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‘Tis the season for garden parties. My neighbour-friend has one of the very best back yards in the world – small and brimming with herbs, food and flowers, a fence made of repurposed pallets, hung with old tires with waterfalls of flowers cascading out of them. But mostly it’s the lights she strung up that start to glow as it gets dark, and the friends with guitars, chatting and strumming, and the tables covered with food because everyone brought something to eat. When I have to bring something to a party, I lean toward baked cheese dips, because they’re the very best to share with friends. And because S lives just two doors down, I baked mine in my cast iron pan and walked it over with a tea towel wrapped around the handle. It was devoured in under five minutes, was perfect with gin and tonics and prosecco drizzled with rhubarb syrup, and I came home to email everyone the recipe.

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BC cherries are in! Which means a) summer is here, and b) we must celebrate this fact by eating as many cherries as possible. I know food in jars is so three years ago – unless you’re my sister, who came up with the brilliant idea one September that she could tackle two surpluses at once, and send the kids to school with lunch in a jar, tucked into a spare sock. (Don’t worry, she didn’t actually.) I find a myriad of uses for those small half cup jars – I shake up dressings and dips in them, and melt butter to chill and clarify, and make crème brûlée (OK, I’ve only done this once) and little cheesecakes in jars, which can be sealed and tossed into your picnic basket or work bag. Cherries braised with sugar and their own juiciness is classic, but inspiration will present itself all summer – stewed rhubarb, strawberries, blueberries, peaches, saskatoons. It’s all good. And there’s no need toContinue reading

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It’s okay, I think, to adopt other families’ culinary traditions when it suits you. Having not grown up with a Ukrainian baba, and having married into a Ukrainian family that ironically doesn’t cook (!!!), I’m perfectly happy to learn the art of perogy making with a friend who learned from her own baba Nettie, who was the type to turn out thousands of them with her crew for a church supper or fundraiser in Saskatchewan (someone needs to bring back the perogy supper, I think) or just to fill the freezer to feed her family from week to week. I love the idea of gathering a few of my favourite people in the kitchen to mass-produce handmade perogies while catching up on what’s going on with who, and having a bunch of almost-made dinners – and from scratch, by hand, yet – to show for it. You can use just about anything to fill a perogy – most often it’s mashed potatoes with cheese and/orContinue reading

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Spring has been crazy early this year, and now so is asparagus – by like a month. They started picking mid-April at Edgar Farms by Innisfail, and the norm is around the middle of May. It’s a short window – they typically pick (by hand, from their own homemade motorized picking carts) from mid-May until the end of June, so at this time of year I eat as much asparagus as I can handle. Our sunny days and cool nights make for particularly sweet asparagus with purply tips – I know I’ve said it before, but just a reminder: thinner isn’t necessarily better. Thick stalks are every bit as sweet – you just don’t want the bendy and woody ones. And YES – they are fab on a pizza. You don’t even have to bother shaving them into thin ribbons, although that does look pretty. Toss them on whole!

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Forever ago, when I was at art college, the school cafeteria sold thick slabs of cheese toast for a dollar. It was about all I could afford, which was convenient because it was also what I loved the most. Open faced grilled cheese. It reminded me of my mom’s tuna melts, minus the tuna, and my grandma’s hot dog melts on hamburger buns that would go all crackly in the oven. Cheese toast is perhaps as comforting as it’s possible to get. It doesn’t seem like the sort of thing you need a recipe for – and yet it’s so much more than just cheese on toast.

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I’m a sucker for instant gratification – or at least big rewards for minimum effort – but mostly that feeling like I’ve actually accomplished something that didn’t take any time at all, like when you write “revise to-do list” on your to-do list, so that you can cross it off immediately. Labneh – or yogurt cheese – is thick, creamy and pricey if you buy it in the store – but really all it is is good plain yogurt, strained until enough whey runs off to give it a consistency somewhere between Greek yogurt and mascarpone. Leave it to strain even longer and it will get firm enough to roll into a log, or wee balls. Some people store marbles of labneh in a glass jar with fresh herbs and citrus strips, covered with olive oil. I kind of like it spreadable – you can even sweeten it, with a bit of maple syrup or honey. If you go to Monogram Coffee in Altadore (convenientlyContinue reading

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My social media streams are full of skiing and skating, making me want to follow suit and hit the trails/rinks/slopes, but equally wanting to chip away at that pile I felt sure I’d tackle in comfort over Christmas week, in slouchy socks with spiked coffee and a half-eaten Toblerone at my side. It’s nice to feel extra accomplished by getting work done while on holidays, with barely a trickle of email, when you don’t feel guilty getting distracted by twitter and Facebook and Instagram because hey, I’m on holiday.

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On Friday, with so much zucchini/tomatoes/onions/spinach/chard in my kitchen I didn’t know where to put it all, I called an emergency after-work minestrone party. I made two batches: one in a giant pot, and another in the slow cooker. (The secret to minestrone that does not turn to mush in the slow cooker: add the zucchini, pasta and greens during the last half hour.) This kind of soup hardly warrants a recipe: saute onion, celery and carrots, add garlic, then a drained can of kidney beans (or black-eyed peas) and one or two thin-skinned diced potatoes, chicken stock and a bunch of chopped overripe tomatoes (or toss in any whole ones that might be lurking in your freezer) or a can of diced (or stewed, or whole) tomatoes, bring it all to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are just tender. Add a chopped zucchini, a handful of green beans with their stems trimmed off (if you have them), a handful of small pastaContinue reading

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As per my previous post, I’m currently enamoured with all things curried – and with using my masala dabba, which when I hold in my hand and dip into by the stove makes me feel like part cook, part abstract painter, and which turns out curries I didn’t realize I was capable of. Also? I must have curry on the mind because this very weekend I’m flying to London to go to lunch at Fifteen and MEET JAMIE OLIVER. My apologies if I drive everyone crazy with my Jamiepalooza this coming Monday. (Also? I have a 5-10 minute Q&A with him – what do you want to know??) All of which is to say I couldn’t resist another curry – I’m not even going to apologize for it, because this particular one is made with Brussels sprouts, bacon and paneer. If you’re a frequenter of Indian restaurants you may recognize peas and paneer, or spinach and paneer, but this. It’s dense and chewy and crunchyContinue reading

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