Monthly Archives: May 2017
Despite the heat we’ve had that melts butter on the counter, and the flooding that has streams and lakes rising past record levels, there is simple beauty around.
We have sardonically joked that it’s a good year to be poor enough to not afford lakefront property. My garden is well above water. We lost a few big branches from one of our lilac trees last night but that’s all. (They were waterlogged and beaten down by previous hits from ambitious woodpeckers. )
If you’ll pardon the expression, I thought I’d show the cup half full in what for many is a time of tense anticipation or even tragedy.
I hope you can smile at these the way I do. As my mom always says, “it’s important to stop and smell the flowers.” Breathe deep.
I don’t think I could live in a tropical climate long term. I like food too much.
For the last week or so, it’s been a steady 30 degrees during the day and then around 20 at night. We don’t have air conditioning, so the heat never really abates.
In these temperatures, neither one of us feels much like cooking. Who wants to heat up the house any further by turning on the stove or the oven? I don’t even feel much like eating or drinking something hot.
Salad is great, and there are a million ways to make it. It’s a bit early for much in the way of local ingredients but we have used many of the garden herbs.
Ordinarily we have an early spring by Canadian standards, and so I’m spoiled with early edible blossoms and veggies at the farmers market.
This year it was cool and wet, so the dandelions and arugula were the first bonuses. The price I paid for scrounging them was a stunning array of mosquito bites.
I don’t plan on starting a raw diet, so I was happy when I heard the forecast for cooler temps over the next week. Then I can adjust to this scenario and come up with some other meals that work in the heat (besides salads and omelettes).
Perhaps I’m just getting slow to adjust in my advancing years? I haven’t even managed to unpack my summer outfits yet! Even if one were to say they didn’t believe in climate change (which seems hard unless you never look out a window) one would have to believe in some sort of adjusting, don’t you think?
What do you cook in the heat? I’d love to hear some new ideas. I’m certainly inspired to check my tropical cookbooks. Watch for new recipes 🙂
In the last week I lost my mojo. I looked daily for inspiration on writing and I came up empty every time. I haven’t been cooking anything except eggs and warming leftovers. I need to shake this off.
Our cool spring weather broke on the long weekend and we were inundated with heat. The first blossom to make a stand was a poppy.
Seeing it stand there, so striking and strong, I was encouraged.
As I approached to take a close up though, I noticed something…
I took it as a sign. I’m going to attempt not beating myself up for past behaviour and move forward. Tomorrow is another day. And another post.
Living as a country mouse means I get to enjoy space and quiet and peace of mind most days. That’s not to say I don’t like a dose of urban hustle and bustle once in a while. Hubbie and I just got back from a whirlwind weekend in Vancouver, so I thought I would share some of our highlights. Then you can try out our discoveries, if you like what you see.
We met my stepdaughter for dinner on Friday night in downtown Vancouver. She is recently engaged so we knew the conversation would be all about wedding plans. That required a place casual enough for lots of silly chatting and sharing of Pinterest photos; a tapas restaurant in Gastown sounded perfect. The Sardine Can worked out really well, with delicious food and lovely wine.
As an added tip, I’ll mention that Gastown is a busy part of town for after-work drinks and socializing. Be prepared to wait – you will likely have to get a drink at one place while you wait for a seat at another place. Maple Tree Square is the centre of the action, with restaurants and pubs all around. We wandered into Chill Winston to have our first toast of the evening, since The Sardine Can only has a few seats and they were all full.
We visited, but you could go alone and enjoy – it’s a great people-watching spot, and the staff are friendly. Our bartender Charlie even made a custom drink for my stepdaughter.
The tapas were great and the Spanish wines helped transport us; we felt as if we’d snuck into a cozy spot on a side street in San Sebastián.
By the time we were done we had discussed wardrobe, menu, flowers, and the ceremony venue.
When your Papa is a chef who knows pastry and chocolate, dessert has its own significance. A trip to Sweet Obsession was in order.
This gem in Kitslano was made famous by a protegé of my hubbie, so it’s near and dear to our hearts. Tracey now owns Lemonade Bakery, where she specializes in gluten free products. There is no cafe to stay and eat, but it is worth a trip even if you aren’t gluten free.
On Saturday we had to make our cardinal stop. Ever since I was a kid, my favourite foodie spot in Vancouver has been Granville Island Public Market. It still warms my heart and my tummy on every visit, especially now that it’s the source of so many memories.Brave the busy parking and shuffle your way through the crowds – it’s worth all the fuss to enjoy a coffee, or a piece of pie, or fresh fruit, or fudge, or fish and chips (they have it all) and sit outside to watch the boats and birds in False Creek.
We stocked up on all our favourites, planning for a picnic dinner that night in our hotel room. (Having a full suite with a kitchen made it easier and much more comfortable than eating on a hotel bed.) More on that later.
Saturday lunch was for more family time, so again casual was the theme. Hubbie wanted to do some research, so we chose a BBQ joint – oddly enough, it was back at the same square in Gastown that we had visited the night before.
We met my brother and his girlfriend to trade gifts and then wandered down to Peckinpah BBQ, a southern style joint where most of the menu is set up very simply: pick your meat, then choose a few “sides” to go with it. There was beef, pork and chicken (we had a bit of each). Sides included corn bread, hush puppies (basically fried cornbread), coleslaw, fried pickles, and of course mac and cheese.
I can’t speak for the mac and cheese as we skipped that one but the other items were all solid efforts. I prefer vinaigrette for my coleslaw dressing; theirs was creamy and peppery. Fried pickles are good if you eat them fresh from the fryer; wait more than a few minutes and they get soggy. The jalapeño mayo they make for dipping the pickles was just the right touch of heat. We discovered it worked well with hush puppies and chicken wings too.
There is something especially comforting about food shared with family after a long absence. My brother and I hadn’t shared a meal in years and dipping hush puppies together as we laughed at old stories made the tastes even better. I know it won’t be nearly as long till we sit around a table again.
The picnic my hubbie and I set out that evening was just a nibble before heading out dancing, as we weren’t very hungry after all that BBQ. What an elegant way to picnic, though, in our vintage suite at the Arundel Mansion Hotel in New Westminster.
Sunday brunch was my own sentimental indulgence. Years ago my dad introduced me to a place out by the airport that was unique in its ambience. The Flying Beaver Bar & Grill sits on the water in Richmond, next door to the Harbour Air terminal for seaplanes. You can sit and watch them land and take off as you sip your beer and nibble on a homemade burger or Eggs Benny. I hadn’t been back in years, but it was just as good as I remember. (It’s just busier, like everything in Vancouver fifteen years later.)
Sometimes we head to the city and try out new places, looking for new adventure. This time was more about connections. It was heartwarming to reconnect and add to the memories. Not to mention we filled the fridge with delicacies.
If you work in the hospitality business, it’s likely that Monday is your day off. If you work in a small place, it is likely closed on Monday. As a result, Monday becomes our Saturday. (Because when everyone else is enjoying Saturday, we are looking after them in restaurants and hotels and bars…) I am definitely motivated to cook something nice on my Saturday.
So, here I was on Monday, motivated to do a nice dinner at home. Thankfully our local fishmonger is open, so I picked up a nice piece of wild sockeye salmon (I added in a few prawns just for fun.) Local asparagus season has just begun, making it easy to pick a veggie. And we had picked up some buckwheat groats to try recently, so that rounded out the meal. I decided to go with a Mediterranean theme to bring all the elements of the meal together.
I had errands to run in town, so this relatively quick spread was a perfect choice. I wanted to make a rhubarb tart, but that will have to be in another post as traffic was just too busy to leave time for dessert making. I was able to make dinner in 40 minutes, from pulling the salmon out of the fridge to sitting down at the table. Here’s how:
- Cooking buckwheat groats is like any other grain – you boil it in water. Technically it is a seed (did you know it’s in the same family as rhubarb? And it’s gluten free?) Ours only took 15 minutes, and then I seasoned it with some crumbled feta and chopped fresh oregano and chives from the garden.
- I wanted some complexity with the asparagus so I sautéed some onions first. I poached the asparagus in a bit of white wine and then warmed it with the onions and a dash of Aleppo pepper.
- The salmon was seared in a pan and finished in the oven. I marinated it with an Italian herb blend, olive oil and Meyer lemon zest and juice. A good old thermometer to make sure it’s done right and we’re set (“medium”, 137-142F or 58-63C).
Ta da! A fresh start to a new week.