The fish is just a vehicle for the tartar sauce. Obviously.

Every so often, I think of fish and chips, and of my grandmother, and of the Penny Farthing, the place we used to go. The Penny Farthing was a tattered old restaurant on Kingsway across from the Safeway, and it was my first taste of England. We would go there and order cod, and I would get extra tartar sauce, and I would dump malt vinegar and big chunky salt flakes all over my chips until they were soggy, and then they were perfect. Cuddles (my grandmother was Cuddles – other people call their grandmothers “Grandma,” which is a name for old ladies, or “Nana,” which is the name of the dog in Peter Pan) would order onion rings for us to share. She would pour the salt out onto a plate and dip the rings, because the salt stuck better that way. When there were no more onion rings, she would lick her pointer finger and push it onto the plate to catch the last of the flakes, and then would pop the finger into her mouth, and then the fish would come.

The cook there was named John, and as I understand it, in a previous life he had been a cook for the Merchant Marine. I don’t quite know what that means – I never thought to ask. But he was a large, crabby man with sailor tattoos, and he would smile for Cuddles and grunt a pleasant greeting. His wife, Chris, would come to our table on ceremony, not to take our order (she knew what it was), but to say hello, and to talk about her son or her trips back home. Cuddles understood her through the accent, though it was harder for me, and I only ever collected snippets to refer back to. Later, John would run off to Thailand in scandal, and Chris would return to England, and the shop would be taken over by younger people who never cooked the fish right because the oil was dirty and never quite hot enough. Young people. What do they know? Not a thing about frying fish.

And I don’t know a thing about it either. But sometimes, when the weather is hot and I’m in the mood for beer and nostalgia and the best parts of Britain, I like to fry up a piece of fish in my humble little pan, mushy up some peas, and dream of fries soaked long in malt vinegar, studded with large flecks of salt. I rarely make fries at home: Some things are best left to the experts, and it’s always good to have a reason to go out.

And because it has been hot all of a sudden and beer has been on my mind, and because of late I have found myself writing about Cuddles, today was a day for fish and cold coleslaw and minty mushy peas. And extra tartar sauce.

My recipe does not purport to result in anything like the fish part of fish and chips, because I don’t own a deep-fryer. Even if I did, today would not be the day for it, because my apartment is already too hot, even with all of the windows open. If I were at Cuddles’ house on a day like today, she wouldn’t deep-fry either – she would arrange two Highliner tempura fish sticks and a piece of cheddar cheese on a bun smeared with homemade tartar sauce (using homemade pickles) and piled with shredded iceberg lettuce. And we would eat this and then watch Keeping up Appearances on PBS and the evening would proceed as usual.

I seem to be wandering off topic. I wanted the fish, and the tartar sauce, and the Englishy bits like the peas and the coleslaw that I remember, and I thought about picking up a bag of Miss Vickie’s Sea Salt & Malt Vinegar chips to mimic the flavour I missed, but I didn’t: I resolved instead to visit somewhere real and English that will do it for me right, even if that is days or weeks away. So I wandered down to the market and bought a me-sized fillet of halibut, some pickles, an onion, a bunch of fresh dill, a bottle of English salad cream, and a bag of shredded cabbage and carrots. I bought some beer, because that’s just what you do, and Nick is out of town so it won’t be a race to drink my share – I can enjoy them.

The tartar sauce is the important part, and I underestimated the importance of texture.

Tartar Sauce

  • 1 egg (at room temperature)
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 cup oil (whatever kind you like: I wanted a neutral taste from the oil, so I went with canola)
  • 1/2 cup of roughly chopped dill pickles
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped onion
  • As much dill as you like, also roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Crack the egg into a food processor and add the mustard and the lemon juice. If you don’t have a food processor, you could use an electric mixer, or, if you have strong, non-lazy arms, you could whisk this in a large bowl. I recommend the food processor. Because it’s way more fun. Press down the button that makes the blade go all whizzy – you don’t want to pulse. Constant motion is the thing.

While the egg is in blending motion, slowly dribble in the oil. SLOWLY. I don’t know why – science is why, but that’s all I’ve really got and I can’t expand on it. You’re making mayonnaise at this point. Isn’t it marvellous? It is.

When the mixture has thickened and looks like mayonnaise, season with your salt and pepper. At this point, you have a judgment call to make. I was just super excited about everything, so I added my onion and pickles and dill and puréed the shit out of all of it, and it was delicious, and since I now have two whole cups of it, it’s going to make potato salad and a lovely marinade for grilled vegetables, but it wasn’t chunky, like tartar sauce is. I added capers to mine because I thought it needed texture – if you like a smooth tartar sauce, throw your onion, pickles, and dill into the food processor and whiz away. If not, then mince the pickles and the onion and stir them into the mayonnaise separately. Both ways would be good.

Whiz/blend/sauce!When it’s done and you’re happy, pour it into a bowl, cover with plastic, and refrigerate until you’re ready to use it. At this point I made some coleslaw (which wasn’t a challenge: I toasted some sunflower seeds, spilled them all over my stove, floor, and into the heating element, and poured them and some jar sauce over some bagged salad mix).

Coleslaw: Convenience food.I also made some peas. I meant for them to be mushy, but forgot I had baby peas, not the big, hearty peas I had planned on using. The result was that my peas wouldn’t mush – you need to be able to mash them with a potato masher. No matter – they were still tasty. I threw a couple of teaspoons of butter into a pan, melted it, added a cup or so of peas from the freezer, and sauteed for five minutes with a small handful of fresh spearmint. You could use regular mint if you like. But you should always use mint with peas.

Minty peas. No mush.And then I pan-fried a little panko-and-lemon-zest-crusted-halibut in some butter for about seven minutes (it wasn’t a very big piece) and topped with the tartar sauce and a smattering of capers. Served with ice-cold beer, this was very much the combination of tastes that I love and remember. A satisfying evening, all the way around, and the perfect way to end a busy, sweltering week, even if it wasn’t how Cuddles would have done it. But more on that another time.

A me-sized feast.

Advertisements

Bitochki stroganoff. Or, fresh herbs really shine through in a meatball.

Grace once said that fresh herbs really shine through in a meatloaf. It was right before the karaoke portion of the evening, so she was a little drunk, and the expression on her face, and the seven whiskey sours I’d had (Grace makes excellent whiskey sours), was enough to convince me that she was right, even if that same expression caused Nick to explode whiskey sour out of his mouth. On another evening, she made the fresh herb meatloaf, and it was true: Fresh herbs really do shine through in a meatloaf. Also, Grace makes fantastic meatloaf.

Fresh herbs from deck.And it’s just a few days before payday now, and my arthritis has been a bitch lately, and while it’s tempting just to eat off the McDonald’s extra-value menu for the next couple of days out of laziness and joint fatigue, I think it’s probably better (for our financial state and my general health) to eat food at home. And I have felt like pasta and mushrooms and meatballs, of late, and because we’re down to very few ingredients (but just the right ingredients to have a meal of pasta, mushrooms, and meatballs), it seems like time to use up what we have, and to make the most of it.

Bitochki, which sounds like a crunchy Russian swear, are actually Russian meatballs, and they are excellent in a creamy stroganoff sauce. Add some fresh herbs? Восхитительный!

The great thing about meatballs is that they’re easy to make when your hands barely work and you’re high on painkillers.

Bitochki: Russian Meatballs

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 2 slices bread soaked in milk, squeezed dry and broken into hunks
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh tarragon (or thyme – thyme would be good too)
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 2 cloves finely minced garlic
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup of bread crumbs

Stroganoff sauce

  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 cup onions
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 lb. sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • Salt, to taste
  • Chopped chives and parsley, as much as you like

In a pan on the stove, caramelize the onion in the butter for the meatballs. This is important, and also delicious. If these were authentic, you’d use rendered fat from around a cow’s kidneys. But I don’t have any rendered beef kidney fat at the moment. Actually, you wouldn’t use the lemon zest or the tarragon either. Do it my way anyway. Fifteen minutes, minimum. When that’s done, take them off the stove.

Mix together the meatball ingredients, and once cool enough to handle, add your onions. Once again, it’s important to use your hands for meatballs. And if your hands are crippled and sore, the cold meat actually feels kind of nice. When your meatball mixture is, well, mixed, roll your meatballs – an inch in diameter is ideal, or close to the size of golf balls. Before throwing them into the pan, roll each ball in bread crumbs. A little paprika in your bread crumbs would probably be lovely.

Oil the onion pan, and fry the meatballs until browned on all sides. This takes longer for me than most people because I second-guess my playlist and have to keep running back and forth from the kitchen to skip the songs.

Meatballs!When the meatballs are done, put them on a pan and throw it into a warm oven. The idea here isn’t to cook them further, just to keep them warm while you make your sauce. Since I recommend serving this dish with noodles, you could probably put on a pot of pasta right about now as well. I like spaghetti. But you already knew that.

Pour the grease out of the onion/meatball pan, but don’t scrape the solids out. If the pan is quite dry, add butter, and throw in your other chopped onion. Soften, and add your mushrooms, adding water to caramelize the onions and soften the mushrooms. Once the mushrooms have soaked up all those delicious pan flavours (you may want to add a splash of water, just to help things along), add in your wine, milk, and your sour cream, as well as your pepper, nutmeg, and any salt. Stir together, and allow to simmer over medium-low heat until thick, and until your pasta is done.

Meatballs in sauce!Just before you drain your pasta, add the meatballs back to the sauce. Drain your pasta and dump the noodles into the pan as well, and toss to coat. You may want to throw in some chopped spinach, if you feel like your vegetable requirements aren’t being met here. Serve topped with chopped chives and parsley. Accompany with the remainder of the wine. Or vodka. Unless you’re perpetually out of vodka, like me.

Bitochki in stroganoff on pasta.This is good the first day, and remarkable the second day (fresh herbs, you know). And it’s so easy, if you’re really really not feeling well, it’s a breeze to delegate, which I think is the ultimate test of a recipe. Can monkeys do it? Perfect. So can Nick (or whoever you prefer to boss around). And even though it sounds like it would be impossibly rich, it’s really not – you won’t feel disgusting after eating it. I am very much looking forward to this for lunch tomorrow. And now I am going to eat some more painkillers and start in on that wine….

Bacon fat cookiestravaganza. Or, how to make you fall in love with me. Except that I probably wouldn’t tell you what was in these if I was trying to woo you.

I hadn’t had a peanut butter cookie in a really long time.

And when Nick went out to get dinner stuff, he mentioned that maybe I should do the dishes, and I was like, “If I’m helpful, maybe he’ll come home with a present!” So I did the dishes, and Nick came home, and I pointed out the four dishes I washed, and he wasn’t as impressed as I’d hoped, and then he asked if I bothered to clean out the fridge yet. Of course I didn’t. But I thought, I could at least open it and see what happens. And then it happened. The bacon fat resurfaced!

Mmmm!Please don’t quit on me yet. I promise you, this is worth your while.

Bacon fat is better for you than margarine, if you haven’t heard, and while I can’t actually back that up, it’s a fact, and if you want proof then I would be happy to recommend some literature that will help you along. And we’re in a recession. And I’m saving the butter for mashed potatoes. My grandmother used to make the best peanut butter cookies in the world using schmaltz (rendered chicken or goose fat), which would have been left over anyway, which she kept in the freezer just for baking. And being (constantly) broke, my cold little heart breaks when I have to throw stuff out. I always save my bacon fat.

The peanut butter cookie recipe I like the best comes from Fannie Farmer. I have long been a fan of Marion Cunningham, who is like everybody in the world’s grandmother’s cookbook (but not my grandmother, the story of who’s cookbook is a novel for another time) mashed into one divine being who makes everything you want to eat and is tall (I imagine) and regal and is friends with Jeffrey Steingarten, who is another kind of hero. I make half-batches of this recipe, because two dozen cookies is quite enough for me. The recipe in its full measure claims that it will produce 120 cookies, which I have never found to be true. This is either a gross miscalculation or they’re supposed to be tiny little cookies, and I hate little cookies because they’re a tease and before you know it you’ve eaten two bags of mini rainbow Chips Ahoy and you’re drunk and it’s 3:42 am and you’re crying on the kitchen floor (again) and the reason is embarrassing but also you wish you could carry on a conversation with normal people without saying something wildly inappropriate or them thinking you had tourette’s syndrome, for once, and who the hell let you have the phone in the first place?

Peanut-Butter Bacon Fat Cookies

(Adapted from the recipe for Peanut-Butter Butter Cookies from the Fannie Farmer Baking Book, circa 1984. Makes about two-dozen cookies.)

  • 1/2 cup bacon fat
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Beat your bacon fat, peanut butter, and sugar together in a large bowl. You want the colour of the goop in the bowl to lighten and get creamy. Once it’s there, crack open your egg and drop the contents in, and keep beating the mixture.

Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, mix well, and then slowly add it to the mixture in the bowl, beating until all your ingredients are combined.

Cookie doughIf you’re like me and you’ve never been disappointed by a hunk of cookie dough in your mouth, then sample away. At first you may think it’s a little weird – and it is. But in a good way. The bacon fat makes the peanut butter seem peanut-butterier.

Roll the dough out into balls about an inch or so in diameter. Place about an inch apart on a cookie sheet, and press the tops down with a fork dipped in granulated sugar.

Raw cookie deliciousnessBake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes, and cool for a bit on a wire rack before eating.

I have to say I was pretty pleased with myself/these cookies, and not just because I used something in the fridge and therefore made progress toward a cleaner tomorrow. They are TASTY. You really ought to try this. I’m pretty sure a pound or so of bacon will produce enough fat for these, and then some, if you don’t already save your fat. Don’t waste fat. Baby Jesus cries when you wash the fat of the pig down the drain.

COOKIES!Seriously. You need to try these. Go render some pork fat, and then let me know how it all works out. Or, just come over for cookies and milk, and inhale my good baking stink.

An Unbalanced Breakfast.

Meat pancake? Only justifiable in the dead of winter when there is no fruit and everything is grey and dark and you just want to eat a hug. Or when you’re going to be doing a lot of exercise anyway and you can pass this off as an acceptable morning repast. Actually, I can justify anything, so maybe you can just have this whenever.

This is actually Toad in the Hole, which is something I would look forward to as a child, and which we would have often, mostly when Dad would cook. I used to cry when he’d add onions. Meat pancake. It sounds like a thing a dad would make.

And to be fair, it’s not all THAT bad. I mean, it’s essentially a pancake with the sausage baked into it instead of served on the side. And onions and bacon, and served with sour cream. So, it could be worse. It could be deep fried.

Toad in the Hole

  • 2 bangers (or large sausages … if you’re going to use the little breakfast sausages, use more)
  • 4 strips of bacon
  • 1 small onion, cut in half and then sliced long-wise, into strips
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and pepper, to taste (but because of the sausage and bacon, I don’t add salt. You can. No judgment)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss a greased pan into the oven as the oven heats.

Fry sausage, bacon, and onion (I like onion now – no tears!) in a pan on the stove until browned. You don’t need to add any oil. In fact, don’t, because you’re going to pour the entire contents of the pan into your batter (later), so don’t add more grease. Unless you’re into that. I’m not. Surprisingly.

Meat and onions in panIt doesn’t matter too much if your sausage isn’t fully cooked through at this point – it’s going to bake for a bit.

Mix together your milk, flour, and butter in a separate bowl. When the meat is done, empty the whole pan into the bowl, toss lightly to coat in batter. Pull the heated pan out of the oven and pour the contents of the bowl into the pan, making sure that the batter is evenly spread out. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until edges have pulled away from the sides and the top is golden.

Toad!Slice and serve. I like it with a dollop of sour cream and a breakfast cocktail.

Tasty!Eat. Resist the urge to nap. Maybe go for a bike ride, or to play frisbee golf. Meat pancake!

Ribs: Because meat sure is tasty!

This week at the market, they had ribs on special, in small quantities – just enough for dinner for two. Also this week, my Food & Wine magazine came, and the theme was barbecue. It seemed like Nick’s planets had aligned, and because sometimes I do nice things for him, I figured I’d get the ribs and make the meat. Because I am terrible at remembering anything, I ended up kind of combining and reinventing two recipes from this edition despite having the wrong kind of meat (the recipe calls for baby back ribs … I had a pork loin rib rack). So I will give you my version the Food & Wine recipe, because, quite honestly, my variations were awesome and I am awesome and meat is awesome and everything about these ribs is spectacular.

At the outset, I knew that if Nick said the ribs were “good,” I was going to murder him with a basting brush. IN THE HEART. For a creative writing major, he should have better adjectives, and lately, all the validation I get is, “it’s good.” Spent twelve hours to create a single loaf of bread? “It’s good.” Wriggled into a tight red dress that makes my boobs look like aggressive, smooth-skinned grapefruits? Barely looking up, “You look good.” WAS THE STAR TREK MOVIE NOT AMAZING AND HOLY CRAP WAS SULU HOT? “Yeah, I thought it was good.” Good. It’s his only word, and it’s driving me insane. And then I storm off and he’s all, “what do you want from me?!” And he should know better and probably should have been gay because it would have been easier, and maybe I should have been too. But I think the thing is, I shouldn’t bother with any of that stuff if I want a little attention. Slow-cooked meat is the way to go, and he’d better use an adjective that is adequate to describe the effort and the taste sensation. “Life-changing” would work, as would “epic,” “revelatory,” or “better than anything I’ve ever tasted in my life and this is why I married you, not just so that I’d have access to your grapefruit stash” which isn’t an adjective, more like hope that he will magically change and actually start uttering what I want to hear, at last.

Tomorrow I’ll go back to ignoring him and making what I like. And in case you’re all, “you constantly use the word ‘awesome’ like a half-assed coordinating conjunction so who are you to complain about Nick’s overuse of ‘good?'” And to that I say, I also overuse “fantastic,” “lovely,” and “ass,” so even if I am repetitive, at least I’ve got variety. I’m like dining off the KFC menu for seven days in a row – you think it’s all the same but there are actually subtleties that breed uniqueness with every experience. SUBTLETIES.

But, I digress.

Bourbon and Apple Pork Loin Rib Rack

  • 1 3 lb. pork loin rib rack

Rub:

  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated with a microplane or other fine grater
  • 4 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. celery seed
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper

Cooking liquid:

  • 1 tbsp. of the spice rub (above)
  • 1/4 cup apple cider (although, I used this, and it was excellent. I used this in place of cider in this and the barbecue sauce. If you can find an apple beer, use it)
  • 1/4 cup Wild Turkey (or bourbon of some other variety)
  • 1/4 cup apple jelly, melted
  • 1/4 cup honey

Early in the morning, but preferably the night before, apply the spice rub to the meat and let it get all tasty. Keep it in the fridge while this is happening. Take it out about an hour before it goes into the oven.

Preheat oven to 250°F. Place the spicy meat (uncovered) on a baking sheet, and bake for 2 1/2 hours.Raw meat with rubRemove the meat from the oven and place on a large sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle the liquid mixture over top, and seal the meat in its juice. Put it on the pan and back into the oven, and bake for another hour.

During this time, you’ll want to make your barbecue sauce. I guess you can use store-bought, but you’ve got the cider/beer and the bourbon anyway, and homemade is way better.

Barbecue Sauce:

  • 1 cup bourbon
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider
  • 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 cloves finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Mix up the ingredients in a bowl. Save for when you toss that meat on the grill.

Barbecue sauceWhen the meat comes out of the oven, throw it onto the barbecue over medium heat. Cook for another 15 to 20 minutes, basting with the sauce.

Meat on grillSide dishes? I thought you’d never ask.

Toss some chopped vegetables in some olive oil with a little kosher salt and black pepper, and put them on the top rack – ten minutes should suffice. Oh! And do some corn! Same amount of time.

Vegetables in olive oil

Corn and butter with herbs

Pull back the corn husks (but don’t pull them off), and butter the corn with a bit of herb butter. I had some fresh lemon thyme from the pots on my deck, so I used that. Re-wrap the corn in its husks and set it on the top rack as well, 10 minutes.

Veggies on grill

Mmmm ... corn!

When the meat is done, pull it off the grill and let it rest, preferably for ten minutes. Serve with the vegetables (unpeel peel the corn).

Meal!So, Nick was all, “this is really good,” and at first I was content to take “really” as an improvement. But then he read the first part of this blog and was like, “it doesn’t taste like scabs!” So, we’re probably going to get a divorce. Oh! This whole meal went really well with this apple wine we bought last weekend. It would also be lovely with ice cold apple cider, or that apple white beer. But not with apple juice. NO.

And another thing? It’s time to clean the deck:

My gross feetSo, um. Friday! Also, sorry about this one. I started drinking at 2:00.

Got ketchup? Make udon.

I know. Sounds gross, right?

It’s not. I promise.

Sometimes it’s been a long week when you’re only a day into it, and your kitchen looks like this:

A hell of my own making.
A hell of my own making.

And you get home and your version of Nick is all, “Let’s rent Jesus Christ Superstar and get into that wine,” because he likes the hot, scantily clad ’70s chicks doing high kicks and because he knows I can’t say no to sexy Judas, and because we have a lot of really awesome wine right now. So dinner has to happen quickly.

I happened to have purchased some udon noodles and pork chops, inspired in part by The Wednesday Chef’s (hereafter TWC) recent post on egg noodles in soy broth. So I whipped up a batch of the noodles, and we drank an astonishingly good pink wine, and we watched a rock opera and then Robot Chicken, and it was good.

This recipe isn’t authentically Asian. Any kind of Asian. It involves ketchup. It’s essentially white trash fat noodles, but don’t let that turn you off. It’s kind of awesome. I only made it because it sounded weird, and it involved ingredients I had on hand already. Except for the noodles. And because I wanted to make a full meal out of it, I added vegetables, and I grilled some pork and scallops. I had the scallops in the freezer – five of them – and this was a good way to use up such an awkward number.

Noodles in Soy Broth via The Wednesday Chef (via Mark Bittman) but With Other Stuff so It’s Not Exactly the Same.

The pork and the scallops aren’t in TWC’s original recipe.

  • Two small pork chops marinated in 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • Five large scallops (optional) marinated in:
    • The juice of half a lime (reserve the other half and serve with finished soup)
    • 1 tbsp. mirin
    • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
    • 1 tsp. dark brown sugar
    • 1 tsp. sriracha

Throw these all on the barbecue. Or put them in the oven. Or fry them in a pan. Cook them.

The broth (adapted from TWC):

  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar, or to taste
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. sriracha
  • 1 tsp. finely minced ginger
  • 1 tsp. finely minced garlic
  • 2 cups fresh udon noodles
  • vegetables (use what you’ve got. I used a carrot, a cup of broccoli, two large bok choy stalks, and about a cup of mushrooms)
  • 1 bunch of scallions and a handful of cilantro to garnish

Over medium heat, heat a large pot. Add the oil, carrot, and noodles. Then add the ketchup, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sriracha, ginger, and garlic. When the noodles are coated and saucy, add six cups of water.

Flip your meat and scallops. Four to five minutes will have passed.

Bring the water to a boil, and then reduce heat. Toss in the broccoli and the hard part of the bok choy. Take the meat and scallops off the barbecue.

Add the bok choy leaves, mushrooms, and half of the scallions and stir to soften the leaves. Slice the meat into strips – it’s easier to eat with chopsticks, especially if you have no clean forks. Serve the soup in bowls, with the scallops and meat on top, garnished with the cilantro, the rest of the scallions, and a slice of lime. Enjoy. Serve with pink wine, and if you manage to get a slice of sun at the end of the day, enjoy outdoors. If not, eat in front of the TV.

The recipe makes enough for two and leftovers. There won't be any left over.
The recipe makes enough for two and leftovers. There won't be any left over.

The next time I make this, I am going to use less ketchup and more soy sauce, because it was a little on the tangy side. Which might not be a bad thing. You decide.

Soupy.
Soupy.

There is nothing more beautiful than a wine-fridge filled-to-bursting with overstock in racks on the floor. Or, Touring Langley Wineries: A Good Idea.

Oh wow. Big day.

It started with dim sum, and just the right amount of food – going into a wine tour on an empty stomach only seems like a good idea. It’s actually a recipe for disaster that ends in all kinds of crankiness and tears. Nick and I met Grace and James at 11:00. We ate Chinese donut, shrimp-and-duck dumplings, rice noodle with scallops and asparagus, and excellent sticky rice. We had the little spring-roll-looking pastries filled with sweet red pork. It was all very delicious, and a generous spread of food (and a morning beer for Nick and James) came to $15.00 per person (including tip). So we were off to a good start.

Unfortunately, I drove.

Grace and James navigate from the back seat, armed with a map of the region and an epic book of BC wineries.
Grace and James navigate from the back seat, armed with a map of the region and an epic book of BC wineries.

Confusion over the exits and a detour off the highway about 35 kilometers from where we needed to be aside, we made it to The Fort Wine Co. in Fort Langley by 12:45.  Fort is a fruit winery, and they make excellent dessert wines that smell exactly like the fruit that’s in them. I bought a bottle of their raspberry dessert wine, and it smelled like sunshine and a pint of fresh raspberries and everything good in the world. Nick bought a bottle of the blueberry table wine, and I got a bottle of their apple-pear wine, which will be perfect when chilled and stuffed into a cooler and dragged off for a picnic on the beach at some point this summer. One of the nice things about The Fort Wine Co. is that they have a little patio and some picnic tables in their garden where you can order a glass of wine or sangria and enjoy snacks, such as a platter of delicious local cheeses and crackers. We skipped that this time (dim sum – too full). Nick took over the driving at this point, so we made it to our next location with far greater ease.

We had a delightful time at Lotusland. They have lots of different kinds of wines, and because it’s a bit out of the way, they are not very busy if you show up there on a Sunday afternoon. Which means that you can try all the wines, and also probably that they will pour you a bigger glass of each and generally be a lot of fun to talk to. I wasn’t super impressed with all the wines there – the whites were, by and large, very sweet and not to my particular liking, although James bought a bottle of the Gewürztraminer. Nick liked the Pinot Grigio, so he acquired one of those, and I was tickled by a low-tannin red called Zweigelt, which I had never tried before and immediately fell in love with (and mispronounced the name of). It’s very light. A breakfast red, you might say. Now five and three bottles in, respectively, we were pretty pleased with ourselves.

Thanks, Lotusland!
Thanks, Lotusland!

While we were at Lotusland, our wine-tasting host told us about this odd little winery about a fifteen minute drive away. Grace consulted the book, and soon we were on our way to Vista D’Oro, a place where they make wine fortified with green walnuts macerated in brandy. If they had been open, I think we might have learned something. Note to Vista D’Oro: Sunday is Wine Tour Day. It always has been. Be open next time.

Another savage u-turn, and we set a course for Domaine de Chaberton, which I think is French for “awesome.” Their wines are amazing, and you can buy six of them, including a double bottle, for under $100. (In Canada, that many wines for that amount is a good deal. Which is kind of sad. I once bought as many bottles at the Target in Bellingham, WA, for much less. But the wine wasn’t as good. So there.)

My favourite stop on the tour.
My favourite stop on the tour.

Domaine de Chaberton is always very busy, so you get to taste not very much of four wines. That’s okay. I am fairly certain that you can buy any one of their wines and not be disappointed.

I'll bet these don't suck.
I'll bet these don't suck.

This is also Nick’s favourite place, so we bought stuff we both like. Usually we try to get wines we both like, because we’re poor and occasionally we like to make sound financial decisions. But we both like all the wines here. Disappointingly, they were out of Ortega, the best one (it’s grown in the Fraser Valley), and they told us there wouldn’t be a batch this year. Sad face. We got these wines:

It's pretty clear that my next career move should be toward graphic design.
It's pretty clear that my next career move should be toward graphic design.

And we were so happy.

All our hearts grew three sizes that day.
All our hearts grew three sizes that day.

Our final stop on the tour was Township 7. We didn’t mean for it to be the last stop, but we got lost in White Rock (where, did you know, there’s a Tracycakes?!), and then got very hungry, and, after that, very tired.

At Township 7, there are excellent wines. Go there before you go to Domaine de Chaberton though, because going the other way results in a bit of sticker shock. But the reds are good here, and I am quite fond of the Syrah. Only one bottle for Nick and I (and I think two for Grace and James) here, but to be fair, that brought us to 12 (each) for the day. When you get there, try the Merlot – they offer you a piece of salt-and-pepper chocolate to try it with, and the combination is oddly amazing. The chocolate really brings out the red part of the wine.

Wine shop.
Wine shop.
Wine vines.
Wine vines.
Wine.
Wine.

The great thing about BC is that there are so many wonderful places that will give you alcohol just for showing up and looking eager to buy. There are a couple of wineries on the other side of the river that I want to try – Sanduz Estate Wines, in particular – and the Okanagan is a vast and wonderful winestravaganza. The current plan is to spend a weekend up there this summer acquiring as much wine and fruit as we can fit into the car, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. But that’s a tale for another time, and this one is already exceedingly long.

I am tickled and pleased and all kinds of happy rolled into one. Thanks, Langley.

Oh! If you have any suggestions for wine, wineries, or places where I can learn to drive, please do let me know. Learning is fun!

I know what love is.
I know what love is.