Drunken Spaghetti.

Too arthritic and whiny to invest all that much time in cooking, I wanted something flavourful and soothing that I could make and eat in under 20 minutes. I wanted to watch Good Eats, and then Iron Chef, and then Star Trek in my pajamas, and not have to move once the food was done. Solution? Drunken spaghetti. Flavourful, fast, and quite a lovely garnet colour. A pleasure for all the senses, the lazy sense included.

Different. Easy.This recipe grew out of David Rocco’s recipe of the same name. Only this one involves more wine, and is much improved by boiling the noodles in a portion of the wine. Use a cheap but drinkable wine, one you’re not hugely fond of but would drink if you had to. The effect you’re going for here is a winy taste, but the heat is going to kill a lot of what makes the wine distinctive. That’s the idea. Save the good wine for pairing with this dish.

You could use a dry white wine if you wanted to, or if that’s what you had left over. I bet that would be quite nice as well, with asparagus.

Drunken Spaghetti

(Serves four to six. Adapted from David Rocco)

  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • 3 cups of red wine (1 cup reserved)
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 anchovy fillets, chopped (you can omit these if you’d prefer it be vegetarian)
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. chopped capers
  • 2 tbsp. chili flakes
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Bring two cups of the wine and six cups of water to a boil in a large pasta pot. Add the spaghetti, and cook for seven to eight minutes. You want this to be al dente, and you are going to finish it in the frying pan so don’t worry if it’s got a bit of bite to it.

In a large frying pan, heat the oil, and add the anchovies, garlic, capers, and chili flakes. Sauté while the pasta cooks, five to seven minutes.

Once the pasta is about ready, drain it, and add your noodles to the frying pan. Pour in the remaining cup of wine, cooking until the wine has reduced and the spaghetti is done, another two to three minutes. Taste as you go to make sure you get the noodly doneness that you prefer.

Toss with parsley and cheese, and serve hot, with a dry, delicious red wine.Purple?

This is quite a good thing to make when you’re tired from too long a day. It’s easy, and you don’t need to do a lot to make it flavourful – it pretty much flavours itself. Literally. The wine does a fantastic job, and the salty bits and the cheese and the fresh parsley all add quite a lot without costing you much in the way of effort. From the time you set the pot on the stove to boil, it’s twenty minutes to cook, plate, and slip blissfully into your ass groove on the couch. Flavour aside, sometimes that’s the most important thing about a recipe.

Nice salt & pepper shakers.

Mapo doufu, because it finally cooled off enough for comfort food.

Although to say it’s “cooled off” is incorrect, as I still sweat like a fiend all the time, but that could just be a liver thing. It’s probably the heat. But there were clouds today, and a touch of breeze, so it felt like a day for mapo doufu, a thing I quite enjoy, and which I could have just ordered if I’d wandered down to Peaceful Restaurant on Broadway, but I was lazy, and this meal for three cost me less than ten dollars. And it would have fed four. But we were hungry.

And I wanted to make something with the beautiful green onions I bought.

Onion porn.

And Tracy, who I haven’t seen in a million years (hyperbole) told me she was coming over tonight, so I thought it would be a good idea to make white-people chow mein (it’s a real thing – you get it in restaurants that specialize in “Chinese and Canadian food” and I think it’s in the section on the menu under the chicken fingers and the chili dogs – you also get it at the Kam Wah Wonton House in Langley which is where my parents order from and it’s awesome and the guy there knows that I like an Orange Crush with my order, every single time, even if it’s been a over a year since my last visit. I like it there. But this isn’t about chow mein.) and mapo doufu, which is just a fancy way to say “salty spicy tofu with meat” which is one of my favourite paradoxes, and a paradox is a juxtaposition of two things that at first don’t seem to make sense together, but upon closer examination, they so do. Vegetarians are confused about tofu, and they make it boring – I like it fried in bacon fat, or like we had it tonight – fried with salty things and meat. Not a grain of brown rice in sight. (Even though I actually really like brown rice. Not tempeh though. So you can’t call me a hippie.)

Mapo doufu

  • 1 (14 to 17 oz.) package medium-firm tofu, rinsed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 3 tbsp. peanut or vegetable oil
  • 5 oz. ground pork, or just about a cup’s worth
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. black bean sauce
  • 1 tsp. fish sauce
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 2 tsp. sambal oelek (or chili-garlic sauce, or Tabasco, or sriracha)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 4 tsp. water
  • 1 cup chopped scallions (green onions)
  • 1 tsp. ground white (or black, I guess) pepper

In a large pan or a wok, heat the oil until it shimmers. Stir-fry the pork until it’s no longer pink, then add the garlic, bean sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, and hot sauce, then stir-fry for about a minute. Stir in stock, soy sauce, sugar, tofu, and a pinch of salt. Simmer for about five minutes, occasionally stirring, tasting and adjusting seasoning as needed.

Mix the cornstarch and the water together until the mixture is milky and has no chunks.

Stir cornstarch mixture into stir-fry and simmer, gently stirring  for one minute. Stir in scallions and cook for another minute, before removing from heat. Serve sprinkled with white pepper. Unless you only have black pepper, then use that. And I’ve heard lots of people don’t like white pepper as much as they do black pepper, but Julia Child preferred white pepper, and as she was kind of a big deal and I actually do like the taste, we just go with that a lot of the time around here.

Serve with rice, or with tasty chow mein. I stuffed my chow mein full of vegetables so that there was some nutritional value to the meal. We do that some of the time around here.


You can't see the vegetables so well because they are all under the noodles. For realsies.
You can't see the vegetables so well because they are all under the noodles. For realsies.

The chow mein was just a bag of those fresh Chinese noodles you get in the salad section of the supermarket, mixed with garlic, carrots, celery, those gorgeous green onions, a bit of chicken stock, some soy sauce, and a touch of sesame oil, and then tossed with bean sprouts, which are not poisoned with listeria at the moment. It’s easy, and fast, and not so much authentic. But it sure is good. Serve both with a bottle or two of cheap but sumptuous white wine. It’s probably the best way ever to start off a work week once your vacation is over.

And it is over. Sigh. Tomorrow I will tell you all about the gazpacho with which I bade the time farewell.

Sometimes you just want to drink wine, eat pudding, and watch YouTube videos of wiener dogs getting their cute on, and I’d like to think that there isn’t anything wrong with that.

Today was Friday, and it was pretty much the worst Friday ever. Nick got yelled at by crazies all day at work, and I wore pants to the office and nearly died of heat stroke. When I left, it was over 30 degrees Celsius, which in America or Imperial or whatever is in the high 80s, which is inhospitable and makes me regret wearing a bra and then I can’t concentrate and all I can think about is cold beer and getting the hell out of there as soon as possible. A very nice old man on a ladder visited today and installed these solar blinds that are supposed to reflect the heat out, but he might as well have covered the windows in tin foil, for all the good it did, and I’m beginning to think my entire department is the butt of a cruel, cruel joke. It’s hot. And the wall of my pen is right up against the vent, so cold air blows up, up, and away, but never on me. I considered tears. Except that I think they’d come out as steam and that would be terrifying and they already think I’m dumb there.

So I got home and Nick and I were both in terrible moods and he’d finished the beer and I was mad so we decided that we’d go eat a ridiculous amount of meat, because that makes everyone feel better, and they had PBRs on special, so we ate and drank for super cheap, and it was magical. I wore a dress. And we were still hot and uncomfortable, so we got Slurpees and energy drinks on the way home, and Nick bought some beer and a bottle of wine, and then when we got back to our apartment, we discovered that there were goings-on going on, and everyone was going down to the beach to set stuff on fire and be jovial. And then a series of complications arose, and it became clear that I would be bound to the overheating indoors while Nick went to the beach for fun and socializing.

Complication #1: Tomorrow we’re going to my parents’ for a barbecue and I am bringing a salad because I make this caprese salad with roasted beets that’s spectacular, but you have to roast the beets well in advance so they’re cool and easy to work with, so the night before is ideal. We didn’t know about the beach until 10:30 pm, which was right after I put the beets in the oven.

Complication #2: I ate too much meat at Memphis Blues. A certain amount of discomfort ensued.

Complication #3:

Nick – “Everyone’s going to the beach. Wanna ride down?”

Me – “Who’s everyone?”

Nick – “People, you know – everyone.”

Me – “Do I like them all?”

Nick – “Well, I said everyone’s going to be there.”

Me – “Who don’t I like?”

Nick – “You know.”

Me – “Oh. That sucky girl who makes me angry and who I vehemently dislike in the nicest possible way?”

Nick – “You’d have to behave.”

Me – “I have to roast some beets.”

And so I am spending the night in. Which turned out to be a good thing, because I was in the mood for pudding, and I’m the only one here who likes pudding. So I roasted some beets, made some pudding, watched an hour’s worth of wiener dog videos on YouTube, and then set in to catch up on all my favourite blogs. And also to watch this, repeatedly:

But the main thing here is the pudding. It’s a recipe from Gourmet’s February 2009 issue, and I’ve made it several times now, and it always turns out perfect. It’s pretty much a hug you can eat, and it’s as easy to make as that Jello stuff, and takes the same amount of time, but it’s in a realm of its own for taste. It kind of reminds me of when I was a kid and we’d get toast with butter and brown sugar on it – like that, but creamy and rich, and you eat it with a spoon.

Gourmet Magazine Butterscotch Pudding.

Butterscotch Pudding

(makes enough to fill four regular-size ramekins)

  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp. butter, cut into bits (they say to use unsalted butter, but they would be wrong)
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the brown sugar and cornstarch. Then, whisk in the milk and cream. When I’m making this for just me, I halve the recipe, and use a single cup of light cream (or coffee cream, or Creamo), because why not?

Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking frequently, and then boil, whisking constantly, for one minute. Remove from the heat, and whisk in the butter and vanilla. Pour out into ramekins, cover with plastic, and then refrigerate until cooled, 60 to 90 minutes. Don’t chill for more than three hours, however, because it will begin to take on a weird, starchy texture. I made this in February, and cooled it on the patio because my fridge was full, and then when I brought it back in it had developed a skin and the cornstarch was very prominent – an undesirable flaw in any pudding.

When I halve the recipe, it makes enough for two ramekins. Which is perfect, because there’s no way you could eat just one serving of this stuff – I’ve already eaten my two, and now I am regretting my decision to not make the full amount. And I feel much better about life, and the fan is going in front of the open window where I’m sitting around in a clean pair of Nick’s underwear, so I’m starting to cool off. Pudding will do that for you. It’s a cure-all, like cough syrup and vodka, but you can serve it to children while their parents are watching.


And so the weekend begins, and I look forward to posting the fascinating details of my upcoming raspberry-picking expedition on Sunday. In the meantime, I’ve got some beets that need prodding and a bottle of wine in the chiller that’s begging for my touch. Cheers!

A meatball held together by melted cheese is structurally unsound. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t all kinds of delicious.

Perhaps by now you’ve noticed a theme: I really like meatballs. And pancakes. In fact, if you were trying to seduce me, a meatball pancake would probably earn you more credit than flowers, which are lovely but inedible for the most part.

It was finally sunny and hot again today, so I thought, “I could totally barbecue meatballs!” And technically, you can. But then I was like, “I could make cheesy meatballs covered in barbecue sauce and put them on skewers!” Which didn’t seem like it would fail at first. Science and I are aware of each other, but we’ve never moved beyond first names. Apparently, as mentioned up there in the title, a meatball filled with molten cheddar is tasty, but not inclined to hold up to flipping or skewering.

I’m going to give you the recipe, and then I’m going to tell you to paint barbecue sauce on them and bake them in the oven. I always forget about the last thing I cremated on the grill, and then when I go to cook something outside, there are fires and I have to use the scrapey brush and Nick gets mad at me for being sloppy and lazy, and doesn’t agree that his repetitiveness could also be annoying.

First, blend yourself a cocktail. You know what’s tasty with alcohol? Strawberries and rhubarb, sweetened as much or as little as you like.

I stewed some rhubarb and strawberries on Wednesday and threw about four cups' worth into the freezer for baked goods, and it turned out that the concoction worked marvellously when used for fruity blender drinks. Success!
I stewed some rhubarb and strawberries on Wednesday and threw about four cups' worth into the freezer for baked goods, and it turned out that the concoction worked marvellously when used for fruity blender drinks. Success!

Then, do this:

Cheesy Barbecue Meatballs

(Makes 12 to 14 meatballs)

  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp. barbecue sauce (plus additional sauce for painting over the meatballs)
  • 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F.

I pretty much always tell you to do the same thing here. Mix everything in a bowl using your hands. Perhaps I will attempt to be less repetitive in coming weeks, eating something other than meatballs. You can stuff other things with cheese, after all.

Roll into twelve to fourteen balls, about golf-ball size.

Meatballs.Paint with barbecue sauce. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Now, I put mine on skewers:

Ball piercing.Which allowed them to get good and charred. If you like the idea of this, throw them on the grill for a few minutes to get all flame-kissed.

I really thought the skewers would work. But I was enjoying my cocktail, as one does, and so called Nick to come help me flip them. (By which I mean, I called Nick to do it for me.) And he broke them. They looked like this:

It's also all his fault that this photo is blurry.
It's also all his fault that this photo is blurry.

Just bake them. They will maintain their structural integrity that way, and you will maintain your cool. And you will have a lot more time to sip your drink on the patio in the sunshine.

Tomorrow I am going to go cherry picking, and so there will be something new and interesting to tell you about. I promise to show you something amazing that you’ve never seen before. Unless I totally let you down. Because I’ve never done that before. Happy Friday!

Awesome sauce: From epic failure comes great success.

I am awfully sorry. Or, if not really sorry, then exceedingly apologetic. Like, Canadian apologetic. So, you know, not really sorry, but excessively polite.

Julia Child (hero) wrote that one should never apologize. “I don’t believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make,” she said. “Such admissions only draw attention to one’s shortcomings.”

The day after Nick and I wheeled home our first barbecue, Nick invited a friend or two over for dinner. There were to be four of us, five at the very most, counting David who turned out to be available at the last minute, and who is also a herbivore. Which was fine, because I had a can of black beans on hand, and I’d made veggie burgers before, though only in a pan on the stove. Soon, though, as is wont to happen with Nick’s friends, four turned into eleven in our tiny apartment, and in no time flat I was all sorts of frantic, pattying burgers, sending boys out for more meat, running out of toppings and buns and trying to remain pleasant and personable. Flustered (and well into my second bottle), I incinerated David’s veggie burgers, charring them thoroughly through. And I was profusely apologetic.

And then I paused – if it was just David, it would have been fine. “Why am I sorry?” I asked him, and he shrugged. “Don’t be,” he said, choking back his blackened black bean hunk very politely. “It’s not that bad,” he said.

Julia (hero) assures us/me that “Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile … then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile – and learn from her mistakes.” And so when I get all excited at the market and buy pork belly without ever having made it before and no idea how to cook it, it’s a learning experience. And aren’t mistakes the best way to trip over something new and fantastic? Yes. Yes they are. And so I invented something I now (cleverly) call Awesome Sauce. I’m going to use it on chicken wings.

Dinner.Awesome Sauce Marinade

  • 1 tsp. fresh, finely grated ginger
  • 3 cloves finely grated garlic
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. beer
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

I highly recommend this as a marinade for your meats. It’s a little sweet and a little different, and it made the weird thing I did to the meat tonight not only edible, but delicious (never mind the texture).

And so, from one enthusiastic mistake, I now have a fallback for when Nick’s friends show up en masse. Now, I just have to stock the freezer with chicken wings.

Or disconnect the buzzer.

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.

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….

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.


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.

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.


I am Kung Fu Panda. Never seen it? Well, you should. But in case you haven’t, the main thing is that he’s a legendary dragon ninja stuck in the body of a super awesome roly-poly Jack Black panda bear. And his ninja skills only come out when lured by the promise of food. Got dumplings? I will kick. That. Hill’s. ASS. No dumplings? Screw you, I’m sleeping in.

And so Bike to Work Week comes to an end. That this event coincided with the start of boot camp was unfortunate – I went from sedentary to super-active, biking a total of 150 kilometers (just over 93 miles) and doing no fewer than 400 crunches this week. Know what I learned? Exercise is for chumps. Eating is the best thing ever, followed very closely by sitting. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

My reward? After weeks of waiting for the arrival of the day of my glorious reservation at Les Faux Bourgeois, my deep desire for fattening, fancypants (but inexpensive, because as you know, I am flat broke) French food will finally be sated tonight. For a review that’s not (inevitably) tainted with a string of OMG!s, check out Sherman’s Food Adventures. If you’re content to wait until tomorrow, I’ll tell you all about it in my extra-special way.

At the moment, I’m working up a bit of anxiety over taking pictures of my food – usually I hate doing that, because I like to pretend I’m cool and in restaurants all the servers and the other people know of you is the groomed and polished version of yourself you present for the two hours you’re there, and I like to think that they’ve all given me the once-over “Wow, there’s a snazzy gal,” so I can dine comfortably without the sticky awkwardness that usually follows me around. But I want to tell you everything about the food. So the battle continues: Be cool and enjoy the food? Or dork out and photograph everything and then wax ecstatic on the Internet about duck confit and tarte flambée Alsacienne? Why am I pretending I’ve ever been able to pass for cool? Fine. Expect some blurry photos of French bistro fare tomorrow.

In the meantime, I am compelled to share with you a recipe for porcupine meatballs, because it rained several days this week during my gruelling ride home, and because when meatballs roll into my mind, it’s quite impossible to roll them back out without indulging. So on Wednesday night, damp and shivering, I arrived home to prepare myself a large pot of comfort food with little nutritional value.

Porcupine Meatballs


  • 1 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1/2 cup uncooked long-grain or basmati rice
  • 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 3 cloves finely minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. oil (I used bacon fat. You can too! Or butter? You can do whatever you like.)
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper


  • 3 cups tomato sauce (I used canned crushed tomatoes because I like them best)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat that oven of yours to 350°F.

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients for your meatballs. Once everything’s in the bowl, mash it all together using your hands. There is no better way to ensure that the mixture is combined thoroughly without overmixing and destroying the texture. If you’re squeamish, you could wear gloves, I guess. HANDS.

Mix the sauce ingredients together in a separate bowl. You don’t have to use your hands for that.

Form the mixture into balls about an inch and a half in diameter. Place the balls in an ungreased casserole dish (preferably one you can cover with a lid). When the bottom of the pan is covered in balls (hee hee), pour about a third of the sauce over top. Keep balling and saucing until the pan is full.

Cover, and bake for 45 minutes. When the buzzer goes, take the lid off and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes.

Hot meat in pot

If I were feeling kindly disposed to my housemate, I might have grated some cheese over top and slid it back into the oven for another few minutes. But my cheese grater is dirty. So I didn’t. Serve on rice.


Anyway, the time has come for me to tame my bangs, put on a dress, and go for French food. It has been too long in the coming!