Saturday, December 31, 2011

Let's talk hangovers... is new year's eve, afterall.

I'm sure most folks out there have plans involving a large amount of alcohol consumption, or driving home those consuming a large amount of alcohol (which, to note, is called "well-planned"). But did you folks think about the morning after?

Im not here to preach--ok, i m preaching a bit, but mostly about planning to have a safe ride home--a "think before you drink" wouldnt-you-like-to-be-able-to-wake-up-and-enjoy-the-first-day-of-the-new-year-or-at-least-stomach-breakfast idea...but i am here to talk about the breakfast:

The hangover cure. I dont have a recipe. Alot of people do, citing the heal all benefits of a raw egg floating in tomato juice (downing what you would rather be throwing up???), or greasy, breakfast sausage heavy egg hashes smothered in ketchup or hot sauce and butter drenched toast to soak it all up (eating what resembles and therefore likely will feel quite at home with the contents of your stomach). Such self doctor-ers are much more experienced drinkers than i; personally, i hate the thought/feeling of losing control so much that i rarely break a buzz despite my love of all things booze. Im a bit of an alcoholic (forgive the term) contradiction: a wino at heart who craves handcrafted beers, or a guinness for dinner in the winter, who doesnt chase a shot of tequila with lime because she loves the taste, who cant play scrabble without a whiskey, no ice, whose recent interest in classic and inventive cocktails has expanded her "liquor cabinet" (empty wine boxes restocked..., classy) twice over, who prefers her espresso with a shot of grappa in cold weather, who makes her own amaretto and limoncello, yet i have been drunk less thank the number of drinks it takes for me to get so (3-5 depending...). Despite this, i know very well what i want the morning after: carbs--particularly those drenched in sugar.

I've never been much of a savory breakfast person to begin with, and the very smell of bacon makes me queezy, but when i can barely lift my spinning head to down some thickly strong coffee, i take my usual sweet breakfast to the extreme (extreme for me at least--no icecream on my toast or anything; even a poptart is too much...). Think french toast with apricot jam and maple syrup or cornflakes (my guilty pleasure breakfast cereal) with enough sugar/honey that they may as well be frosted flakes (that made sweet cereal love to golden grahams...). But the best hangover breakfast i ever had on one of the 3-5 occasions that i needed one were pancakes at the Bread Co. in Kelowna.

There was nothing particularly special about this stack. Just your run of the mill buttermilk cakes, Sure they were light and fluffy, familiar and comforting--just your run-of-the-mill buttermilk cakes. Except that these were covered in granulated sugar. Granulated. Not dusted with icing sugar like pancakes of childhoods past ("snow" we used to call it, and it was strictly reserved for french toast in my mas kitchen). This may not seem as epic to some as it was for me; perhaps you, like my French girlfriend whose mom was adjusting to pancakes versus crepes upon immigrating to Canada, have always eaten your pancakes dusted with gritty white sugar. I had never seen it before. Perhaps still a bit drunk, i could hardly contain my excitement over it. I dipped sugar covered bites in the mini syrup boat so that syrup would not dissolve the crunch i was getting such a kick out of. Yes, i dipped sugar covered chunks of carbs into more sugar, and felt increasingly better. I sat up straighter, the sun came out, i vowed to eat my pancakes with granulated sugar everytime i was hungover (though earlier i had vowed never to drink again).

So aside from rallying up a safe ride home, in preparation for the New Year, why dont you whip up some pancake batter for tomorrow morning, and bust out the syrup and the gritty white sugar. And some bacon, if you insist.

Happy new year

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Blown out of the water

i love working at the fish shop. Crazy, im considered by my current coworkers for reasons less simple as most of your reactions, im supposing: smell. Its true, there is a fishy waft behind me as i walk through my own home at the end of the day (straight to the shower), and i keep fish shop clothes seperate from every day outfits, but its hardly a worry. I mean, when i am there, i dont smell me anyways. I smell all the fish, of course, who are supposed to smell. And then, after said shower, I eat them.

My fishmonger boss is incredibly passionate about all things from the sea. With his English accent he exclaims about freshness, sustainability, the sheer luckiness of having such a variety of gorgeous fish to choose from. He is also incredibly generous, sending me home on my first day four years ago with a rare John Dory, simply because he was excited for me to try it (passionate, as i said); he took the only other one (generous, right?); recently he handed me a requested tuna belly at no charge because he wished more people were interested in the belly he so enjoys eating sashimi style. Oysters two valentines days ago, for the sake of love; a lobster for Christmas eve dinner (holiday bonus?). It seems he feeds off my passion, eager to share his love of seafood; and i feed off his seafood, trying whatever he throws my way, whatever comes fresh and new and exciting into the shop. Tonight, that was monkfish.

We have had monkfish in before, but i had yet to try it, for, i confess, i was a bit of an arctic char addict, and nothing could distract me from it. And i tried to distract most all salmon seeking customers with it, trying to guilt trip them about seasonality and fresh versus frozen and just generally disgruntled by the general publics inability to step out of there comfort zone salmon/halibut fish-box (truly, it is my greatest pet peeve working there: the beeline to the Sockeye and Spring, frozen at sea and barely holding a sheen while other glistening, fresh, fish beckon. And then they have the nerve to complain that it is "fresh"--well, guess what? Thats cause it isnt. Its frozen! Come back in the summer folks, enjoy it while it is in its glorious run...sorry, it really annoys me...). The winters i have worked selling fish, i would ask everyone who tried to feed their family salmon if they had tried Char, followed by my sales pitch, hardly hearing their response. Despite less than successful efforts, i will now begin the same approach with monkfish in mind, because tonight, it blew my mind.

Christmas eve found me craving a fish stew, but i was too excited about the seven fish dinner of Sicilian tradition to change my plans; so i have been craving it ever since. Yesteday was the planned dinner date, until i got wind that we would be getting monkfish in today. I postponed, simply because most of the recipes i had come across listed (sometimes insisted) upon monkfish as the partner to shellfish. It was worth the wait. My goodness it was worth it.

I started by slowly creating a broth out of my garlic, onions, bay leafs, fennel seeds, chilis, and saffron, simmering in my home canned tomatoes, white wine, and bottled clam nectar (im afraid of whole clams since i horrible day lived after eating a bad one...). In went the monkish and some other seafoody additions to poach gently. Into an oversized coffee mug with a chunk of baguette, to the computer where i stopped what i was reading and began writing this because a spooned up peice of monkfish, i repeat, blew my mind.

It was so tender, it practically dissolved into tiny flakes in my mouth. It was magically sweet, as if defying the slightly spicy broth. It was not as i expected it to be. Once dubbed "poor mans lobster" (before it became common and therefore just as expensive as the comparable crustacean), i thought it would be large, dense bites of fish, firm and dare i say, i bit bland. Not at all. Quite the opposite. In fact, i dont know who termed it that, but i know it is worth every penny that any ol'lobster is. If you have not tried it, and you should be so lucky that your fishmonger has it, have it wrapped up for dinner. I promise you will not miss that salmon/halibut...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Sincerely, the grinch

A list, not of wishes to St. Nic, but of things i actually like about Christmas:

1) The excuse to make a variatable 10 cookie jars worth of my favorite baking...and to consume them all in less than a month

2) The excuse to refine and expand my cocktail knowledge

3) Sparkling wine

4) Cocktails made with sparkling wine

5) Once a year movies like "Love Actually," "The Family Stone," and "Home Alone."

6) Seeing my sister (and the rest of my family whom i have no excuse for not seeing the entire year round for living in the same city let alone province...)

7) A traditional Sicilian feast

"Feast of the seven fishes;" how Christmas eve is spent on the Italian island. Consciously Catholic, there is no meat eaten the night before Christmas, rather a banquet of pesce from antipasto, through ensalada and primi pastas, to the roasted whole entree. I can think of no greater meal to get through--i mean, celebrate-- this holiday.

And so i did--after all, this was no North American thanksgiving that i themed Italian, but their custom i gratefully celebrated here.

And how we celebrated. Working at the fish shop over the holidays helped in attaining 7 fishes--tuna tummy (a raw salad with salted capers) and a boiled lobster (the meat added to a spicy Fra Diavolo sauce for linguine) were "perks of the job" and much appreciated--the pasta made the menu for me. There were cocktails made from Fernet Branca and, yep, sparkling wine, because, hey, its Christmas. And then there were cookies, plenty of cookies, because, hey, its Christmas.

And because, hey, its Christmas, its time for traditions--this fishy feast is now mine, because, hey, it makes me actually enjoy this holiday.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Perfect for dipping

Im surprised to this day that Bonnie (the owner of the Round Street Cafe in Lethbridge and home of the best ginger molasses cookies both i and my ma have had before) gave me the recipe for said cookies. Just like that. No questions, just a list of ingredients. She must have known they would never be the same as those had in her heritage building coffee shop no matter how many times i baked them (which is only three--every Christmas since recieving the recipe). That they would never be as chewy and sweetly gingery as the winter my ma and i shared one (Bonnie makes them a size worthy of $1.25) on a break from Christmas shopping, ordering mugs of mint tea to dip . That tradition was started there too, and i dont think i could enjoy a gingersnap without wishing for a cuppa mint (i would still enjoy the cookie, i love cookies. but i d be wishing for the tea...). The ones i made tonight sure needed it.

The dough seemed very soft, so i baked some testers to see if i should chance adding a bit more flour. When they had completely cooled on the rack (id made and ate dinner, and wasted some time on the internet in the meantime) i decided i wanted them warm, and besides, they seemed a tad underbaked; so back on the tray and back into the oven they went. When i pulled them out for the second time, they were more than a tad over-baked--not yet burnt, but now falling into the ginger"snap" category. Enter mint tea. They were completely salvageble, with a bit of a bite from added candied ginger that Bonnie doesnt use. And though this year again they were not even close to the first one, five years ago, the mint and ginger, and Bonnies generosity, the memory of her peaceful little place, it rings in the Christmas season for me.

Happy holiday baking, everyone.

Thanksgiving! (again)

Given my last post, you would think i would have had an Italian inspired Thanksgiving. Let me tell you, it was a great exercise in restraint not to break out my saffron and olives and go full on Sicilian. But not this time.

Though i did not go full on American as i had planned to. There was no corn pudding, no oyster or andouille sausage stuffing, no cornbread, or baked yams (had there been yams at all, there would have been no pecans, and certainly no marshmallows, sorry...), there wasnt even turkey (greater sorry). So what was so "American" about my American thanksgiving? It wasnt Sicilian, i suppose.

Well, there were brussels sprouts with roasted garlic, a silky parsnip puree laced with malt vinegar (aha, a play on an idea i got from an American restaurant where the chips in their fish and chips are parsnip and they come with a malt vinegar aioli--a stellar combination), an un-stuffed stuffing of wild rice and quinoa with wild mushrooms, heirloom beans (the shelled kind, up in Canada here, string and pole beans are all done for the season) braised and saucy with wintry herbs, the last of my greens with a meyer lemon dressing. And pie. There was, of course, pumpkin pie.

And with this pie (in a hazelnut crust), came what i think may be my "pumpkin pie spice." I dont use a traditional blend when i m making pumpkin, anything, really. There was saffron in the one i made for my Italian Canadian Thanksgiving, and i ve roasted the squash with bay leaves to amp up the savoriness when making a bread or scone. This addition though, may be hard to deter from. I even made an excuse to use it again, roasting the last of my pumpkins to turn into butter, just to grind up this spice mix: mostly cinnamon, but generous with ginger and cardamom, a hint of clove, and, the newcomer, anise. I love the smoky licorice flavour this gives, even more stunning against the hazelnuts. I only wished there had been a slice for a traditional day-after breakfast.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Vicariously eating

I have not been that into sage for a long while now; a fragrant, full leaved bundle has stood in a water filled mason jar in my fridge for so long now that it drank all the water and proceeded to wilt. Yet i did not change the little handrawn icon under my side menu's "i cant get enough" display (this is assuming that you visit my blog enough to have noted the icons presense at all), despite such obvious lack of interest in the herb.

Finally, i changed the picture, and not to another herb, or veg, or food anything, really. More like a food everything. Note the map of Sicily. Stop reading if you have to, maybe scroll down a bit, yep, there it is. Sicily. Italy's little island of not-so-little-flavours. Flavours that i have been cooking with, and craving when i am not cooking with, for as long as it took for that once beautiful bouquet of sage to parch.

It goes without saying that i love Italian food, but Italian food re-defines itself regionally. To begin to descriptively explain this would exhaust me (and it does, as i read cookbooks and literature on the subject late at night, eating cheese and chestnut honey and drinking grigio not gris--or marsala, or grappa...--to feel like i might be there doing the same). One such read, a cookbook, begins with a breakdown of the different areas, their typical cuisine, dishes, ingredients, drinks...and i have made a mess of it. Meaning, i took a pen as a read, and circled that which i loved in each place, double circled what i really loved (etc with the number of circles and amount of love until tornado-esque etching), sometimes underlined, or made a rather large box, chicken-scratched such exclamations as "lovelovelove," and "thats for me," replete with the occasional heart. This was my way of choosing where i would most love to live should i, i mean, when i, oneday live in Italy. I knew it would be Sicily (i didnt know, it could be Sardinia...).

The influences of such boat-ride away places as Morocco and Spain have left their travelling footsteps in Sicilian flavour. Saffron, mint, dried fruits, flavoured waters made from rose blossoms and orange flowers--the abundance of citrus! The abundance of seafood! Swordfish! On land: sheep, and their cheese; real ricotta as i cannot make it here (even though i did again tonight with the best local milk i could get my hands on; still from a cow though). And lots of veggies: cauliflower, eggplant, zuchinni, tomatos, fennel...All things i not just love, but cannot get enough of lately. And as i cook with them, i imagine what it might like to be there. I imagine it smells of salt, the sea surrounding it. Tasting salt too: olives and capers. I imagine picking my own lemons, tasting an orange as i have never tasted it before. Buying fish fresh from the sea; sardines, anchovys, fresher than i have ever had them. Experiencing a real Cassata (not like my sad, but funny, attempt last Spring), after the ceremonious Easter feasts. Feeling a bit edgy in a place with such spicy food and spicy mafia history. Loving feeling edgy.

My "cant get enough" love of Sicily has brought me to go one step further on this blog, adding a page for menus, where (in the next couple of days, hold tight!) you can check out two (for now!) Sicilian inspired dinners, personal tweaks added to "research" (read: sleep deprived obsessive reading).

Check it out, try it out. Take a vicarious vacation.

I ask too, do you eat vicariously? Where would your dinners tell me you would most like to be?

Just me, and some meat (a second post)

So i have already written once tonight, but i feel like i need to tell someone this: tonight i ate meat.

Its not that i'm a vegetarian coming out of the closet; i'm not fessing up about sneaking some bacon. No, I am not a vegetarian (god love prosciutto and shortribs), nor am I a carnivore. I am not even much of an omnivore. I usually only eat meat with company, either cooking for or being cooked for, and really only if said company is insistent, but i find most audiences are open and/or oblivious to meats dinner table presense. Tonight however, their is no company, and i am very aware of my meaty dinner.

It wasnt even a butcher shop or deli inspired dinner (no shortribs, no prosciutto, respectively) but leftover, frozen, rabbit. Sounds good, right? Like the one meal you'd long to break a uncognizant meat-free streak with? Better than bacon? Well, it was.

This was leftover from Easters grand dinner (even better: frozen and aged! Stay with me...). Originally the rabbit was braised whole with olives and fennel; tonight, it was finished with the same, plus wine, coriander seeds, and golden raisins. With white beans on polenta, the last of my parsely for the season (a worthy goodbye dish), it was....well, meaty. And pleasantly so. And salty. And pleasantly so. So pleasant, its part of my new "menus" page--check it out! So pleasant i wish i had normal meat-eating-company to share it with. But i am happy to sahre the recipe:

You start with frozen shredded rabbit...

...maybe its best i'm alone.

Hope you all enjoyed your meaty (turkey-y?) holidays (those in America, at least); mine is tomorrow. But no turkey. No meat, actually. But i bet there will be pie.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Stay Golden

Every time that i eat a beet i think: f*** i love beets. In those words. In my head.

My kitchen mouth--well behaved with my recent "early retirement"--kicked into mental gear just now, eating a salad. Innocent, unassuming salad, and profanity. Neither the salad nor i was particularly shocked, however (no spritely arugula wilted at the curse), for this is a common occurance when i eat a beet.

It is not that i do not know what a beet tastes like; i have had them simply simmered to softness, roasted and caramelly, in several variations of soup (my favorites being Waterfront Wines' brothey version, and my own--toot toot--pureed with roasted tomatoes), as a bruschetta (a less pureed version of my soup...), fried as chips, as a cure for fish (Jamie Oliver has a version in his newest cookbook in case you are wondering what the hell i am talking about--oh, the profanity continues!) and mom's pickled ones. But for as many variations as there are for beet preparation, i rarely eat them. Probably because of the preparation. Probably because of the availability of such favorites as fennel, tomatoes, and cauliflower (all of which pair quite well with beets, i might add and make a mental note of...) at the same time as beets. It doesnt matter really, the fact is that i eat them so rarely, yet love them so much, that the flavour instantly ignites the same knee-jerk reaction that jerking one's knee into something hard/sharp/pointy quite forcefully would. A simple "mmmmm" (more whimper like in the latter) does not suffice. Its more of a where-have-you-been-all-my-life (oh-right:right-here-all-along-i-feel-silly-i-promise-to-eat-you-more-often) moment, even if i dont follow through with that promise.

Beets never fail to be unexpectedly sweet, while at the same time being deeply earthy; they are balanced alone, needing not a complimentary companion--though there are so many. Those friends of beets bring them to a different level, too, so they can be sweeter, or earthier, neutralize salt and citrus, pronounce spices like cumin, aniseed, and cinnamon, brighten heavy, creamy, cheeses, allow sharp goat cheeses to melt seductively against the beets richness. I like the golden ones best. Probably because they are yellow. Probably because tonight they were shaved into a salad of arugula, torn canned artichokes, and toasted hazelnuts, and i ate one for the first time in so long that i had a moment. I apologize if i offended anyone, but seriously, they were so f'in good.

Beets winter over, too. In fact, this guy tonight, was from this summers last harvest--months ago. But it was still just as bright, in color and flavour--like my language.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tonight, i may have eaten glue...

....and it was not the worst thing i have ever made for dinner.

The story goes that in moving i broke two little plates, my favorite bowl, and a coffee mug that i never use but felt sorry for with its amputated handle. I resolved to fix these special dishes with a little patience and a lot of non-toxic glue. Emphasize the non-toxic, because once all was said and solid again, i set to use my re-newed dinnerware. Especially the favorite bowl, which housed tonights dinner of Sicilian style roast cauliflower (not local, but a "souvenier" if you will, from my trip to Red Deer--not local there the only one judging me...back to the glue story) with chickpeas. Piping hot, thats how i like it. And how i did like it; no matter where that cauliflower came from, tonights dinner was tasty, and i neared the bottom of the bowl pretty darn quick. Not quick enough, however, for the heat to melt the glue on the bowl, and it pulled up in strings that i, immersed in cookbooks showcasing other tasty looking dishes, plainly took to be melted cheese until i realized that i didnt put any cheese on my cauliflower, and that the strings were in fact glue, and that i may have, in fact, eaten some. Anchovies mask the flavour to most things, i suppose.

Just a short, silly, story to share.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A postcard from home to my "holiday"

Some people head south for the winter (one of my bosses is in Mexico; my landlords are living in their trailer in Arizona); it is vacation here in the Okanagan, people searching for a week or two of sunshine somewhere else than our own paradise, before the gloomy grey sets in. When we closed for the season, I followed suit, and booked a flight. To Red Deer, Alberta.

Was it the pamperous and relaxing all inclusive vacation of someone in desperate need of pampering and relaxations needs, the perfect adventure to satisfy my craving for escape, or the epitomy of food journies? No--it was so much more.

I caught a seat sale the very night i snuck a thought at my sister, Jeanine, that i come visit. It just so happened that she only had class on the day i would arrive (she is in her last year of Nursing studies, compassionate smarty she is), the other morning it was cancelled. So we would have solid days together, and as she said: I would get to see her life. Just as she did mine this summer.

And what a beautiful life it is. Her roomate, Amandha, and her parents are more than i could ask for as a stand in family with me and ma all the way over here in BC now. They made me feel like family too, loving me like they love Jeanine. Her friends too. It all felt very natural, slipping into her day to day (sans stressful classes and hectic hospital scenes); no agenda, just being in eachothers moments. We talked, laughed, did yoga, drank alot of wine with alot of fabulous people (unknowingly responsible for so much happiness and security, so much so needed). And they let me cook for them.

Goodness i love cooking for people who love eating. It was far more fulfilling than any of the glamorous holidays i may have escaped to. This was no escape at all, but rather being in the presense of a hell of alot of well fed love (and well stretched; even Amandhas folks joined us for pre-dinner yoga). They thought asking me might be a bit rude being that it was my holiday, but, really, i was going to insist. That is where i am most at peace, sauteeing garlic and onions, making a meal surrounded by a family of friends loving the wine, talking, laughing, asking questions about the food that they are also loving. That is the fulfillment of being a chef, what i miss so much cooking behind the line: the noted satisfaction. Its inspiring too, keeps you going--as I so needed. Just like a holiday is supposed to do, and we kinda did travel: Moroccan the first night, Italian the second, Mexican the third.

I didnt cook the last night. After conquering a climb in Canmore with Johnny (still had to sneak in the adventure...), the two of us and my sis had dinner in Calgary before i flew home. It had been 4 years-ish since we had seen eachother, and to me, it felt like life may have happened for both of us, but no time really passed between. The two people in that truck with me that last day mean more to me than they can know; true friends who gave me a solace no amount of sunbathing and free-cocktailing could have. Things felt right there, the whole vacation felt pressure-less, fell so beautifully into place, unrushed, no expectations, exceeding anything i could have expected.

Home now, i only cannot wait for my next "holiday."

Thanks everyone. Wish you were here.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Earl grey oats with a buttload of honey

Perhaps you have someone like this in your life; from a life long ago, and though only by a random message every so not-so-often, remains a part of your present life--and hugely. Because when these messages come, you are so refueled with life that you wonder why this person isnt more constant. Its someone who changed you once upon a time, simply by being a person so amazing that, in simply caring about you changed you. And the inconstant only seems to make them that much more special. That person for me is Johnny.

I dont know where to begin in explaining Johnnys amazingness (in this case, that is a real word, because not even Websters Thesaurus has enough synonyms for amazing to describe him, so ive opted for a fake word to lend justice whilst cheating the English system...bear with me. No wait: "epic," its Johnnys way of describing what i am having a hard time doing). When i met JKo (as Johnny Korthius is well-known) he was bartending where i waitressed in Lethbridge, AB. At that time, his smile was horribly intimidating, as i was horribly shy. Then i jumped out of my shell (horrifying) and started a friendship. He came and taught a grade one lesson about trees (he is, now, a certified arborist) to the class i was doing my teaching practicum in (like i said, from another life...), both of us sharing, with over twenty little chillins who were as fond of Johnny as i still am, a part of our lives that meant something to us. And that was pretty big, i think, for either of us. And meant something to both of us.

For me that time has passed (cook not teacher, right?), but Johnny now has his own arborist company, as well as an adventure tours company complete with a wicked bus that i just learned about from him last night. Not surprising though, as the dude grabs life in a--ironic term, but...--death grip and uses all of his many talents. In the short time that we were physically in eachothers lives in Lethbridge, Johnny went from taking dance classes and dropping in on gymnastics to gain balance as a mountain biker, to teaching both. Later on he was modelling. Skydiving. Rockclimbing. In Australia. And now, running two companies and fueling the world with his undying energy.

I simply sit back in awe, for the most part. Until i cant take it anymore and have to have a bit of him in my life. So i simply drink earl grey tea with a buttload of honey (what he would order when we went for late night/early morning tim hortons after work) and think fondly. Sometimes i send him a message just to see where hes at, or let him know i m thinking of him. And, even better, he sometimes sends me one for the same reason.

I bring this up because this Friday it wont just be a message from Johnny; i get to see him. I leave tomorrow to visit my sister in AB, and couldnt help but tell Johnny i d be in the province, not really expecting him to be there too (we also have a history of not crossing eachothers paths when in eachothers typical paths). But he is. And we are going hiking. Extreme hiking. Extreme Johnny. Extremely happy.

This is someone who gave me a new energy once, and confidence. And continues to do so whether he is full on here, or not at all. Hes just a beatiful person who gave me a beautiful sense of self. And a love of earl grey tea. So much so that i stirred a ripped tea bag into my oats this morning with apple slices and a buttload of creamed honey. Try it, its epic, and think of that person who may not be there day to day, but is so there day to day.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

(unnecessary) event(s) of the season(s)

Dinner is always an event for me. I use the hyperbole "always" with no disrespect here; as a past life English major, i understand the archtype is hastened to be used, but trust me: i exaggerate not, dinner is always an event for me (even if it means peanut butter toast--its crusty bread with melty nut butter sprinkled with salt that i have been looking forward to all day (all, not another hyperbole, but an accurate measure of time that seriously got me through the day to the moment i ate, still standing, said melty PB--no J,this is dinner after all).

Take today for example: my ma and my aunt sue pulled up late morning with the futon to replace the bed in my new 30 foot square (actual hyperbolic exaggeration here...) home. To thank and repay them for providing me with something to sleep and sit on, and in doing so providing ample dancing floor space as well, i made lunch: roti, pumkin red lentil hummous, minted tomato salad, cumin laced baked eggs, eggplant za'atar, crumbled feta. A feast. At 2:00pm. Followed by an apple and some sad looking plums that i kinda felt bad for...

Dinner happened around 8:30 pm, when i actually felt hungry again. And yet i couldnt just have a little something something snack; no, it was dinner: an event.

The rest of the eggplant (it needed to be used, its fall for crying out loud, eggplant is long done...) roasted hot, charred with plenty of garlic. One of the too many squash (tis the season to be far to devoted to cooking and eating squash in one form or another; quite insistant in this case....) on my newly refurbished suite floor was in the oven with just as much garlic, plus some chilis. The two were later combined with some of the last parsley i will see for a long time, fresh walnuts that i had spent the better part of my day raking up and de-husk(?)-ing (is that what its called? that green capsule surrounding an unshelled walnut? whatever it is, the black underneath makes on hell of a mess), and the last of the feta, all on top of even more garlicky bulgar wheat. Add some chickpeas and you've got a dinner that was just too much. The eggplant thanks me for using it up, but my stomach does not.

I suppose the act of cooking is what i most desired, not the act of eating. Just as all summer long i desired that same act, as if it were the one thing that proved i was still taking care of myself, when all i really wanted was a PB sandwich (still toasted, the least of efforts i could put in), eaten in bed, perhaps finding half of it uneaten the next morning...

Really, what would have been taking care of myself would have been getting that extra bit of sleep time. And really, what an event it would be, now, even with all the seasons end free time actually having just a peanut butter sandwich for dinner. With wine. Toasted, cause its cold out there now.


ps: im madly in love with the new Feist album, "Metals," particularly the song "Comfort Me." Perhaps ironic considering this post. Too ironic.

pps: J is sometimes dessert. By the spoonful. Ok, actually, i prefer honey. And i would eat that--by the spoonful--any time of day.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

a letter of thanks for a dinner to be thankful for

Lately i have been right obsessed with Thanksgiving. Nevermind that the Canadian holiday was three weeks ago and that tomorrow is a whole different holiday entirely (and i get pretty into that one too; pumpkin ale and molasses candies ready and waiting, black and orange dinner planned), i am but halfway from the next one. Yes, i love Thanksgiving so much that i even celebrate with our neighbors to the south. I may even go creamed-corn, full on traditional this year; normally i celebrate American tg, in Canada, with a dinner inspired by somewhere else in the world (think chicken tagine instead of turkey, pumpkin halva rather than pie) . I have a month to decide, however, though it seems that until then i am thoroughly preoccupied with that style of dinner: a main dish surrounded by sides, dessert(s). This may be custom rather than a once-a-year way of feasting (simply feeding, rather), but for me and my tendency toward something in one pot and a big ol salad, maybe some olives while i cook, its quite a change--though i must say it is helping deal with the "harvest" in my refridgerator.
And i am quite enjoying it. So much so, that i had to give thanks via email to someone who inspired such a dinner on such a weekend that was no such of a holiday, but full of good eating anyways. Thought i would share this letter and extend the invitation to have a dinner to truly be thankful for, even if it is only, say, wednesday.
jon--i have to tell you about my dinner: honestly, i wasnt too stoked about hali cheeks this morning (ive been loving and craving oilier fish, something fatty for the cold seasons; halibut means summer to me, and i had a summer full of it, and salmon too, but i dont think i will ever tire of salmon--how patriotic of me--, and cannot wait much longer for its fall/winter stand-ins: char and trout; god i love trout. this bracket is turning into quite the tangent. back on track now...), but i thought, if Jon says theyre top drawer, than they are top drawer and you better just damn well get some. and they were top drawer. or top notch as we say far to often at the restaurant. another story, another time; not another tangent.
First i slow roasted thick slices of some of the last glut of the farms heirloom tomatos with garlic, onions, and saffron--oh, and some little little potatoes that were dug up with big big potatoes. When they were bubbling away and beginning to look all caramelly and smelling like seduction (sorry, food gets me going...), i put them into a warmed bowl and reduced the juices to a thick sauce. Hot sear on the cheeks, on top of the tomatoes, sauce. This was the center of a sicilian inspired dinner with a shaved fennel and chickpea salad, and some thin leeks (also the last of the farms; also of which i have a glut, do you like leeks?) cooked slowly in oil with artichokes and tossed in the last hot second with mint and parsely.
im pretty happy with those cheeks.
Thanks. tiff

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Half willingly, half winningly

ive told you before, and i will insist upon it again: cooking competitions are not my thing. For a few reasons, really:

- i cant stand people watching me, it makes me claustrophobic
- i cook to de-stress...not visa versa

ok, so that is only two reasons, but they seem sufficient enough explanation for why i am not shooting to be on Iron Chef one day. Yet tonight i found myself competing; half willingly (to make a long story short), and half enjoyably (to be honest).

The comp was for Junior Chefs (a category i will fit into for the next 3 months...), put on by Alexis de Portneuf cheeses as part of Okanagan Fall Wine Fest. The task: create a plate that showcases one or more of three of AdP's cheeses, paired with a local wine. Chef judges, 150 people voting for popular choice, me with an insistance on doing a dessert.

Risky business to begin with, as each of the three cheeses (an ash-rind goat, crumbly yet soft blue, and --my choice--wash rind brie style) are horribly pungent (ok, pleasantly--but adamantly--pungent). But i made it work. Enough to win second place, at least.

i will save you the details of the competition, save only to say that i made carrot cake, and that i was damn proud of it.

Really, it was great; a chance to express myself creatively and put myself into a dish, to witness peoples content and enjoyment from my little cake (the first thing i missed, and still so do, once i began cooking for strangers behind kitchen doors), to feel the energy of that room of people who love food, reminding me without intent, that i do too. And hey, they loved my food...bonus.

So i am tired and hungry (you dont have a chance, really, to try your competitors dishes whilst plating your own), but feeling so damn happy about the whole thing and how not a disaster it was. Didnt hyperventalate once. Doesnt mean i will do it least not more than half willingly.

And the remaining carrot cakes: dinner. Wine paired. Winner.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

One for the books

I have wanted to write a cookbook ever since i started to legitemately (read: get paid for) cook. For nearly four years now, i have scrawled down what i am eating for dinner so that it might be transformed into my own recipe in what i hope will be an epic collection. So far these food stained bits of paper have made it into an also food stained manila tag envelope marked "for cookbook." And there they have sat for nearly four years. The food stains are no longer identifiable.

So this year, i decided to change tactic, inspired by Nigel Slaters brilliant "Kitchen Diaries." I would record each day/night, good/bad what i cooked/ate, into the very body (a petit hardcover journal) of my "cookbook." It would be a seasonal log of the year replete with sketches and anecdotes, and best of all, the journalistic devotion would help find this since dreamed of book complete by the beginning of the next quattro of seasons. Not quite. Not at all, actually. In fact, now there is only a new collection of food stained scraps of paper. The only difference is that these ones have dates, so that someday they may be placed in some sort of logical order as if recorded as happened.

"Someday," indeed. There will be a someday, i am sure. And perhaps some of those scrawls, however long ago, will be included. At least this one will be (and food stain free):

Zuchinni (sorta) Carbonara

My ma told me that someone told her that if you, gardenless, do not end up eating some free zuchinni at least once all summer, then you have no friends. Harsh, it seems, but for anyone who has ever rang a doorbell and ran like hell, leaving a box of rather large zuchinni on someones front step, you know how generous the season can be. One of my favorite ways to deal with the abundance:

In a large pan, gently soften:
1/2 spanish onion, small dice
2 large cloves garlic, minced

Add and saute:
2 cups thinly sliced zuchinni (use the mandolin--its easy peasy)
generous pinch of dried chili flakes
even more generous pinch of sea salt

Meanwhile, boil enough pasta, preferably a long noodle like linguine, but if you live for penne, go for it, for four. Toss aldente pasta with the tender zucchi and a good handful of chopped Italian parsley. Splash in some white wine, and continue cooking pasta for just a minute or so. Crack four eggs over the lot, and toss to cook completely. Drizzle with gentle extar virg olive oil, and a hefty grating of parm or pecorino. Breakfast or dinner. Or immediately after the drop-and-dash-doorbell...

ps: i call this "sorta" carbonara, because the chefs i staged with in van would scoff at this for too many reasons to list here. Primarily, the lack of smoked pork and use of the whole egg. In my defense, this recipe was created, like too many others, for a post work, 1030 ish, starving for comfort and nutrition, plus just plain starving, dinner. So it is not authentic, but damn is it tasty.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Chef once told me he loves to ask potential employees what they love to cook most; loves, that is, to watch them debate uncomfortably for the answer that he might want: something complex? credible? German? Without hesitation, i answered "bread" (to which he replied, laughing, "well, wrong place for you then, not happening").
So i bake bread on my days off, because it truly is the most enjoyable thing for me to create (risotto is a close second; it forces me to slow down, and softening garlic and onions is pure therapy). Today was a day off. And i baked bread.
It is not just something i do for kicks though, I am forever intrigued and frusterated with bread baking. The more i learn and understand, the more i hate to fail. And fail i do; my gosh do i fail. A number (any number, you choose, i cant bring myself to count) of loaves have been near inedible, yet eaten in spite, dense, burnt, off-ly sour, spongy, crust so thick your knife bends...but then there are the loaves that work. That rise dome like and have craterish holes in a solid crumb and crisp crust. Chewy, sour, rippable. Bread dreams are made of.
Tonights bread was not dream-worthy. Nor was it a nightmare. An unpleasant dream perhaps, the type you half remember, and even though you woke disconcerted from it, you still want to remember the details. Anyways, i know what went wrong, and that to me, is as satisfying as it is frusterating as a perfect loaf.
I overproofed the dough on the second rise. Following too closely to the directions and ignoring my gut feeling and experience, i let it go for an hour after i felt it was in need of retarding. And although it still rose perfectly, the inside was coarse, the holes like that of a sponge, instead of the type you can peer through that i love. Texture wise, it was horribly disappointing, especially after a day devoted to it; especially especially since i knew i was messing it up when i began to mess it up. Taste wise, however, it was perfect. I made it from a new culture, one that called for rhubarb and yogurt (from "beyond nose to tail"), and the tang, which was like a brief but very noticable prick from a pin, came almost as an afterthought. Like it was saying: hey betcha thought i was just bread. Well, surprise, i am a wild yeast sourdough with a lousy crumb. And i love him because of it.
It was still therapy, just like making many pots of shitty risotto was relaxing and enjoyable. Theres always toast.

Friday, May 13, 2011


One of the worst things about this past winter in Van was missing the year-round farmers market. Last season in Kelowna, i swear i lived off of stored root vegetables (so many carrots...) yet never tired of them. More rutabaga was consumed in three months than in my entire life until then. In five years i had missed maybe three market days, if that, and working at the Kelowna one last year solidified my devotion. Vancouver filled me up with California, and i immediately took up my cheaters version (there's a few self-allowed exceptions: we cant grow coffee here, after all, but we do roast a mean bean) of the 100 mile diet, and the farmers market would be, again, my grocery shop for the week. Except this saturday.
Or perhaps all saturdays for the rest of the spring/summer/fall. Why, after just moving home to the provinces largest outdoor market, would i give it up so soon? Because i have to pick lettuce. At five thirty in the morning. At the farm that will eventually be mine. Because i have to show that i am devoted to the farm where i will pick my lettuce one day and many many days to come. It will be hard. I may even try to head there after three hours of picking greens. I will have to, eventually, for the heirloom beans that we dont grow. And honey. And pluots. Oh goodness, jsut wait for the pluots! I will definately go for the pluots. And probably much more.
I will definately not be going tomorrow, and i will certainly miss it. I love the feeling there as much as the seasonally contributed produce, love my market basket, and the early morning start. But tomorrow i need to sow my devotion, and weed instead of shop, plant instead of visit; need to make the farming life my life. And go into town on wednesday to get more honey.

Friday, April 22, 2011

This time of year

Today, i am celebrating. Odd, it may seem, as coming from a Catholic fam i should be greiving this "good friday" (or at least that ridiculously long mass) but, with a much less religious present self, im cheering for Earth Day. And Spring. Well, "spring."

It has been bitterly cold the last week, not just cold, but snowing, in APRIL. Snowing so hard yesterday, i could hardly see on my bike ride down the hill to work. But today, miraculously--tis another holiday for miracles, befittingly--the sun came out full force. And i planted.

Peas, fava beans and sunchokes are in, my rhubarb plant has been transplanted; much of the same was eaten from last years frozen stash for dinner. And fish--for good measure this good friday.

Sunday, i celebrate easter the way i do best...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Breaking the rules

What i (also) love about my restaurant stage is that the food mentalities i possess only out of sheer devotion to Italian mentality moreso than from actual experience, are adhered to passionately and without question. No cheese with fish. Not even anchovies. Ever. Breadcrumbs are put on the linguine vongole to dissuade people from asking for parm as a finishing touch. Carbonara is sacred. Bacon and eggs; lots of pepper; parm. No peas, no garlic, no artsy make-it-new-ed-ness. Keep it simple. Any more than four ingredients (especially in a pasta) just takes away from flavours that are beautiful on their own, or with a good solid lover. The last is something that i try (and love, respectfully) the most. My favorite flavour combinations are really trifold or less: peas, sage, pecorino; cauliflower, garlic, olives; fish, parsley, lemon; flour, water, salt (ok, thats bread...). Yet as much as i adhere to simplicity, enjoy it, sometimes i struggle with it. or at least i think i do. What i am realizing though, is that certain things are not ingredients at all, part of creating a dish, but not directly part of the dish. They dont "complicate" flavours, rather, create or accentuate them. For example, salt. You wouldnt say: "i had the tastiest pasta of peas, sage, sheeps cheese, and salt. Its not really an ingredient (except in the case of bread...), it is just there, unassemptive and certainly not complicated. For an even more succinct example (or two) how about wine, stock, or lemon (im addicted to lemon, i would sooner add it to things than salt; it certainly goes with anything fish that i make--another italian rule i follow religiously); or just because salsa verde contains four to six different herbs plus garlic and maybe even capers (certainly salt and lemon) doesnt make it complicated. It is simly salsa verde: green sauce. Simple simple. Herbs are simple simple. Garlic, chilis, oil, sel again, liquids: simple simple. Not breaking any rules. So tonight maybe i didnt break the rules. Instead of lemon and oil dressed calamari with peas, turnips, cauliflower, sunchokes, artichokes, garlic and olives on buttermilk polenta with sage, garlic chives, and parsely, all with salt and a bit of wine, i had calamari and spring veg on polenta. Simple. Flavourful. Not topped with cheese.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

hardly un-perfect

Do you know what was perfect about today? How imperfect it was. Or rather, how content i was despite its imperfections: i was quite ok with having to rush through breakfast--hardly perfect (slightly burnt) ricotta hotcakes--only to find that the clouds had opened up in the two and a half minutes it took me to unlock my bike, and closed up again two and a half blocks from my destination. there wasnt alot to learn at my stage today...nono,actually, there is always alot to learn and see and practice, just this time it was more observation while peeling peppers and washing lettuce, only to leave when the real excitement of a very busy service started. i was leaving, hurriedly to a lecture. I was late, but was worth the sweaty effort and missed line action to hear Elizabeth Gilberts speech. Although her humour was someone predictable ( i see it rather as a shared train of thought), her date in Vancouver coincides ironically in so many chance-iful ways with my desperate need to travel, get over love and into it again, to seize the moment, to reconnect with myself, to eat like i am in Italy. And to re-involve myself with my relationship with writing--the topic of her lecture... The ride home, where it started raining again, but i realized i had had probably the most wonderful day in this f**in city (how i have come to refer to this place) yet; unplanned, unforseen, and certainly un-perfect. it did end however, with a nearly perfect vongole--actually... perfect, to me, and the sense that i am learning something about cooking, more about myself. And eating like an Italian.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A saturday for life

When i first moved to Vancouver, i was going to the Coquitlam Farmers' Market every Sunday.

The produce was unreal--the shiniest, firmest, slender yet voluptuous eggplant i had ever seen; generous heads of cauliflower; loosely bundled radiccio treviso--not available at my (now) much missed Kelowna market. Then, with the arrival of the cold, this market, closed for the season; the winter market replaced it and the many other markets around the city, so all was not lost. Except that this new conglomerate market was on Saturdays. I worked Saturdays. Every Saturday. For the first time in five years, i missed my weekly Farmers' Market visit. But not this week.

This Saturday i did not work until one. Plenty of time to hit the market at its opening hour of ten (i swear, either Vancouver sleeps in, or Kelowna is populated by early risers, because even grocery stores here open one to a couple of hours earlier than home.), and see just what i had been missing.


The last of winter and the beginning of spring were there for sale. I wont get into too many descriptive details (enough was said in calling eggplant "slender and voluptuous" i think) i only want to say that this was my favorite day in Vancouver so far. Going to and coming back excited from that market, making breakfast with the garlic chives i had scored, and now dinner with the sorrel and goats cheese, feels routine. Complete. Part of how i live my life--or at least how i have for the last five years. And for the first time since coming here, i feel at home in this rainy, sleeping-in, city. And just in time to leave...well, after next Saturdays market.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Whats in a yolk?

My "vacation" is coming to an end. Tomorrow morning i head back to Vancouver--hopefully not to rain, because i packed quite optimistically with skirts and not enough pairs of socks. It has been a full and wonderful week of visits; lots of hugs and a restocking of Gray Monk wine. I really did manage to see most all of my favorite people in all of my favorite places: grandma date to Mosaic Books; milk and meyer lemons (my last non-local purchase--more later) from Helen; the afformentioned wine from lovely Jen; Willy and Rene always so happy pre-season; conquering Knox with Jessy; my first farmers market in way to long (see above about non-localness...) and my family of vendors; tea and chaos with Cheffrey and Michelle and their kiddos and now pooch; Monika and her NEW WOOD OVEN bread--thanks lady!; missed Jon at the fish shop, but left a love note; and finally Tom and the farm and my home and how good and real and safe and sure it all feels. All that, plus two dozen farm fresh eggs. Make that one dozen. Getting organized to leave (read: realizing i am hauling a silly amount of stuff back to Van, only to likely bring it all back and more in two weeks), i came to the shocking realization that in just four days i have eaten ten eggs. Ten. That is more than two a day, which according to my uncle is just fine (two a day fried in butter with buttered toast and bacon is routine); not so to most health gurus. Now i love eggs. Love. If i were a guest columnist in Donna Hays magazine filling in that little questionaire (if you dont know what i am talking about, go buy an issue, be inspired by its lovely simplicity) eggs would be one of my "always in your supermarket trolley" ingredients. One of my five foods to bring to a desert Island. Most of my go to dinners use them. I would go so far as to say that poached eggs are my ultimate comfort food. Poached egg. Usually jsut one is enough, so really i dont know how ten disappeared. Hmmmm: I made a double pasta recipe (theres 2); rhubarb curd (two more, plus two yolks--hey the whites are still in the fridge, so it is really like nine eggs gone...); carbonara with peas for dinner (one); poached at breakfast (one more); poached at breakfast again (that makes ten) there you go. Should i be worried about cholesterol. Probably not. In fact, i am not. I am jsut kind of sad that they are gone. These eggs are truly amazing: the yolks are so deep yellow they are orange. They are what a recipe is referring to when it calls for "large eggs." They are rich tasting, with pudding'y texture. And only three bucks a dozen. Thank goodness i bought two. Or maybe for my heart, not so much... Its hard not to disguise that i am feeling a bit guilty about my recent oueff consumption. Why? Is it because i know about cholesterol (thank you very much health gurus) and how if i really want to "enjoy" eggs, i should use the whites as they are protein rich and it is the yolk that is the HDL threat (but it is the yolk that is so tasty, so "enjoy" becomes really oxymoronic). Besides, there are so many worse things i could be eating. Besides, again, didnt eggs used ot be the "complete protein" that nutritionists compared all other proteins to when developing their silly diet rules and tables? Used to...i know that much too. Anyways, thats not it. I am feeling guilty because just a week ago, at breakfast with my aunt i revealed that i had had poached eggs every day the previous week, to which she responded: "that cant be too good for you, can it." It stuck. You know when someone says something casually and off handedly, with no bad intentions, i am sure? For example, my ma once said told me red really washes me out. She didnt mean i looked bad, just that my fair skin was all that more fair against a red sweater. I think about that everytime i put on my red cardigan, but i put it on all the same. Then i look in the mirror and think, I dont look washed out, silly ma. So i am going to go poach an egg now, just so i can say, this is the best thing for me, silly aunt. Make that eleven eggs in four days. And another thing to look forward to having again when i am home for good.

Friday, March 25, 2011


The last few days, the moment i put on my jacket, i am sweatedly overdressed. My wool coat is just too much for the insta-spring of the Okanagan, and i couldnt be happier for it. Coming home this week for my dog-sitting "vacation" before returning for ten days to Van and then moving back for good (oh--its so good), i expected to need my mitts and toque and the well-lived in longjohns of winter, perhaps a sweater under my coat, definately no skirts as i had been doning in Van...definately wrong. It is beautiful here; the only snow left is way up on those mountains, and the sun actually shone in a way that made it feel so right to be back. That this was the perfect moment for transition home.
My kitchen transition (im giggling at the rhyme here...) is a little slower to adapt. Now, even more so than ever, i am craving winter squash. I want to roast a big ol'kabocha but make it light and delicate for spring. How silly; all winter long i have waited to dig that bag of peas out of my mini-deepfreeze, hibernating as they were until i came home to devour them just in time for the next seasons harvest with spring-y flavours like new chives and parsely, ricotta cheese and poached eggs--instead, i am all about the sage. And potatos before there are new ones. Old potatos to go with old peas. To ring in the new?
Really though, i am as Spring as Spring chickens come. i live for this regrowth season, and the weather is telling me it is here, loud and proud as the robins and runoff. Chives and parsely are sprouting (at least in Van) and i crave sage?? Woodsy, strong, comforting on roasted meats sage? I have cubes of frozen parsely puree (sounds delicious, i know) in that same freezer with the peas, but freshness just wont do. It seems my cravings are also transitioning.
And really, the marraige of sweet peas and earthy sage is so lovely. So lovely, in fact, that i will probably continue to eat it in the real freshness of Spring, when peas, parsely, rhubarb, and garlic scapes are coming out of the ground not my frozen storage (the latter, not a good idea to freeze by the way; thing chewy...really chewy). With some artichokes from Van, all part of the transition...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Close call

im free. Done at "that place" in Vancouver--sadly done at "that lovely place" in Vancouver--but not quite done with that city Vancouver thanks to this place.

For the next week, though, i am. Until my aunt and uncle and their kids return from Mexico, i get to have my own vacation in their home in the fabulous town of Vernon BC, all meals somewhat included, drinks--including water (they left the cooler empty, can you imagine?...) definately not, views of 38th ave and a pre-season un-flourishing backyard garden, all for the fantastic price of dog sitting. Actually a real deal. i love that dog, and i love being closer to home...alone. Which translates to: the kitchen is mine at any time.

Living with the other aunt i lived with in Van (without saying anything incriminating or hurtful via the world wide web), i was forced to cook on a schedule that would a) be done and cleaned up before she arrived home in the afternoon, or b) waited until she was finished her own dinner preparation, eating, and cleaning up from, and left immaculate before even thinking of taking a bite of my own supper. i never quite nailed that immaculate part though...

So it is quite a repreive to have a kitchen all to myself. My breakfast dishes didnt get done until two. Granted I didnt eat breakfast until nearly noon, and lingered over the paper and crossword, even making another stovetop espresso, it was still intentionally vacationy to leave the egg poaching pot and empty cereal container unwashed while eating. Like i implied though, this is not an all inclusive stay: that egg was mine, the cereal too, oh, and the coffee. Plus, i am dangerously drinking tap water, might i mention again (and Vernons source has infected me awfully--debilitatingly and not lovely to share actually-before).

Tonight though, i almost had to borrow, and not a cup of sugar. Something much worse. Are you ready? ...chopped garlic. Y'know that stuff that comes already minced in jar? Yeah, that stuff. I am sure some of you, probably alot of you out there use it, and to each his own. But there are a few of you, i am also sure, that are as creeped out by it as i am. It is almost yellow, for one, and doesnt seem to oxidize like "real garlic," nor even go rancidly bad after years and years of hanging out with the other odd condiments at the ready in your fridge. I cant bring myself to touch the stuff, yet tonight, i almost did.

I bought some garlic before coming here, just in case. It is one of my staples, so i picked up a head for my week of cooking at any time i pleased. i used it last night, when i rolled in after ten, unloaded my car, showered, then decided midnight was the perfect time to roast some artichokes for dinner. Tonight though, i couldnt find it. Anywhere. Not out of the way on the windowsill above where i had previously minced; not in with the cheese, the last thing to be put away; not behind, or even in, the toaster (hey, you never know, it is not as though the cluster of cloves was ginormous). And tonight i was cooking cauliflower for some pasta, and i needed it. i needed any garlic, even odd colored, work-done-for-you odd garlic in a jug. But like i said, it was a close call. I found my fresh garlic in the box with my olive oils and salt, logically stored for the rest of the week.

i really, was though, so preturbed by having to even open that jar. i mean, i even thought of writing about it (i know, technically i am, but with quite a different story), thinking i would title this post "last resort." i actually like that title better, kind of a pun, as this is hardly the resort my family is at right now...

Honestly though, coming from where i came, this is the best resort i could possibly imagine. And not even weird garlic could change that. Pampered has a whole new dinner-whenever-dishes-even-later meaning.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

pieces of cakes and confidence.

Today I baked cakes. Two. For people other than friends and family. Definately for more people than myself. For customers:people who paid for the cake i made. And they were lovely.
More lovely though, was the someone who had the confidence in me to let me bake those two lovely cakes. And pulling through--that was lovely too.
And eating said cakes--also quite lovely.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Its where i belong

Im dutch. You know it, I know it, my family is quite proud to know it and make sure other people know it. But i will say it again (and probably several--many--more times to come): im more Italian than anything.
Even more Italian than i am Canadian. Gasp! Where is my sense of patriotism? Sadly, it left with the addition of pineapple to thick crust pizzas and remains only in my devotion to proper winter wear, toques, scarves, mittens et al. It left with bacon, yes, bacon; which translates to i am not really a big fan of pancetta, at all... just dont tell my Italian "kin".
There are plenty of other uses of pork, however, that i love; that keep me from becoming a vegetarian. And the Italians, they know pig. They use the whole damn thing. Nose to tail and all the shrapnel in between the goods in between. And i saw it get put to use tonight.
I found my little Italy. My consellation- Italy- for- my- one- and- a- half- loss- at- real- Italy Italy. La Quercia, where, finally, i have entered the kitchen. Bad enough that it took my October last year to my birthday this past week to eat there, but i left staging there until my last mere minutes in this city. All the more reason to make every minute count.
And eat as much as possible. And by much i mean meat. Oh goodness all the meat tonight (including pancetta). Every thing that was cooked was offered to taste and then some. I even drank pasta cooking water to note the salt level (high by the way; shockingly high but for good reason).
Why i left this until now, i do not know. Why i didnt spend my whole winter here...oh how things may have been different, so different. Better late than never, though, and i plan to use and thoroughly appreciate my time there as best i can before going back to reality, and working on making actual Italy a reality.
This is like a whole new mini adventure, and i will be posting my learnings and exaggerated love for Italy, for La Quercia in general for the next week or so (possibly longer, but then it will be more I miss than i learned). More on tonight later, i have Marsala and dessert to enjoy.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Are we there yet?

The groundhog not seeing his shadow, and even more technically than that, 2011 not being a leap year and something to do with Earths proximity to the sun and universal rotation something something (i read this somewhere legitimatley reliable and far better explained, i swear) means that spring is on its way sooner than later and i could not be happier.

Nor could i be more impatient. The weather here in Vancouver has been a tease: sunny and warm, sunny and cold, gray and warm, gray and cold, unusually without rain and then out of nowhere and belatedly christmasy, feet of snow. The randomness of it all has me changing my spring optimism as often as i am forced to change my shoes.

Springs official arrival means alot more to me this year than warmer weather (socklessness and skirts), peas and rhubarb--theres also garlic scapes, sorrel, rapini, salad greens, and herbs...i am half kidding here. In all seriousness, though, i miss fresh food; local food. Even frozen local food stowed for winter in my inaccessible kelowna freezer. Here in Vancouver i havent been able to make the farmers market for work, and i miss that shopping desperately. Please, add in some dramatic sighs and tones of longing here, because really, nothing would calm my soul more than celeriac and rutabaga from the Vernon market. Thats right, rutabaga, or swede; that is what my heart longs for. Such simple things to love and miss.

And to look forward to. Because it is coming, just ask the groundhog. Soon i will be moving home for spring planting. For opening the restaurant. For reunions that begin with "i cant believe the whole winter has passed." Oh i long to say that: "i cant believe winter is over...thank god." I feel like an impatient child strapped into the backseat of the car, forced to sit still until at least the next bathroom break, growing increasingly restless as the stack of archie comics gets worked through and the snacks stale and dwindle. ArewethereyetArewethereyetArewethereyet?????? how bout now?

Soon. Soon spring and all its freedom and re-newness will be here.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Things that make me love what i do

Winter is tough. Im not talking about shovelling sidewalks uphill while the snow mockingly continues to fall, wearing so many layers that walking becomes waddling and you can hardly see between your scarf and toque while the snow, again, still, mockingly falls. No, i am talking about the lack of things growing, and my serious lack of inspiration for cooking.

Last year i was devoted to the Winters farmers market, and lived off stored vegetables and winter greens. And it was blissful. This year, there is no market (well, there is, but making a living doesnt allow me to go...), and my mini deep-freeze, plum full of spring and summers harvest is in my home five hours away and i am simply not desperate enough to brave the snowy Coquihalla for frozen peas. There have been alot of anchovies lately. Too many olives. Way too much cheese. Definately to much California and beyond produce. I am feeling guilty and horribly uninspired.

Really, i cannot remember the last time that i truly enjoyed dinner. Its not all the well-travelled produces fault either. It has to do with not being in my own kitchen free to play and cook as long as i want; to the long commute to any decent markets, then the long commute back that leaves little time to cook what was intended with the market visit. It has to do with missing home. Even the bowls that i would eat dinner out of. It has to do with feeling completely passionless.

For you and for me, here are a few things that reassure me that I love, passionately, what i do:

-- new things on the tables of markets, revealing the season and providing new things to cook with.

--good bread

--the smell of gently sauteeing onions and garlic--pure therapy

--amazing three ingredient meals

--baking/eating cookies

--perfectly soft poached eggs

--olive oil

--risotto and its need for devotion

--softly whipped cream

--all things Italy

--new things curried or Moroccan

--cooking for or eating with others

--breakfast; uncomplicated, and enjoyed with the newspaper

--breakfast; slightly more complicated, enjoying fresh baked scones or pancakes

--after work "meals" (think peanut butter toast and eggs; leftovers; pasta; cereal)

--the after work drinks

--the before and during work cold cups of coffee

--when simple really does turn out to be best (or rather, not bothering with complicated for knowing that simple almost always turns out best)

There is not a career that i would rather be doing, i cannot even think of one that might replace anything to do with cooking, but right now, cooking is more work than it has ever been.