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Even though buds are popping out in the back yard as we speak, I’m in a comfort food state of mind – and really, for many of us grilled cheese and tomato soup are about as nostalgic as it gets. I got it in mind awhile ago to take the gooey toasted bread that typically lids a baked French onion soup and apply it to tomato soup using cheddar, and save us all the trouble of dunking our grilled cheese sandwich into our soup. I mean, look at it.

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The text came in early one Saturday morning. “The tomatoes have spoken,” it said. “It happens today at 11am.” It was my friend Victoria, alerting me to the specific time her in-laws would be putting up their tomatoes this year, something they’ve done since they moved to Calgary from Sessano del Molise, a small town just outside Naples, in 1967. When I heard it was an annual thing, generally a major production involving 20 cases of tomatoes, a dozen friends and neighbours, tables set up in the garage and a hot tub-sized pot set over a single burner in the driveway, I begged to tag along. Putting up tomatoes is largely a lost art, what with the availability of good-quality canned tomatoes just about everywhere food is sold, for a dollar or three. But I love the idea of picking up cases and doing it myself, and of letting the tomatoes determine when they’re ready to go. If you’re going to do this kind ofContinue reading

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There are nights that call for big pans of cheesy baked pasta, plunked on the table with a stack of plates and a big salad for everyone to dig into. Pasta is classic Sunday supper fare, but also works on rainy Wednesdays, when the week is dragging on and you need a meal that will wrap you up like a warm blanket. This Wednesday I knew pasta was in order, and so rummaged through my various drawers and cupboards of boxes and bags in order to use up some of the shapes that have been lying in wait for far too long. I came up with a box of manicotti – something I’m quite sure I haven’t made in a decade. There was ricotta in the fridge, and bacon, and that decided it. Bacon + onions + kale (just a bit) + ricotta. And good tomatoes. When you’re stuffing things, anything goes.

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