Monthly Archives: January 2017

Armchair Travelling in the Kitchen

 

I know I won’t have much sympathy when I finish this post by telling you I’m leaving on holidays in 2 days, but bear with me… I was thinking of friends we have made in past years on trips to Jamaica, and missing the trip we usually take there at this time of year. I decided to make something tonight in hommage to our love of the place,  its wonderful food and people, and our distant friends.

I don’t know if you have ever done this – revisit tastes from a great experience? You can’t expect to recreate magic that comes from being in a place, but it’s fun to remember and toast to a time when you lived life to the fullest. I love to share tastes with friends and family, too; it helps to round out tales you want to tell of your visit and put them in context even for those who weren’t there.

Tonight’s little appetizer was easy. FRIED PLANTAINS: take a few plantains and peel them like bananas. Slice them diagonally and toss in a mixture of thyme, allspice, salt and marjoram (oregano will sub in if you don’t have any). Pan fry in a cast iron pan with a generous amount of coconut oil till golden brown. Serve with Jamaican condiments such as tamarind chutney, jerk sauce or other spicy chutneys. This time it was just for the two of us, but I’ve done it for larger crowds and we’ve had just as much fun. Light beer or rum punch are perfect accompaniments, but a lighter white wine will work in a pinch.

 

If you have a chance to be a guest at such an occasion, perhaps it will inspire you to take a voyage. Or it will give you a real taste of the place, a chance to be an armchair traveller. There is no safer way to travel, yet the excitement can still be worthy of wanting to send a postcard or two.

kpl-7-mile-beach

Taken on Seven Mile Beach in Negril, Jamaica

 

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Curiosity fuels the fire 

I am so fortunate I was given an environment as a child where being curious was rewarded. So often I wondered, “What would it be like if…?” My parents cheered me on in all kinds of endeavours, many of them silly. But I was allowed to try ideas and know someone had my back.

 I wore striped socks with  patterned skirts and tops, I ran for student council even though I was geeky. I even played basketball despite not being able to walk and chew gum at the same time. I was. It popular at school, in part due to my clothing choices I’m sure. I did not win the election and I didn’t spend much time off the bench in basketball, but I got to have the experiences. 

The one place I have managed to find my stride is the kitchen. My mom let me muck around early on as a helper and I have muddled through ever since. She let me ask why, and find out why not. My curiosity grew as I got older, looking for more flavours as I learned of more cultures and foods. Today we trade new recipes and ideas, inspiring each other. We are never more connected than we share a meal together. 

Today I didn’t get to share a meal with my  mom but we did share a phone call (she’s in Mexico for the winter). Our chat inspired me to try something new for dinner though. 

I cooked pork chops with a new rub I have, called Besar. Thanks to the folks at World Spice in Seattle, I have a stock of exotic spices and blends. I used their suggested recipe for shrimp skewers as a base and made a rice pilaf with flavours echoing the rub. Asparagus and peppers steamed in white wine and honey added just the right touch to round out the plate. 


I was really proud to have Sunday dinner for my hubby, full of flavours and in a combination that was new for him. 

Cheers, Mumsy! This meal is one I hope we can share on your next visit.  

Is food sexy?

I was scrolling through my social media feed looking for inspiration this morning and I found a tweet from one of my fave foodies that instantly got my attention.


Amy Reiley writes about aphrodisiac foods so this tweet isn’t surprising. Her newsletter is one of my favourites. But the fact that the caviar company recommends this method was interesting.

Does this seem like a sexy way to eat? Is caviar a sexy food? Or are you thinking more of Tom Hanks in “Big” when he tasted the stuff…

I have always loved the sensuality of food. The textures, the colours, the beautiful presentation on a plate can be as sexy as an evening gown or a tailored suit in my book. I think a big part of my coming of age was realizing just what power was possible from occasions like lobster dinner a la “Flashdance” (you can look that video up yourself).

Is there a link between one’s passion and feeling that activity is sexy? Is there really such a thing as aphrodisiacs or is it just a ruse to motivate us?

In my humble opinion, making an effort is the key. The key to enjoying food or any other element of one’s life – including sex. I don’t need lobster to turn my husband on at dinner; you’d be surprised what eating a grilled cheese in lingerie will do for your Monday night agenda.

The same goes for the simple enjoyment of food – make an effort to create interesting tastes. For example…

Is winter making you feel bland? How about a spicy soup or stew? Add some chiles and warm yourself from the inside.

Does the plate of food look boring? Garnish it up! Grated cheese over pasta (asiago kicks Parmesan up a notch), chopped fresh green onions over potatoes, balsamic vinegar drizzled over veggies – they all add colour and flavour.

Maybe you’ve already done these things – so, how about wine and food pairing? It’s not as tough as you might think – just focus more n the dominant flavours to match.

You could check out Amy Reiley’s blog, Eat Something Sexy, or her cookbook, Fork Me Spoon Me.

And well, if all else fails, there’s always the grilled cheese and lingerie method 🙂

Bon Appetit!

The Rising 

My hubbie was cooking up a storm in the kitchen this afternoon. We are counting down the days till we leave for our winter holiday and so final preparations are underway. That includes stocking the kitchen for our house and dog sitter.

“The troops”, Simon & Ella


She takes good care of “the troops”, so we like to take good care of her. The room is full of the smells of fresh baking and buns are rising on the counter. 

Chef Martin’s famous scones, this time made with cherries from our tree

Pecan sticky buns on the rise


I will not lie; the house sitter is not the only one to benefit from this effort. I plan to enjoy a spectacular breakfast tomorrow, and I will be returning home from holidays knowing there are goodies in the freezer. 

Ta da!


I shall dream of a hot cup of fresh coffee and a gooey sticky bun with a few morsels of blue cheese. Sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference. 

Yes, we have garden tomatoes!

winter-troops-2013

It’s the dead of winter here. Even though we don’t have big snow drifts anymore, there is no such thing as fresh-grown local produce in January in the Okanagan. At best we have local food that has been stored, but usually that means apples and root vegetables. As a chef I once worked with said one winter, “How much parsnip soup can one person eat?!” But here at Rabbit Hollow, we have been very fortunate.

This past summer’s bounty was particularly delicious, and it continued longer than usual even for this pocket of Canadian paradise. I use edible flowers from the garden for our catered BBQ events with The Chef Instead, and I was able to do that this year up until the very end of November. img_3624 img_3633 I didn’t harvest the last of the vegetable garden until after Thanksgiving (in October for us Canadians, a time when frost is usually on the ground in most parts of the country). We have a wonderful root cellar which this year held summer and winter squash, potatoes, tomatillos, peppers, carrots, green tomatoes and apples (in case you’re wondering, the apples have to be kept in a separate room or they hasten the spoiling of everything else). I’m not trying just to brag here; I want to put things in perspective, so you won’t think I’m offering “alternative facts” when I say we used the last of our stored veggies in tonight’s salad. Yes, we have no bananas, but we did have garden tomatoes (insert cheeky emoji here to help justify my title).

There’s something especially inspiring about eating our hard-earned produce in January. Such a meal deserves special treatment. And it got said treatment. My hubby was inspired to make a delectable blue cheese dressing and make a wedge salad highlighted by our harvested morsels.

Now you may still be unclear on why I titled this post the way I did. It comes down to terroir. Nowadays it’s not difficult to buy any vegetable I want at a grocery store. But most tomatoes this time of year don’t taste like much. Even after they have ripened in my basement, my garden tomatoes still have the beautiful complexity of homegrown produce. They taste like summer. So did the last carrots and the roasted pumpkin. We savoured every bite. Iceberg lettuce never tasted so good.

wedge-salad-happy-gourmand

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