When I was a kid my Mom, as most moms do, drove me crazy. As soon as tomato season started every time she would bite into a tomato, and I mean every time, she would swoon. Really. Not just get a bit excited, but the “do you need smelling salts’ kind of swoon. She would take one bite and in a fit of slight rapture she would exclaim “oh….. this is sooooooo good”. “Yes Mom, we know. They are good.” we would say. “No.” she would say, ” but these are SOOOOOOO good”. Sigh. As a teenager it was mortifying.
I love summer. It really is the best time of year. The heat, the humidity, the sun, the fresh vegetables – heaven! The only downside I can think of is that it is usually (hopefully!) too nice to want to spend much time in the kitchen. I want to be at the pool, in the garden or playing bocce with friends. When I do step into the kitchen I want to create meals that are fast, seasonal and adaptable. Like potato salad. Now I’m not talking the mayonnaise loaded salad of our youth but a fresh, zingy, loaded with vegetables one that is a full on meal in a bowl.
Polar vortex or not, it is officially spring. To celebrate I spent my spring break holiday in northern Canada where it is definitely still winter. Despite the winter weather I kept warm with bundled up walks along the ice covered river, days spent on the couch in my pajamas reading and a glass (or two) of restorative red wine.
But, after a relaxing week of warming holiday comfort food, and with optimism in mind, I’m craving the tastes of spring. One of the first crops that is poking up out of the ground this year are the radishes. Continue reading
Potlucks. Do you love them or hate them? My feelings are mixed. In some ways they make things easier – you don’t have to cook as much, there is less clean up and there are more options for picky eaters. But, it is also possible to end up with a table full of desserts or five macaroni salads. So what’s a girl to do? How do you decide what to bring?
It began as a tiny seed, and grew surrounded by friends.
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.
… 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.
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?
There are certain things that go with holidays. Sunburns, gin and tonics, tired feet, sand in your shorts, and tacky souvenirs. It’s true. Admit it. Hidden around most of our homes we can probably find little mementoes that meant something then, but now are just dust collectors. Chackas as my Jewish friends would say. And because holidays bring out the best in most of us we don’t just bring stuff back for ourselves. Oh no. We bring them back for others too. Everything from t-shirts, to snow globes, to shot glasses (Hi Sis!). Now if the souvenir merchandise of a place reveals a bit about who a culture is, heaven help us all. However, thankfully, the food of a culture often is more revealing and says much, much more.
Probably my favourite part of travel is discovering what the locals eat. Trying new fruits and vegetables and overeating delicious things I can’t get at home. So it makes me happy that lately I’ve been noticing that I, and others, have been bringing back food stuffs from holidays as souvenirs and gifts. Pasta from Italy, olive oils from Israel, vanilla from Mexico, and spices from all over. Especially spices.
I tend to use a lot of spices. They are an integral part of my kitchen. Aside from bumping up the taste of food without the addition of fats and sugars many have highly beneficial health properties. And, while I haven’t figured out how to grow my own vanilla or cinnamon you often don’t even need to go to the store to get them. Herbs are easy to grow and you don’t need much room to do it.
So I decided, for fun and because I’m a bit of a geek, to keep a list of what spices I used over a two week period. I realized that, not including condiments, vinegars and oils, my spice usage seemed to have three levels. Daily, weekly and occasionally.
My tier one spices are the spices that I use on almost a daily basis. Garlic (mostly fresh but sometimes dried) with pretty much every meal but breakfast; freshly ground black pepper on everything; sea salt, sparingly but when needed to enhance taste; chili flakes (and powder) on everything including even eggs for breakfast; and cinnamon daily in my coffee.
Tier two spices usually make an appearance at least once a week. Fresh rosemary; basil; curry powder; ginger (mostly fresh); oregano; dried mustard for salad dressings; fresh sage; and cumin.
Tier three spices don’t get loved often, but when they do they add amazing flavour to meals. I would include spices such as chinese 5 spice powder, thyme, cilantro, lovage, nutmeg, parsley, paprika, summer savoury, star anise, and cardamom on this list.
The trick with spices is knowing when to keep it simple and when to tart it up a bit. Sometimes it’s nice to mix things up and get a more complex flavour. For those moments, here are a couple of my most used, make ahead, spice mixes.
A versatile mix. It can be used on fajita’s, devilled eggs, as part of a salad dressing, or as a marinade for chicken or fish.
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/3 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp cane sugar (regular would work too)
Middle Eastern Spice Mix
Try this on a sweet potato, with grilled vegetables, mixed into yogurt for a cooling balance to a spicy main course, or as the base for a meat marinade.
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp turmeric
1 Tbsp black pepper
3/4 Tbsp ground coriander
1/3 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp cardamon (optional)
Note: if you don’t have ground spices , just toss them into a coffee grinder and blend them together.
Next up I’m going to track my condiment, vinegars, oils, and other kitchen essentials. What are yours?
It is said that friends are the family you choose. If that is the case I have a wonderful family indeed. In my everyday life I have amazing friends, many of whom I have written about and alluded to on my blog. But every couple of years I have the good fortune to usher in the New Year with another group of friends. A crazy, talented, beautiful gang of people affectionately know as my Paddy Family.
As with most things in life, I met that group of people through a funny, serendipitious chain of events. Over 10 years ago I was working at an arts organization and met a man who introduced me to The Paddy Crean workshop. The Paddy Crean is a week long international workshop that celebrates sword fighting, stage combat, historical martial arts, stunt performers, actors and educators and is held at the Banff Centre for the Arts. Since I was living in Calgary at the time I thought “why not?”, and I went. And from that very first moment so many years ago when I stood in a dance studio surrounded by sword fighters and questioned my sanity (and which end of the sword to hold) I began meeting people who would forever change my life.
Well the rains have landed in Vancouver, and I’ve even heard that it has snowed in other parts of the country *shudder*. So at the suggestion of a friend I thought I’d post about something that preserves the sunshine all year round. Preserved lemons.
There are certain dates and anniversaries that seem to split the year into different and distinct parts. Everyone has their own. It might be the first day of school, new years eve, a wedding anniversary, a religious holiday or a season. For me, it’s fall. Not only is it the season of my birthday, a (scary) time of reflection, but it is followed shortly after by the Thanksgiving weekend, a time of thanks.