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It’s the most eating-est time of year, but not just because of all the shortbread and turkey dinners and Turtles—some of our favourite December things are the weekend morning we gather around my mom’s dining room table to make crackers for Christmas dinner, the afternoon Christmas carol jam, and the night we invite everyone over to watch Elf and Christmas Vacation, and plunk down a big pot of meatballs, or my grandma’s beef carbonnade, or something easy we can all dig into, in the middle of the table. I love that there are just more people around for dinner more often these days, which means those one-pot meals that are so comforting (and genuinely satisfying to make) are pulled into service for home entertaining of the more casual sort—the ones where everyone brings their own slipper socks. Smothered chicken is an old, classic recipe. I love the idea of it. You can make it with a whole spatchcocked chicken, like Craig Claiborne wrote about inContinue reading

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I’m all about pie these days. It’s the fall food, isn’t it? Although it’s time for stone fruit pies, like peach and plum and apricot and cherry and rhubarb (still) and yes, it’s almost time for apple, but while it’s still late summer, with all the ripe tomatoes and the last of the corn, this pie is it. It comes somewhat indirectly from one of my favourite food writers, and it’s really a pie unlike any other – layers of ripe tomatoes, corn, aged cheddar, fresh basil and chives, doused in lemony, garlicky mayo, wrapped up in a buttery biscuit crust, which is brilliant in itself. You roll the biscuit dough as thin as you would pastry, but it bakes up like a biscuit, only thinner. It’s all crunchy top and craggly edges – the more rustic and haphazardly you throw it together, the better. I don’t bother crimping, just tuck and fold the edge over any old way. There are no eggs or anythingContinue reading

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One year ago, I spent a sunny afternoon cooking in my friend Susana’s back yard, with her mom and grandma. (OK, mostly they cooked, and I watched. And then ate.) Every year, one day late in the summer, they pick up cases of Taber corn and get together to make large quantities of pastel de choclo – Chilean corn-topped beef pies in the style of shepherd’s pie. They do it out in the backyard when it’s still sunny, giving them space to shuck dozens of cobs and cut off the kernels, which are then mulched in the food processor with sprigs of fresh basil. I don’t know why I never thought to do this – the result is this creamy-sweet pale yellow mixture, brightened with bits of basil, which I was perfectly happy to eat raw by the spoonful. If you haven’t taken a bite of a good cob of corn raw, try it! ‘Tis the season. Pastel de choclo is made with a baseContinue reading

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I’ve never been one to build dinner around a large meaty foundation, adding pots of starches and veggies to simmer on the side – I like things all together, not least of all because cooking everything in one big pot minimizes dishes. The thing about soups and stews and other one-pot wonders is that they’re all – stewy. Which is fine, but I firmly believe and will shout from the rooftops (does anyone ever do this?) that roasting is the best cooking method of anything ever, particularly vegetables. I can’t think of a vegetable that isn’t at its crunchy-sticky-caramelized best roasted: tomatoes? Yup. Broccoli? For sure. Squash? Obv. Cauliflower? Totally. But here’s the beauty: you can roast chicken thighs in about the same amount of time it takes to roast veggies. On the same pan. Spreading them out on a sheet rather than tucking them into a deep roasting pan allows the heat to circulate, which means they’ll roast instead of steam. And if theyContinue reading

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I’m starting to go back and revisit some of my early recipes, the ones I posted in my toddler stages of blogging, with super-up-close photos (what was I thinking?) and plenty of stories of life with an actual toddler. This was one of the first, posted back in 2009, and if you look back on it, I was all HOW CAN IT POSSIBLY BE OCTOBER? Which I literally said to someone ten minutes ago about it already being almost October. It’s one of those recipes people regularly tell me has become part of their regular repertoire, and so I thought it deserved a do-over. With turkey, winter squash, tomatoes and apples, can you imagine cramming more fall into one bowl? Back in ’09 I made this in the slow cooker, but nowadays I prefer the stovetop – either will do. (You’ll need less liquid overall in the slow cooker, since it’s all contained and won’t cook off.) And while you could use any kind ofContinue 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 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, celebration or fundraiser in Saskatchewan, or just to fill the freezer to feed the extended family from week to week. It’s particularly fitting that this year marks the 125th anniversary of Ukrainian settlement in Canada. I love any opportunity to cook with my favourite people – the best part of Thanksgiving is the crammed and chaotic kitchen – and getting together for other reason than to mass-produce perogies by hand while catching up on what’s going on with who, while getting well floured in our sock feet sounds like a pretty good kind of dinnerContinue 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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Most nights, dinner is predetermined – by recipe testing, leftovers from a photo shoot or radio column or some such, or some transformation of ingredients that need using up. Over the past decade or so we haven’t had the opportunity to fall into a sort of mealtime routine – or rut. We don’t really have our usuals. On tired nights, we wind up eating eggs and toast or spaghetti, which is often just the thing. Tonight, after a late night and long day of cousins and playing in the river and birthday cupcakes, the only thing I wanted to make was a call for takeout – but after eating close to my weight in ice cream that wasn’t surviving the hot afternoon in a cooler, I didn’t want to get sucked into multiple dishes. What I did want was tangy-sweet and noodle-y, and so with ground pork in the freezer and a plethora of noodles avalanching from the cupboard, I made a batch of dandanContinue reading

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When I started this place back in 2008 and posted dinner each night, it wasn’t always a recipe – because who follows an actual recipe each night? More often than not it’s a matter of shuffling through the fridge and constructing something out of what’s there – what needs to be cooked, revamped or salvaged, or what’s comfortably in your repertoire, like the scrambled eggs and brown beans my mom always fell back on when we were kids, or the eggs on toast. A lot of proper dinners don’t require a recipe – and when it’s the sort of thing that makes use of whatever scraps you have in your fridge, it’s not helpful to adhere to a strict formula.

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