Sunday, February 28, 2010

Olympic Sunday!

Print Friendly and PDF Well...What a day! The P-Man and I just finished watching the Olympic Men's Gold Medal Hockey game...and for those of you living under a rock...WE WON!!! It has been one of those days with nothing much on the schedule except watching the big game, and in a half hour or so...the Olympic closing ceremonies. I decided to do a bit of slooooow cooking today as I started drinking wine around 11:30 AM...and didn't feel like flexing my cooking muscles! I made a simple roasted chicken. It was supposed to be something I saw on Michael Smith's Chef At Home, called chicken coquette ( pardon my bad French) A roast chicken cooked in a closed dutch oven...resulting in a moist tender chicken, without crisp skin, but full of chicken flavour. I had a little organic bird, and stuffed it with half a lemon, the tender inner stalks of celery, and a half an onion. I sat it on a little shelf of celery stalks and onion, seasoned it well with salt and pepper and herbs de provence, and threw it in a 300 degree oven for about 3 hours. I don't have a dutch oven...I only have my mother's speckled blue and white enamel roaster. The hockey game went into it was more like 4 hours. It came out a little dry...but very soft and chickeny...but after another glass of wine, I won't even be sad about it! HA! I boiled up a couple of purple top turnips and 4 carrots, and mashed them up with some butter and pepper. I added some leftover brown rice, and I had a great light supper, and will have a nice bit for leftovers and next week's lunches.
Today marks one week until the P-Man and I fly off to NYC to celebrate our wedding Anniversary. This is a big a big trip is required to commemorate the occasion. We made reservations at what look to be some great I will keep you updated on our culinary adventures in the Big Apple.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Chicken and Vinegar?

Print Friendly and PDF I live in a great apartment. This photo is what my kitchen used to look like. It was a little like a 1980's flashback...without the dusty rose and green flowered wallpaper border! The P-Man and I have lived in this apartment for almost ten years now. I cooked in this kitchen from the day we moved in, until the day we ripped it all out to do the renovation. The kitchen is extremely functional. It is a 'galley' style kitchen, and as you can see the work triangle area is compact, so you don't need to run all over the place while you are preparing meals. We kept the basic layout, but modernized it, with new flooring, counter tops etc. It used to be sort of a' Shake and Bake Chicken' kitchen...but now it is a 'Chicken and Vinegar' kitchen. Same basic ingredients...but a bit more sophisticated.

The P-Man has injured his back. Not good. Back spasms... unsteady walking... big pain. We have been home together for the last 4 days. It has been a bit surreal, him being NOT at work, and him being infirm and in pain. Between chiropractic visits and pharmacy visits we have been watching quite a bit of TV. I saw Laura Calder's cooking show yesterday, and she made a dish called chicken and vinegar. ( Now it has been a very long time since I saw a recipe for something I have NEVER heard of...but this was the case. It looked easy enough. I had all the ingredients, and so today I gave it a try. It was VERY GOOD. I changed a few things. the recipe called for a cut up chicken on the bone, but all I had was boneless, skinless chicken thighs. It called for tomato paste and fresh tomatoes, and all I had was a half can of tomatoes left in the fridge from last week's spaghetti sauce. It also called for white wine vinegar, but all I had was red wine you get the picture. I fed it to the P-Man, alongside some mashed potatoes...and he cleaned his plate, and resumed his stretching. ( In my family...we refer to this syndrome as : " Too Much Togetherness" ) as I don't seem to resemble any of his work colleagues...he is having trouble working out how and if we should be speaking? Later on, I switched the channel back to the food network, ( The P-Man was frantically texting someone on his blackberry and swearing under his breath as he paced the long hall to our bedroom.) and watched an episode of Fresh, with Anna Olson. She was preparing Choucroute Garnie. ( please pardon the spelling) It was essentially sausages and pork chops with sauerkraut. Co-incidentally, I have been CRAVING sauerkraut, and happened to have a package of boneless pork chops in the fridge! Once again, I had most of the ingredients on hand... so I just threw it together, and it is in the oven as I write this. I can serve it with the potatoes from earlier...and it will work well heated up, tomorrow night as well. The apartment is smelling delicious. Hopefully, sauerkraut and pork will help with the P-Man's back. I'm looking forward to supper!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Too cloudy to eat!

Print Friendly and PDF Yesterday was like a summer day. The sun was streaming into my windows, and I had ANOTHER lunch date with an old friend! We were headed down to the beach of course. The scene was strangely unseasonal. People were strolling on the pier with their jackets off. Every restaurant patio was full, and everyone had their sunglasses on, and their chairs turned South. B. and I headed over to Slainte by the Pier. www.slaintebythepier We snagged a seat on the patio, took off our coats, adjusted our sunglasses, and settled in for a long lunch. I only see B. every 4 months or our lunches usually last an hour a month. ( I returned home around 5 pm!) After hearing the daily specials, we ordered the boxty appetizer. If you have never had the pleasure of Boxty...I pity you. It is a soft potato cake, fried to a beautiful golden brown, topped with something different every day. Our cakes featured fragrant, meltingly tender caramelized onions and tangy goat cheese. It was accompanied by a little pile of greens and fresh tomatoes in a tart/sweet balsamic dressing. One word: YUM! B. had never been to looked to me for a recommendation. I suggested the Irish Lamb Stew. B. pronounced the stew one of the best things she had had in her mouth in a LOOOONG time...and said she had to restrain herself from licking the bowl! It did look wonderful. Chunks of tender lamb and potatoes and carrots and turnips in a light aromatic broth. On the side was a piece of freshly baked Irish Soda bread, to soak up any broth the spoon might have missed. Slainte has a sign out front saying that it has the BEST fish and chips on the Beach. Now that is a bold statement indeed. I had to see for myself. I don't usually indulge in fish and chips, as the forty pounds lost could creep back, one chip at a time. I had a choice of fresh red snapper or fresh cod, and I chose the snapper. My plate arrived with a super crispy coated piece of perfectly cooked, flaky fish, on top of a pile of crispy shoestring potatoes. I won't ruin the surprise of the fish. The coating is very will have to try it for yourself! The plate included some homemade tartar sauce, that was a nice texture, and had a wonderful vinegary bite. B. and I shared a creme brule for dessert, and it came with 2 crispy chocolate biscotti, a few crisp slices of apple, and a dollop of soft fresh whipped cream. This dessert is one of B's favorites...and this one did not disappoint. Our meals matched the day. Fresh, unexpected, and unseasonably warm. Today we are back to clouds and rain. The sort of weather we are accustomed to in our province in February. The Winter Olympics are entering their second week, with a distinctly 'Golden' glow. A little rain will not be able to dampen that spirit! Our lunch deserves a medal for technique and flavour! Go Ireland! Go Canada!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Everybody loves 'Left-Overs'

Print Friendly and PDF I am a firm believer in the cook once, eat four times, style of meal preparation. This doesn't mean I eat exactly the same meal for four days. I just lay the foundation for a variety of meals that can be created with the protein, vegetable and starch that I made the first day. For example: I made spaghetti with beef meatballs, and a basic tomato sauce. After one meal of that, I added some sliced mushrooms, sliced fennel, and canned tomatoes to extend the sauce, and made a pot of brown rice. Now it becomes meal number two. I also had some sausage and peppers from the party, so I sliced up some of the sausage, added the cooked peppers, and a bit of wine, and served that over the spaghetti. Meal number three. Tomorrow, I plan to add a can of salmon, and some more veggies to the leftover garlic mashed potatoes, to make a sort of salmon croquette, that I can eat with some of the leftover carrot and seed salad, also from the party. You see how it can go on and on. If I get tired of one of the flavours, or one of the ingredients I can usually freeze it, and the bonus is it has already been cooked, and I can look for inspiration another day! When I was in Fashion Design, I never got really excited about a garment until I found the fabric. I am the same way with cooking. Once I find the thing I want to eat, I have no problem building a meal around it...or a few meals!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Print Friendly and PDF I went out for lunch with an old friend, yesterday. She is a vegetarian, so choosing a suitable restaurant is a bit more challenging. It was also Tuesday...which means that the majority of restaurants along the beach are closed. We ended up at The U-Lounge. I had been there a year or so ago, when it first opened. At that time it was generating a bit of BUZZ about the design and decor. It is a beautiful space. Almost too beautiful for it's location, adjacent to a strip mall in a new area in South Surrey called Grandview Corners. From the outside it is really nothing special. Inside, is a completely different story. How many restaurant/lounges have you ever been to that have 25 ft ceilings, white carrera marble on every surface, and beautiful white leather booths complete with sheer white curtains? It is the kind of place that makes you feel under dressed. Yesterday it was sunny and warm, and at 1:30 in the afternoon, there were only 3 or 4 other patrons in the restaurant. The first thing I noticed was that they have added a HUGE projection TV screen in addition to the other 2 smaller flat screens that hung over the centre bar. The menu looked similar, but they had added a blurb about this being a great place to watch a Vancouver Canucks Game. WEIRD. A Sports Bar, this was NOT. I remember the food being good, and I am glad to report it was good yesterday. They have a large selection of plates to share, as well as a daily soup and sandwich combo. I had a chicken souvlaki wrap and M had fried tofu with a fresh salsa. My wrap came with fries, and was very tasty. It was filled with veggies and black olives and chicken, with a bit of a tangy sauce mixed in. M said her tofu was good as well, and the salsa had a bit of zing. We had a long lunch, and watched a bit of Olympic Hockey on the gigantic screen. It was a little strange, but the food was good. After lunch we shopped around, and I found a nice pair of shoes for half price. Maybe next time, I will wear them to U-Lounge.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Are you Hungry?

Print Friendly and PDF My mom and dad grew up during the Great Depression. I was born in the 1960's. I have no concept of what it was like to live without electricity, or have to preserve food for the coming winter. I grew up in an age of convenience. I ate TV dinners for lunch...and had a wide variety of food to choose from, 365 days of the year. I am constantly amazed at the variety of food I can choose to eat, on a daily basis. Right now, I have a mango ripening on my counter. I ate an avocado on Saturday night, and tomorrow for supper...I may have some sushi. I can drive or walk to probably 25 different restaurants, and have food in my cupboards, refrigerator and freezer that could last the P-Man and I at least a month. I think that most people in North America take access to clean food and water for granted. I have been watching the Olympics on TV, and wondering what all those people from other countries think about the food we eat. Not to mention, the huge quantities of food we have access to, every day. I feel very lucky to have been born in Canada, in a time of relative peace. I do not know what it is like to be hungry. Sometimes I feel I spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to decide what I would like to eat! I have already made a lunch date with a friend tomorrow...another good day...I'm grateful.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentines Day!

Print Friendly and PDF Happy Valentine's Day! The P-Man and I have been married for several decades Valentine's Day is not as big a day as it used to be. I slept until 11:11 am today. The party was last night, and by all accounts, a success. The food was well received, and I have a minimal amount of left-overs. The menu was all make ahead, as I worked on Friday and Saturday, both days until 4:30, and my guests were arriving at 7:30 . I made a complete meal. The people I invited like to eat. The menu was: WITH DRINKS: Rosemary Almonds, courtesy of Bob Blumer, The Surreal Gourmet. His recipes may seem a little gimmicky, but I find they really work. Avocado with lemon and soy, with toasted sesame seeds, courtesy of Laura Calder. Not exactly French...but easy and refreshing. Puff Pastry Pin Wheels, also courtesy of Laura Calder. These little bites have olive tapenade and parmesan cheese in them, and are that great salty bite with drinks. DINNER: Sausage and Peppers. I bought an assortment of pork and turkey sausages,some spicy, some mild. I browned them in a pan, and moved them to an oven dish. I sliced a large sweet onion and 7 bell peppers, red, orange and yellow, ( I HATE green peppers) and browned them in the pan, and added a cup of red wine to deglaze, and then dumped them on top of the sausages, covered the dish with tinfoil and cooked them at 350 for 1 hour. An hour before everyone arrived I stuck the dish back into the oven at 350, and people served them self out of that dish. Asparagus Frittata. I found this recipe on the Internet, and it turned out quite well. I originally was going to go with a side of Salmon...but the season is over, and all the previously frozen salmon, just looked SAD! SIDES: Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes. I roasted 2 heads of garlic on Thursday. On Saturday after work, the P-Man peeled a pot full of russet potatoes and just before everyone arrived, I squeezed the roasted garlic out of it's skins, added a cup of milk and a 1/4 cup of butter, and microwaved it for 2 minutes. I then dumped the garlic mixture into the potatoes and mashed away! I stuck a lid on the pot, and it stayed warm until we were ready. Carrot and Seed Salad, courtesy of the book: Breakfast, Lunch, Tea...Rose Bakery. I picked this book up at Anthropology, a fantastic store in Seattle. It has great photos, and good recipes. A Parisian fantasy of a cookbook...with recipes that really work! Salade De Haricots Verts Au Gruyere, courtesy of James Barber's Immodest but Honest Good Eating Cookbook. This cold green bean salad has been a favorite of mine for more than 20 years now, and it was the 1st recipe I ever read that taught me how to make a perfect French vinaigrette. He adds several variations, but I still like mine with dried tarragon the best. Even though green beans are kind of sketchy this time of year...I bought lots, and really sorted through them, and discarded any that felt woody or dry. I blanched the beans on Thursday, and put together the vinaigrette, at the same time. On Saturday after work, I only had to assemble the salad, check the seasoning, and let it sit at room temperature for an hour or so. I also sliced up a baguette.
DESSERT: Fresh Ginger Cake with apple/cranberry compote and vanilla ice cream, also courtesy of Breakfast, Lunch, Tea. I made the compote from frozen apples I had from my friend J's, dad's tree, and a bag of fresh cranberries I bought a week or so ago, combined with a cinnamon stick, and a lump of brown sugar, that had gone hard in the cupboard before Christmas. Oh, and 3 cloves...I had a whole jar from God knows when. My dad was a baking has never been my thing. The recipe involved 3 bowls...never a good sign...but I baked it on Thursday, and wrapped it in saran, and it was tasty, and moist and gingery. I decided to get fancy, and cut out little hearts of cake, and let everyone make their own plates, by adding compote and or ice cream...they loved it! I only have cake scraps left!
It wasn't so hard... Go on...have a party!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My Olympic Week!

Print Friendly and PDF I am far more of an 'Arts Person' than a' Sports Person'. This could be for several reasons. Firstly, the only sport I was ever good at was...well I was not good at ANY sport. On the flip side, I have two visual Artists, and a musician in my immediate family, and the P-Man's family are ALL musically inclined. So basically, I am far more comfortable if someone wants to sing me a song, or paint my portrait, than I am if someone suggests taking me curling, for example. These facts make what I am about to tell you, all the more incredible. This week...I ATTENDED TWO OLYMPIC CELEBRATORY EVENTS!!! On Tuesday, I actually woke up at 5:15 am, got dressed, and walked down the hill to Marine Drive to watch the Olympic flame pass through White Rock. Yesterday, I took the bus/Canada Line into Vancouver and attended the full dress rehearsal for THE OPENING CEREMONIES OF THE 2010 WINTER OLYMPICS!! What a week!! Even though I don't agree with the politics, and the emphasis on winning, etc, etc...I really enjoyed both events, and feel excited about the next few weeks of Vancouver Olympic craziness. I hope you watch the opening ceremonies on TV tomorrow night. The artistry with which it was put together was remarkable, and made me feel very proud to be Canadian.

So, lest you feel as if you have stumbled into the wrong blog...let me get back to food. After the ceremonies last night, my friend J. and I walked to Yaletown, and had some drinks and snacks at a very nice little New York style lounge called George ( www.georgeloungevancouver ) They had a good selection of food for a lounge, and with 8$ glasses of wine...I will be back! We split 3 things: Short rib potato skins, crab cakes, and a mixed mushroom lasagna. The potato skins were the most forgettable. They tasted like every other potato skin I have had in my life and not a bit of short rib was to be found. J. suggested that perhaps the dark cinnamon colored liquid the skins were resting on, was the short rib component? I say, false advertising...and we have strike one! Next came the crab cakes. They were to have been composed of dungeness and Alaska King crab, and they were DELICIOUS!! Slightly spicy, all crab, no yucky sticky filler, with bits of bell pepper for color, on top of a little drizzle of curry mayonnaise. J. had to eat fast, as I was angling towards her cake. We ordered another glass of wine, and were still a bit hungry, so we ordered the mushroom lasagna. It took awhile to arrive, but when it did, it was well worth it. The piece was nestled in a deep white bowl, smothered in a beautiful scarlet colored, fresh tasting tomato sauce. The pasta was al dente, and the selection of mushrooms was unusual. It was light,and flavourful...and certainly not lounge food. It was getting late, so instead of using our tickets to get us a free ride on transit back to J's place, we found a cab, and I stayed overnight.
I woke up this morning to the lovely smell of J. making blueberry pancakes, with blueberries from her dad's farm. I LOVE pancakes ( my dad made sure of that!) and even though these were a mix, they were light and fluffy. With some real maple syrup poured over top, I ate give me strength for the long walk to the Canada Line. When I got home...I had to consult my party planning list, and managed to make the dessert, and both main courses, as well as prep for the one salad. I have to get started on supper for the P-Man as well...but I feel that I am organized and ready for Saturday night with THE ITALIANS!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

It's Party Week!!

Print Friendly and PDF One of the best things about working for someone else...besides the pay cheque and the lack of serious responsibility, is the new social circles you find yourself moving in. I am not what you would describe as a ' hard partying ' individual! That is... until I met...THE ITALIANS!! My employer, and her son, and her husband, and their friends, like to have a good time! They all find time to entertain regularly. They don't make it into a big deal. Simple, tasty food, and great wine. So...I have invited everyone over for a pre-Valentines, post- ensuite bathroom renovation, get together! There will be about 10 of us...and I do not intend to cook a sit down feast...but will be serving more than drinks and snacks. This requires a plan. I have checked my recipe books, and created a detailed grocery list. I think I have everything covered. Before I worked at Delitalia...the idea of hosting a party would have really stressed me out. Now, I am happy to do my best in the food department...and enjoy myself, just like everyone else. The P-Man usually handles the cleaning, and the shopping for wine and spirits. I prepare the food. I am planning on serving 3 different snacks to have with drinks, 2 entrees, 1 side dish, 2 cold salads, and a simple dessert . Today I made one of the snacks, and will do the food shopping. Four days and counting...Piece of cake!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Slainte by the Pier

Print Friendly and PDF I went out for lunch today, with a good friend. It was a lovely, unseasonably warm we took a walk down to the beach. We had lunch at an Irish Pub called Slainte by the Pier ( pronounced Slancha...for all you non-Gaelic speakers out there!) I am always glad to see a new restaurant suceed, and especially one with excellent food! The last time I was there, was about 8 pm on New Years Eve. A couple of friends, the P-Man and I had reservations at Le Vol Au Vent, and to our dismay... our table was still occupied by a group of happy French people who just didn't want to leave! We said that we would return in an hour or so...and wandered down to Slainte. It was 8 pm on New Years Eve, and the owner was nice enough to let us sit at the bar and have a drink and a snack...knowing that we had reservations at another restaurant! We had a few drinks, and some yummy potato skins to share... ( Slainte does phenomenal things with the humble potato...) listened to the excellent singer songwriter named Laine Henderson, paid our bill, and wandered down to eat our New Year's Eve meal.
Flash forward to today. I had a pulled pork sandwich, and a cup of clam chowder. My friend had the soup of the day, lamb and barley, and a green salad. I have a personal vendetta against chefs who cannot make a decent sandwich. How in the world are you going to succeed if you can't manage to create an edible mixture between 2 pieces of bread? I am glad to report that my sandwich was EXCELLENT! It was served on a soft roll ( probably potato) and contained small strips of tender pork smothered in a sweet and tangy bbq sauce. It also contained some nice mixed greens, a slice of fresh red onion, and a surprisingly flavourful slice of tomato...given the time of year. I ate every bit, including a fairly large crumb, that landed on my jacket! My clam chowder was also excellent. It was full of large chunks of potato, and clams,and carrots. The broth was well seasoned, and had a nice herbal flavour...perhaps thyme. It was loose and brothy, not thick and gloppy. My friend also had a wonderful soup. It was served in a lovely flat wide bowl, and you could see all the barley, and pieces of carrot and celery, and lamb. Her soup was served with a piece of Irish Soda Bread, that had a nice crumbly texture, that was a great sponge for the soup. Her salad was fresh and green, containing a mixture of frissee, red and green lettuces. It was a perfect accompaniment to the hearty soup.
We chatted there until 4pm, paid the bill and wandered back up the hill. It is hard to describe how a place feels...but this place feels right. I hope it stays on the beach for a long time.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Chicken Soup

Print Friendly and PDF I don't cook like I used to. I used to come home and start cooking something that I had taken out the night before. Every meal revolved around the type of meat I was having. The side dishes reflected the meat choice. I have changed that routine. Now, when I have a couple of days off, I do a whole day of cooking. Yesterday, it was all about chicken soup. I bought one of those grocery store rotisserie chicken a couple of days ago, and used the meat for a variety of dishes...mainly yummy chicken-veggie wraps. The carcass was looking quite sad, so I decided to make some soup. I started cutting the onion, and carrot, and celery after breakfast...threw everything into the pot with a couple of bay leaves, and some peppercorns, and let it boil for an hour and a half. My whole apartment smelled very grand-mothery...and after I strained out the bones and boiled veggies, I put it back on the stove and added some chopped celeriac, potatoes,carrots,and some green onions. After the veggies were soft, I pureed the whole thing in the blender, and added a can of Romano beans, and pureed that as well. Seasoning was a little salt and pepper. I had a small bowl for lunch, and it was smooth and creamy and tasted very nicely of celery, and of earthy beans. The beans turned it an interesting dusty rose color...and I had a weird flashback to a former house of mine that was painted many shades of pinky purple/rose!
Now that I was warmed up...I also made a pot of California brown rice, as well as blanched some broccoli, for the P-Man's lunch. Then I made a Manhattan style fish chowder, from a mix I purchased at the supermarket...that was created in Sechelt! Yay local! I discovered I had no canned tomatoes (sad, considering my current place of employment!) so I substituted a cup of chunky salsa and a cup of white wine. I also added some small peeled shrimp, a jar of clams with juice, and a piece of red snapper, cut into chunks. It turned out really well. The P-Man is NOT a fish person...but he went back for seconds. I also baked a couple of potatoes, a sweet potato and some beets. I baked a couple of lamb chops and two chicken breasts...and the day was done.
Not bad for a day's work...we will be well fed until the weekend.