We moved. We’re in! And we’ve almost found our way through the boxes. Cooking has been light, though I was pleased to discover that the kitchen I thought was smaller is bigger than I thought. Still small, but with storage, and counter-tops I can work on without having to spread out onto the table.
On Sunday night, which was the end of moving day, we settled in for a team-effort meal, Grace’s artfully spiced ribs, crock-pot beans, and this corn. I didn’t have mint – I had basil. Go make the corn tonight. It is wonderful. If you don’t have mint or basil, spoon a bit of pesto into the pan with the corn. Whatever your situation, joy, or plight, it this corn will be exactly what you need.
Oh! And thank you for your happy thoughts. We moved without a hitch, and the rain stayed away until just after the last box was dragged inside. I have no Internet right now, but I’m committed to holiday blogging, and will have something sumptuous for you soon enough. We’re almost unpacked. Everything is coming together, which is my mantra, and I must keep repeating it.
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!
This was going to be a post about blackberries, because we’re right smack in the middle of a DIY revolution and I’m calling myself a revolutionary because I’ve never been cool and I thought this – this – might be my chance. I was going to pick the berries, and then preserve them elegantly with plums and other berries and Christmas spices, which is a thing I discovered in England (at the Queen’s grocer, no less) and give them to everyone at the holidays, which I believe is the pinnacle of DIY … that is, inflicting crap you made on people at Christmas under the guise of caring even though they know you’re actually just cheap.
Anyway. This was going to be a post about blackberries, but it isn’t.
And let me show you why:
Prickles. No, thorns. I was expecting a magical time where fat little blackberries would pop right off the plant into my palm, all juicy and lovely, just begging me to turn them into blackberry sorbet and Christmas jam. Instead, the berries were mostly red, and the black ones were almost all hidden behind skin-shredding barbs, almost all of them out of my reach. I think we gave it a solid 40 minutes before Grace was all, “Can we go home now?”
And so we piled into James’ car and headed back home, a little disgruntled. Revolution isn’t supposed to be so prickly, I thought. I didn’t pick enough to do much with, so I turned them begrudgingly into clean-out-the-crisper jam. Which might be my best jam of the season, as it turns out, but I didn’t write it down so I can’t tell you about it until I reconstruct the recipe. Next year.
The surprise of the morning, the thing I’ve been dawdling at telling you about, was the soufflé. One can’t participate in any sort of revolution without a rich breakfast.
I am not sure how one finds himself in his third decade without so much as a taste of soufflé, but neither Grace nor James had ever made or consumed soufflé ever before, not even once. Le shock! Which leads me to believe that there are others. And I hope to correct that.
Soufflé is a kind of fluffy egg cloud filled with cheese, held up by butter and cream, and flavoured with any of many spices, the combination of which makes your kitchen smell like France. Not the sewery smells that unhappy tourists report, of course, but the France of my, and perhaps your imagination. Eggs and cheese. Melting. Fluffy. Clouds. That’s all the introduction I needed.
This recipe was adapted by Molly Wizenberg from Julia Child, and I’ve since adapted it a bit further. Recipes are not things to just read and obey – they are suggestions, and if you have no gruyere but you have gouda, don’t go out and buy a different sort of cheese. And if you feel like cumin seeds? Add those too. Hate nutmeg? Omit it then. This is a dish you can make entirely out of things you already have on hand. And breakfast should never be any more complicated than that.
Classic Cheese Soufflé
(Serves four to six as a main course.)
2 tbsp. finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup whole milk
2 1/2 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
4 large egg yolks
5 large egg whites
1 cup (packed) coarsely grated gouda cheese
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Butter a six-cup (1 1/2-quart) soufflé dish. I used my Corningware dish that looks like a giant ramekin. I think that’s what’s meant by a soufflé dish. Round. It should be round. Add Parmesan cheese, coating the bottom and sides. Don’t worry if it doesn’t get everywhere.
Warm milk in small heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat until steaming.
At the same time, melt the butter in larger saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk for about 3 minutes, until it is golden and doughy. Do not let it brown. Remove from heat and let stand for one minute. Pour in warm milk, whisking until smooth. Return to heat and cook, whisking constantly until very thick, another three minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in paprika, cumin, salt, and nutmeg. Add egg yolks one at a time, whisking to blend after each addition. Scrape soufflé base into large bowl. Cool to lukewarm. I made this part ahead, and then went fussed about with the music for a little while, and bothered Nick.
Beat egg whites in another large bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/4 of whites into soufflé base, so that the mixture begins to look airy, and the colour is lighter. Fold in 1/2 the remaining whites while gradually adding cheese, then fold the remaining whites into the batter. Do not stir. If you stir it, you’ll break it.
Pour batter into your buttered dish.
Place dish in oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Bake until soufflé is puffed and golden brown on top and center moves only slightly when dish is shaken gently, about 25 minutes (do not open oven door during first 20 minutes). Serve immediately. People will be excited that you’ve placed this in front of them.
Serve with a vegetable. I grilled some fresh pattypan squash (toss halved squash in olive oil, 1 tsp. kosher salt, and 1 tsp. black pepper, grill six to eight minutes per side) instead of frying up hash browns because it’s summer squash season.
A little bread and jam is nice too, and bacon makes everything better, so don’t forget that. All in all, an excellent start to the day, even if the day made us bleed. Note to self: Just buy blackberries. And definitely, DEFINITELY make soufflé.
Every couple minutes, the lid on another jar pops and seals and my heart fills with joy. Now the only concern is whether or not the jam will set, because I got too excited and misread the recipe, and then when I went back and reread it I was all, “that can’t be right,” and even though I didn’t really know what I was doing I scoffed and decided I could do better … but the leftovers are firming up nicely so hopefully that’s a good sign. I now have eight jars of raspberry jam, and there aren’t enough exclamation points in the world to convey how excited – no – how ebullient I now am. Ebullient means enthusiastic or BUBBLING OVER WITH JOY, all caps. I know you probably know that, but I had to look it up to double check and it’s my job to know words like that, so, you know. Anyway. It’s like when you figure out how to do something you used to think was impossible, like merging onto the highway, only it turns out you can totally do it and then you’re just so full of pep that you can’t stop beaming or asking for high-fives. Except better, because I still don’t really know how to merge onto the highway without braking.
Like I said, I’ve never really done this before. I’ve hovered close by while my mom canned things or pickled stuff or turned fruit into jam, and I watched my grandmother from the stool I’d perch on across the counter top on the other side of the kitchen, but I never really got all that helpful over it. I think that’s because the last time I saw either of them can anything I was much smaller and far more likely to drop hot things all over myself and everyone. I think it’s also quite a pain in the ass, this canning business, and so after a certain point I suspect it became more trouble than it’s worth. And the mess gets everywhere, and it’s sticky.
Preheat oven to 250°F. Place sugar in a pan in the oven, and bake for 15 minutes. Apparently sugar dissolves much quicker in the raspberry mixture when it is warm. This is true. The sugar disappeared in no time. Literally, seconds.
Put raspberries and lemon juice into a large stainless steel pot. Bring to a full boil over high heat, mashing berries with a potato masher as they heat. Boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Once the sugar is good and warmed, add it to the pot. It will stop boiling for a minute or two, but let it come back up to a boil. The recipe said that it should only take five minutes to form a gel, but I think that’s based on not nearly as many berries and way more sugar (by volume) than I used, so I boiled the berries in the pot for closer to ten minutes. To test whether the jam was thickening, and it’s hard to tell when it’s at a full-rolling boil, I took a small spoonful of jam and stuck it in the fridge for two to three minutes. If it was thick enough when it was cool, then that was good enough for me.
When satisfied that it’s thick enough, spoon the jam into your prepared jars – I used eight small jars of varying sizes, which held between one and two cups each. The recipe should make 10 one-cup jars.
The result was a jam that tasted like raspberries, not too sweet. There was just a tiny bit left over, and I ate it all with a spoon, and it was as bright and cheery as the fresh berries were, which is pleasing because it means that we’ll get to taste summer all year long. The best thing about this recipe is that it doesn’t make way too many jars that you’ll eventually throw out, and it’s manageable enough that you can make it on a tiny apartment stove (mine has only one large burner – the other three are the little kind, which makes it just slightly larger than the stove you get in those awesome plastic Fisher Price kitchens).
By now, all eight lids have made their happy little popping noise, so barring a disaster or something, they should all be sealed. Now we wait – apparently I am to test these in 24 hours to be sure that they’ve sealed tightly. So think happy thoughts for my eight little jars. Tomorrow, or possibly the next day because I’m now out of jars and lids and everything, the challenge will be red currant jelly, which will be a different kind of experiment and though I haven’t decided if it’s going to be spicy habañero red currant jelly, plain-old regular red currant jelly, or something else, I think it’s going to be fun – I’ll tell you all about it very soon. It’s kind of like being an Iron Chef in your own kitchen, which is better because you always win and if you’re lucky you can still get someone else to clean up.
Grace is a bit of a keener. She canned cherries, which takes actual work and know-how and a cherry pitter, and while I am not to be outdone, I don’t want to try too hard because it’s uncomfortably hot in here, sweaty hot, and I figure I can make jam and have that be plenty good enough. And you know what kind of fruit is perfect for a full-mouth flavoursplosion that you don’t have to peel or pit anything for? Raspberries. We’re in July now, kids, and raspberries are plentiful. So our berry-picking team – Grace, James, and I, now plus Nick – travelled forty minutes to Langley to pluck bucketfuls this week’s fruit obsession.
And so we picked raspberries, which was the plan. At first it looked like everything had been picked over, and we were a bit despondent, but that’s the thing about raspberries. To get the good ones, you have to look under the leaves, and that’s where you find berries so ripe that just the swipe of your fingers invites them to pop off into your hand and they’re so juicy and red that just the touch of your skin causes them to eke scarlet summer perfume all over your palm, and if you can get them to your mouth in one piece you’ll find that it’s the most perfect flavour you’ve ever let melt on your tongue.
And they’re so big! Nothing like the tiny little things you buy at $4.99 for those dinky green paper half-pint containers that usually contain at least three rotten ones, which you don’t find until after you get home and company’s on the way so there’s nothing you can do. No. These were big and fat, and surprisingly inexpensive.
And so we picked, and Nick threw unripe ones at me which is against the rules and ate twice as many as ended up in the bucket which is also not encouraged, and James went shirtless and was ravaged by the branches, and I was awesome and well-behaved and didn’t say anything inappropriate except for a few times but most likely no one heard me, and Grace picked meticulously and only found perfect berries because she has a knack for that, and patience, and the inappropriate things she said were way worse than the things I said, so there.
But that’s not all. No. We got the raspberries, and had a great time playing outside … AND THEN WE GOT CURRANTS! Which means that raspberry picking came with a bonus round, and so now in addition to a recipe for raspberry jam, I am going to figure out jelly making, and that’s why this thing will take place in three parts, as opposed to one long, rambling, generally incoherent celebration of summer fruit. And I’ve never really done this on my own and unsupervised before, but I’ve bought or borrowed everything I need to make it work, so how hard can it be, right? And the good news is, if I can do it, any idiot can. And if it fails? You can totally just buy jam.
I expect that by the end of the week, we’ll all be happy little badgers surrounded by piles of vanilla bean scones smeared with fresh raspberry jam, or brie dripping with red currant jelly and baked in puff pastry, and nothing will ever feel more right. Stay tuned!
Seven dollars per pound at the Farmer’s Market this weekend. Or $9.99 at Whole Foods. I trundled over to Grace’s mom’s house this weekend with Grace and James and our buckets and picked all that I could eat and more than could fit in my bucket, for free. Grace’s mom’s neighbour apparently keeps bees now, so her trees, which Grace says have rarely seen so much pollination, are now brimming with bright little red cherries. A complex bird-alarm system has been rigged, and so the cherries grow freely, almost completely untouched by competing natural forces. All this about 28 blocks from home!
And so we picked and picked and picked, and I spent the whole time thinking about cherry pie. Of course, however, it’s just Nick and I at home, so to make cherry pie would mean a bit of a fight once I realized that I had pitted and kneaded and done all the work all so he’d eat one piece and be all, “yeah, I don’t really like pie,” and then I’d have to pit him, which would surely be messy because he wouldn’t hold still. So I thought, “portable pies!” Or, cherry turnovers. I love them. They’re convenient like toaster pastries, but they actually taste good. And if Nick doesn’t like them, then I get to eat them all myself. Genius? I know.
I have more cherries than I can turn into turnovers, but that’s okay. This is a recipe that will use up the lighter, tarter ones so I can reserve the purpler ones for snacking and sundaes.
Cheery Cherry Turnovers
(makes 8 to 10)
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup sour cream
1 tbsp. ice water, if needed
Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl; mix well.
Using a box grater, grate very cold butter into flour mixture. Stir in sour cream until a soft dough is formed. Pat into a round, about 1 1/2 inches thick, and wrap in plastic. Chill for one hour.
2 1/2 cups fresh cherries, pitted and halved
2 tbsp. sugar
zest and juice of one lemon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. cornstarch
Mix together the sugar, lemon, salt, and cornstarch. Pour over a bowl of pitted and halved cherries, and toss to coat.
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Roll out your dough to pie-crust thickness, about 1/8 to 1/16 inch thick. Using a bowl or other medium-sized circular cutting thing, cut eight to ten rounds. Fill with a couple of tablespoons of the filling on one side of the round, and then fold the dough over top, pressing the edges to seal. You could use a fork – that’d work. Stab the tops of each turnover with a fork or a knife.
Brush tops with a small amount of milk, and sprinkle with sugar (optional).
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
Serve warm with ice cream.
I am going to Winnipeg next week for a wedding, so it looks like Grace, James, and I will not be picking anything to report back on for at least a couple of weeks. Maybe raspberries will be next then? As I have pounds and pounds of cherries, you can expect at least one more recipe for cherries in the next few days. Hooray!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
I know that yesterday I said today I was going to tell you all about clams, but the thing is I was a little drunk by the time dinner struck and all my pictures turned out blurry, and Grace brought her camera and tripod and took photos but I don’t have them yet so I’ll tell you all about clams tomorrow, or possibly the day after. Today we went out to Westham Island to pick strawberries.
Westham Island is way the hell out there off the highway beyond Ladner, and while it’s not actually that far away in kilometers, to get there you have to travel several long and winding roads and cross a couple of bridges and once you get there you have to try and decide which farm you will go to, and Grace and I wanted to go to the one with the winery. Of course, that’s at the end of another long road, but when we got there, we beheld many wonders. To our delight, it was Strawberry Fest this weekend. In addition to the startling variety of fruit wines available for sale, I was pleased to discover a company that custom-tailors tuxedos for wiener dogs. I don’t have a wiener dog yet, but when I do, he will ALWAYS be snappily dressed.
But that’s not the important thing. The important thing is that it’s now officially strawberry season, which means that it’s summer.
The place we went to was a u-pick kind of place, and you bring your own bucket – pretty standard stuff.
It took me forever to get started, and I grabbed several sharp weeds with my bare hands before getting into things. Agriculture isn’t for me, I decided, and also I don’t much care for squatting. In no time I was using my galoshes as a seat, ambling along the rows with prickly sleeping feet. I’ve revised my dream career to include “not outdoors” in its descriptors. It smelled very nice, like leaves and the odd whiff of berry musk.
And soon I was well into the whole process, shouting across the field to James and Grace whenever I felt so compelled – “OMG, look at these retard-berries!” I’d shout. “Developmentally challenged berries,” Grace would correct. And then when the troupe of annoying British children turned up, I decided I’d best stop shouting “retard!” into the fields, and James agreed.
It didn’t take very long to fill a whole bucket. For me, that is. James ate three times as many berries as he picked, and Grace anal-retentively only picked perfect berries – her berries were all of uniform colour and size. Grace is a better editor than I am, and has a keener eye for detail. My bucket showed an open-minded preference for diversity (read: a tendency toward rushing and impatience).
But what to do with all those berries?! I immediately counted out the prettiest, reddest ones from among the berries at the top of the bucket and dropped them into a bowl and drizzled them with a touch of sugar and just enough cream. They were so soft that they didn’t need to be chewed – I could smash them just by pushing them with my tongue against the roof of my mouth. They tasted precisely how strawberries are supposed to taste, with not a streak of white anywhere inside of them.
As too many strawberries will leave you with a terrible case of the scoots, I’m beginning to wonder what I’ll do with the rest – I think I’d like to make strawberry shortcake, and maybe a batch of muffins, and then freeze some for margaritas. The rest I will eat as they are, or dipped in pepper or sugar or maybe both – I don’t remember at which point the laxative quality of strawberries begins to take effect. Only one way to find out!
In the meantime, here’s my favourite base for strawberry shortcake. It’s a James Beard recipe, and it produces a biscuit, not a cake. But it’s sweet, with a crusty top that contrasts nicely with soft berries and whipped cream. I add cardamom because I like it, but you can omit it if you’d like.
(makes four to six, depending on how big you like them)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. sugar, plus additional for sprinkling on top
1 tsp. cardamom
1 – 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup melted butter
Preheat your oven to 425°F.
In a bowl, combine your flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, and cardamom. Mix it up, and once it’s mixed, slowly add one cup of the cream. Stir constantly, adding more cream if the dough doesn’t seem like it’s holding together. Once it’s formed a dough, turn it out onto a floured surface, and knead for about a minute. Divide the dough into four to six pieces, and pat down until each is about half an inch thick.
Paint with melted butter, all sides. Place on an ungreased baking sheat, and sprinkle the tops with sugar. The coarser the sugar, the better – I like a nice crunch.
Bake these for about fifteen minutes, or until golden brown.
Serve warm, with fresh berries and a generous dollop of whipped cream.
And now, it’s time for another handful of berries, a glass of wine, and a nap, because agriculture is hard work and squatting makes you tired.
Long before Nick, there was the city. Having grown up outside of it, and just out of its reach, I was determined to someday get here and renounce my suburban roots. Vancouver to me is like Paris to people who’ve been there and loved it – it occupies my imagination as much as my reality, and it’s wonderful. The water! The buildings! The markets! The wine! I smugly wonder why anyone would ever live anywhere else but here (the cost of housing? The long stretches of grey weather? No! That could not be). I do this mostly on bicycle.
Last night, Paul, Nick, and I went to Granville Island for the opening night of the Altar Boyz, a tremendously raucous bit of blasphemy that had my face cramped with laughter and my mascara running all the way down my cheeks. Before that, we sat on the patio at the Backstage Lounge, which is fantastic not for its food, which costs more than it’s worth and is generally subpar, but for its patio, with water views and generous sunbeams. The cheap beer also helps.
I had mussels, which were not memorable, but they were pretty, and they reminded me that I love shellfish and had not had it in nearly long enough. With the promise of a busy Nick this evening, I knew that this was my chance: Clams! I would alert Grace of my desire to feast, and we would eat bread and clams and drink refreshing summer wines. So I returned to Granville Island today, because The Lobster Man just beyond the public market is my favourite place to buy shellfish. Oh, the adventure!
And along the way, I became distracted, as always, by Oyama Sausage, which is the most wonderful place in the world. Fact. I decided, having just purchased a short, me-size baguette and sweet little local/overpriced strawberries, that in addition to the clams, I would also buy lunch.
There’s a large Frenchman there who gave me his name but it was jumbled, the way French is, and I could not piece it together in any logical way. He asked for my order in French (I don’t know why), and in order to not seem like a jerk, I responded in High School French, what little I recall of it. (Although, if he’d asked me to sing a song about Les Pompiers, I would have been able to. That stupid song – about firemen – is etched into the recesses of my brain. Thanks, Grade 8. THANKS.) He laughed, apparently tickled by my efforts. What wonderful samples I was handed as a result!
I ordered Delice deBourgogne, which is possibly the most delicious cheese in the world except for all the other ones, and decadent, oily duck prosciutto. Then I wandered into Liberty, intent on picking out a wine that Grace would surely enjoy, and then discovered cherry wine, which I couldn’t not buy – I had to consider lunch! I wonder how long it takes to get gout. Note to self: look into that.
Sixty dollars later, I finally made it to Lobster Man, the entire purpose of my trip. Mindful that everything I had purchased would have to fit into my backpack, I resisted the urge to buy every kind of oyster, sticking with my original clam plan. Cramming my day’s purchases into my pack, I raced home, in part to get the clams into the fridge as quickly as possible. But mostly to get to the sandwich, which by that point was actually shrieking my name. Here it is:
I’ve now discovered that everything tastes better when you order it in French. (Be warned, favourite restaurants, most of which are not French.) And the strawberries were fantastic – little bombs of sweet red glory! How perfect with just a touch of balsamic vinegar and a sprinkling of basil and black pepper. I don’t care how much cheaper it is to buy a townhouse in Surrey: I’m never living any farther than a bikeride away from duck prosciutto and still-breathing shellfish and cheeses with names I can barely pronounce and wonderful, obnoxious French men. Vancouver: Nevermind how often I whine about your weather – I love you!
Tomorrow will be less a love-fest and more an actual, respectable post about clams, a recipe for clams, and strawberries in honeyed whipped cream. Stay tuned?
It’s been oppressive-hot around here, and I have not felt like writing these past few days. We continue to eat, but the act of balancing hot computer on lap has been less than appealing. But then Nick started playing video games for hours on end, so a retreat to the bedroom (to Nick’s non-laptop computer) was in order.
Yesterday was one of those half-naked, stand-by-your-fan kind of days, and though I promised Grace a meatfest, I wasn’t able to deliver it in my apartment. Slow-cooking heats 600 square feet remarkably quickly, and as Canadian Tire was out of big fans, we’re currently operating with just the one. So I made the food, and transported it to Grace’s, who’s apartment was much more temperate.
But one should not make a meal of meat alone. No. I made the ribs that I wrote about before, except that I used pork side ribs this time, and the result was even better. (Also, I noticed that I screwed up typing the recipe for the barbecue sauce, so I’ve now fixed it. Oops. Sorry.) Last week I went to Costco, and confronted by two sets of meat, back ribs and side ribs, side by side, I couldn’t decide what was better. The side ribs worked out well – very meaty. Was pleased. I couldn’t make the full amount, because when I finally got most of these defrosted, the bottom rack was still frozen. Good thing: I don’t have an oven big enough to cook that much meat.
Anyway, I decided that we really ought to have a summer salad as well, and maybe something with potatoes – I found some lovely new and purple potatoes at the market that morning. Of course, it was intolerable inside and I certainly did not want to hang out over a pot on the stove, so I decided to grill the potatoes. Every recipe I found for grilled potato salad sounded very good, but it was all for warm potato salad, which was really not appealing. Here is my alternative:
Grilled Potato Salad with Tarragon Aoili
4 cups grilled chopped potatoes
1 cup grilled asparagus, chopped
1 cup grilled green beans, chopped
2 cups whole grape tomatoes
4 slices bacon, chopped
As mentioned, you’ll want your vegetables to be grilled and then chopped. Except for the tomatoes. Keep them fresh and raw for a delightful pop. Once your vegetables come off the grill, allow them to cool for awhile, until you can handle them comfortably. Make sure to parboil your potatoes before grilling: Give them six to eight minutes in boiling water, or until they’re almost done. Fry the bacon. But don’t stand over the stove-top too long.
1 clove garlic
1 tsp. dijon mustard
zest and juice of one lemon
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 cup olive oil (use good stuff. Or use grapeseed oil. Hell, you could even use canola – it doesn’t matter. Use what you like.)
2 tbsp. fresh tarragon
Blend the egg, garlic, mustard, zest, salt, and pepper in a food processor until the garlic has broken down and is in tiny little pieces that you can’t quite see. Slowly pour in the oil (while the blade is in motion). This will produce mayonnaise, which is awesome. Dribble in the lemon juice, and add the tarragon, continuing to process until the herb has been destroyed and thoroughly integrated.
This will make more aioli than is necessary for the salad, but that’s good news. You can use the rest on vegetables, or spread it on sandwiches. Either way, don’t use it all, and don’t throw it out either.
Toss the veggies and bacon with the dressing, as much or as little as you like, and return it to the fridge for at least an hour before serving. Let those flavours sink in!
Serve cold, with meat.
And then we went to Grace’s. And Grace took lovely pictures of the food. She has photography skills.
The result was a delicious feast that I was pleased to have endured a day of heat to make, all things said and done. Grace made margaritas, and we drank wines. And then Grace produced a rhubarb shortcake with whipped cream that was all sorts of revelatory, and I learned that rosemary and rhubarb are a magical pairing that I would like more of. Possibly every day. Holy crap. I wish there was a photo. And with that, I now must figure out how to feed myself while wearing almost nothing and not turning on the stove, as despite the cloud cover, it’s still very warm. Goodbye, for now.