This year though, not even a tomato mayo sandwich on sourdough and i feel today it all ended.

Today i walked througha tomato graveyard.

A bit of life was taken from me too, seeing the blight ravaged vines, laden with ripe tomatos that i know will only turn blemishy, black, and inedible. It was devastating, for it seemed like with just two more day so fsunshine we would have been up to our knees in them. Instead though, we got rain. And frost. And ended a summer we never really had.

I did, however, get to freeze a whole bunch of splitters (tomatos that literally break through their skin with juicy ripeness, not acceptable to sell to restaurants, but incredibly tasty), oven-dry two trays worth of cherry romas, and make a few desperate jars of sauce. And as i eat them this winter, i will hope to have plenty more next year to replenish this sad stockpile; no, to eat fresh on sourdough with gobs of homemade mayo and course salt, to make up for this year.

Catch of the Season

Perhaps you have read it already in the papers (i buy the Globe and Mail every Saturday and read a section each morning for the whole week...the "Globe BC" section, typically my Tuesday read, filled me in) but this is an incredible year for Sockeye salmon. And unexpected too.

I wont get into the details of the sparcity of salmon years prior, because i am too damned excited about this seasons abundance to gloomily reminisce. There is just so much salmon! If my grandpa were alive today, he would invite all his dutch relatives to visit and toss them all a fish to slimy flop against their chests as they braced in catch, jsut as he did summers ago (though not his entire 13 sibling family at once). Instead i will cozy up on this cold, rainy, end of summer night, and tuck into a beautiful fillet of fish from my home.

I could have gone with my favorite recipe, but with the vegetables from my new backyard waiting patiently in the fridge, and a craving for quinoa i instead prepared this:

Crispy Skinned Sockeye Salmon on Corn Quinoa
with Garlicky Green Beans and Zuchinni
Theres still leftover veg (zuchinni and green beans) from the summer, and they marry beautifully with early fall corn. Quinoa is seedy and bright here against the fatty salmon, and the whole dish, the yellows and the greens looks and tastes fresh on a cold night, celebrating both seasons and the abundance that we did have. Serves two.

Bring to a boil in a pot in which a steamer tray fits:
1 cup H2O

Stir in and reduce heat to gently simmer:
3/4 cup Quinoa
the kernels of 2 cobs of corn
leaves from one sprig of thyme
finely chopped parsely stems

Meanwhile, over medium high heat, warm olive oil in a medium sized pan. When good and hot, sear, skin side down:
2 BC Sockeye salmon fillets, pinbones removed

Season the meat with coarse salt and pepper, and when the skin has crisped (two to three minutes), remove from the pan and rest in a steamer tray that fits above your simmering quinoa pot.

Remove access oil and cool slightly that same salmon-searing pan. Over medium low heat, add to this pan:
splash each water and the wine in your glass
1 clove garlic, smashed and very roughly chopped
2 good sized handfuls green and yellow beans, trimmed of any stems
1 cup zuchinni, sliced into 1/2 inch thick pieces
Season with salt and pepper and cover

After about five minutes, when both your quinoa and veg are nearly finished, place the steam basket over your pot of grains, cover and gently steam for four to five minutes.

To the veg, toss in a handful of roughly chopped parsely, the leaves of a sprig of thyme and (if available) squash blossoms or nasturtiuns. Season with salt and pepper and continue to braise until just tender.

Serve the salmon atop the quinoa with the zuchs and beans alongside and celebrate the bounty we did have this year

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A move not soon enough

There is so much, too much, going on right now:

--the Italy competition (this Saturday, yikes!)
--the Saputo challenge (right now, much less stressful than the latter)
--visiting family, them to me and me to them
--using all of the above to forget about last saturday and re-, no, still-love...

and then there is the move to Vancouver, which makes me nervous and excited, or rather, more nervous and excited (i may just explode with contradictory emotions here). The same day i attempt to cook my way to Italy, i leave for a pre-emptive visit to Vancouver, to check out how things at Quince work, and how life will be there, ie: how long my commute will be, what the biking is like, and where i am going to eat and drink.

Vancouver will be a time to play. Enough with this stress. Enough with mind racing and sleep lacking, German yelling and midnight dinners, enough with men who know what they want and let it slip away. Here's to living free for awhile, eating and drinking and slipping away.

Lest i should forget while dealing with the chaotic reality that is right now in real life, a few places i intend to eat, drink, and be free in:

the last two are adam's hangout and workplace, the friend, along with torrence and Kris and my wonderful family whom i intend on eating, drinking, and being free with. Run by the ocean and forget this week ever happened...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Farm to Italy?

Though my stubborness attests to my Dutch heritage, I insist that Italian blood runs through my veins. My fascination with Italy began much earlier, perhaps in my enjoyment of forming meatballs with my ma for pasta, more likely through the romanticized fiction of "Under the Tuscan Sun;" it is a fascination that still holds today, perhaps stronger than ever. It is not simply the naturally artistic hillsides, sumptuous foods and notorious wines that draw me in, but the very way of life. Italian is a personality, one that is relaxed, appreciative, in the moment and from the Earth, the very traits I try to incorporate into my own cooking style.

It has been a short two and a half years that I have worked professionally in the restaurant industry, spontaneously entering Okanagan College's apprentice program as a cook, training under Chef Willi Franz at the Grapevine Restaurant in Winfield. Short, yes, but horribly formative. During this time I have come to understand my passion for food, and it begins in the soil. Just down the road from where I spend my nights cooking winery dinners, is the farm where I spend my days with beans and tomatos, and a few too many weeds. It is here, at Lake Country Culinary Farms (LCCF), that I find peace and inspiration, seeing (and smelling and tasting) first hand, the freshness of a lush basil plant, intensity of blossoming hot and sweet peppers, the seemingly eternal offerings of summer squash. These are the flavours, pure, unadulterated, natural, that I love to accentuate in what I create, to combine and play with and appreciate for each vegetable and herbs potent uniqueness. My home and heart is on the farm, my passion and career grow from it.

For such reasons this contest seems designed for me, allowing me the scavenge for dinner where I am most at home, in order to visit a country that I would one day love to call such. For now, my goals include running LCCF and continuing to learn from and cook with the brilliant chefs of the Okanagan, and until the presentation of this event, had planned to visit Italy as part of a WWOOF exchange ("Willing Workers On Organic Farms") to further my knowledge and creativity. Should this trip occur earlier as a result of theis competition, I know I will use my time preciously to learn and with each of my senses experience, a genuine and unabashed food culture, and take such an event along with me for the rest of my culinary journey.

I hope that you will consider me as a competitor, and allow me to prove to my Dutch Grandma that somewhere along the line, a little bit of Italy got in the family mix.


That was my application for a black box competition that should I win, would send me to Italy to work on an Agriturismo next fall. Of the six people that applied, only three were chosen to compete, and I am one of them. It is a life-come-true-opportunity just two weeks from now...and all i want to do is throw up.
Competitions are not my thing; i have never willingly entered one, and never intended to, but this: it is Italy (Italy-- say it like Sandra Oh in the afformentioned movie and you will understand my incredulity). How do you say no to that? I cant not try, i also cant think of anything else but the cookoff, oh, and i cant sleep so well. About that throwing up thing...
So here is the plan: cook simply and what i know. Pretend it is just lunch on the farm. Relax, breathe, season well and hope that you dont overcook whatever protein reveals its ugly face in that black box.
I need to brush up on meat.
And sleep.
Wish me luck.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

We have come over the peak of the season at my restaurant. People are finished vacationing, and once school begins again, the nights will be a normal amount of busy, instead of an alarming amount of chaos. The whole summer always seems a blur at this point, but as it comes into focus i realize a few things: it was truly awful to start, only just started to be enjoyable, and i desperately want it to be over. My career and capabilities are no further along, having learned only what amount of respect and freedom of expression i need from a kitchen, and what i want out of the next years of my life.

Beginning with a move to Vancouver. I have a job with a chef who, in just the half hour we chatted, has promised me an opportunity to grow as a cook, and share myself as one too. Sure i am nervous as hell (mostly for public transit, though), but i am also desperately counting down my shifts here until i can make somewhere else my home for the winter, perhaps longer.

Monday, August 23, 2010

This is summer

i wish i had more time to write; to tell what i am growing/cooking/ talk about Crannog and Feast of confess my fear of the upcoming move to Vancouver... but instead i can only ay that i am happy, full, overwhelmingly busy, rejuvenated, contemplative, and so damn full of zucchini.

Such is my summer

Thursday, June 17, 2010

and sometimes things just work out

Tom offered me the farm. Not as a gift, of course, like "i know you love Rapini, Tiffany, and you are getting quite good at weeding, so why dont you just take over?" No, not like that at all, but also not like Tom's usual goofy form of conversation. His serious offer came after i mentioned that once i completed my Red Seal (or rather, got it over and done with so my ma could be proud and happy that i completed something for once), and i could leave cooking for awhile, i wanted to go WOOFING in Italy for a year. Stopping howing, he asked/said that i really enjoyed this farming thing hey, cause y'know, i could take over this place when he was done (which, please not, is very, very soon, as Tom is 60 and this is his "retirement project"). What? was my in-head response, out loud i said, thats sweet Tom, but i think i need to live by the ocean. To that he offered to dig me a hole and fill it with water; to that I asked if we could plant a sailboat in it; hence thinking it was just another goofy conversation with Tom. Not so. It was a few days ago now, but the reality of it is finally sinking in: Tom was serious; he has leased the land for five years, after that he wans someone to take over, and he would love if that someone was me. We talked seriously for about three minutes today before a mechanic interrupted, in which time i had to sit down, and teared up a little. i mean, i want this, i have wanted this: to be a part of something that i love and am proud of, to work for it, learn it and live it and then have it be mine, entrusted by me from those i learned from and lived for. I just didnt expect it to be so soon.
And so the thinking and debating and nail biting and hair pulling begins. I am twenty three: am i ready for a farm, a comittment, a responsibility five acres large? vs I am twenty three and already, a dream is falling in place.
(forgive me my deep Hallmark-ism) This just goes to show, you cannot plan your life, but you can seize the opportunities it gives you to love it. (less hallmark-y) And sometimes, no matter how clumsy life feels, how un-pathed you are, it throws you a goal, a gift, something to work with and towards and to find happiness and sweet relief in. kinda like tonights dinner...
Today was my day off and all i had planned for eating was a stack of cornmeal rye pancakes with rhubarb syrup (lovely, but the way). Usually though, i have dinner planned too, excited for time consuming meal prep like homemade pasta, risotto or gnocchi, or a thought out meal featuring fresh fish. No, all i had was pancakes. And not enough for dinner too.
Never mind because in came life. Dave brought me two and a half foot tall stalks of the spiciest oregano i d ever tried (and coughed on at doing so) from his garden; the drive to the farm revealed a sign that first of the season peas were finally available at an off road farmers market. Slam on the breaks and pull in and spend the time in the field dreaming up dinner...and what it would be like to call this place my own.
Lastly, cooking dinner turned into a series of distractions: a lengthy chat on the phone, harvesting in my own garden, checking emails, drinking wine, and i nearly seared my dinner to the pot of the pan, and then cooked my lovely fresh peas into a deceptively off-green color. i say deceptively because all was definately not lost, or mushy for that matter. In fact, perfect. Thanks again Life.

Risotto Style Brown Rice with Peas, Spot Prawns, and Oregano Oil
makes enough for two, the only other thing i would love Life to have fall into place for me

In a large, deep pan, slowly soften:
1 clove garlic, minced
4 scallions, whites thinly sliced and greens chopped and reserved
1/2 tsp crushed cumin seed

Add in and cook to translucent
1 cup short grain brown rice

Increase heat, and splash in some white wine, decreasing heat again and allowing rice to absorb before ladling in some stock (i used a simple broth of prawn shells, parsely stems and bay leaf). Each ladleful of stock should be allowed to be absorbed before adding in the next, as you would risotto, until just under aldente (about 30 minutes for brown rice, 17 if you went for white). At this point, add in and cover to cook through:
2 cups uncooked sweet peas (left in the shell)
1/2 cup cherry tomatos (the last of which were in my freezer, they will be back, fresh, soon enough)

Now comes your last three minutes of cooking, typically when you would toss in cheese and let the risotto rest into gooey comfort food. Instead, add in and cover, turning heat as low as possible:
14-20 peeled BC spot prawns (seasons almost over)
Chopped mint, oregano, and reserved scallion greens

Dont worry if you let this go for four instead of three minutes while fetching some of that wine to drink with dinner, itll all work out...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Saved by a rainy day

i have a little secret...i love the rain. Well, i should rephrase that: i love the sound of heavy droplets, running the morning after downpour, the smell and the crispness of the air. i'll always choose sunshine over the grey that rain usually means, but a coastal gal at heart, i dont mind the drizzle. Just dont tell the folks here in the sunny okanagan.

We have had so much rain lately, the lion coming out of the beatifully early and sunny spring, and it is starting to wear thin on most everyone (especially the farmers i work with). But quite frankly, life is starting to wear thin on me these days, and the off on rain provides the perfect chance (more like a legitimate excuse) to not spend my hours weeding, but doing laundry...

Because like the farmers and foodies i work with, this is the season of "dont stop," and more things than clean clothes get neglected. A clean self, for one, and sleep. But we live for this season, spend all winter waiting for itand greatly resent things like lousy weather for slowing us down in our glory time. In truth, my first reaction to the rain is anger: i cant bike, garden, the restaurant will be slow and everyone will be grumpy, and i am virtually stuck inside all day. So why do i secretly love the rain. Because sometimes, like today, there are things, relaxing, sit-down, inside things i really want to do, and now i have an excuse.

Today, that is baking bread (it s been awhile) and writing here (its been even longer), taking pictures in perfect natural lighting, and then later, when it stops raining, going for a run through the leftover calm freshness of it.

Oh, and folding my laundry.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

thoughts on easter and spring

For longest time, Easter has meant an excuse for a nice eggy breakfast (ideally in bed), complete with mimosas. Yes, Easter, at least for me, means a.m. drinking.

I am not religious. I should be, coming from a large and largely devout Dutch Catholic family, especially considering my oddly and obviously close relationship with my grandma, the most Dutch and most Catholic (though certainly not the most preachy) of them all. Atheism would blacksheep me I suppose, if my family cared to talk to me about it. Or if they knew i was drinking on such a sabbath day, and at such an early hour...

Despite its religiousity and my not, i love Easter for more than just mimosas. Its springs official holiday, though Earth day, thinking of it just now, seems almost more suiting. It is a celebration of new life; a fresh holiday bright with color--think of those eggs you decorated, and pastel colored jellybeans...and the inside of these cookies:

Around this time every year, more a marking of spring than easter, i make birdsnest cookies, the pefect sweet bowl catalyst for my abundance of jam. Put that way, and they will be my toast this easter brunch, to have with my eggs and mimosas.

happy holiday

easter candies

birdsnest cookies

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Will you take me seriously if i eat meat?

So i am not really a vegetarian. i mean, what kind of vegetarian willingly eats prosciutto, openly loves lamb, and proclaims after a great inhale, the amazing smell of the butcher/deli when entering? What kind of vegetarian enters a butcher/deli? The kind of vegetarian who works at the fish shop across the parking lot and has to enter the butcher/deli to freezer- vac fillets of fish that she regularly eats (veg-aquarian??); the kind of vegetarian who is not a vegetarian by principle or in association to the stigmatic assumptions surrounding such a lable, but by sheer dislike, or rather, other preference.

If i sound as though i am trying to be diplomatic and as precisely definitive as i would be in some sort of academic debate, it is because i am. i was reprimended, offended, and now am defensive.

lunch time at work:
Chef: whats that?
Me: my lunch.
C:what exactly are you making?
M: scrambled eggs.
C: jesus girl, you gotta eat something, if you are going to be biking and working and all that shit you gotta eat something-- i mean cmon let me cook you up a nice, thick big steak.
M: (GAG) im a vegetarian. (shit, did i just say that, i take it back i take it back...too late)

Chefs instant reaction, and i am talking no pause to think of the assault he was about to perform was to insist that "you people" should not even be allowed in the kitchen. to summarize his rant: i should choose a different career if i wasnt a meat-eater because i could never possibly know or understand the workings of cooking and flavouring animals and would therefore fail miserably at pleasing any "normal" omnivourous customer.

Slightly taken aback, i tried to explain what i meant, what i believe, what i am not about to repeat now, because really, i never needed to say it in the first place. And though now i realize it was him who should have felt as embarrassed as I did, at that moment i felt like i lost what little respect and trust as a talented cook he had for me--and that is as important to me as my moral choices regarding animal consumption. And though he apologized just moments later, and did actually listen to my reasons for eating eggs not steak for lunch, i know that me as a vegetarian is slated iin his mind and it will come up again.

Just another way i have to prove myself, i guess...

ps. i bought lamb at the farmers market in protest. i love lamb. i bought kale and mustard greens too...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Back to reality

We are back in action at the Grapevine--if action means three tables and taking my time doing hardly anything. And as i run out of hardly anything it can only get worse, if by worse i mean actually, unfathomly busy as it will but a month or so from now. So i will enjoy the days of cookbook perusing and playing in the bakeshop--my list of accomplishments thus far includes three types of cookies, the macaroons a work in progress and repeated on tomorrows agenda--of laughing and having time for something that resembles a lunch.

"Real life" again also means less time for bike rides and more time in the car, and a fear that the calm contentedness i have achieved lately might simply evaporate once that kitchen hits full force. Still, even though i spent the winter thinking i wouldnt be, i am glad to be back; home.

Friday, March 19, 2010

so long winter

as i right this i am drinking a stout float. That's right, not a root beer float, but a beer beer float. My last Granville Island Winter Ale, vanilla gelato, and blackberries from my freezer. Its a cocktail--well, dessert actually--to say goodbye to the awful season that is winter. And what a great way for it to go.

I said goodbye with dinner too, making a pasta of both my stored leeks and ones bought fresh at the market last saturday. The latter, falls crop, were left through the frost of winter, and when the ground was finally warm enough to harvest them, they had gone and sprouted new shoots. They were then, ironically and quite suitingly, both spring and winter leeks. Goodbye and hello...I'll make it again this spring.

Leek Linguine with Walnut Pesto and Purple Dwarf Basil

Last summer I made walnut, hazlenut, and classic basil pesto and froze them in icecube trays to pop into pastas such as this all winter long. The walnut is simply walnuts, parsley, and garlic--i dont season them when freezing, so that i am free to do so with the final product. If you dont have purple dwarf basil, substitute regular, thought he delicate sweet flavour of this pretty little leaf is hard to replace. This pasta would also be good with the addition of other spring veg such as peas and favas, or zuchinni in the summer. Would haev been great with ricotta salata, but i was craving a schwonkety-schwonk of parm, and thats what i got!

To boiling water, add your linguine. In a large pan, gently soften:
leeks,sliced in half lengthwise (and widthwise if particularly long) and immersed in water to rinse away dirt
garlic, smashed and chopped

When pasta is finished, add to pan with leeks, walnut pesto, and basil. Season with salt and pepper and top with a schwonkety schwonk of parm. So simple, so satistfying, so springtime... so long winter

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


St. Paddy's Day is my second favorite holiday after Thanksgiving. What is not to love about a holiday that went from a Catholic saintly celebration to one simply of Irish culture--and its genuine love of ale. Wear green, drink Guiness, feel lucky for the Irish.

And so I was. Starting with the green (yes I wore a pinch-preventing outfit), but I also ate alot of green things today, even more than usual. All green things. Pears and frozen green grapes on my mueslix; green lentil hummus; mache with walnut oil; trout with roast potatos, celeriac, leeks, and artichokes...ok, so the trout wasnt green, thank goodness, but you get the idea. I even bought a granny smith apple to stand in for my usual pink ladies.

I drew the line at green beer though, just Guinness.

The best thing I ate though, was not green. It was brown. No, it was not beer, but a fantastic Irish Soda bread (the most successful bread--successful anything-- to come out of my oven lately...). The smell alone made me want to do nothing but eat bread all day: a soury earthiness that was there in taste too. Moist and just slightly crumbly around the crust, i nearly did eat bread all day. When I wasnt drinking it...

Irish Soda Bread
The recipe I adapted this from was in Fresh by John Bishop. I subbed honey for brown sugar, and used half millet and half flaxseeds in my bread, whereas Bishop uses toasted pepitas; I have simply listed "seeds" here, so feel free to improvise with your own favorite. The original recipe also calls for half buttermilk and half whole milk, but I absolutely love the tang of buttermilk so I went full out on it. Do your best to let the bread cool at least half an hour before cutting in, otherwise its crumb will, well, crumb all over your counter. Whatever you dont eat fresh out of the oven will keep for three days in an airtight container, excellent with marmalade in the mornings.

Preheat oven to 425F
Mix together:
1 c AP flour
1 c WW flour
3/4 c rolled oats
1/4 c seeds
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt

In a seperate bowl, stirring to dissolve, combine:
2 T hot melted butter
1 T honey

In a slow, steady stream, pour in:
1 c buttermoo

Combine the wet with the dry ingredients, then turn out onto a clean, well floured work surface, and form into a domed round, roughly six inches in diameter. Place dough on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350F and continue baking 30 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when rapped. Have a beer, or do an Irish jig, while the bread cools to sliceability.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

one part hippy

In my overanalytical fasion, I proposed to my sister once upon a time, that we should list our most definitive characters--basically, our "personalities" narrowed down to three. No, I was not searching for or offering a schizophrenic diagnosis, but basically, as women, the different sides that are strongest in ourselves (times when we are complete hormonal messes aside). Here's mine:

--one part feminine, lover of all things womanly, inspired by Sex in the City fasion and friends and lovers

--one part stress junkie, cant sit still or ever overdose on intensity and doings of somethings, even if this means simply walking while reading and trying to eat a sandwich, or balancing three jobs

--one part hippy, longing for simplicity, dirty hands, sunshine and green things

And when the latter is the strongest of the three strong mes, i feel like eating what honey and bread deems hippy chow. This includes things like whole grains, veggie meals, soy products, basically anything not from an animal or mere molecules away from plastic. If you opened my fridge, I may look like a bit of a health nut, and I cant deny a diverse collection of grains and rices and the like, in the same cupboard as all those dried up legumes. Prosciutto and various dairy products in varying degrees of high fat content are about all that reflect the other two sides of me--oh, and the frozen, just-in-case chocolate bar, albiet organic and containing dried fruit...oh boy, even my chocolate is grassy...

Last weekend I went to Vancouver and it took my love of hippy chow to a whole new level. My vegan girlfriend and I went to the Naam for dinner the night that I got there. It was nearly eleven by the time we got there, but the 24/7 vegetarian restaurant was still bustling--and for good reason. The atmosphere is chill, but the smells and incredible food warming. It is huge portions of deep flavours and textures that you just want to curl up with. Both of us had the special: a green bean and potato curry cooked long enough so that it mushed (in a good, good way) together into an unexpectedly spicy dish, a bowl of chickpea dal with plenty of oily more richly warm than spicy sauce perfect for soaking a warm from the oven peice of naan bread that, i kid you not, was the size of a steering wheel. There was so much food, and I was so full, yet I could not stop dipping and folding up beans into that bread. I dream of it...

That weekend I also expanded my vegetarian horizons, sharing Tempeh at the Naam and cooking and eating for the first time, Tofu. That was an experience in itself, perhaps to be relayed at another time. But now I am hooked. I cooked some last night (in a much more skilled and practiced manner), with my own attempt at red lentil dal, and homemade naan bread--the dreams had turned into a heavy craving. And fed my hippy self.

Red Lentil Dal with Kale
I fried up some tofu in sesame oil with this, but i imagine it would be good with feta cheese, or roasted tomatos. Curl up, tuck in, feel healthy, make love not war.

In a small saucepan, heat some oil and slowly soften:
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced

Using a mortar and pestle, blend together and add to the pan:
sm. pc each ginger and turmeric, peeled and finely grated
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp chili flakes
1/4 tsp cumin seeds

Raise the heat and add in, stirring to coat with oil:
1/4 cup brown basmati rice
1/2 cup red lentils
2 fresh bay leaves

When the rice has become slightly translucent, cover with stock or water, and simmer gently for 30-40 mins. Season with s&p to taste. When its ready, braise chopped kale in a shallow pan with a bit of diced garlic and chili flakes. Mix together with the dal, squeeze a bit of lemon over and grab a steering wheel size flatbread for scooping.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


I turned twenty-three in Vancouver on Sunday. I pretended the Olympic fireworks and chaos were for me.
Better yet, I had two fantastic breakfasts:
1. After a much longer than usual, cant-stop-even-though-my-legs-are-dead-and-my-lungs-not-far-behind-but-i-love-this run by the sea wall, i showered and refueled with a much bigger than usual bowl of mueslix...downed with nearly a litre of almond milk. Didnt quite lose that nauseous feeling from the run...


2. Little Nest cafe. I had looked this up while meal planning for this random Vancouver visit. I fell in love with it on the website, but for not wanting to rush the day and unsure if theyd have vegan options for my girlfriend i was staying with, we decided to just visit for coffee. Impossible. Not with a menu as beautifully simplistic, yet detailed with care and seasonality, written in chalk on floor to ceiling boards. So despite being still uncomfortably full from breakfast, i ordered their homemade organic baguette (four options to choose from) with fresh ricotta and honey and housemade lemon curd. The table number was a block "E" (its a child friendly cafe), the americano strong, the baguette smothered in butter with the sides in dainty ramekins, the whole place perfect. It was exactly the type of spot I would love to call my own someday. I ate every last bite, feeling surprisingly more comfortable. And inspired.

oh, and there was a vegan cookie for Torr

keeping it short but sweet, just like my birthday

Thursday, February 4, 2010

pancake person

Despite loving the early mornings, and despising sleeping in, i am a compulsive snooze hitter. This means that when my alarm goes off in the morning, i hit snooze and roll over at least six times. It seems silly really, i should just set my alarm for forty minutes later and get up at the first annoying beep. But i have a feeling that i would still hit snooze six times and just be forty minutes late instead. So i surrender to the habit. Except this morning, when I did not hit snooze, instead I simply turned off the alarm. Three hours later I woke up, well rested for once; I guess my body needed it...

Now when you wake up that late, there are two things you can do:

1. Panic

2. Make a great breakfast

Since I had no where to go (or worse, no where I was supposed to already be), i chose the latter and made pancakes.

And while i ate said pancakes, i thought about how much of a pancake person i am. Given the choice between french toast, waffles, crepes, or pancakes, i choose pancakes. There is something inherently simple about them, childlike i suppose. French toast is something i need an appetite for--its pretty rich; crepes a bit finicky, and i need alot of them to curb my appetite; since i prefer yeast raised waffles, they require planning ahead, making ahead in the late evening, not impulsively in the late morning. Pancakes are just right.

I may be a snoozer, and normally a morning panicker for it, but today, as a pancake person, it was just another wonderful "morning."

Monday, February 1, 2010

a little bit of yellow goes a long way

sometimes the grey gets to be too much
sometimes life gets to be too much
and you just need some yellow
like these tulips

and these meyer lemons

which i used to make this curd
i'm feeling much brighter

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

From the freezer with love

Kelowna cannot decide if it is winter or spring. For the last couple of weeks I have been waking up to frost, then just after breakfast, biking in the warm, above zero sunlight. And although it is not quite warm enough to ditch my mittens, it looks, feels, and sounds (birds singing as if in Snow Whites cottage) more like April than January. So long as the weather stays this way, and doesnt pull a prankster drastic freeze come Feb, I will be content to revel in the fact that things might be turning green a little sooner (I am knocking on wood here, folks--this is far to blissful a thought to jinx).

I love spring; it is by far my favorite season; it rejuvenates me. Spring brings sunshine and warmth and tulips and skirts and shoes that dont require socks. Theres little lambs and the chickens start laying eggs again. Let's not forget, too, rhubarb and peas and fava beans and the first crop of rapini. I am trying really hard not to get excited too early here, it is after all, still January and there is not a bud in sight yet, but I feel like clicking my heels and saying so-long to winter-- bring on the April showers and May flowers.

In celebration mode, I pulled a bag of peas out of my freezer that I shelled last June (the seasons were late to change last year), a habit I am trying to get into before it is time to refill it again. Even though my freezer is a right buffet of chocies, there are still many wonderful wintery veg at the farmers market that my fridge is jsut as full of fresh local goods. So I compromised and made a meal that was as much a mixture of the two seasons as the weather outside. It was a sort of non-committal, dont- get- your- hopes- up -dish- that was both tuck in wintery warmth and fresh spring. And with all the bags of peas still in my freezer, I will be able to keep celebrating even if January decides to be winter again.

Sage and Pea Barley with Roasted Sunchokes, Turnips and Hazelnut Pesto
The pesto was another freezer gift, frozen in icecube trays for easy use. The toasty buttery hazelnuts and fresh parsely flavour were brilliant with both the sweet peas and earthy roots. The sage made the whole thing warmer--perfect because it may be sunny, but its sure not warm yet. Serves two.

Gently soften in a pan:
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
Add in, cover with water and simmer for twenty to thirty minutes
2/3 cup pot barley

Meanwhile, roast on a parchment lined sheet at 375F:
1/2-1 cup sunchokes, halved if large
1/2-1 cup turnips, cut in wedges
drizzle of olive oil
salt and pepper

When the barley is cooked, drain off most excess water, leaving about two tablespoons, and stir in:
2 cups frozen peas, defrosted
1 1/2 tsp dried sage

Heat through, combine with roasted roots and top with a big glob of hazelnut pesto (just follow your favorite basil pesto recipe, substituting parsely for the basil and hazelnuts for the pines). Think spring.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

This sabbath

I may not be religious, but there is something especially sacred about Sundays; a day of rest even for non-believers...and non-resters. The last day of the week is always special to me, or at least I try to make it that way by reading my favorite section of the Globe, having coffee with a girl friend via telephone, spending plenty of time outside, spending plenty of time in the kitchen. Sunday dinners, a ritual for many families, occurs in my single home too, either with invites, or just me, wine, a piece of fish, and dessert. Which was exactly how tonight, today, went.

To start, I was actually waking up at a normal people (non-bakers) hour. Eight am meant sunshine and CBC radio one as my wakeup call (their morning show is fantastic), and time enough to enjoy breakfast, a restaurant review read, and bike ride before my buddy Andy arrived for another Sunday favorite of mine: canning.

To carry on the Pink Lady obsession (and add yet another preserve to my sagging pantry shelf), Andy came over to make apple butter. Now Andy is no canning amateur, enjoying, in his unexpectedly homemaker sorta way, making jams and jellies with his ma, so he was not visiting this time for a lesson in cookery--he brought some of his homemade mint jelly in the cutest of tiny little jars, along with a batch of muffins (the boy is getting more Sunday invites for sure). However, he has never canned without pectin, or sans recipe. I have never canned with pectin, and make it up as I go, referrencing The Joy of Cooking for processing times and other fickle matters regarding botulism prevention. So it was a lesson in sporadicism, and fun to have company. With cardamom, vanilla, cinnamon, and bay leaf in the mix, my kitchen smelt fragrant and sweet, and four "pops" later (a very small batch--seriously, my shelf is going to collapse), we considered ourselves successful.

We didnt stop there however, there was far too much Sunday left to enjoy. Even while we waited for the butter to cook itself perfect, we had attempted panna cotta (the results away me in my fridge--the dessert portion of my sacred Sunday). When the kitchen was tidy again and still smelling of spice, we went for a two hour hike up and down and all around Knox Mountain, refueling with caffiene before deciding we had been far to productive for a day religiously devoted to rest and vowed to relax for the rest of the evening. But not before a great dinner.

Andy and I work at the fish shop together, and one of the perks of the job was tonights dinner; ginormous tuna sides get cut into steaks, but the chunk on the end near the tail gets cut up for seafood mix, which we had far to much of yesterday, so it came home with me instead-- Im just taking one for the team, really, saving such a beautiful, albiet out of season piece of fish from being cooked with other random trimmings only to be tossed with pasta and cream and blasphemously topped with cheese. No, it was far to shiny and pink and moist looking for such treatment, and really, it was a small sacfrifice on my part to salvage it for a wonderful Sunday dinner. (Tooting my own horn here) Wonderful. And now I`ll see if those panna cottas are the perfect end to the perfect Sunday. Hope yours was perfect too.

Bay and Rosemary Roasted Tuna with Couscous, Celery Root, Turnips, and Capers
What contributes to Sunday dinner's fabulousness is Saturday mornings Farmers Market finds. I tend to go overboard at the market, especially when the veg offers so much color and freshness in a season typically devoid of such; I started this meal with a shaved salad of heirloom carrots, jeruselem artichokes and fennel. I prefer my tuna medium to medium rare, so feel free to adjust the cooking time to your liking. Portions are for two.

To prepare the tuna, marinate your pieces in:
glug of good olive oil
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary (or stick 1/2 a sprig in each loin)
1-2 crumbled bay leaves
squeeze of lemon

In a coverable, oven proof dish (i favor my beloved stoneware Creuset knock off), place:
1 large celery root, peel and sliced in half moon wedges
6 small turnips, quarted
2 stems thyme
1 stem Rosemary
Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare your couscous (if you own a steamer for this, great, if you dont, just cook it like porridge, as I did)

Simmer gently until softened:
1/2 shallot
1 clove garlic
1 bay leaf
Add in, making sure you have at least 1 1/3 cup water in the pot:
2/3 cup couscous
Cook, stirring, until all the water is absorbed, about three minutes

Remove your veg from the "Creuset" and set aside, covered to stay warm. Turn the oven up to 400 and in the same dish, pour in couscous and place the tuna pieces on top. Season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon. Scatter 1 tbsp of capers overtop, cover, and bake for 7 minutes, adding in your veg for the last minute to reheat, because who wants cold veg or more than one pot on a day of rest? Take time and enjoy, because tomorrow is Monday.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Pretty in Pink

Last spring I had to switch to Granny Smith apples when the Pink Lady supply ran dry. Granted, there are far greater tragedies in life-- such as just a couple weeks later when the only apples available in this beautiful orchard country came all the way from Washington--but i do remember truly missing them. So this year, I am planning ahead.

And why not? I freeze/can/jam/dry every other fruit that i madly love and even ones i just sorta like a little. Apples, second only, probably, to apricots, for my habitual love of them, surely deserve a place in my cold storage. And so begins the madness.

I started with apple sauce. But I only made one jar. Silly, I know, but I wanted to be sure that it turned out all right before making a ginormous batch--vanilla beans are expensive, after all, and I didnt need another incident like the champagne peach fiasco. Now, however, it is time to make a vanilla investment, because the sauce was lovely. Goes to show when you have apples as wonderful as Pink Ladies, it doesnt take alot to make em shine, just water, heat and vanilla in this case. Oh so pretty too.

Next: the rings of ladies in my dehydrater right now. The last of a big batch, I have already snuck a few. It says something that I am even bothering with these, as dried is about the last way I would eat an apple--though juice is right up there too. But since a pal wooed me with amazying oatmeal walnut cookies laced with sneaky little bits of dried apples, my opinions changed. They did so even further with the ones I am doing myself. Again, its those darn Pink Ladies, they shine with flavour even when you suck the life out of them.

This weekend: apple butter, so that the ladies can join me for breakfast through spring and summer until they return in full form in the fall.

Let the craziness (aside from referring friend-like to apples) begin. Its a girls weekend.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

bud breaking and baking

Tonight there was sunshine while I ate dinner. I dont think I even ate dinner in daylight once this summer, let alone the middle of January. A perk of my new life as a baker.

With school finished and only a part time job at Codfathers until the Grapevine re-opens in April, it seemed like a good time to learn the art of bread. So I asked Monika at Okanagan Grocer if I could do a stage with her, an unpaid stint taken on by many a young cook to learn a specific skill or simply to put a fancy pants restaurant on your resume (alot of high ended European restaurants run on free labour). So Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights, beginning at midnight, I join the gals at Ok Grocer for some baking, chatting, and MJ dancing.

To do this, I have to retrain my system on Tuesday; read: pull an all nighter so that by Wednesday afternoon I am ready for bed. I thought this would be more difficult than it was, but I was amazed to find that eleven am Wednesday felt like five pm, and sure enough, waking up in the middle of the night, it felt just like my usual eight am. Plus, it is kind of fun to have breakfast at eleven at night, lunch while the sun rises, and, although surprising, dinner in daylight.

And a good dinner it was: buckwheat and ricotta gnocchi with tomatos and morels. I have dipped into my stash of frozen summer veg, and the morels were locally dried last spring. With the sun the way it was, though, it could easily have been a freshly made dish of a completely different season.

Though the switch from the notoriously grey Okanagan winters is great for the endorphins, there is a major downside to such early warmth and cheer: bud breaking. My pal explained this to me the other day as he chided me for revelling at the sun last weekend, as a too-early blooming of fruit trees, only to leave them barren in the summer. The idea has haunted me since, to the point of having a nightmare in which I am baking at the restaurant and there is no fruit for the flans, so I go searching fruitlessly at every orchard in the valley, the panic becoming stronger and stronger with each empty storehouse. Honestly, it is a scary thought! Whatll i eat this summer if there are no apricots? Sure, I laugh now at my overzealous canning and freezing, but now i fear that it will not last, and there may be nothing to replenish it with...ever again! Of course, I am probably being ridiculous, but then again, this season showed hardly any blackberries at winter's fault, so it is highly possible that stone fruit could be extinct this summer. I would rather have two more months of treacherous grey and cold. Because at least I have to bakery ovens to keep me warm.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hello again

Since the last post I have moved, been heartbroken by a pooch (or rather, the pooch-giving-away-SPCA), made fine food at school, made not-so-fine-food at school, laughed alot at school, finished school, and am now cutting fish for money and baking bread for bread (literally, a loaf as a wage). All that and so much more, and no internet to tell you all about it.

Until now. And I do not know where to begin. But I am glad to be able to be back.