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We’ve been eating a disproportionate amount of pizza these past couple weeks… not only because it’s easy to cook on the grill (we’re currently without a kitchen), but because it’s easy and requires little in the way of dishes – just napkins that can be tossed in the garbage. (Doing dishes in the bathtub tends to make one acutely aware of just how many dirty dishes one generates.) This particular pizza is not the thin crust variety; it’s made on thickly patted out biscuit dough, making it sort a of quasi-focaccia, but then again not really – it’s more like thick wedges of comfort; dough topped with cheese, served warm. You could, of course, add anything you might add to a pizza – and the dough itself can be stirred up in about a minute, without kneading (a bonus when you currently have no countertops) or the need to let it rise. Which means you can come home from work and have a pizza inContinue reading

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Apparently, the world is divided into two types of eaters: those who want to segregate everything on their dinner plates, and those who like everything mixed together in a big jumble, like pad Thai or a rice bowl topped with all manner of meat, eggs and veggies. That’s me. The grill continues to rule our world. I’m amazed how much I don’t miss my oven. (This will change in the fall, I know. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.) Thinly sliced, intensely marinated steak cooks almost instantly on the grill while you do any number of veggies alongside – sliced zucchini, peppers, eggplant, asparagus – anything goes. Totally different from the usual barbecue fare, but perfect for eating outdoors – a pair of chopsticks is all you’ll need.

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I do all my cooking – and dishes – outside now. It’s kind of like camping, with real beds. The grill is my new BFF. Really, it’s amazing what you can do on it. I’m wondering if I even need a stove. I’m getting so used to cooking in my back yard that I might not want to go back into my kitchen even if it does miraculously get finished. This morning I made jambalaya on it. I came across this recipe called “camping jambalaya” – I don’t know what kind of crazy camping cooks are out there, but I’m not this ambitious when I’m cooking over a campfire and sleeping in a tent. To me, camping is an excuse to eat hot dogs and Cheezies. I’m pretty sure you won’t find me mincing garlic at a campsite any time soon. However. You can grill the meat bits (sausage, chicken and shrimp) on the barbecue, and the rest of the bits in your cast ironContinue reading

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That’s charred, as opposed to chard, which would likely also be delicious. I just made this for lunch, and wanted to share it right away. It was a spur-of-the-moment salad, made because it occurred to me that such a combo would be delicious, and because I’m making a concerted effort to not fill up on banana muffins and toast and eat mostly things that are nutrient-dense (and delicious), even if it requires a lot of chopping and our kitchen counters are currently torn out. (One of the pieces landed on our back porch, and has been turned into an outdoor kitchen of sorts. The barbecue is earning its keep. Our new dining table is outside, and it’s called laps. What do people do when they renovate in the midwinter? Takeout?) As a salad, this is open to interpretation. And the measurements are pretty lax. I’ve been on a bit of a homemade salsa kick this week (a result of a story I was working on),Continue reading

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I may be spoiled for pasta now. On the first morning of our first day in Italy, we walked to the Academia Barilla, an institute in Parma dedicated to the preservation of Italian food culture. (And to that end, the Academia Barilla Gastronomic Library houses a collection of over 11,000 cookbooks dating back to the 16th century – it’s open to the public and can be accessed online. More on that later, because WOW.) We were set up with little piles of flour and dark-yolked eggs, and mixed up dough the way you see them do it on TV – not in a bowl, but by making a little volcano out of the flour and cracking the eggs in, then stirring/corralling the eggs as they try to escape from ditches in the flour until it all comes together into a smooth, yellow dough that’s oh-so satisfying to run through a pasta machine into smooth, thin sheets, then cut into piles of ribbons or fill withContinue reading

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I came back home from Miami with a pound of grits in my bag, just because I could. Grits are popular in the southern states – they’re made of cornmeal, simmered until thick, just like cream of wheat. (Did you love cream of wheat as a kid? I still do. I rarely have it, in order to preserve that taste of nostalgia.) You can simmer your grits with milk to make it creamier, and add soft roasted garlic or minced jalapenos to spice it up, or a big handful of grated aged cheddar in this case, to provide a bed for buttery, spicy shrimp. I always forget how quickly I can cook up a pan of shrimp – with butter, garlic and a shake of dry barbecue rub, they’re done in under three minutes. How much faster can food get? And while I have a pan buttery and hot, it’s too tempting to crack in an egg to catch those flavourful bits. More drippy yolkContinue reading

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My youngest sister is a really fantastic cook. She’s a total cake boss and makes other delicious things, like baked yams with piles of butter and brown sugar, roast hams with wedges of Bosc pear, and this mushroom tart, which made an appearance at the last few family dinners and was so good I would have gladly forsaken the turkey (and the stuffing, and the mashed potatoes) for it. It’s a rich, dense, cheesy-creamy-buttery tart – the sort every 80’s quiche aspires to be. If I called this a ham quiche, it wouldn’t do it justice. It deserves more words. It’s no quiche Lorraine. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

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We’re taking turns catching colds around here. As I write this I’m wrapped in a blanket with a stiff neck (my mom keeps telling me to wrap a wool sock around it, like my grandad did, and I just might) and a mug of warm lemonade (yes!), sneezing approximately every 3 minutes, my face fixed with that expression you get when you’re just about to sneeze. (This cold is such a cliché.) We’re anticipating a high of -19 tomorrow, not that we’ll likely leave the house anyway after getting up at 5 to watch the gold medal hockey game. My ambitious plan is to make doughnuts and bellinis – or perhaps fizzy wine smoothies – and plenty of coffee. But later in the day, when everyone is cold and sleepy and huddled on the couch to catch the last of the Olympics, a batch of mac & cheese will be in the slow cooker. Oh yes it will. I wish it was in there now.

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When we were kids, my dad fancied himself a pretty good beef stew maker. I did not agree – he used big chunks of flank steak, which I suspect weren’t cooked quite long enough to break down in its tomato-ey sauce, because while it was certainly lean and healthy, it had the texture of chewy meat rope. (Sorry Dad – it’s not you, it’s me. And the meat rope.) Fortunately, he’s so fantastic that it’s easy to overlook his stew. But it’s funny how childhood food preferences stick with you – I keep thinking I don’t like beef stew, but really I do. (So long as the meat is cooked long enough.) Any tough cut of beef (or bison) makes a good stew – even those chunks of “stewing beef”; the trick is to simmer it first, giving the connective tissues time to melt and the gravy a chance to develop, before adding the potatoes and carrots, which you don’t want to break down toContinue reading

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