,

Apple Slab Pie 2 (small)

It’s said that there are cooks and there are bakers. I consider myself both, but do tend to dive into dough when I’m happy/sad/stressed or otherwise in need of comfort – or when others are. The thing about baking is that you don’t do it out of necessity (as getting dinner on the table) and for the most part you don’t do it for yourself – baking is always about sharing.

Apple Slab Pie 4

Pies seem to dig even deeper into our collective histories – pies of all sorts are associated with the comforts of home, of casual celebrations and being together. You only make pies for people you really love. I mean to make pies more often than I do, and I say this as someone comfortable with the thought of making pastry from scratch – the prospect of making something like an apple pie from just butter-sugar-flour-apples can be daunting – but you can do this. I always have apples on my countertop, and make a habit of having puff pastry in the freezer. (Bonus: no one expects you to make puff pastry from scratch anyway.) The kind that comes by the sheet thaws quickly, and only needs to be unrolled, filled and folded. Apple pie assembly in ten minutes. Truly.
Keep Reading »

5
Share

Beef Biryani 1

If I had to choose a favourite place to be, most days I’d pick in the kitchen with people. My own kitchen, when friends are packed into the nook rather than spreading out into the rest of the house – or my parents’ when everyone is over and attempting to tag team on dinner or brunch and collectively get the cousins fed. But I really love being invited into someone else’s kitchen, especially a person or family with a history of dishes outside my usual repertoire (not that I really have a usual), who have been making certain dishes for years to feed their families, who cook for people so often they have drawers full of portable Corningware to fill and send out the door, like Dilshad and Rozina. (I try to adopt a lot of my friends’ moms, aunts and grandmas.)

Dishad & Rosina

Dilshad and Rozina – the mom and aunt of a friend and also sisters who live together with their husbands, who are brothers (how cool is that?) – invited me into their kitchen last year and let me watch them make beef biryani. I’d made chicken biryani before, but not beef – they marinated and braised the meat for hours before I arrived, and then let me poke around and ask questions and watch their process as they warmed the spices in oil, simmered the sauce and made two kinds of rice (Rooster and basmati, if I remember correctly, finished with a drizzle of ghee in the oven) in enormous thin metal pots they brought from Tanzania. They used spice blends they ground themselves in a grinder they bought at a garage sale soon after they arrived in 1988.
Keep Reading »

1
Share
, ,

Dumplings + potstickers 2

We don’t wait for lunar new year to make dumplings around here – they’re one of W’s favourite foods, and long ago we started filling and pinching them together. It’s not as difficult as it looks, a great way to spend 20 minutes catching up with someone you love, and little fingers are particularly adept at manipulating the soft dough. In the end, it doesn’t matter how you seal them – fold them in half like a peroghy, twist it into a little topknot, pull up the corners and make a tent, add a couple pleats or don’t. As long as they’re sealed, they’ll cook up just fine and taste wonderful. (Kids will come up with tiny packages you’d never have thought of.)

Dumplings + potstickers 8

There are, of course, millions of ways to fill a dumpling – essentially you start with ground meat (pork is very common, but some are made with beef, chicken, turkey, shrimp or veggies) and season it with soy sauce, finely chopped green onion, perhaps some chopped cilantro (if you like it – I use the stems), sesame oil, ginger and garlic, perhaps a splash of rice wine or vinegar, and often a pinch of sugar. Chopped, sautéed mushrooms or bok choy are a delicious addition. You don’t have to worry about the ratio, or the mixture binding together like you might with a meatball – the dumpling wrapper it’s bundled up in will take care of that.

Dumplings 10
Keep Reading »

5
Share

beef-satay-2

Meat on a stick. Anything beefy that can be eaten with your fingers and dragged through tangy-spicy peanut sauce I’m on board with.

This is what happened recently when I dug through the deep freeze in search of something that could be cooked quickly. Occasionally I have a flash of insight, picking up beef when it’s on sale and quickly hacking it up and freezing it in a bag of marinade while we unload the groceries. A marinade can be anything, really – often I just go to town with an open fridge, pouring in OJ, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and garlic, something sweet like honey or brown sugar, something acidic like lime juice or balsamic. Plain yogurt that needs using up makes a good vehicle for flavours and spices, even a lob of curry paste. I try to convince myself it’s a good idea to label before tossing it in the freezer to marinate while in stasis, and the resulting package lies in wait for one of those days when we need some real food fast.

beef-satay-1

Keep Reading »

2
Share

Pulses! You know I’m a fan. (Did you know I wrote a book on the subject?) If you’re not familiar with the term, it refers to the edible dried seed of legumes, like dry peas, beans, chickpeas and lentils. Pulses are quite possibly the world’s perfect food – high in fibre and protein, low in fat, inexpensive, versatile, easy to store, and good for the environment – as they grow, pulses fix the nitrogen in the soil, reducing the need for fertilizer in crop rotations. And they can be found in virtually every cuisine in the world – a pulse is as fitting in a bowl of Cacio e Pepe in Italy as in an Indian chana masala or daal, or a can of British baked beans. And they’re a huge Canadian crop – 65% of the world’s lentils come from Canada, mainly Saskatchewan – which makes me love them even more. Today is the second annual Global Pulse Day, a global event to celebrateContinue reading

0
Share
,

Sloppy Joes with red lentils

Apologies for the plain photo, but this is what real life looks like – W was hungry (OK, we all were), and to be honest I didn’t plan to share this until I got several requests on Instagram. People like sloppy lentils! It was a last minute, just-drove-home-from-Edmonton-and-rummaged-through-the-freezer dinner, with a small handful of red lentils thrown in to boost fibre and other good things. Dry split red lentils cook quickly and mask themselves perfectly, soaking up the sweet-vinegary flavours of sloppy Joe sauce – no one has a clue they’re there. (If you like, you could use canned brown lentils instead – they work just as well.)
Keep Reading »

4
Share
,

rutabaga-puff

Apparently Albertans love their turnip puff.

This is believed to have originated in the original Best of Bridge cookbook series – made with rutabaga, turnip or winter squash (or try a combination), the veggies are mashed and mixed with a bit of butter, brown sugar and egg, which makes it puff up slightly as it bakes, giving it a lighter texture. Some people assemble it ahead of time, refrigerate and bake it when they need it. I made it yesterday for the Eyeopener, and fed the leftovers to my dad, a longtime root vegetable non-enthusiast. It was a hit both times.

mashing-rutabaga

If you haven’t had rutabaga before, it’s a brassica vegetable also known as a yellow turnip or Swede (short for Swedish turnip) – it’s big, about the size of a coconut, and purply, making it look like a large turnip. They’re believed to be a cross between cabbage and turnip, but taste more like mellow winter squash – raw, they’re crunchy and snappy, and remind me of peppery radish. Cooked, they’re pale yellow, less starchy than potatoes, reminiscent of butternut squash with a hint of turnip.
Keep Reading »

2
Share

banff-december-2016

Banff in the winter is a wonderfully happy place, perfectly festive when it needs to be, and that cozy place to warm up, eat well and hunker down under ironed sheets after a day out exploring. It’s the place we’ve retreated to on weekends since I was a kid, a comfortable hour’s drive through the Rocky Mountains I try not to take for granted – just long enough to feel like you’re away from it all, but not so far that you have to forfeit half a day and pack snacks. (OK, I always pack snacks anyway.) We rarely venture out in that direction too close to Christmas, knowing so many other families take the opportunity to (our schedule is more flexible than most), but this year we went out for a few days the first week of winter holidays, post-school and pre-Christmas, which allowed for some gloriously quiet shopping, coffee and games by the fire, and some exploratory food research to kick me out of my old Banff eating habits.

Nostalgia is a strong draw for me in Banff – as kids, my sisters and I loved going to Magpie & Stump, and now W loves the craziness of it. For decades, Giorgio’s was our default dining location – the first place Mike ever ordered something as exotic as fettuccine Alfredo, back when we were teenagers and he was invited along with our family. I was crushed when they closed it – until they opened a distillery in its place.

banff-bar-and-fire

Somehow, I blinked and Banff transformed into a town that’s becoming as much a culinary destination as mountain retreat. Later in January, they’re celebrating all that’s edible with a newly expanded Big Taste, the culinary component of their annual SnowDays festival, and they’ve asked me to help get the word out. It started out two years ago as a single tasting event at the Maple Leaf, but this year it includes 23 restaurants spread out over five days of collaborative dinners, one-of-a-kind tours, tastings and other special experiences – the sort of things that are fun and unique and you don’t normally get to do. It’s all very affordable (or free!) and involves some of my favourite food people.
Keep Reading »

3
Share
,

pork-w-mandarins-8

One day over the holidays, I asked out loud to a room full of family, “what foods should everyone eat more of in the new year?” (I was planning my first radio segment of January.)

My nephews answered, “apples!” “Vegetables!” The youngest yelled out, “TACOS!!”

Everyone continued with their vaguely healthy resolution-style suggestions. Charlie kept yelling, “TACOS!”

browned-shoulder-onions

And so it seems fitting to start the new year with tacos. Also, we wound up with two open bottles of nice, local stout, and because no one wants to drink flat beer but it’s perfectly fine for braising meats with, I picked up some pork shoulder. (I told you I don’t like to waste food.)

braised-pork-w-mandarins-12

And who doesn’t have at least a few squidgy mandarins at this time of year? These were juicy and sweet, but soft with drying-out leathery skins, making them tough to peel. I did it over the pot of meat, tucking chunks of peeled orange in the spaces between. It worked beautifully.

pork-w-mandarins-3
Keep Reading »

3
Share