What I learned this summer.

It seems impossible to me that Labour day is here and yet another summer has come and gone. But, rather than cry into my fall clothes I thought I would take a moment to look back at a few of my summer highlights and the things I learned the last couple of months.

Sunflower

I learned…..

… that I really love pesto made from radish tops and I still really don’t like parsnips.

…that while watching a baby coyote sleep under the hedge is adorable it probably isn’t desireable (and freaks the cats out).

… that the Yukon is amazing. Getting to explore it with my sister is twice as amazing.

… that taking an outdoor cooking class from Michele Genest, writer of The Boreal Gourmet, beside a northern BC lake, while at a music festival with said sister is pretty much my idea of heaven.

… that mint and spring pea rissotto made by my husband is divine.

… that a greenhouse makes an amazing bar for summer parties (but if that’s the case we may need a bigger greenhouse…).

… that it is actually possible to eat your fill of fresh figs.

… that I will miss the community, friendship and food created this summer in the Community Kitchen.

… that when making pierogi, even when using the identical batch of dough and filling, once cooked you can always tell which ones the Ukrainian Grandma made.

Summer memories

Most importantly I (re)learned that summer is far too short but when there is food, friends and family involved life is grand. What did you learn this summer?

A travellers breakfast.

It is no secret that I’m not a breakfast person. I (sort of) like breakfast food, I just don’t tend to like it at breakfast time. I had a coach once (you know who you are) who tried to get me to eat steak or chicken for breakfast – at five in the morning. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! I have great respect for those of you who can roll out of bed and get the fuel you need. But ugh. I’ve done it. Begrudgingly. Let me wake up, have a cup of tea, putter around for a couple of hours, have a cup of coffee and then, maybe, I’ll feel like eating. When I do eat, please do not let it something gross like cereal. Anyone have a recipe for breakfast noodles?

Add a poached egg & this would be my perfect breakfast!

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Coffee cravings.

I’m from Vancouver.  It is a fairly well established theory that people from the West Coast like their coffee.  The term coffee snob is frequently, and often justifiably, used.  I’ll be honest though I thought I had escaped the snobbery.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like a good coffee, and I will certainly forgo a cup rather than partake of the swill from certain big coffee chains (West Coast ones included).  But then I took a trip back to my hometown…. and I forgot to bring my own coffee.  I brought my travel mug, but no beans.

Ok, maybe a teeny bit snobby.

It started in the airport.  Do I grit my teeth and get a coffee from one of the overpriced, bitter chains? No, I would rather sleep on the plane anyway.  Do I accept one in styrofoam from the nice attendants walking down the aisle?  No, a “real” drink seemed like a better option (besides, it will help me sleep!).  Okay.  All good so far.  Then I woke up the next morning….  ugh.  Brown water masquerading as coffee.  Okay, tea it is.

After sending a few emails to friends and a plea to the tweetusphere I got a bit of help.  A quick hop in the car and I found a place that sold some beautiful italian espresso perfect for the stovetop espresso maker hidden at the back of a kitchen cupboard.  Pre ground and not even organic (sigh) – surely that cancels out the snobbery?

My first cup of americano in my Dad's favourite old coffee mug.

Mini-coffee crisis averted I sat down (with a cup of coffee) to write Fridays blog.  Yes, if you’re reading this you’ll know that Friday has come and gone.  I’m getting to that.  Not only did I forget to bring my own coffee but my laptop was on the other side of the country.  I seemed to have forgotten that a key to blog writing is pictures (isn’t that a bit of an oxymoron?).  Which not so surprisingly are on my computer.  So to my little phone I went to see what I might have some pictures of with which to create a blog.  I started scrolling through my fairly purged phone library of photo’s and realized the only thing I had more than one picture of were coffee cups.  Hmmm….are you starting to sense a theme to this trip?

Just to be clear - do NOT steal this mug!

It started me thinking about what a big role coffee plays in so many societies.  In many ways it brings people together.  On this trip alone I’ve made plans to meet at least three people “for coffee”, I’ve attempted to figure out (with the help of at least 2 other people)how you actually make one of those big urns that are ubiquitous at funerals and large family gatherings work, I’ve spiked one with scotch in memory of a dear friend (my mug, not the urn), and I’ve had steaming cups out in the garden with my mom while working in the beautiful fall weather.

Coffee out, with friends, tastes better.

I’ve also been thinking of some of the great memories I have that involve coffee – morning espresso in the Italian countryside with friends, at the gym prepping to do a workout with my gym buddies, my dad in the garden with a cup talking to the cat, following countless meals around many friends tables, settling in for morning skype conversations with friends over the globe and even just sitting quietly at home with a mug and a book.

Maybe I am a coffee snob.

But you know what?  I think I’m okay with that.

A word can make all the difference.

“Manzo or cavallo?”  These were the words directed at my husband as he ordered bresaola at the butcher in Morciano, Italy.  Now before you run grab your translation dictionary let me help you out.  Cow or horse.  Hmmm.  Not a choice I usually get from Ed my local butcher.

This was in the baby food aisle!

Now while I know some of you may shudder at either choice, I am pleased to say that he chose the cow.

So, with that cleared up, lets talk about Bresaola.  I admit it, I’m addicted. Thankfully it isn’t that easy to obtain here in Vancouver (neither for that matter is horse.  But that’s a different blog).

In Italy however this salted, air dried cured beef from the top inside round is quite easy to find.

If you haven’t tried it you’re missing out.  Search it out at your local butcher.  It is perfect and easy to make as an appetizer or a light summer meal (especially after a day on your cavallo!).  Simply place the bresaola on a plate, squeeze some fresh lemon overtop and garnish with some shavings of fresh parmesan.  For a bit more of a meal place on a bed of arugula.  Enjoy.

And please, if you’re brave enough to try the cavallo bresaola let me know.