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.