I always thought I had a pretty good childhood. Each winter, my father would make a skating rink in the back yard, which we and our friends would use for noisy hours on end. And when we came in bright pink and shivering, Mom defrosted us with mugs full of homemade hot chocolate. I had a grandmother who let me eat dessert first and an aunt who invited us to her cottage each summer for long weeks spent doing absolutely nothing in a way only a pre-Space-Invaders child could do. If there was one thing missing from my youth, it was a dog.
I now know the missing element was actually an orchard.
I'm feeling rather ornery. It's Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend but the weather is downright balmy and I can't face the thought of autumn, let alone winter. I don't care that the leaves are turning glorious colours or the nights are perfect sleeping-weather-cool. I don't want to make the obligatory pumpkin pie -- even if it's damned good. I don't want to slurp delicious squash soup or gobble succulent stuffed turkey.
And if you're just a tad like me, you don't want to either. At least not this weekend. Not this early.
Get smug while making preserves and you'll smart for it. Think you're too coordinated to need a funnel? Well, let me tell you, one blob of 220°F jelly straight to the thumb will change your mind in a heck of a hurry. It certainly made me rethink saving a few bucks. After a couple of years eyeballing it with a ladle, I'm now the contrite owner of a stainless steel canning funnel from Lee Valley. And no, they didn't pay me for the mention. I'm just trying to save you some grief.
Of course, to make the trek worthwhile, I left with an herb infuser and jelly bag. I was determined the next batch wouldn't beat me. And it didn't.
I don't think of soup when it comes to pairing wine. And I don't think of peaches when it comes to soup. And I don't think of tart when it comes to sweet, sweet peaches. So a cayenne-kissed, very tangy-yet-sweet peach-mango soup designed to go with Gewurztraminer is exactly the kind of shake-me-up dish I needed to save me from the stupor of Peach Rut.
Yes, Peach Rut. It's not often talked about in public, but it is a professionally recognized condition that frequently afflicts food bloggers. Victims find their immunity severely depleted from the stress of creating increasingly complex variations on salsa, ice cream, jam, pie, galettes and upside down cakes. Once grilling and salad options have been exhausted, so is the blogger.
New strains of the virus emerge each season, frequently taking the form of Tomato Fatigue, Apple LetDown or the dreaded Dear-God-Not-Another-Zucchini Panic Attack.
To observe my mother eating radishes is to understand that over-used phrase "living in the moment."
They are not munched like baby carrots or popped into her mouth like grapes. They are consumed with quiet, focused deliberation. To begin, she sets a small bowl of radishes on the table beside her. They are scrubbed and trimmed, with just enough stem to form a handle. She then carefully pours a modest pool of salt on her plate before plucking a radish from the pile. Once she has selected a radish, she nibbles a tiny piece from the tip and dips the freshly exposed end into the salt. She then proceeds to eat the radish, crunching away with a look of peaceful concentration on her face. She doesn't talk. She doesn't touch the other meal items in front of her. She devotes herself fully to the radish.
She repeats these steps until her allotment of radishes is gone. The rest of her meal them resumes.
If you asked me to describe my father's taste in desserts, I'd tell you he's a lemon man. When he turned 65, Mom and I baked 13 lemon meringue pies for his party. He squeezes fresh lemon juice into his tea and sometimes even orders lemon pie as an appetizer when we dine out. He likes things tart, not sweet, choosing citrus over chocolate any day. Based on his dining history, pavlova is not something he would like.
I was so sure of this that when my mother asked for pavlova for her birthday dessert, I made a peach galette as well -- just for Dad. Turns out Dad loves pavlova. Almost as much as he loves lemon.
You learn something new every day.
So, for the closet pavlova fans out there -- and even for those who like to flaunt their love of this powder-puff dessert - here's the recipe. It has a little lemon in it to cut the sweet.
Hey, maybe that's why Dad likes it...
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Update: Sorry. The contest is closed. However, the fennel salad recipe remains open to anyone willing to give it a try.
As one of the world's most gullible people, I hate April Fool's Day. Apparently watching me scramble for the binoculars is a hoot. And my reaction when I discover the rare bird at my feeder is actually stuffed? Priceless. But it's not only family who gets a rise out of me. Last year a respectable Ontario food centre had me believing locally-grown hot-house pineapples were this close to hitting the stores. While the fake bird was private, I outed my pineapple ignorance publicly on Twitter. So, this year, to be safe, I decided not to open my email, read the news or pop over to any of the social networking sites before noon. But April Fools found me anyway.
I had written this blog post a month ago. Having arranged a special April Fool's giveaway, I was on top of things and just sitting pretty until March ended. But when I went to my computer, the file was gone. I have never inadvertently lost a post in all my years of blogging. I've had the server crash mid-composition, but never has a saved file gone AWOL. Until today.
Today I'm on CTV News at Noon. It's my 7th appearance and I've decided it's time I actually cooked something. Oh, I've diced apples, sliced peaches, mixed salad dressing, stuffed peppers, roasted an array of vegetables and even pulverized chickpeas in the name of hummus, but I've never actually cooked anything. So today, I'm making Thai Curry. Live. Can't you just feel the tension?
I can't tell you more than that since my host, Kyle, will be making decisions as we go. Will he pick red curry paste or green? Chicken or beef? And just which vegetable will he toss into the mix? Tune in to find out.
For those who can't catch the show, I'll post a link to the clip later. In the meantime, here's the basic recipe we'll be making. It's quick, easy and should be ready to eat by the time you've cooked the rice.
Got a favourite Thai dish? Or questions about Thai cuisine? Drop by the comments section. It's always open. In the meantime, here's the basic recipe we'll be using.
I'm not sure whether I should hug Bal Arneson or smack her with a cookbook. Her No Butter Chicken from Everyday Indian is my husband's favourite chicken dish. He loves it so much that while he was holed up in the living room recovering from knee surgery, with nothing but 4 walls, 21 surgical staples and 2 cats for company, he must have requested it for dinner at least once, if not twice -- a week.
I'm not psychic but something tells me that before the winter is over, my copy of Jeanelle Mitchell's For the Love of Soup is going to be dog-eared, grease-splattered and a fought over. Sorry extended family, but you'll have to get your own copy. I can't imagine being without mine for long.
I first heard about this book more than a year ago from my beef-searing buddy, Heather Travis. One minute we were dissing salt-laden condensed soup, the next she was raving about a little recipe book I'd never heard of and begging me to find a copy. As luck would have it, Whitecap recently reissued the nearly decade-old title last month -- with a makeover to match its younger sister, For the Love of Salad.
Like its older sibling, For the Love of Soup isn't a photo-rich, high-maintenance bombshell you drool over but abandon after a few dishes. Instead, this quietly pretty book is the kind you bring home to the family.