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.