Category Archives: dinner

Be Flexible, and Committed

This morning, I remember thinking, “it’s a good day to be a worm”. As I walked with Ella this morning in the pouring rain, the only other creatures outside were the worms. It was then I decided that we should have stew for dinner. But then,  the sun came out at 1 pm.

Thankfully, I did my computer work early in the day, so when the skies lightened and the thermometer actually slipped into double digits I high-tailed it outside. The vitamin D did wonders for my mood and the look of the garden, after I finished trimming all the herbs.

I’m glad I had the ability to be so flexible in my day’s plans. Back in the days when I had an office job, I used to have to just pull the blinds up to soak in the rays. Today I even had time to stop and smell the flowers, hear the bees buzzing. Being self-employed has its advantages, especially in the shoulder season.

I did want to stay committed to dinner. I have a great cookbook for stew inspiration: Lobel’s Meat and Wine. It offers choices by meat type, with different themes based on recipes from various places in the world. Tonight I made a beef stew Provençale. The recipe is based on their Beef Stew Flavoured with Black Olives & Oranges, adapted for my tighter time schedule and ingredients on hand. We did still manage a nice local wine pairing.

I also got to chat with my brother today. We have had a tumultuous relationship over the years, running hot as great buddies or cold when we didn’t speak at all. These days, there is water under the bridge that doesn’t run smooth or clear, but we have found our way in the current and it feels good to have my oldest pal back. I suppose that speaks to the same theme of being flexible and committed, doesn’t it?

Life is about balance. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

Porridge for Dinner? Definitely!

There is a new trend going around, called “brinner”. It’s all about having breakfast food for dinner. The latest variation in comfort food, if you ask me. But I’m not complaining. It wasn’t dinner but rather lunch when my mom would occasionally make apple pancakes on a cold winter day – one of my favourite childhood memories.

But back to today’s meal. We are lucky enough to have a freezer with some pretty awesome leftovers. Since hubbie’s specialty in summer is southern-style BBQ, we have portions of some of the best pulled pork ever stashed away. Tonight it sat atop a delicious mound of steaming soft polenta. Polenta is just an Italian word for porridge made from cornmeal. Granted, it was served savoury – gussied up with aged cheddar, chopped zucchini and some coriander. The pulled pork was heated with some sautéed peppers, onions and then Greg cilantro at the last moment. I pulled a Sangiovese from the cellar, and presto chango, we had a trendy meal. 

Thanks to Howard Soon for making local Sangiovese possible. #bcwine

Simple and elegant, just like a great breakfast. Or a good dinner. 

Here’s to your good health and happiness! I do hope you’re enjoying good food in good company. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, it’s some of the best quality time you can have. 

Spoiled Girl

There are many reasons I count my lucky stars. Just living in this part of the world is a huge blessing, and the Okanagan in particular is a special spot for someone who is a foodie and a wine geek. But most of all, I’m spoiled by my hubbie.

Some people call it luck. Others call it fate. Whatever label you want to attach to the concept, when you find your soulmate, your live your life on a higher level. Quality time becomes precious time, not because it is rare but because it is special. Soulmates share passions, and so every moment shared holds special meaning. For us, the passion we share is food so every meal we have is a memory.

Contrary to popular belief, a chef and a sommelier don’t always eat lobster risotto and drink vintage French wine. Sometimes we have grilled cheese sandwiches, or salad, for dinner. Breakfast is often yogurt with fruit, and a protein shake. But when we decide to “dine”, we do it right. Yesterday was one of those days.

For breakfast, we had shakshouka. “What?”you say! I know. The only reason I know the same is because it’s trendy and I read about it – we call it eggs poached in tomato sauce.

My hubbie made the tomato sauce with a blend of sautéed and roasted veggies (artichokes, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, and squash). He warmed the sauce up in the oven, using our spiffy boats that we bought for just such a meal. Then he cracked the eggs into the dishes and put them back in for another ten minutes or so. A bit of grated cheese went on top, and back in they went for a couple of minutes (we had Parmigiano Reggiano but any cheese you like will work). The rest of the cooking happened on the plate as I got toast and coffee ready. (I have a nifty milk steamer that he bought me so I can make lattes at home just the way I like them.)

And voilà. What could have been an ordinary day started off with a special moment shared.

We spent the day in the yard, spring cleaning. Each of us has our own responsibilities, so we mostly work alone outside. I prepped the greenhouse for early plants, and did some cleaning in the flower beds. Hubbie was busy being manly, chopping fruit wood that will be used for BBQ cooking this summer. We worked until cocktail hour. (What can I say, we work hard and live hard.)

As I made cocktails after cleaning up and feeding the dogs, hubbie prepared dinner. I had picked up a piece of fresh halibut at our local fishmonger, since the season just opened. He put a bit of a citrus spice rub on it, and prepared a Caesar salad to accompany it, with radishes instead of croutons for crunch (how’s that, gluten-free readers?)

Since I am his muse, I prepared just a bit of sauce: diced pieces of preserved lemon in a sweet wine reduction. (It might sound weird, but the sweet and salty elements were a nice foil for the richness of the fish.) I chose a new local wine from a winery I like that has a sassy image but great quality wine. If you have access to wines from BC, check out The Hatch.

This new Roussane Viognier has a different label but it’s from the same team at The Hatch.

Simple flavours, true to their character. (They say one way to test a chef is to have them make a Caesar salad. My guy could stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone in any kitchen.)

It wasn’t a day celebrating anything special except another day together. But that’s how we live. Fridays are just as worthy of celebrating as anniversaries. I highly recommend it.

 

Simple Pasta – or is it?

Pasta is one of the great simple dinners. I’m not saying it can’t be a great meal but the part I love about pasta dishes is that their true beauty is sublime. Often the most spectacular plates are made from only a few ingredients.

Living with a chef in the house I often have sauces leftover, and pasta makes a great vehicle to carry sauce in a new way. Our latest favourite is to use a mixture of goat cheese with herbs that is made for filling mushroom caps. Stirred in at the last minute with sautéed veggies, it makes a tangy and filling dinner that is reasonably healthy and is done in less than 20 minutes. What’s not to like about that?

They say that Marco Polo was the one that brought pasta to Italy from his travels in Asia, but history shows that various places in Italy already had pasta as a common food in the 13th century when Marco Polo was travelling. (Whoever “they” are, they’re wrong.) Many other countries have similar foods that offer a hearty meal from a sort of boiled dough; spaetzle and orzo,as well as various dumplings like perogies use the same ingredients – flour and water, sometimes with eggs. This is a food of the people, a staple for the working class.

Maybe that’s why so many people love pasta – it’s not intimidating. You can drill down to the details and cook it just right, add just-picked herbs and quality oils, grate masterfully aged Parmigiano Reggiano. But you can also open the box and stir in that glow-in-the-dark powder and still have dinner.

Nello, in New York City, serves white truffle pasta in season. It’s not on the menu, so be prepared to pay the going price.

I wasn’t surprised when I saw an article today on a restaurant in New York serving the most expensive pasta in the U.S. Americans do love superlatives, and there are expensive and rare ingredients that work wonderfully well on a simple canvas like pasta. White truffles, which are in season at the moment, sell for hundreds of dollars an ounce, so when you shave one over pasta sautéed in butter, it can cost a lot. (The current price is apparently $275. If you visit the restaurant in the fall when black truffles are in season, it’s a bargain at about half the price.)

Any way you want to serve it up, pasta is a great way to start the week. I feel better having had some. It could be one of the world’s oldest comfort foods.

Here’s to a great rest of the week.

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