I could tell you I have always dreamed of being invited to Elizabeth Baird’s home, but I’d be lying. The thought was simply too grand to have ever occurred to me. Seems I have been thinking small without knowing it. Last week, I had the honour — and I use that term sincerely — of having lunch with authors Rose Murray and Elizabeth Baird. In Elizabeth’s home no less. The reason? A quiet launch of their newest co-authored book, Canada’s Favourite Recipes (Whitecap 2012).
For context, Elizabeth Baird and Rose Murray are two of Canada’s best known and well respected cookbook authors and food writers. It’s no exaggeration to say Elizabeth Baird is a household name. All my peers own at least one cookbook she either authored or edited with Canadian Living. Rose is no slouch either. She likely contributed to the aforementioned books. In addition she has at least 10 solo cookbooks to her name. Both as a team and as individuals, these two women have been shaping the Canadian culinary landscape for more than three decades via their delicious yet approachable recipes. And I lunched with them. In Elizabeth’s home.
As guests arrived, I snooped about the main floor. If I could have stolen a paint chip from her front office, I would have, just to prove that it is, in fact, close to the colour of my kitchen. Fortunately, I had my iPhone and — voila. See. I’m not making this up. My kitchen is on the left. Her office is on the right. Close as damned is to swearing, as my grandfather would say.
While Elizabeth’s chic grey living room might be in stark contrast to my sunny yellow one, we both have claret red walls, big windows, and lots and lots and lots of books (mine are not nearly as orderly though). I’m putting her down as a kindred spirit.
Buoyed by my discovery, I attempted to comment on the art in her living room. “Elephant?” I ventured.
Nope. It’s a man training a terrier.
They let me stay for lunch anyway.
I drowned my embarrassment in a glass of champagne and chatted to Rose about the horrors of 401 traffic. With a good half inch still left, Elizabeth whisked the glass from my hand and replaced it with a well-chilled refill. “Here,” she said. “Drink!”
Okay, Elizabeth. I’m already seeing non-existant elephants, but if you insist.
The lunch menu was created from their book and deliciously unpretentious. The dishes were special enough to suggest a celebration, without being cheffy. I’m not sure if “cheffy” is a real word, but you get my drift. We had:
- Sesame Cheese Crisps
- Roasted Squash Soup
- Wild Rice, Lentil and Orzo Salad
- Edna Staebler’s Schnippled Bean Salad (yes, schnippled is a real word)
- Green Salad with Salad Dressing, Old and New
- Georgian Bay Apple Crisp with warm Mascarpone Cream
My favourite dish of the meal was the Apple Crisp — Rose Murray’s mother’s recipe. It was warm, and sweet and tasted like a moment from days long gone. Somehow the conversation drifted from her mother’s recipes to stories of the farm, of old stoves that not only cooked the meal but heated the house, of playing with paper dolls and long walks to school. Canada’s Favourite Recipes slid seamlessly into Canada’s Favourite Stories.
Only the looming threat of a parking ticket pulled me away.
Before I left, I thanked the chefs who worked so hard to prepare the meal.
And got my book signed.
Rose spelled my name right. What more could I ask for?
Sesame Cheese Crisps
|Serves||Makes about 50 coolies|
|Meal type||Appetizer, Baked Goods, Snack|
|From book||Canada's Favourite Recipes by Rose Murray and Elizabeth Baird|
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 4 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup fine corn meal
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
|Line 2 rimless baking sheets with parchment paper.|
|In a shallow, dry skillet, toast the sesame seeds over medium heat, stirring often, until golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.|
|In a large bowl, beat the butter, sesame oil and Parmesan cheese until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, cayenne and mustard. Whisk in the sesame seeds.|
|A third at a time, stir the dry ingredients into the Parmesan cheese mixture to make a smooth dough. Divide the dough in half. Shape each half into an evenly shaped log about 6 inches (15 cm) long (see Note). Wrap in waxed paper and chill until firm, about 1 hour. (Make-ahead: Enclose the logs in freezer bags and freeze for up to 1 month. Let soften for 5 minutes before cutting and baking.)|
|Cut the chilled logs into 1/4-inch (5 mm) slices. Arrange about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake in the centre of a 350°f (180°c) oven until the crisps are golden around the edge and on the bottom, about 12 to 15 minutes. Let the crisps firm up for a couple of minutes on the sheets on a cooling rack. Transfer the crisps to the rack to cool completely. (Make-ahead: Layer the crisps with waxed paper in airtight containers and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.)|
For perfectly round crisps, roll the chilled dough a few times to round out any flat sides that may have developed. For square crisps (and easy slicing), form the dough into a square log before chilling.