Rainy night, rice pudding.

Oh, the weather. The weather in this city is always worth mentioning, because it’s impossible to overlook. When it’s sunny, it’s glorious, and you can smell the ocean and everything sort of glitters. And when it’s rainy, it’s not just rainy. It’s damp, sinister, dark. We live in a rain forest, here on the west coast. And today, we’re filling our reservoirs.

Also, our apartment is stacked up like a poorly played game of Tetris.

Grace came over tonight to help us pack, which she volunteered to do. She also volunteered to bring a pot of sausage stew, which was spicy and cinnamony and filled with chickpeas and carrots and flecks of green. And salad, with homemade blue cheese dressing and perfectly boiled eggs. And I couldn’t just not make something, and the rain.

Don’t forget the rain. Rice pudding is what you want when it’s like this, outside and in, when you’ve got to pack your life and the contents of your fridge into boxes, and you want to bring with you as little as possible.

Vanilla and coconut rice pudding

  • 3 cups cooked, cold long-grain white rice, such as basmati
  • 1 14 oz./398mL can of coconut milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 1/4 cup flaked, unsweetened coconut, toasted
  • 2 tbsp. melted butter
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat your oven to 350ºF.

In the same container that your leftover rice is being stored in, add the coconut milk, eggs, and sugar. Stir to combine.

Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pot, and add the pods as well. Stir in the toasted coconut and butter. Taste, and if you need to add the salt, then add that in as well and stir. Pour into a small casserole dish, about a quart-and-a-half in size.

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, until bubbling and golden on top.

Serve warm, with a spoonful of cold jam. If you get a vanilla bean pod, don’t eat it. Nick said that it would be a good thing to have for breakfast, and I think he’s right. We’ve got leftovers, so we’ll eat it again tomorrow. I think it will be even better, warm and slightly sweet, and not goopy. And because there’s no cinnamon in it, it’s not the colour of cardboard. So it’s even kind of nice to look at. Delight.

When we get to the new place, and we get the little things like the Internet set up, I’d like to start thinking about the holidays, and cooking for them, because right about then it will be just about time. Don’t let me forget. I want to hear about what you’re doing as well. I won’t let you forget either! But for now, packing. And pudding. And bedtime. Good night!

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Cranberry scones, and good morning to you!

Can you believe we’re a month away from Christmas? I can’t believe how long it’s been since I thought about tomatoes. I’m thinking about cranberries these days, and maple syrup and shortbread cookies and root vegetables and squash and foggy-skinned red local apples. American Thanksgiving is this week. I keep seeing commercials for Black Friday, hearing Christmas music in every little store I duck into, and finding egg nog and candy cane ice cream on grocery shelves where neither was before.

You may wake up early this week with a to-do list to fit the season and a hankering for something warm, and when you do, could I recommend scones? Cranberry scones, with maple syrup and brown sugar. Not too sweet, and very nice with a hot cup of tea.

Cranberry scones

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup cold butter, cubed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup chilled whole milk
  • 2 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, chopped

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Combine the flour,  sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Squeeze the butter between your fingers, as if you were making pie crust. I seem to say this a lot. Maybe I talk too much about baked goods? You don’t want to crumble the butter into nothing – think of peas scattered among crumbs.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, and add the milk and the maple syrup and the cranberries. Stir the liquid into the butter-flour mix, and press gently to form a dough. When the dough is a single mass that holds together well, turn it out onto a floured surface, and cut into four equal pieces. Form rounds of each quarter, and cut each quarter further into four pieces, making sixteen scones in total.

Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 15 to 18 minutes, until puffed and golden. Cool on a wire rack, but eat warm, slathered in butter and drizzled with a bit of maple syrup. Good morning, and happy holidays!

Turnip? Rutabaga? Whatever, just turn it into dinner.

Sunday was our first wedding anniversary. Time flies – that’s now two years of togetherness, though Nick says he’s sure it must have been longer. Nope. Two years, almost to the day, and one year of marriedness, and we spent our anniversary in much the same way we’ve spent most of our days – almost completely out of money more than a week before payday, in the rain, with some of our favourite people.

We went to The Glen at Maple Falls this weekend, which is somewhere near Mount Baker in Washington, and spent three rainy days with a few good friends. The food was fatty, the beer was cheap, and for some reason we all got a little too caught up in the figure skating championships on TV. I blame the cheap American dairy, which was delicious, for the glassy-eyed stupor that befell us all. I ate a pint of ice cream from the dairy on the way down. There must be something magical about American cattle, because we don’t have ice cream like that up here. Egg nog swirl? GENIUS. Maybe the grass is actually greener down south? Could be.

Anyway, last night was our anniversary, and I had intended to turn the turnip into something magical, but Paul’s car had a little bit of trouble on the way home, and, long story short, we ended up pushing it across the border. Canadians really are very nice, and we were grateful for our good-humoured border guard. And as we waited for the tow truck, and then Paul’s sister, and then the SkyTrain ride home, what was going to be an elaborate meal got shelved for an easy bit of soup instead. Until tonight.

Tonight. Chelsea came over, and then Paul, and then we celebrated appropriately – with butter and beer and wine and cheese and this little turnip thing that’s actually kind of a big deal.

I’m going to give you the recipe, but keep in mind that it makes a lot of pasta and I ended up freezing half. Double the sauce recipe if you’re feeding eight, and boil the full amount of gnocchi. If you make the full batch of pasta and you’re only feeding four, you’ll end up with too much to eat, even for lunches the next day.

You can freeze uncooked gnocchi for up to one month – you’ll certainly use it before that. Halve the recipe if you’ve got a smaller turnip (you’ll need a bit more flour because you can’t halve an egg, so adjust as needed), and keep the sauce the same.

Turnip gnocchi

  • 1 2 lb. turnip, peeled, cooked, and puréed
  • 2 tbsp. crème fraîche (bonus points if you made your own; if you’re without, you can use yogurt or sour cream)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1/2 cup for rolling and kneading, reserved

Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 head roasted garlic
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, chopped and toasted (there are more hazelnuts in the picture above than are listed here because I find I have to make more than I need because I’ll eat half of the nuts laid out for the recipe no matter what. You do what you have to do, you know?)
  • 2 tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. grated parmesan
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

I used a food processor, but that’s because it’s Monday night, and at 7:00 pm you just don’t have all day. You don’t have to – if you don’t, though, this might be a recipe better suited to a weekend when you have a bit more time.

Thoroughly combine turnip, crème fraîche, egg, and spices in a large bowl. Gradually stir in flour until dough is formed.

Sprinkle reserved flour on a large surface. Cut dough in half, and form each half into baseball-sized pieces. Roll each piece until it’s about one half-inch in diameter. Slice half-inch chunks, dropping slices onto a cookie sheet until you’re ready to drop the lot into a pot of boiling water. As mentioned, I only used half of this, and froze the rest. But that’s because I only ever have to feed four people.

Boil for eight to ten minutes, in salted water, until gnocchi rise to the top.

In a large pan, melt the butter, and add the uncooked garlic, until you can just smell the buttery garlickness, until the garlic is just slightly golden. Squish in your roasted garlic, and add your gnocchi. Toss to coat.

Let simmer for two to three minutes, then toss with sage and hazelnuts. Let sit for another minute. Grate a bit of cheese over top, and season to taste.

Grate a little bit more cheese over top and sprinkle a bit of nutmeg over before serving. This ends up being quite an inexpensive, very filling feast, one that’s redolent of autumn warmth, especially now that it’s starting to feel a lot like winter. Perfect for an anniversary, or even the day after, with your favourite person or a few of them. Just enough turnip, more than enough but not too much garlic, and butter. You don’t need anything more, except maybe a dollop of that crème fraîche and a little bit of good wine.

There’s no reason why you can’t make gnocchi with any starchy, earthy thing you have on hand, and there’s no reason why you can’t make your own adventure when stranded a couple of hours from home. Both are the kind of thing you’ll surely talk about for a long while afterward.

When it’s rainy and windy and there are boxes everywhere and if you live in Vancouver, go to The Three Lions Café.

It was Nick’s birthday, and we are in the throes of moving. I got him this. There are boxes everywhere, and I am not buying much in the way of groceries until we get to our new place. So for Nick’s birthday, we went to that most glorious of gastropubs, The Three Lions Café. It is a place where we are regulars, and where I always leave utterly satisfied, completely at peace, mumbling adverbs and rubbing my belly. The beer list is eclectic and always delightful, and the waitresses are personable and funny and always recommend something I’ll like. Kayla is my favourite, although she wasn’t there Wednesday night. There are at least two bartenders that I am aware of, and both are extra attractive, but not in that aloof, self-important Vancouver way that actually isn’t very attractive at all. Everyone is really, really nice.

And the food.

The food.

They’ve switched over to a fall menu, with sumptuous game meats, rich curries and stews, and warm, bright tastes in addition to their regular menu items, which are classics no matter where you’re from. We usually order fish and chips, or bangers and mash. But this time, I ordered the rabbit.

The rabbit ragoût. Though they called it ragu, which is also acceptable.

That was some tasty Thumper.

It was perfection. Delicately spiced, though bursting with black pepper and earthiness – those mushrooms. The bartender, who was also our waiter, Victor, recommended it and he was absolutely right. Just look at it.

The photo doesn’t do it justice, but I don’t believe that there’s a camera out there that would. The spinach – so creamy. The capers – so crispy. And I would quit my job and leave my husband for those mushrooms. We would run away together and be so happy.

Sometimes a meal is so good it’s just worth sharing, and I wanted to share it with you.

Even if there wasn’t a bite left over for anyone to try.

If you’re in Vancouver, check out The Three Lions. You will certainly love it like I love it, I’m sure of it. But don’t go too often – I would cry if I ever had to wait in line. It’s that kind of delicious. And, the way I think about it, it’s mine.

The Three Lions Café | 1 East Broadway | Vancouver, BC V5T 1V4 | (604) 569-2233

Bulgur risotto, with lima beans or peas or whatever you’ve got in your pantry, freezer, or fridge.

Oh, did I mention we’re moving? We’re moving. In eleven days.

We’ve found a place, about a five-minute bike-ride away from where we are now, in a nice little neighbourhood where there’s a grocery store so fancy that there are two cheese sections, one that’s open to the general populace and one behind glass, which people like me can’t afford to buy from. They sell interesting things like San Marzano tomatoes, squid ink pasta, jasmine tea soda, and beautifully aged dark red meat. There’s a Williams-Sonoma across the street.

The apartment is also very nice, though there isn’t a balcony so the barbecue won’t be coming along. It’s cheaper than where we are now, and a little bit bigger, and we can have a dog or a cat there if we want. I want. Nick is being difficult. The kitchen there is smaller, but there are more windows, and so maybe my photographs will come out clearer, less blurry, and maybe less yellow and dark. There is a separate space for a dining room. There are closets.

I am very excited. But we have so much stuff, and the kitchen here is full-to-bursting. So we’re not buying anything new, not until the new place is unpacked and set up and we’ve determined how much of my clutter will have to be stored. And that is why today, I want to tell you about risotto.

Kind of.

Bulgur risotto.

Which I guess isn’t really risotto at all.

We’re using up the stuff in the cupboards, and a year or so back, I was on a bulgur kick, because it’s such nutty, chewy stuff and I wanted to make Turkish food and it’s something other than pasta or rice. It’s toasted cracked wheat, which sounds just lovely, and you can use it in place of rice in pretty much anything. You can even make a kind of risotto out of it, and it’s wonderful, especially if you live with someone who loathes risotto.

You make it the same way that you’d make a real risotto, though you use less liquid, it takes twenty minutes instead of thirty, and you don’t have to pay as much attention to it. It’s not as creamy as risotto, but you can make up for that by adding vegetable puree, perhaps, or an extra creamy cheese. If you want. I used lima beans because I had some in the freezer, but Nick thought this would be much better with peas. Who knows? Give it a try. Play with it, and tell me what you think.

Bulgur Risotto with Lima Beans

(Serves four to six as a side dish, or two very hungry people as a main.)

  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup coarse bulgur
  • 2 cups hot chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup frozen lima beans (or peas)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper, to taste (but taste first!)

Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed pan on the stove. Add onions and garlic, and coat with butter, frying until the onions are translucent. Stir in bulgur, and allow it to sop up any of the remaining butter.

Pour in about half a cup of chicken stock, stir, and let absorb. Keep adding chicken stock in small doses, for about fifteen minutes.

When the last of the chicken stock is absorbed, and the bulgur has puffed up and softened, finish with the wine. Throw in the frozen lima beans, and the parsley. Toss with cheese, and adjust seasonings to your liking. I didn’t add any salt, because the cheese and the stock was salty enough, but Nick said it wouldn’t hurt to add a tiny bit more.

Serve on its own, or as a side dish. It’s very unusual, with a texture reminiscent of wild rice and a nutty, toasty taste. It’s very good, and quite filling – very high in fibre, you know. And it’s a nice change, if you’re eating a lot of rice or pasta. And not scary at all – bulgur is an easy place to start if you’re looking to expand your eating horizons. I even add a handful of it to regular risotto sometimes, for texture’s sake, and it’s quite good.

Anyway. It’s Nick’s birthday, and I promised I’d let him sleep, but I also said I’d treat him to some breakfast. I should go figure out what there is in the fridge and maybe whip up some eggs or something. And then start packing.

Buttermilk apple fritters: Breakfast of big-boned champions.

I kind of felt bad, a little, because it seems as though I am mainlining fat these days, which is not usually a big deal to me because on the one hand, obesity is a serious illness and bad things happen to you and you can’t buy clothes at regular stores and diabetes and blah blah blah.  But on the other hand, if I get super fat, maybe I’ll qualify for disability benefits and then I won’t have to go to work or worry about clothes – I’ll get to sit around eating deep-fried stuff all day while wearing a muu muu and completing that novel I keep pretending I’ll ever finish, and maybe the government will even pay for cable. If I get Nick super fat too then I won’t even have to worry about him leaving me for someone with a neck.

These were my thoughts this morning as I pondered the last of the buttermilk that I inherited from my neighbour and Grace’s friend, Ayesha, who is heading to Kenya suddenly and needed help emptying her fridge.

I started a little batch of crème fraîche on my kitchen counter (one cup heavy cream to two tablespoons of buttermilk, left to sit in a jar at room temperature for 18 to 36 hours until thickened), and then there were leftovers. And I have two apples, which I was going to eat the way one normally eats apples, but then I realized, I’m on vacation and we’re moving in two weeks so any time I am not spending feeding us or checking the mail or procrastinating should be spent packing and that’s when I got out the grater and started heating the oil.

I can justify pretty much anything, by the way, in case you hadn’t noticed. Anything.

Buttermilk Apple Fritters

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup grated Granny Smith apple

Topping:

  • 2 tbsp. confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon

Mix together all ingredients except for the apple until well combined. Fold in the apple, and let rest for ten minutes.

In the meantime, in a heavy-bottomed pot, heat about two quarts of oil to 350°F, or until a little splotch of batter dropped into the oil fizzles immediately and rises to the top.

Now you get to decide how big you want these things to be. I used a spatula to awkwardly ladle these out, but you can make them as big or as little as you want. My way made eight. Keep in mind that the cook time will vary, but I fried my fritters for about two minutes per side, until they were deeply golden and crunchy-looking.

Once the fritters are fried, cool on a few sheets of paper towel. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture over top of hot fritters, and serve immediately. If you are also on holidays, feel free to crack open a chilled bottle of Gewurztraminer as well. Maybe don’t eat them all in one sitting. This kind of thing is good for sharing, which is great, because it’s the kind of thing that people will love you for sharing with them. They’re crispy, spicy, appley, and wonderful – better than store-bought, and they’ll be gone almost as soon as you put out the plate.

When I was a kid, waffles meant it was a very good day.

Making breakfast.And KFC meant we were on vacation, and my mom’s jelly roll with the meringue mushrooms meant it was January 1. Now that I’m a grown-up I can have waffles whenever I want, which means I really should have more very good days, but for whatever reason, same way that I don’t own a pie plate, I don’t have a waffle iron.

Today we babysat my nephew at my parents’ house, and waffles are one of his favourite things too, more so than ice cream, which I told him he could have for breakfast if he wanted and he thought about it. He showed remarkable maturity in declining the offer.

We only ever had one recipe for waffles when I was a kid, and the recipe came from The New Purity Cook Book, which purports to be “the complete guide to Canadian cooking,” though I’m not sure what that actually means.

Cover shot.Apparently Purity was (is?) a company that made flour and assorted other baking products, and they put out a cookbook, though I’ve never seen any of their products for sale anywhere. And for some reason, my parents had the cookbook. I happened upon the same cookbook (in hardcover) a couple of months ago in a thrift store, so I picked it up and now I have the waffle recipe as well.

Flour ad.These are best made on a waffle iron with little squares. Not those big, hulking Belgian waffle squares, which are not sufficient if you want ample maple syrup distribution. I wish I could show you but I guess those must be hard to come by now because even Mom and Dad have the big-squared kind of waffle maker. The little squares sopped up the syrup far more efficiently, like a sponge, which is how you want to eat waffles. They’re plain because they’re vehicles for maple syrup, which I guess is why they are included in the complete guide to Canadian cooking. You can fancify these any way you want – add bananas, berries, pumpkin, spices, adapt however you like – I never do, because some things just don’t need gussying up. So here. Make these waffles, and have yourself a very good day too.

Waffles (adapted from The New Purity Cook Book)

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

Sift together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together the liquids.

Heat the waffle iron according to your waffle iron’s instructions. You may need to lightly grease the iron before heating, depending on what kind you have or how old it is. I greased lightly, using a little bit of butter. My parents have that spray grease stuff, but ew.

Pour batter into waffle iron, drop the lid, and cook until waffles have stopped steaming, and are golden and fluffy. Don’t lift the lid during cooking, or else they flatten out and don’t work as well for syrup-sopping.

Waffling.Serve hot and steaming from the iron, doused in real maple syrup. Maple syrup is to real waffles as Mrs. Butterworth is to Eggos. It is glorious and perfect and should be used in abundance whenever possible, and waffles make it possible.

I challenge you to have anything less than a wonderful day if you start your morning with waffles. You won’t be able to do it – you’ll be all smiles until bedtime, I promise.

Mmmmmmm.