A Clambush at Desolation Sound.

On Friday, Grace, Laraine, Paul, Nick, and I hopped a couple of ferries and headed to Powell River for what shall henceforth and forever be known as The Ultimate Seafood Feast. Grace planned the whole thing (and included handouts), and it was lovely.

We stayed about 30 minutes out of Powell River, near Desolation Sound. There was nothing desolate about it, and not a sound except for a woodpecker and a few chirpy little red squirrels in the trees.

The point of the trip was clam-digging, though a secondary benefit was certainly relaxation. I read MFK Fisher’s Serve it Forth, Paul made sashimi of the sockeye he had caught the night before we left, and we played Scrabble and drank cocktails and cheap beer and were very civilized out there in our cabin in the woods. Nick had five naps. We were there two nights.

On Saturday morning, our eyes still glued mostly shut after our first feast night and its requisite debauchery, we wandered out to the shore to dig for clams at low tide.

It was all very thrilling. Every so often, Grace would squeal and announce that “I found the biggest one!” or skip over with a particularly lovely clam and declare that it would become earrings, a garland, or a fridge magnet stuck with googly eyes. Paul and Nick wandered off to pick mussels and oysters, and soon we had an embarrassment of edible riches.

When we got home, we all took naps, and then considered the oysters.

And then we had naps again.

And when we woke up, Laraine and I read in the living room while Nick and Paul played a game and Grace poured wine and did dishes and then when we told her not to she said “But I’m having fun!” so we let her have the kitchen.

We let the clams soak in salted water for a few hours so that they’d release any grit they might be holding onto, and Paul de-bearded some mussels. I don’t think I have ever had better clams than we had that evening – Grace made her Dad’s recipe. She poured a bit of sake, a few chopped scallions, and some garlic into the pan and steamed the clams until they burst open. They were perfect, and needed no salt. The mussels were steamed in beer and cream with fennel, and were also very elegant.

We ate dinner huddled around the stove, with Grace steaming batch after batch of clams, each of us forking bites out of the pan and dipping Laraine’s homemade sourdough into the broth. From now on, this is the only way I will serve shellfish for company.

It was so delicious, and we ate throughout the evening, into the night. And at the end of it, we sipped sparkling wine and made fun of Nick and then had cheesecake and then warmed dates stuffed with Roquefort, and there has never been anything better in the whole history of the world.

It was so hard to leave! Fortunately, we were each able to bring a few cooked clams home, so we’ll be able to enjoy a feast more each. How fresh and wonderful it all was! And how impossible to forget!

Quick “tandoori” halibut.

Tonight we were supposed to go to the Fringe Festival and get culture and hold hands and maybe have a drink on a patio under a heat lamp and get all gross and romantic, but somehow instead when I came home Nick was just going down for a nap and then hours and hours passed and a show about cheerleaders came on and now he’s watching Silence of the Lambs, even though I am not the kind of person who can hear that sort of thing without internalizing it and making nightmares of it for weeks to come. My favourite movie is “What about Bob?” for good reason.

I am going to make him sleep outside the door of our apartment tonight, and possibly for the next several nights to protect the cat and I from having our faces eaten by cannibals.

And I wasn’t going to post tonight, but then I threw together the easiest fish in the world, and it was so delicious and flavourful and red, and on the side we had the carrots and beets and beet greens we picked out of the garden the other day, and I wanted to tell you about it. It was a fresh, fast meal, and really quite perfect for if we were going to Fringe, because it took almost no time.

I like to keep a stash of really bold spice blends on hand for occasions such as these, when you want a lot of flavour but don’t have a ton of time. I like Indian spices best, because they are warm and fragrant and often quite colourful. You should be able to buy tandoori masala in the Indian section of your local grocer. Failing that, you can pick it up at a specialty store, or buy it in paste form, which is also quite handy.

Here’s what to do.

Quick tandoori halibut

  • 2 pieces of halibut, about 3/4-inch thick and 1/2-lb. each
  • 2 tbsp. plain, full fat yogurt
  • 4 tsp. tandoori masala
  • 1.2 tsp. salt
  • Fresh ground pepper

Place halibut in a plastic bag with yogurt and tandoori masala. Squish it around until the spice has mixed into the yogurt and has coated the fish. Put the bag in the fridge. Go about your day.

Before cooking, preheat your oven to 400°F. Place halibut on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with salt, and as much pepper as you feel like. I always feel like way too much pepper.

Bake on the middle rack for 10 minutes, until just cooked through – you should see the fish just beginning to “flake,” where the grain of the fish starts to separate just a bit. If it’s a little thicker, give it a bit longer, but not much.

Also, the carrots look weird because I roasted them with yogurt as well; they were very tasty, but not beautiful. I tossed them in a mixture of yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, garam masala, and salt before roasting them at 400°F for 40 minutes. Skinnier carrots will take less time, fatter carrots: longer.

Here’s a picture of the Nick and the cat, in happier times and before I was legitimately considering stabbing him. Remember him fondly. He had a good run.

Salt-crusted salmon with lime.

Tonight is a quiet night, the end of the last day of a three-day work-week, and I cannot be bothered with even pajama pants – it’s been muggy lately, with over 50% humidity (all showing in my hair), and the forecast is calling for fire and smoke which I suspect means the apocalypse is nigh and I’m not even worried, just impressed, because I thought that sort of thing was supposed to defy prediction.

In other news, run-on sentences are still not something I edit out of my own writing. Apparently.

So tonight we had one of those easy meals that looks cool, because I wanted Nick to clean the apartment and I figured he would have to think I tried to be conned into that ugly a task. Salt-crusted salmon and roasted patty pan squash did the trick – it’s even pretty rad to say out loud, and apocalypse or not, I think I’ve earned the right to assign him floor-washing. Interestingly, it’s never my turn for that. This is why being married (to almost anyone but me) is better than living with a roommate.

The recipe is not so much a recipe as instructions to “coat salmon in salt and bake,” but the idea comes from Martha Stewart, who makes me mad (and feel inadequate) because being Martha Stewart-fabulous is way more effort than I am willing to put into anything and is also very expensive, but she has a good idea with the fish. Except, her recipe calls for an eight-pound salmon and, like, 12 pounds of salt, and I have no idea how the salt is supposed to stick to it. I want a crust, Martha. Not wispy little salt flecks flaking off at the wrong time.

Just make my fish. My lifestyle is one you can emulate for very little money or effort (don’t even bother with pants after 5:00 pm). Though not emulating it may actually make you feel even better about yourself, and self-esteem is a good thing.

Salt-crusted salmon with lime

(Serves four.)

  • 1 2.5 to 3 lb. whole salmon (mine was missing a head, but yours doesn’t have to be)
  • 6 cups coarse or Kosher salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 limes
  • Scallions (optional)

Preheat your oven to 450°F.

In a large bowl, combine salt, eggs, and the zest of two limes. Mix very well.

Line a baking sheet with parchment, and lay about a third of the salt mixture in the centre to about the length of the fish, and a little bit wider. Pat fish dry, and lay on top of salt.

Slice limes, and stuff into the cavity of the fish. You can add scallions or other herbs here too, if you like and if there’s room. Pack salt over top of the fish, pressing to ensure salmon is securely covered.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the centre of the oven. Let rest five to ten minutes before serving.

Remove salt carefully so as not to damage the fish. The skin should mostly come off with the salt, but if it doesn’t, don’t panic. It will peel off easily enough.

Serve to an adoring special someone or other someones who might also wash your floor, and delight in how awesomely easy this is, and yet how cool and innovative it looks. You will find that despite the SIX CUPS OF SALT, it’s actually not salty at all. It’s pleasantly seasoned, with just a hint of lime, and the result is fish that’s moist without the addition of any extra fat. If you used herbs or something otherwise aromatic in the fish, I think the flavour might be a little bit stronger, but I didn’t think it was necessary. Enjoy (even during the apocalypse)!

Tuna tartare, and a repressed yuppie sort-of howl.

This morning I woke up late and was panic-stricken that it was Thursday already and I had so much to do and it was never going to get done and to top it all off there was no time for a shower and there is a hole in the sole of my boot and when I walked to the bus stop in the rain water leaked in and it made my foot stink and all I could think of was holy crap, why?! But then – great news! – it turned out to only be Wednesday and the sun came out and not only did I cross a whole bunch of stuff off of my to-do list, I may not have smelled as bad as I thought.

I blame society for the fact that I stress like this two or three times a week, and civilization, and pretty much everything that contributed to me having to wake up to an alarm every morning and question my commitment to hygiene every single day. And sometimes I get rebellious. But since I constantly teeter so precariously on the line between “communications professional” and “moron,” I had to make the difficult choice to only be rebellious in non-career-limiting bursts, at least whenever possible. I like to think that this is the result of maturity.

So today my rebellious, animal urges compelled me to eat a big pile of raw red meat, with a raw egg yolk perched on top and long shards of sharp Grana Padano balanced threateningly over the whole thing, and capers, I don’t know where, but capers. I thought about it, imagined it even, and set out to The Butcher on 10th Avenue on my way home today to demand my cut of beef, and was politely lectured about that pesky hygiene issue, and how tomorrow I would have to call ahead for a special cut of beef, one that had been kept in isolation and not touched the other, dirtier meats and knives and cutting boards. And I wanted to growl, “Give me the dirty meats! I AM MAN!” But The Butcher is in Point Grey where people are respectable and old, and that sort of outburst would have been frowned upon, and that’s the only place I’ve ever successfully acquired mutton.

Disheartened and subdued, I turned and skulked out, determined that I would eat something raw and animal before the evening turned to bedtime. Fortunately, there is a fish shop a few doors down where they sell local seafood, including sushi-grade frozen albacore tuna. I bought a small, very reasonably priced hunk of fish, and an overpriced avocado from a basket beside the cash register, and not an hour later had a mouth full of something raw after all.

For a taste of virility fresh from your own kitchen, here’s a recipe for tuna tartare. Use sushi-grade fish if you do, because I would hate for you to food-poison yourself or whatever happens if you use non-sushi-grade fish. I’ve food-poisoned myself lots of times, and it’s no fun, even if you get paid sick-days where you work too.

Tuna Tartare

(Serves two as a small meal or four as a small appetizer.)

  • 1/4 lb. frozen sushi-grade albacore tuna
  • 1 avocado, halved
  • 2 tbsp. chopped scallion, light green and dark green parts only
  • 1 tbsp. minced radish
  • 1/2 tsp. lime zest
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. mirin
  • 1 tsp. light soy sauce
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Pinch sugar

The tuna should be frozen but workable. Mince it. Mince the hell out of it.

Dice half of the avocado. Place in a bowl, with the scallion, and the minced tuna.

In a small bowl, mix remaining ingredients.

Thinly slice the remaining half of the avocado and lay it down on chilled plates as the foundation for the tartare.

Pour sauce over fish mixture, toss to coat, and press it into small ramekins lined with plastic wrap, as many as you’ll need. I used two of the small Pyrex custard cups.

Turn mixture out onto the plates, pulling the ramekin away, and peeling off the plastic. Garnish with remaining avocado, if any, and serve with a small, light salad. Or nothing, if it’s to be an appetizer. I like this with toast points, a single slice of homemade bread quartered.

It’s a nice, bright, cool dish, and one I think we’ll enjoy throughout the summer. I wanted to keep things light, so the flavours were rather subdued. You could punch this up with a bit of grapefruit juice, or add heat with a dash of sriracha. Be creative. And then feel as if your balance has returned, and have a shower, and try not to be manic again until at least the weekend.

Also? Thank you, Gerald, for your camera advice. Look! No blur!

A delicious thing to do with sardines.

Kitten and I are alone this weekend, as Nick is off to a rainy lake four hours away to fish for trout/drink on a boat. And so I will stay in this rainy city, with tinned fish and my pajama pants, and drink on my couch. At least tonight. Though this work-week was only three days, they were three busy, non-stop days that required focus and effort – neither are strengths of mine.

So I’m staying in, alone. And instead of cooking, I’ve opted instead to “assemble” a meal, and have put together a grazing platter that should carry me through the evening, if I am able to stay awake. The centre of the meal is a thing with sardines, and it’s based on this anchovy thing I really like called anchoïade.

Anchoïade is a French thing, and at its most basic, it’s a potent mix of anchovies, olive oil, lemon, and garlic. It’s delicious, but I can’t quite justify a large dish of the stuff because anchovies are not a particularly sustainable ingredient these days. Good news though, sardines are. They’re plentiful, and they’re from close-by – there’s a cannery in California in Monterey and when I eat them I think of John Steinbeck because I love that book and because I literally hemorrhage bliss when an item of food tickles my book fancy, if you know what I mean.

I hope you enjoy this little adaptation. It’s for Linda, who asked for a sardine recipe; she’s expecting a baby, and sardines are all kinds of good for moms-to-be. Wander over to her place and say hello!

Sardinoïade

  • 1/2 cup whole almonds (skins on), toasted
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tin sardines packed in olive oil (smoked, if possible)
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. grainy dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil

Okay. You can do this two ways.

The easy, smooth-textured way to do this is to grind almonds and garlic in a food processor, then add remaining ingredients (add the oil from the sardines too, don’t forget!) and pulse until the mixture achieves the texture you prefer. I like this way for parties and things where you can just put it out without having to explain too much about it. It will resemble pate, and it will work as either a spread or a dip.

The other way, which is also easy but has more steps, is to chop the almonds as finely as possible (or as you like), mince the garlic, and mix them both together. Dump the tin of sardines into the mix, oil included, and mash it all up together until it’s a texture you like. Stir in remaining ingredients until well combined. This is better as a spread. It’s much less attractive, but just as, if not MORE tasty.

Scoop either variation into a ramekin, and drizzle the top with good oil. Serve either on a plate with pickles, slices of hard-boiled eggs, and slices of baguette. You must also have wine or sparkling water. Pajamas optional, but always implied.

If you have any left over the next day, it’s nice to thin it out with a bit more olive oil and toss pasta with it, topped with fresh herbs and grated Parmesan cheese.

Enjoy!

Creamy, springy trout chowder.

I know. You’re probably looking at that photo thinking, “wow, she’s pretty lucky,” or “he’s probably the best she could do.” Some days, I’m not sure which is right. Or maybe you’re new here and this is your introduction, and you’re thinking that you’ve made a horrible mistake in clicking whatever link brought you here.

Fortunately, today’s recipe is pretty sound. And it was fished for by the above-implicated weekend fisherman, which means it was local and sustainable and all those keywords that people and I love to toss around. So today, I have for you a recipe for trout chowder, and it is all the things you want from a chowder. Fresh. Moderately healthy, if fattening. Local. Contains bacon. Good stuff.

Trout chowder

(Serves six.)

  • 1/4 lb. bacon, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 lb. new potatoes, boiled and cooled, and then cut into bite-size chunks
  • 3 stalks celery, halved lengthwise and chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 lb. trout, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

In a large (three or four quart) pot over medium-high heat, crisp up bacon. When bacon is glistening and crispy, add potatoes, stirring to coat, and fry for about three minutes, or until lightly golden. Add celery, garlic, and lemon zest. Sprinkle flour over top of ingredients in pot, and stir once again to coat.

Pour milk into the pot, and reduce to medium heat. Bring mixture to a boil, and once thickened, add pepper, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in trout and frozen peas, and cook for five to seven minutes, until trout is cooked through and mixture has returned to a boil.

Stir in lemon juice, followed by the cream. Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed.

Serve hot, with bread (or corn bread!), and cold, delicious beer. This is the kind of meal that will remind your spouse, special someone, roommate, or friend that you are so much better than the best they could do, and they will appreciate you profusely. If that person has had their tongue in a fish’s mouth recently, you do not have to appreciate him back.

Dip the fish in batter made with beer and then deep fry it. You know you want to.

Fish chunks!I’ve probably mentioned a number of times now my powerful love for fish and chips, that perfect pairing of foods that allow me to practically mainline tartar sauce and malt vinegar – 80% of the time, fish and chips with tartar sauce is my meal of choice, though I hardly ever get it because there are only a handful of places that do it right and I have to go a long way out of my way to get it. I’ll attempt to sate my craving periodically with a Filet-o-Fish, but that is never enough, and so I get a little sad sometimes.

And then Paul calls offering to pick up fish for dinner, and I misunderstand and think he means salmon so I start thinking of rice, and he corrects me to say that he is considering codfish and will we need potatoes with that? And yes, yes we will, and I don’t have quite enough oil to fry all the pieces in a way that will keep some of them from kind of sticking to the bottom of the pot, but most of the pieces will come out okay, and also seriously? Is anyone looking for a single, well traveled, virile young man with fixing-stuff skills and excellent taste in food and wine? Because I am very close to injecting Paul with heroin and pimping him out for real (I think he reads this, but I refuse to self-edit). He shoots ducks and hooks trout and catches crabs, kids. I’m going to see if Nick will let us have a third.

Mad digression aside, last night we had homemade beer-battered fish and chips with hand-cut fries (baked to save space on the stove top), tartar sauce from scratch, and salad. It. Was. Awesome. The fish was fresh and perfect, the kind you can tell was just caught that day. If you’ve ever had bad fish and chips (I’m looking at you, Guildford Red Robin – your fish tasted like low tide and your patio has a view of the Walmart and your waitresses will only address Nick and pretty much ignore me so you suck), you will appreciate the difference quality and freshness make. And I am still kind of full, almost twelve hours later.

Here’s what you should do. Be sure you have at least three quarts of oil, and use a thermometer to make sure the oil hovers around 350°F. You may need to top it up – you want the fish to fry at the top, where it can’t possibly use its batter to adhere to the bottom of your pot.

Beer-battered fried fish

  • 2.5 lbs. fresh cod or halibut fillets, about an inch thick, cut into pieces that will fit comfortably into your pot (I started with three large fillets cut into six)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 regular-size (355mL or 12 oz.) can beer, such as India Pale Ale

Bring about three quarts of oil to 350°F in a large, heavy-bottomed pot on the stove. Use a candy thermometer to monitor the heat – you will need to do a bit of adjusting throughout the cooking process, as the oil will drop dramatically in temperature as soon as you add the first hunks of fish.

Mix together your batter, adding water as needed to bring the mix to a thick, pancake batter-like consistency. You might end up with too much batter, which is okay because that just means you can fry stuff tomorrow too! (Tip: Deep-fried pickles are pretty much the greatest invention ever … find out for yourself?) Optionally, you can add a bit of cumin or curry powder to the mixture for an exotic twist.

Once the oil has reached peak temperature, dredge as many pieces as will fit comfortably into your pot in batter, and gently drop them into the oil – no splashing, please … you will hurt yourself and then the experience will be ruined. I could fit in two pieces at a time.

FRYING!!!Fry for about three minutes per side, but keep in mind that thicker pieces will take longer to cook, and thinner pieces will take less time. But since you’re deep frying at home, you’ll probably not want to let the pot out of your sight, so just monitor the fish as it cooks, and use your best judgment. Cook until the batter is crisp and golden.

Remove from pot onto paper towel, and salt right away. Repeat steps with other pieces of fish. You could also drizzle a bit of lemon over the pieces at this point, but I waited until I sat down with my plate to do that.

Serve with tartar sauce, lemon slices, fries, and all those wonderful sorts of things. Feel that craving finally get satisfied. And then undo your pants because it’s one of those kinds of meals. Delight.

Fish and chips for dinner.

I got crabs from Paul.

Plaid.Saturday was a good day. Crisp, a little chilly because the west coast has decided it’s not summer anymore and now periodically sneezes cold air to remind us that this is Canada and we ought to be wearing jackets. Well, not that cold, but it was a tad nippy at the water, which is where we were. Paul decided to teach us about crabbing. Dungeness crabbing.

Crabbing involves cages and beer. And, to look at my companions, it also seems to involve plaid.

Baited.

Tossed.

Perhaps not enough plaid, as I didn’t get the memo on the dress code, which could explain why we didn’t catch all that much. I DID wear my crabbing socks, though it wasn’t a solid enough effort, apparently.

Hotness.

We caught starfish.

Murky ... can you make out what this is?

Prickly.

And I kept getting excited, because it looked like we were catching the kinds of things we could most certainly cook immediately and eat. I even helped.

Crabbing makes me look fat.

I am squealing with anticipation and glee in the background.

This one didn't measure up.

But every time we caught something, we’d have to throw it back, because of Paul’s “ethics” and the stupid “law.” So we tossed a lot of otherwise edible critters back into the sea, and we waited, and drank beer, and Nick whined about the cold because he’s a bit of a pansy delicate.

Ultimately, we had to quit on Saturday because there was a karaoke dance party I needed ample time to sparkle my cleavage for, and also it got a little windy and we all had to pee.

And then the rest of the weekend happened, and then I promised you I’d tell you all about soup and liar with my pants on fire that I am, that didn’t happen. Because today, Paul went crabbing. And he caught three. And then, not an hour later, he appeared at our front door with a bucket of crabs and a chilled bottle of wine.

Which is infinitely more fun to talk about than soup.

And ordinarily, the first crab or lobster of a given season is to be prepared in its purest form, and that is boiled in salt water and served hot with melted butter. You can get creative with future crabs, of course – I like to wok-fry them in 1/4 cup butter, 2 tablespoons of sriracha or chili-garlic sauce, three cloves of minced garlic, and a handful of chopped scallions. If you’d prefer not to cut into them live, you can pre-boil them, ten to fifteen minutes depending on the size, and then bake them at 500F for eight to ten minutes until everything is sizzling and smells good. Paul likes them steamed in white wine, also with butter. The possibilities are buttery and almost endless.

Paul, avec Crab.

Legs + Butter + My Mouth, please.

Dunk!

Happy unsexy badger.

And we ate and ate and ate and I ate all the parts no one else wanted and we were stuffed, and it was wonderful. I doubt I’ve ever eaten a fresher crab, and I am a contented badger now, at almost 1:00 am as a result. Right now? I’m boiling shells down for stock and making bagels, which is unrelated but also quite exciting. It may not just be soup to tell you about this week, after all. I can’t wait, I can’t wait, I can’t wait!!!

Ceviche: Impressive for date night and not very many dollars. Which still somehow doesn’t nullify the other expenses, but oh well. I don’t know why we’re broke either.

On Friday night, I decided it was time for a date. And I thought that a good way to have a date and not spend too much money was to cook food at home.

Incorrect.

I spent $25 on two pieces of cheese and 100 grams of Norwegian smoked lamb salami. Kind of embarrassed.
I spent $25 on two pieces of cheese and 100 grams of Norwegian smoked lamb salami. Kind of embarrassed.
The lady at The Lobster Man didn't think it was funny when I shouted "ALLEZ CUISINE!" right as she dumped Larry the Lobster into the boiling pot. I thought it was HILARIOUS.
The lady at The Lobster Man didn't think it was funny when I shouted "ALLEZ CUISINE!" right as she dumped Larry the Lobster into the pot of boiling water. I thought it was HILARIOUS.

But it was an opportunity for us me to look nice and behave and not fight and play nice with each other which means not calling each other terrible curse words that usually people reserve for genitals. BTW fights? I read the Bloggess this week and it hit close to home. But anyway, we had a date night, and I planned six courses. But we were too full after the lobster roll to eat the last course, so we only had five. No dessert.

And I’ve decided that since I’ve babbled on a lot this week, I’d make this post mostly pictures with a recipe for scallop ceviche, which was the prettiest part of the meal. The recipe is tiny, but you can double it if you have a date with more than just one person.

The lobster is NOT moving really fast. The photo is blurry.
The lobster is NOT moving really fast. The photo is blurry.
This is one of my favourite pink wines.
This is one of my favourite pink wines.
This was very good. Next time you have access to figs, cut a slice into the top of one, stuff in some blue cheese, and wrap the whole thing in a slice of serrano or prosciutto. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 10 minutes. You'll probably want to ensure that these little figs are on every cheese plate you serve from now on.
This was very good. Next time you have access to figs, cut a slice into the top of one, stuff in some blue cheese, and wrap the whole thing in a slice of serrano or prosciutto. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 10 minutes. You'll probably want to ensure that these little figs are on every cheese plate you serve from now on.
Scallop ceviche on a beet "carpaccio." See recipe, below.
Scallop ceviche on a beet "carpaccio." See recipe, below.
Asparagus in garlic butter, topped with an egg poached in dry white wine, and shaved parmesan.
Asparagus in garlic butter, topped with an egg poached in dry white wine, and shaved Parmesan.
Chilled zucchini and basil soup.
Chilled zucchini and basil soup.
We had to wait a bit to eat the lobster roll, which is why this one looks darker than the others. Because it had gotten dark out. And after this, neither of us had any more room for food. But this was delicious, with cucumber and avocado and watercress, and lots of lemon.
We had to wait a bit to eat the lobster roll, which is why this one looks darker than the others. Because it had gotten dark out. And after this, neither of us had any more room for food. But this was delicious, with cucumber and avocado and watercress, and lots of lemon on a grilled garlic-buttered bun.

Scallop Ceviche

  • 2 limes (juiced, with the zest from one)
  • 1 small navel orange
  • 1/4 lb scallops, preferably the little ones
  • 1/4 long English cucumber, cubed
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil (reserve 1 tbsp. for drizzling)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. red chili flakes (to top)

Juice limes and 1/2 of the orange. Marinate the scallops in the juice for 5 to 7 minutes. Toss with cucumber, chopped basil, and spices. Serve over thinly sliced roasted and cooled beets. Pour juices over and drizzle with oil and top with pepper flakes before serving.

Make this, but if it’s a date, don’t let the other person/people drink more than a single bottle of wine, and certainly don’t let them drink beer while waiting for the date to start, or else you’ll find yourself all alone at 11:00 pm while he/she (they) sleeps on the couch, with only the sound of snoring and Kenny vs. Spenny in the background. Which is less than romantic. Fail? Half fail? Hard to say. I slept soundly, full to the brim.

Clams in porter and cream: If there’s a better title, I can’t think of it.

Friday, in the middle of the day, I had to supplement the wine with a Diet Coke because I was just having too much fun. I kneaded enthusiastically. I needed a nap. Of course that meant that I overcooked the bread – I forgot the buzzer and woke to wondering how much longer was left on the loaf, only to find that instead of golden it was a dark – though edible – brown. Also, because sometimes when I’m shopping I’m drunk filled with tremendous enthusiasm for the next feast, I accidentally grabbed the whole wheat flour that acts and sort of tastes like white flour (the word “SALE!” is like onomatopoeia to me – I see it and I think of a joyful noise and it compels me) – the colour is odd, but Grace was kind and said the finished loaf looked “artisanal,” which I can’t actually define but I think means “crusty and way too high in fibre.”

No matter – the little biscuits for the strawberries turned out perfectly, so all was not lost. Small victories. But then Grace brought lemon slice in cake form, so we ate the peppered berries and honeyed cream that way, and it was even better. I ate the biscuits and the leftover berries and drank the leftover wine for breakfast. I wrote about them here.

Almost all of my photos from the evening turned out blurry. Fortunately, Grace also brought a tripod and her good camera. And I am now in possession of a few glamour shots of the meal, so it’s time now to tell you all about it.

Brownish caramelized onion and fennel bread.
Brownish caramelized onion and fennel bread.
Green and white asparagus baked in olive oil with garlic.
Green and white asparagus baked in olive oil with garlic.
Grace's pretty salad. Fresh greens, and dressing she made herself: Roasted red peppers, garlic, olive oil, happy thoughts.
Grace's pretty salad. Fresh greens, and dressing she made herself: Roasted red peppers, garlic, olive oil, happy thoughts.

I couldn’t tell which of us was trying to seduce the other, except that we’re both very sloppy drunks and then two bottles in, James called and offered to bring us wine, and Paul called and asked what we were doing and then came over with some beer and an empty bottle of ketchup so nothing life-changing really happened. Nothing life-changing except for this:

Clams have feelings too? I don't think they do.
Clams have feelings too? I don't think they do.
Another angle, because they were just so damn sexy.
Another angle, because they were just so damn sexy.

And it’s possible that I’m exaggerating and tooting my own horn here. But I don’t think so. What do you need to make this happen in your kitchen? Not much. Not much at all.

Ingredient pile, with wine. These next two pictures come from my camera, which explains their wobbly suckiness. We'll conclude with Grace.
Ingredient pile, with wine. These next two pictures come from my camera, which explains their wobbly suckiness. We'll conclude with Grace.

Clams in porter and cream

(Serves four, unless one of you is me or Grace)

  • 4 lbs. clams
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized onion
  • 1 medium-sized bulb of fennel
  • 3 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup beef stock (you can use chicken if you want)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 cup porter or other dark beer
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Before you do anything, make sure your clams are clean. Soak them in a bath of cold-to-lukewarm water, 4 cups water to 1/3 cup salt. Your clams will spit out any sand they’ve got kicking around inside their shells – you may need to repeat this process two to three times to be sure you’ve got it all. Nothing’s grosser than a mouthful of sea dirt.

My pretties.
My pretties.

When they’re good and clean and you’re ready to get on with it, heat the oil in a large pot, and caramelize your onions, garlic, and fennel, deglazing the pan as needed with the beef stock. Add the salt and pepper.

When everything’s golden and smells good, add the beer, the cream, stir it all up, then add the clams. Steam these with the lid on until the beautiful little guys open, ten to fifteen minutes. Possibly longer, if they’re stubborn. Which can totally happen. Shake the pan frequently to ensure that all the clams touch the heat and the liquid.

Before serving, add in the mushrooms, stir to coat and cook lightly, and then dump the whole thing into a big bowl. Garnish with the parsley. This is excellent over pasta, or just as is, with lots and lots of bread. Drink lots of dry white or pink wine. Sigh repeatedly over your contented fullness.

And then eat this:

Lemon slice topped with peppered strawberries and whipped cream with honey.
Lemon slice topped with peppered strawberries and whipped cream with honey.

The whole meal had a soothing, sedative effect on the both of us, and we never made it out to karaoke, as planned. Come to think of it, many of the meals I’ve shared with Grace have done more to lull than energize: Perhaps our diets are too rich? Maybe we gorge ourselves too much? Maybe there’s more to life than eating and possibly we could eat less and venture out into the world a bit more, because it is Friday after all and we have to consider our youth? Maybe, but I doubt it. It’s probably just the wine.