February 24, 2007

Culin-oscar-pys - I'm grateful...

I am grateful to cheese.
It's easy I know. But how could I pass over something I eat at least once a day?
Something that comes in so many ways, to be used in so many ways to soothe the soul. So...

Thank you cheese.

To squeaky cheese when we were kids. To grated cheddar on grilled cheese, dipped in ketchup. To pizza's stringy mozzarella. To cream cheese on Montreal bagels. To cheese fondue. To lots of practice making New York cheesecake. To ricotta cheese pancakes with lemon. To swiss cheese on a reuben. To my first warmed, runny brie. To gorgonzola on rare filet mignon.

Who could have guessed bacteria could be so clever?

Much has been written on the supporting cast of bread and wine - but I appreciate them none the less.

GK Chesterton said, "Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese."

The light is blinking and the music is swelling to drown me out...

And to my Mum. For being the first cheese expert in my life. She has loved cheese her whole life as much as her hips have hated it her whole life.

...and to my future cardiologist. I'll bring the baguette.

There's always time to thank food...if you feel the need, click on the culinoscarpy's link in the right sidebar and add your speech there. Thanks to everyone who's written in...
*Oscar quiz site here
* Swiss cheese shot from here.

February 23, 2007

4pm Tea&Me Update

I have a gig! What joy! What a week! What, a paycheck?

I am working as a web producer - learning new stuff, working with a great team - and just as they're towing the baby website to the launch pad. Very cool. Indeed.

And this is a place I've worked at before, quite a bit. This is the place that has the deli downstairs - where Nancy threw on the tea kettle for me in the afternoon so it would be dancing water, not just warm water.

So I went down for tea. It was delightful. The whole gang was there. Nancy came out from behind the counter to hug me. Complained that I was getting taller. I told her no, I'd had my hair cut, which was true. Cut right off. Buzzed. But it was like being a prodigal daughter and going home. It was great.

Until I went for the tea. If you remember, back in October, I went on (and on) about the virtues of tea (my way) a little while ago. And one virtue is boiling water. It must be boiling, bubbling, dancing, merry.

I looked at the counter today...no dancing water... they'd "progressed"...it was canned...boxed...trapped in a steal, not-so-boiling container with a red lever thingy...which can mean only one thing: it's hot...not boiling.

Time to bring in my own kettle. Damn.

February 20, 2007


I come by my love of sweets, my version of sanity, honestly.

If you grow up in a British household -
- It means every car ride starts with a bribe, I mean offer, of a hard sweet to suck on, or a polo mint. Only one goal in mind, keep the kids quiet for as long as the journey takes.
- It means that in every dinner second course wasn't the meat following the fish course, it was dessert: pie, cake, bread pudding, trifle, plums and custard.
- It means that with every cuppa comes a biscuit, a scone, a toasted crumpet, a bit of fruitcake, a jam tart (and if you were lucky you got to spoon the jam into the pastry shell), a bit of battenburg cake with its pretty colours, or a raisin filled to busting eccles cake. My favourite cookbook to look at when I was little was Mum's good housekeeping compendium...and the cakes section with all the eye popping ways to ice them. If we can do that, no wonder we made it to the moon.

I don't eat dessert often anymore - I like to think of it as evolution, but I think it's more puritanical than that.

But then there's the British sweet shop. Holy Dinah.

Cadbury's fruit & nut.
Cadbury's whole nut....whole hazelnuts encased in milk chocolate.
Wine gums.
Fruit pastilles.
And something we used to call squirrel gums...does anyone know what they are?

And then there were chocolate Flakes...logs of flaky chocolate that would break all over you. And if you refrigerated them and made them crunchier...heaven is a chocolate flake.

Why I even have teeth is beyond me and my dentist.

I was put into this state of diabetic reverie by my dear Aunt. My mother's sister - who has been an antique dealer, a medieval caterer (the food was contemporary and the recipes ancient - I'm pretty sure that's how it worked), made sandwiches and tea in the back of a van in the 60s as the chief cook for my uncle's band that travelled around Germany, then in the back of a van again when my uncle took up racing vintage cars at racecourses all over England, then at 60 graduated from university with an honours degree for her passion in Tudor history...never go to the Tower of London without her.

Her oldest son, the lovely Andrew and his equally lovely partner Sonia are off in South Africa, windsurfing off Cape Town. Her youngest son, my beloved cousin Joff, is riding around the world on his homemade penny farthing bicycle...He's in Tasmania now and left England almost a year ago. And she's off to Paris she writes, "and yes, we are going to the newly opened and refurbished Orangerie to see the waterlilies as they were meant to be seen when Monet painted them."

She's been reading my blog and is questioning the genetics of my sanity. It should be obvious now, if this is insanity, bring it on. I come by all this honestly.

Anyway, she wanted to contribute - naturally she contributed something with chocolate, cream and other stuff....but the chocolate and cream seem the most important bits to me. So this is from my dear Auntie Mags to you.

Chocolate Crunchie

4 tbsp cocoa
4 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp instant coffee (i.e. coffee granules made up with a little water)
4 oz breadcrumbs (yes! breadcrumbs)
4 oz brown sugar
1 pint whipped cream

Mix together everything except the cream and you will end up with a bowl of dryish brown crunchie crumbs.
Layer them into a glass bowl with the cream (needs a bit of skill with a butter knife and a spatula otherwise you can lose the layers) finishing with a top layer of cream.
Grate a bit of chocolate over the top, wrap it in plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge overnight.
It will, like magic, turn itself into a lovely moist, squashy, chocolaty sort of thing and the amazing thing is, nobody seems to recognize the breadcrumbs. (Well, perhaps a Michelin star chef might, but who needs them!)

February 18, 2007

The sum of the parts

The Irish have stew.
The French have boeuf bourguignon.
The Italians have spaghetti bolognese.
The Americans have cioppino.
Louisiana gets its own- jambalaya.
The Portuguese have cataplana.
And the Spanish? Have paella.*

Which I love. And love to say them too. Jambalaya, Cataplana, and Paaaaiiiiyaaaaayyaaa.

These are foods you make up as you go along. The stuff that honors bits and pieces. Brings dignity to the leftovers and the lowly. Proof that what works better in nature - cooperation, as opposed to competition - also works better in the pot.

An expression of human ingenuity.

I made paella on Saturday for the first time.

Ole...as they say.

Chicken, chorizo, shrimp, mussels...land and sea blending here on a big platter, in a Toronto kitchen, on a cold February night.

We scraped that platter clean. No leftovers...shucks.

This recipe and picture comes from Cook's Illustrated, via David Leite's Culinaria.

*Canadian cooking struggles to identify itself sometimes. Usually it means that if you add a dash of maple syrup or moose meat a dish ascends to Canadianism. I found chorizo sausage at my local meat vendor made from elk meat! So maybe I did Canuck this up a bit...I'll call this Paella-eh. Enjoy.

7 Days

"This isn't like I imagined it would be in the bathtub."
Dianne Wiest, on winning best actress Oscar for Bullets Over Broadway

7 days until the celebrity bling-blingeing festival of the year.

Who would you thank?

If you've ever felt the need to be grateful to food, and to flirt with the sharp, knife edge of celebrity - then write out your ode to the food you're most grateful for and if there's anyone who introduced it to you, who ranks on your life's A list...then let us know...at the Culin-oscar-pys.

Pithy, witty, gracious, charming, tearful, bileful...we'll take it all...

If you're short on ideas, here's a speech generator I just found...

February 16, 2007

I am from...

If you need a beautiful read, check this out from SusieJ. This is her entry in the I Am From...contest...

The Math of Ethanol

Why are we making ethanol for cars - from grain?

The amount of grain needed to fill one SUV tank with ethanol, will feed one person for one year.

And who said that humans are a curious race - we'll do the right thing once we've exhausted all other possibilities?

February 14, 2007

Love Apples

How did the French conclude the tomato was the pomme d'amour?

It smacks of more artfulness than scienceness.

How would a Frenchman tease apart the tomato's aphrodisiac tendencies? How would the French know it was the tomato? And not, say, good lighting, copious wine, runny cheese? Or even their reputedly ever ready hormones?

Of course the delectable, sensuous tomato was an ornamental plant for centuries since everyone was sure it was poisonous...

...and the leaves are - as your nose will tell you.

On September 26, 1820, Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson of Salem, N.J., had had it with the tomato as human killer.

Although no one is sure if this is legend, fact or if Johnson was the best publicist ever.

He is said to have marched to the steps of the Salem County court house at 12:15 (he was 15 minutes late) carrying a basketful of tomatoes - or - Lycopersicon Esculentum, wolf peaches (beautiful on the outside, deadly like a wolf on the inside).

He vowed to eat them...and live to make pasta sauce.

His doctor is said to have said, "The foolish colonel will foam and froth at the mouth and double over with appendicitis. All that oxalic acid, in one dose, and you're dead. If the Wolf Peach is too ripe and warmed by the sun, he'll be exposing himself to brain fever. Should he, by some unlikely chance, survive, I must warn him that the skin...will stick to his stomach and cause cancer."

Times don't change. Two thousand came to see it. The fireman's band came to play (a dirge apparently).

He told the crowd of the tomato's illustrious history and held one up to the crowd.

"The time will come when this luscious golden tomato, rich in nutrition, a delight to the eye, a joy to the palate whether fried, baked, broiled or even eaten raw will form the foundation of a great garden industry”.

"To help dispel the tall tales, the fantastic fables that you have been hearing...And to prove to you that it is not poisonous I am going to eat one right now."

And he did. In fact he ate the whole basket.

There's no evidence this event took place...it got embroidered over the years...but here's what I know. If it were true, it had to be September, certainly not mid-February.

Could you imagine if he'd had to eat a basket of tomatoes in the middle of a New Jersey winter? They'd still be stuck in the corner of a room - ornamenting it, rather than a saucepan or salad.

Nothing would say love today more than a beautifully grown, healthy, ripe tomato. Especially in mid February. My tomato buying days are at low ebb right now.

But imagine...a tomato on the vine, warmed in the sun, plucked and offered as a token of love on this Valentine's Day? Who wouldn't hitch a ride on that wagon?

But as in love, how do you know the tomato is what it says it is? It's from where it says it's from? That it doesn't have its roots in different soil/or hydroponic growing material?

There was a story by Karen Platt yesterday in The Tyee, a fascinating online paper from B.C.

That's British Columbia for those of you far away, the western coast of Canada, known also as the wet coast and the left coast...a story about BC Hot House Tomatoes.

It turns out the tomatoes from BC Hot House, which are grown hydroponically and pesticide free (for the most part) are not from B.C. at all - at least not at this time of year. They're grown in affiliated greenhouses in Mexico and imported. Turns out BC Hot House doesn't mean B.C. hot house...it's just a brand name, not a geography name. Not that they ever claim on their packaging that it means B.C.

As Platt suggested, I went to the website and sure enough in the BC Hot House Company FAQ's there's a section that says:

Why are there occasionally products from Mexico or the USA in the grocery store?
In the winter months it is extremely difficult to grow produce due to the lack of light. Light is the biggest component in producing fruits and vegetables (photosynthesis). Additionally, colder growing conditions mean high heating expenses which drastically increase the cost of the product to the consumer.

During this time, BC Hot House aligns itself with quality greenhouse growers in Mexico and the United States. These growers produce product for our customers to our exact standards (grade standards, quality control, food safety, etc.), keeping the product offering consistent with what we produce locally during our growing season. This is done so our customers receive product that is of the highest level on a consistent year round basis.

Our organization is 100% BC Grower owned, all located in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. Ownership of the company remains with our BC based growers / shareholders.

I think they mean well. I just think it's a long way to travel (as in mining their website) to find out where your toms are coming from.

Like love, something's wrong if you feel the need to dig for clarity...

Seems appropriate...Valentine's is a big day in the world of private investigators...

Enjoy...hope you get to eat with someone you love today...

February 13, 2007

Miss Nicky No Happy

My camel's name was Bapu.

He was smaller than the other two standing nearby. And I was taller than both my travelling companions - John, a Kiwi friend whom I met on a bus that ended up in a crash a few weeks before, and Ramdan, our intrepid guide into the desert. But you don't go there as a fashionista.

I was in Rajasthan, India - and further, I was in Jaisalmer on the far western border of India, maybe 50 km from the Pakistan border. What one does in Jaisalmer, apart from dreaming you're in a fairy tale, is go on a camel safari. That's what one does.

So that's how I found myself early on a Monday morning standing between the jeep that got me to the edge of the desert and Bapu. We were driving our own camels, so with a quick lesson they plopped me up in the saddle, and the three of us headed off...into the desert...overnight...with two men...one I barely knew (who had temper tantrums merely buying Indian train tickets), the other I didn't know at all but relied on for everything...did I really do that?

Yes. I enjoyed it.

For the first hour.

Then my conditioning in the car culture set in. That back and forth sway of my dear Bapu, while interesting for women (not so much for men according to John), wears quickly on the lazy, coddled, Western spinal column.

We stopped for lunch under a tree in a small oasis...and hid from the heat of the day with naps on the ground. Camels too.

When we set off we saw women heading our way with water vessels on their heads...wearing the astounding saris they're known for in this region - a region of flat greyness, desert desolation. The women's saris are a defiant contrast - fuschia, saffron, neon pink...astounding.

They were coming from a village of low level flat huts a few kilometers away - getting water for the evening. They refused to look at us.

I lived a life, and they lived another. We were women...but not related by anything but gender.

We entered the dunes near sunset. Ramdan led us to a spot where a lone bush huddled against the western breeze that had whipped up and threw a veil of sand at us, usually when one of us opened our mouths to say something.

He told us to go look at the sunset. And he made us tea. Chai. A tiny fire (with wood he'd brought), a small pot and in went milk, cardamom pods, tea, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, sugar, boiled and served in tin cups.

I walked my tea over to the highest dune and looked at the sun. It was masked by sand in the atmosphere, kind of greenish yellow in the sky. Food and place karma matched once again.

John and I played on the dunes. I did front flips off the steep edges, and landed at the bottom - it was like playing in snow.

Eventually we headed back to Ramdan who had made us a simple dinner of rice and spinach and curry something...don't know, don't care...it was delicious.

Then he fed our camels and bedded them down.

He also laid down a thin blanket of foam under us to lay on. I had brought my sleeping bag liner - it wouldn't get very cold overnight - and sat next to John as the day turned to grey, pink dusk.

That's when I noticed a beetle. I picked it up and threw it away from me. It was about an inch long, lots of legs...you know. Then there was another. And another. And another. And soon there were hundreds...heading, it seemed, toward any body heat they could find. It was like they'd taken elevators up through the sand to the surface as soon as the sun had been beaten for the day.

All of them scurrying toward us.

"I don't suppose this is a good time to tell you I have arachnophobia," said John in a slightly squeaky voice.

"No, John, it isn't," I said while my brain raced for a solution. There simply wasn't one. I was here. There was nothing for miles.

"We're going to have to figure out a way to accept that these things ARE GOING TO CRAWL ON US overnight." I was trying to convince myself more than him.

Ramdan thought we were babies, I'm sure. He leapt over to our side and picked a few beetles off our sleeping bags and hurled them an unimpressive distance (unimpressive to the beetles for sure, 'cause they just got back in the traffic jam heading toward us).

I think it was Carrie Fisher who wrote: Bad reality. Great anecdote.

It was dark now.

I was just sitting there. In my sleeping bag. Knees up to my chin. Willing my eyes to open wider and see further.

Suddenly I felt someone jump. Ramdan yelled for a flashlight. I handed mine over.

A beam of light slashed around where we were sitting.

John jumped up and away from me too. I don't know which direction he'd gone, it was that dark. But he was near Ramdan. They were yelling. At the same time.

Which got me nervous.

I stood up. On the mattress. Not sure what to do.

I was only catching words here and there...but prominent among them was the word snake.


Perfect. This was just going swimmingly.

I said something to the effect, "JohnJohnJohnJohnJohnJohnJohnJohnJohnJohnJohnJohn," and when he noticed, he stopped yammering long enough to say, "Yeah?"

"It's a snake?"




"WHERE is the snake?"

Just then the flashlight's beam caught a flash of silvery gray on the sand, heading under the bush behind me. And I tripped ever so speed of lightly toward the two men about 10 feet away.

Ramdan took charge now, grabbing a branch and beating the poor beast to death.

I was so upset. Even though it was definitely poisonous (we found out when we got back the next day). I went and had a closer look. I had had no intention of leaving such a huge footprint on this trip.

Ramdan had felt the snake climbing inside his wrap that he slept in.

I was now standing in the desert. I couldn't sit down, let alone lay down. And all before midnight.

"Miss Nicky no happy?" Ramdan asked.

"No Ramdan. Miss Nicky no happy."

"We move?"

"Yes Ramdan. We move."

We helped him gather stuff up. We climbed back onto our beasts of burden which Ramdan had tethered together, and he led us out of the dunes to the edge of what now felt like civilization.

We recamped. This time I noticed I had the camels at my feet, Ramdan to my left, John to my right and our luggage I lined up along our heads...the snakes were going to have to work their way through the camels and the two men to get to me. Ha.

We settled down. We saw three more camel trains soon after, decamping from the dunes. Away from the snakes and wind and biting sand.

I laid down uneasily. And just looked up to the sky. To the east it brightened. This is what I'd come for. A full moon was rising.

The camels snorted and shifted on their bellies, the wind calmed. And I drifted off...smiling.
Bad reality I kept saying...great anecdote...

February 09, 2007

A Dinner Guest with taste

"There is no love sincerer than the love of food."
George Bernard Shaw -
Today's Thought du Jour in the Globe and Mail

GBS. One of my peeps...as in - one of the guests I'd invite to the dinner party of all time.

...GBS and Mark Twain and Dorothy Parker (would I have enough booze in the house?)...among others.

Although I guess if the food were good enough, he probably wouldn't contribute a word...
Photo of GBS from here.

A Deeper Shade of Soul

The moment I let go of it,
was the moment I got more than I could handle.
The moment I jumped off of it,
was the moment I touched down.
- thank u - alanis morissette

A delightful, intelligent friend, Rebecca, whom I met through one of my three graces (Karen), turns forty this weekend.

And as I passed the fridge today, this clipped quote from the newspaper fluttered in the breeze, begging for attention -

"Forty - sombre anniversary to the hedonist - in seekers after truth like Buddha, Mohammed, Mencius, St. Ignatius, the turning point of their lives."

Cyril Connolly

Our Cyril was a man of letters apparently (I had to look him up - being not a woman of letters so much as a woman of um, verbiage - I just looked it up to be sure it was the right verbiage, and find I'm bridging definitions 1 and 2).

I guess that means Cyril, amongst other things, quipped professionally...

I see him in his leather (apparently left)wing back chair at the club for liberals, oxblood of course, sucking back morosely on a cigar and looking off into the distance the way men of letters do.

The clipping itself I'm sad to say is looking fairly aged - it's lived on my fridge door since I crossed the bridge to invisibility - aka turning 40 - (yes Rebecca, there is a 40-year-old invisibility cloak...most of us who wear it are only visible to each other - no one under 20 can hear or see us, or apparently wants to).

Which brings me back to my least favourite lesson of becoming an adult- which I only hinted at before - learning to suck it up.

This is a lesson that has fought me my whole life. I wanted my parents together as a kid. I wanted my brother to be alive as we grew into adulthood. I wanted nieces and nephews and a big family. I thought I wanted this love, then this love...

And it has taken me this long to maybe get it. Maybe I've got it, maybe I don't. If feels fragile.

It's about learning what you can change, but more importantly learning to live with what you can't.

That feeling that makes my soul itch and twitch.

This is not the same thing as giving up. Not by a long shot.

I think what I mean is that I want what I want - and sometimes life just won't cooperate. And learning to take that with grace is a sign of growing up.

For me, somewhere, I learned to stop pushing back against that feeling of inner frustration. The last time I felt grief, I pushed back against it - determined to just go on and fight it. But at some point, just when I thought I couldn't take the pain anymore, I heard myself say, "Okay that's it. I give. I'm not pushing against it anymore."

And I felt better. My chest eased. I found it effortless to smile.

It was like a turning point - not long before my 40th.

Sometimes you swim against the current, and sometimes you enjoy the float downstream.

I think that's how my simplicity quote came to mean so much to me - the one I posted last week: "Simplicity is not a goal, but one arrives at simplicity in spite of oneself, as one approaches the real meaning of things."

I wasn't seeking truth as Cyril suggests - at least I didn't think so. But I think as I was turning 40, it found me, a piece of my truth, anyway.

It was a sort of turning point, a definite passage into my "fuck you" years, and a place that got more honest, more compassionate and simpler...and far more beautiful, more loving, and fun.

Steve and I got married when we were both 41. He got the best of me...

So. Happy, happy birthday Rebecca.

My friend Karen, who introduced me to the fortyturningrebecca, turned 40 herself last birthday. We all went to a restaurant that has a private kitchen and dining room at the back - and Karen selected roast lamb...

So here is a recipe I've made a couple of times which is a beautiful rendition of roast lamb, but faster, with clean, simple ingredients that will resuscitate the retired hedonist in anyone (over 40 or not).

Balsamic Lamb Salad - adapted from Donna Hay

650g (21 oz) boneless lamb loin or fillet

1/2 cup (4 fl oz) balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup (4 fl oz) orange juice

2 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp oregano leaves

8 small, waxy potatoes, halved

125 g (4 oz) salad leaves - my favourite combo here is arugula with a few fresh mint leaves.

Trim the lamb and place in a shallow dish.

Combine the balsamic vinegar, orange juice, sugar and oregano and pour over the lamb. Allow the lamb to marinate for 10 minutes on each side.

While the lamb is marinating, boil or steam the potatoes until soft, then rinse under cold water to cool. (Now when I've made this, I've parboiled new potatoes for a few minutes, then put them in a skillet in melted butter on medium high heat. I allowed them to brown on one side, flipped them over, turned the heat to low and allow them to sit there - covered, until dinner was ready. It's like having roasted potatoes without having to fire up the oven - this is an idea courtesy of my friend Andrew.)

Heat a frying pan over high heat. remove the lamb from the marinade and cook the meat in the pan for 3-4 minutes on each side. Place on a plate and cover to keep warm. Add the marinade to the pan and cook for two minutes.

To serve, place the salad greens and potatoes on serving plates. Slice the lamb, place on the salad and spoon over the warm pan juices.

Serves 4.

February 07, 2007

Aging Cranberries and Older Nuts?

If your cupboard is bearing down, weighted with leftover nuts from the holiday season, this recipe might help you out...it's a sacrifice on your part of course, it means you have to use them in a nut pie and mix in those frozen leftover cranberries in the freezer and create a luscious, sweet, comforting pie that oozez onto your plate and requires sopping up with some fine vanilla ice cream...You are so selfless, a hero...

Mum and I discovered this recipe about 16 years ago in Bon Appetit and have adapted it here and there with varying amounts and types of nuts and with the type of pastry crust.

Its official name is Three-Nut Pie with Cranberries (okay that's kind of utilitarian...how about February Freedom Pie? Winter Walnut Wacation?)
  • 1 pie crust (they call for a buttermilk pie crust)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup plus
  • 2 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons unsulfured (light) molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups cranberries (about 6 ounces)
Preheat oven to 400°F.

Roll out pie crust disk on lightly floured surface to 13-inch-diameter round (about 1/8 inch thick). Roll up dough on rolling pin and transfer to 9-inch-diameter glass pie plate. Gently press into place.

Trim edges of crust, leaving 3/4-inch overhang. Fold overhang under crust so that crust is flush with edge of pie pan. Crimp edges to make decorative border.

Freeze crust until firm, about 15 minutes.
Line pie crust with foil, leaving 3-inch overhang. Fill foil with beans or pie weights. Fold extra foil gently over crust edges.
Bake until crust is set, about 15 minutes. Remove foil and beans and continue baking until crust just begins to color, piercing with toothpick if crust bubbles, about 10 minutes. Cool. Maintain oven temperature.
Meanwhile, combine chopped walnuts, pecans and almonds on cookie sheet. Toast nuts until just golden, about 10 minutes. Cool.
Whisk brown sugar, light corn syrup, butter, eggs, molasses, vanilla extract and salt to blend in bowl. Stir in toasted nuts and cranberries. Pour filling into prepared crust. Bake until center of filling is set, about 45 minutes.

Cool pie completely. Serves 8, but can be enjoyed alone...if necessary...might be necessary.

February 06, 2007

Organic Roots

In case you missed today's The Ethicurean...here's a story on You Tube about kids creating an organic garden in New Orleans...it's called Small Axe Garden...

It goes on to talk about Edible Schoolyard in New Orleans too...a program started out west of course...but spreading like beautifully composted soil...

Burning $100 Bills

Back at the turn of the 20th century there is the legend of the stock brokers eating their weight in food and then leaning back and lighting their cigars with $100 bills.

The history of excess...thank god those days of arrogance are gone...or not...

In The Guardian today there's a story on a dinner atop a Bangkok hotel this weekend for 15 guests, who aren't so keen to be made public. They paid 1 million Thai Baht, or almost $30,000 USD each, to eat a meal prepared by 6 chefs from around the world, as the Guardian reported, with 18 Michelin stars between them.

These are the days when I'm sure we're not going to make it.

Here's the menu

Crème brûlée of foie gras with Tonga beans by Alain Soliveres (chef) served with 1990 Louis Roederer Cristal

Tartar of Kobe beef with Imperial Beluga caviar and Belons oyster by Antoine Westermann with 1995 Krug Clos du Mesnil

Mousseline of pattes rouges crayfish with morel mushroom infusion by Alain Soliveres with 2000 Corton-Charlemagne, Domaine Jean François Coche-Dury

Tarte Fine with scallops and black truffle by Antoine Westermann with 1996 Le Montrachet, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti

Lobster Osso Buczco by Jean-Michel Lorain with 1985 Romanée-Conti, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti

Ravioli with guinea fowl and burrata cheese, veal reduction by Annie Feolde with 1961 Château Palmer

Saddle of lamb "Léonel" by Marc Meneau with 1959 Château Mouton Rothschild

Sorbet "Dom Pérignon"

Supreme of pigeon en croute with cèpes mushroom sauce and cipollotti by Heinz Winkler with 1961 Château Haut-Brion

Veal cheeks with Périgord truffles by Heinz Winkler with 1955 Château Latour

Imperial gingerbread pyramid with caramel and salted butter ice-cream by Jean-Michel Lorain with 1967 Château d'Yquem

February 02, 2007

The Culin-Oscar-py

This is one night I wish I smoked and drank.
- Grace Kelly, 1954 Academy Awards

We've belittled, criticized, scoffed at, and been sickened by the excess of celebrity - Our first Oscar party was about foods you're ashamed of, but eat anyway - so now I've thought a twist would be useful...and maybe even inspirational to us all...the foods you're most grateful for and who introduced them to you...

This year I'm turning the Oscar party into the Culinary Oscar Party - now known as the Culinoscarpies 07. (I know that sounds like an unpleasant medical exam...but this is the country where two political parties, the conservatives and the reform party merged and no one caught their new name before it was made public...no one...caught this: the Conservative Reform Alliance Party - I'm not kidding...they pulled it within a day...)

So I'm going to invite any food blogger and reader and friend who wishes to...to write an acceptance speech - thanking whoever they like for the foods they're most grateful for. Recipes encouraged of course.

Steve has already added the first in the race for the best:

"I ate these chocolate chip cookies because, they like me...they really, really like me."

The Oscars are February 25th...

I'm tagging a few favourite people to get started, and some people I think would salivate at the thought of an acceptance speech about food: Annie, Kristen, Julie, Matt, Adam, Melissa (the first meme I replied to as a neophyte blogger), Shauna, of course Kate, and Meg (although she's on holiday this week)...You're all my daily bread (gluten free, of course, Shauna).

*The picture at the top is actually Grace Kelly in a champagne ad...how perfect! It's from here.

February 01, 2007

Of Lemon Dreams & Groundhog Days

I've been saving this recipe for a while...hoping to make hope work - as in spring arrive...So on the eve of Groundhog Day this is meant as an offering to the gods...

Now for the afficionados out there...I do realize that this picture is of a prairie dog...not a groundhog...but it's worth the diversion..in the name of art...

This was taken by my friend Karen at the stuffed prairie dog museum in Alberta - It is only one of many dioramas they've developed for what I presume they think is their surplus prairie dog population. This was my favourite...but there was one of prairie dogs at the hair salon...Anyway...moving on.

I notice a couple of people this week (like Becks & Posh, and the New York Times) have decided it's time to dream of lemons. And I couldn't agree with them more.

This became a dish we devoured last spring when the local asparagus arrived (Mum found it) and it turned out every single time. Now it hovers near extinction in our house since Steve is now a lacto-gluten free freak. I'm working my way around it...

Lemon Asparagus Fettucine with Shrimp

12 large shrimp peeled and deveined
1 lb asparagus
1 lemon
1 lb fettucine
6 green onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup fresh chopped chives
salt & pepper

Consider grilling the shrimp...but also consider not grilling the shrimp...decide what kind of balance you'd like the dish to have...

The recipe calls for slicing the shrimp lengthwise...but I cooked them whole.

Take the woody ends off the asparagus. Peel the stalks, if they're at all tough, but don't if they're young and fresh. Blanch the asparagus for 3-5 minutes. Keep the asparagus water. Put the slightly cooked asparagus in a bowl of ice water then drain them well.

Cut them into 2" lengths. Set them aside.

Grate the rind of one lemon into nice strips and juice it. Set aside.

Cook the fettucine in the asparagus water, add more if you need to. About 8 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the water and drain the fettucine.

In a skillet, melt 2 tbsp of butter over medium heat. Add the green onions, the garlic and salt and pepper. Cook until soft - about 1 minute.

Stir in the cream, the lemon rind and 2tbsp of lemon juice. Bring to a boil.

Add the shrimp and asparagus until shrimp cook through - about 3 minutes.

Toss with the fettucine. Add cooking water if it's too dry.
Stir in the chives.
Enjoy a taste of spring...

Political Wisdom

My friend Lauren just emailed me this. She knows me. She's flown with me. A lot. She's seen my palms sprout fountains as we approach runways.

I happen to think any 8 year old who curries favour with the pilot of any plane she's on has a stellar political future.

Wish I'd thought of that.