Archive for Kitchen Sink

Not Parsnips Again??

“Winter” is definitely the key word here!

Last weekend we made an unusually short foray to Nat Bailey Stadium where our Winter Farmer’s Market is held each Saturday.  Seems like at this time of year it’s short rations for local veggies…so the trips are short ones!

Eating seasonally is a very good thing.  Fresh, local food, getting to know the farmers, chatting people up while selecting your produce and by purchasing local it means produce doesn’t travel from all over the world causing all sorts of issues, not to mention that the climate is changing (according to most sensible people.)  So we have to consider that what we may have access to now may, at some point, no longer be available here.  I’m thinking that this may encourage our local growers to find ways to become more able to grow different produce throughout the year.

The bottom line is we are getting to the time of the year when we’ve eaten our own weight in squash, carrots, rutabaga, turnips, celeriac, cabbage, beets and potatoes…all delicious veggies for sure, except for those bloody parsnips!  And it’s fun to try out new ways to prepare them…especially love Lacinato kale braised with pancetta, onions and garlic. All I can say is thank god for my collection of Ottolenghi cookbooks for their never ending ability to inspire me!

When fall arrives, I look forward to playing with the gorgeous assortment of veggies at the Farmer’s Market…the colours alone are amazing!  But by now (February), We’re becoming kind of burned out on squash! Heck, I even cheated and bought some of those tiny French beans at a small grocery store! I hope the local veggie gods forgive me!  Psst…have you ever tried Kumato Tomatoes?  Well…tomatoes are another cheat for me…I am unable to give up tomatoes once they are out of season…it’s a huge character flaw, I know…but what can I say?

So, when spring finally arrives and we get our first sightings of green at the market, we are so excited we can hardly contain ourselves.  Please don’t expect  me to believe that asparagus, other than locally grown, is good…it’s not…but it took me a few years to get that and so what if it’s $8.00/lb!  Back in the day…there was no locally grown asparagus unless you grew it yourself!  Duh, why didn’t I think of that when we first moved here over 30 years ago?  I could have planted some asparagus crowns and by now we would have an incredible patch of the stuff!

Time to head to the kitchen to begin prep. for dinner…on the menu board tonight…braised chicken thighs with leeks, carrots, celery, Irish Whiskey and Scrumpy (a rough cider, in this case made from wind-fall apples), Icelandic style red cabbage, with blueberries, last but not least,  Yukon Golds mashed with rutabaga.  So as you can see a lovely winter meal…but…it’s Just February and not to wish the time away…BUT BRING ON THAT ASPARAGUS!

Here’s to snuggling in with a glass of whatever warms you and enjoying the remainder of the fall harvest and let’s make a toast to those farmers who grow our produce all year round!  Salute!

Here’s a few of the favourites here @#5 that I’ve been making this winter…hope you like them as much as we do!

Ottolenghi’s Sort of Waldorf.  http://oracibo.com/recipe/ottolenghis-sort-of-waldorf-2/

Butternut Squash Gratin With Leeks. https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/butternut-squash-gratin-with-goat-cheese-and-hazelnuts-240412

Braised Lacinato Kale. http://oracibo.com/recipe/braised-lacinato-kale/

Pickled Red Cabbage.http://oracibo.com/recipe/hawksmoors-pickled-red-cabbage/

Our Never Ending Italian Learning Curve!

Buon anno everyone!  Before next spring rolls around and before we head back to Italy, I better post this!

I definitely think I need an eyebrow make-over! Everyone seems to have amazing, immaculately groomed ones, even some of the guys! It seems that one simply has to have amazing eyebrows!  Wonder what the next fad to strike will be?

All the research I did sussing out delicious regional foods while preparing for our first excursions into Piemonte and Emilia-Romagna, yet we never did find those lovely sounding Piemontese style meat stuffed zucchini blossoms known as Caponet.  Or for that matter, other seasonal veggie preparations in the Osteria/Trattoria’s we went to! Maybe the Michelin starred places get them all!

We prefer out food jazzed up and not just because our taste buds are getting old either! Who could not love the raw veal, cooked veal, salumi and truly amazing cheeses as well as Tajarin, a speciality pasta of Piemonte, on offer?  However, seeing them over and over again on a daily basis wore a bit thin…even though they are all fantastic products! In Emilia-Romagna it’s sooo easy to over-indulge in the fried dough, Crescentine/Gnocco Fritto and the smallish, round flatbread, Tigelle (lightly crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, that is stuffed with any one of the regions’ amazing salumi or lardo).  Of course there is always a Fettuccine Bolognese to be had and no matter how good that ragu can be, and it can be outstanding, we were looking for things that surprised and/or wowed us. We would have hoped to see oh-so traditional restaurant menus offerings modernized, even just a bit, perhaps a chalk board with seasonal specialties, like those stuffed zucchini blossoms!  Just saying.

Finding tartufo was impossible (except as an ingredient in salami) but expected as we weren’t there for the crazy season (Alba white truffle season in the fall)…so no tartufo for me, not even summer tartufo and I was really desiring pasta with shaved tartufo…and I mean seriously desiring!

The lunches we enjoyed the most in Piemonte were in Alba, at a funky place called Osteria dei Sognatori and at Osteria dei Ca`tari in Monforte D’Alba where we sat outside on the patio under a “roof” of brightly coloured umbrellas. That was so cool!

We can’t help but love the food of Lazio and of Rome, (no surprise here) because the flavours are pumped up. And being artichoke central doesn’t hurt one little bit, despite those dreaded anchovies…it’s a minefield for us anchovy haters! No fear of peperoncino here either! Bring it on!

A quick day-trip to Florence to have lunch with Judy Witts Francini reminded us of how much we enjoy and have enjoyed the good eats of Tuscany…gutsy stuff!  And the express train from Bologna to Florence takes 32 minutes!!!

Time spent with friends in Rome was definitely way more fun than attempting to check off all the items on our ever expanding bucket list! Why do we even bother with that list? Oh, I know, because of all the restaurant recommendations that just keep coming, that’s why!  On top of the “off the beaten track” things to see and do of course!

Long line-ups are not what we are about…no matter what! So, 4 trips to Rome later and still no Vatican! And guess what…we just decided the other night that we will probably give it a miss again…did I say we hate line-ups?  And yes, if there was another way to go besides lining up we would love to!

We are experts at getting lost, case in point: the intent one day was to walk to Trastevere but one wrong turn, or should I say that bridge over the Tiber (I know, I know you don’t go over a bridge from our side of the river) and we ended up near Piazza Navona…as fate would have it, this error turned out to be an extremely good thing , because very close to Piazza Navona is Piazza Pasquino where one of our favouite enoteca’s, Cul du Sac is located….so we settled in with a lovely bottle of wine and a platter of delicious salumi and cheese! You have to love mistakes that turn out so well! And then what should have been an hour’s drive from Torino to Alba turned out to be 2 ½ hrs.  Like I said…we’re experts!

Borgo di Prati is a cute area, very close to the Vatican.  Just wish it weren’t not so overrun with Vatican-ites (either coming from or going to)…it would/could be fun…maybe at night! Glad we went though, as it’s been on the list since 2010!

Our new favourite neighbourhood, Testaccio! It’s Friday night and things are hopping around the Piazza di Testaccio, where we are to meet up with friends, Jo and Pino who we hadn’t seen in over 2 years at Palombi Enoteca across from the Piazza. Although we went to Testaccio in ’15 to “worship” at the altar of Volpetti, this trip found us exploring the area 3 times.  We shared an amazing lunch on one visit with our friend Wendy at Osteria degli Amici after a wandering around the “new” Testaccio Mercato for some photo ops. The Osteria is just across from Monte Testaccio (a hill that was created from broken pottery by Romans during the era of the Roman Empire).

Sorpasso on Via Crescenzio didn’t disappoint once again…great tasting food that’s really creative…would/will go back in a heartbeat!  And our favourite wait person is still there! She’s amazing! I think both her English and my Italian have improved in the last couple of years!

Are all the towns in Piemonte the same? We have to know about two that we visited…Alba and Barbaresco. Do they hire staff to lick the streets clean at dawn??? Definite a bit of a shock for us, having come up from Rome! Not a dog turd to be seen anywhere! Seriously!

Lessons learned:  rental homes/apartments, in our experience, have lousy bathroom lighting. I mean wouldn’t it be nice to apply your makeup and head out the door knowing you don’t look like a clown!

Just because the description of your rental accommodation says there‘s a pool doesn’t mean that it’s actually a usable one that isn’t full of all debris and bugs floating on the surface! Yuck!

Although Rome may be in need of some TLC, we love her anyway…but guys, get the roads and the flaming buses fixed/replaced…what about using all those coins from the fountain??? We actually heard the Mayor being quoted, when asked about some of the issues Rome is facing, say “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” A Roman friend almost fell over when we told her that one! She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry!

We needed to spend way more time in Bologna!!!

We have way better toilet paper in Canada! Just sayin’…no we are not taking it with us next trip!!!

Pasta Rules!

I’m beginning to wonder if there’s something wrong with me!  Here’s why…

An article I was recently reading in a local magazine included a photo not unlike this one, minus the basil leaf, of white spaghetti topped with a huge dollop of tomato sauce. And as soon as I saw it I had a visceral reaction; not in a good way! It was just plain wrong! There were other lovely photos accompanying the article; a mound of flour on a board with eggs sitting in the centre, just waiting for hands to knead it into pasta dough and another one of pasta dough that had been flavoured with beets, shown being run through the pasta machine with glorious bright pink pasta sheets coming out the other side… so sexy!

Readers may know that I simply adore pasta…and when in Italy, I get to indulge by treating myself almost every day to my favourite food on the planet…the other one is tomatoes! You can ask my husband! So that normally, when I see a picture of well-dressed pasta it makes my mouth water and I instantly start craving some! It’s the only food that has this effect on my senses!

Now us Italophiles know that there are food rules and “thou shall toss your al dente pasta with the sauce adding pasta cooking water to achieve a wonderfully sauced plate of pasta” is an important one!
Was my reaction over the top? What I’m thinking is that slowly, slowly I’ve been embracing Italian food rules. I never thought this would happen to me but…

Ellis Barnstable, a Vancouver based writer, wrote an interesting and fun story about learning to enjoy pasta and how to cook it after growing up in a home where “pasta” was a tin of Chef Boyardee. She had a boyfriend, who had “spent months in Italy,” to teach her. Alarm bells starting ringing when I read that he had cooked angel hair pasta and tossed it with hot Italian sausages, strips of red bell pepper, dried basil, fresh parsley and then topped the whole thing with Parmigiano, instead of the way it’s normally eaten in Italy which is in a broth, or perhaps I made into a sort of custard based flan and baked.

There are good reasons for the pairing of certain shapes of pasta to certain sauces as opposed to others shapes and in this case the angel hair would be completely unable to handle the type of sauce he made. Boyfriend definitely dropped the ball on his pasta choice for this one!

Now I must admit that in the summer when the cherry tomatoes and basil are at their finest, I make an uncooked sauce of them using lots of olive oil, garlic and fresh basil, letting it marinate at room temperature for a few hours which, by then, as the tomatoes exude their juices, the whole thing becomes rather lovely and sort of soupy.  Then when tossed with hot, freshly cooked angel hair it becomes more like a warm salad really.  Utterly delicious! The boyfriend gets points, though not forgiven, for introducing her to Marcella’s Tomato Sauce…you probably know the one, right?  And here I thought I was the only one not to throw away that gorgeous, velvety lump of oniony goodness!

I enjoyed Ellis’ story about her journey a lot. I think I’ve just about gotten over that photo! Well maybe the thought of it still lingers!

While Visiting Victoria

Last weekend we made a quick trip over to Vancouver Island.  It’s been about three years…far too long!

Back in the day, before we really got the travel bug and when we still had a mortgage to pay off, we used to go over quite often.  Vancouver Island is very beautiful and if you get the chance, do try and go…the ferry ride from Vancouver alone is spectacular and worth the journey!

One of the things we used to do for fun was travel around the Island searching for new and exciting food stuff…duh, what else would we be doing!  So, in our travels we found new cheesemakers, bakers, wine makers, artisanal butchers and interesting restaurants.  Chefs were sourcing locally made and grown products.  Cooking this way seemed to be happening more in Victoria than here in Vancouver back in the mid-eighties.  We would pick up the Vancouver Island Eat Magazine each time an issue was published, pour over it with anticipation hoping to discover new places to visit on our next trip over.

And so it was with great pleasure that we “discovered” a new-to-us funky little place on Quadra Street called Part and Parcel.  First thing is to find a place to sit down then sidle up to the counter and choose from the days’ offerings on the chalkboard,  grab some water, order wine or a craft beer if you like, sit yourself down and wait!  We decided to share a kamut fried chicken sandwich stuffed with house-smoked bacon, coleslaw and pickles, confit pork cheek topped with shaved fennel and a dollop of rhubarb “jam” and Moroccan fries.   We weren’t sure what to expect but when our choices arrived and we tucked in, we were pretty impressed!  The chicken in the sandwich has a kamut coating;  the other components are house made and it was wonderful.   When we read that the fries were scratch made, dusted with that delicious Moroccan spice mix, ras-el-hanout and came with harissa mayo dip, we had to have some!  But oooh, that confit of pork cheek paired with the rhubarb…outstanding!   I need to make confit of pork cheek!  Turns out Part and Parcel won the Vancouver Magazine Victoria Restaurants “Silver” award!  Who knew!

The staff is a friendly, easy-going bunch;  know their stuff and we had a lot of fun chatting with them.  We walked out two very happy kids and you’ve gotta love that!

My Freezer

We’ve always had a stand-alone freezer. And…FYI…

I’ll freeze just about anything that isn’t standing still!  I don’t know how we would live without one!

Do you freeze whipping cream? Are you nuts you might ask…hang on…I do all the time and it’s proven to come in handy. Thawed out in the fridge, it can be used in cooking. One time, for a lark, I even tried to whip it…guess what? It bloody worked!

Over the years our habits have changed, for one thing we no longer stock up on large amounts of meats to tide us over the fall and winter, as though we live in the bush or something! We just don’t go through that much meat, nor do we entertain as much as we used to. Sure the freezer still gets a work out because of all the breads and other baking, the fruits of summer, grains and nuts used for baking and god knows, those handy-dandy, thank-god for them, leftovers.

Speaking of leftovers, that freezer paid for itself 100 X over in February and March this year! I needed to have TKR (to the initiated that’s Total Knee Replacement Surgery). The surgery was supposed to take place in November then January and finally took place in February! The good news, there was loads of time for me to stock up the freezer so that my poor husband wouldn’t have the burden of looking after my needs and cooking everything from scratch. And although he helps in the kitchen, being married to me for all these years he’s gotten out of practice with preparing our meals. Therefore, it made sense to keep loading up the freezer…and it worked! I think he ordered in twice during those months! Everything is long gone but…

And it’s the perfect time that it has, as one’s fancies are turning to lighter fare and best of all barbecuing and grilling, at which Joe excels!

Make Some Meatballs

You’ve just have to say yes to these juicy, succulent morsels!

When a friend posted that she was making meatballs,  I figured I’d better get busy and make some too!

I’ve probably made  hundreds if not thousands of different meatballs in my former chef life! The big plus being, they are easy to eat from a  toothpick with one hand while clutching a drink in the other!

If you’re looking for a really easy and yummy dinner, meatballs baked in tomato sauce are the ticket. At our house we serve them as a second course with a veggie or salad, preceded by a small pasta course, but I think they would be absolutely delicious with some crusty bread and salad. The last time I made these meatballs our primo was spaghettini dressed with EVOO, garlic, pepperoncino, lemon and parsley** But you can simply toss some of the meatball sauce with the pasta for a really easy primo! Save some pasta cooking water, just in case the sauce is a bit too thick. Pass the Parmigiano please!

The Spanish, Asian, Indian and Greek** meatballs make great appetizers any time. They ‘re a great appy to serve at home or to take to get-together’s. Meatballs have the added advantage in that they can be made a few days ahead or even frozen for a month or so. Not a bad thing to have hanging about in the freezer over the holidays!

The Greek meatballs make a delicious meal topped with either tzatziki or tahini sauce, some chopped tomato, onion a bit of lettuce all wrapped up in warm pita bread.. I have been known to put them on skewers and barbecue them, heat the pita on the grill, add a Greek salad and voila!

If you would like to make the meatballs in tomato sauce, click Baked Meatballs In Tomato Sauce.

If you would like to see some other meatball recipes, click Meatballs, A Hostess’ Friend & Anne’s Meatballs.

If you would like to make the pasta, click Spaghettini With Lemon And Garlic.

Sea Change?

I must admit that writing and posting on my blog has not been as productive over the last 6 months or so as I would have liked!

For us 2017 has begun with a bang minus the fireworks!

My knee replacement surgery, first scheduled for January 19th, then January 23rd has now been changed to February 6th.  Our condo has every possible space available filled with the necessary medical equipment needed for when I get home from the hospital.  I have to admit, I’m not enjoying looking at things like bath seats, raised toilet seats, walkers, arm crutches and the like…it feels weird to think that I will be needing them all in a few weeks!  Not that I’m unfamiliar with the stuff…my Mother required a lot of the same things in her last few years…who knew we shouldn’t have got rid of her walker!  Actually her walker was kind of cute…we decked it out with lots of bows and ribbons.  Mom had a thing for saving bows and ribbons for as long as we could remember, so we figured it was appropriate!

Our large freezer and two fridge freezers are crammed with things that require reheating.  The only hard part is boiling the water for pasta, cooking it and choosing what sauce we feel like defrosting!  My husband, poor soul, is going to be looking after that end of things for a bit so I’ve tried to make his life as painless as possible, even making an inventory list of what’s in the different freezers.  God knows there’s soup, soup and more soup!  And…there’s a pizza place half a block away and a Chinese delivery place down the road!

On top of the surgery and all physio appointments to get my new knee fully operational, we’ve the task of finding and buying a new place to live!  I know…crazy right?

We had been talking about selling, knowing it was getting time to re-locate.  So, when an opportunity presented itself to sell the entire building at a very good price the owners all agreed it was time.  BUT, we’ve lived at the “Del Rey” for just about 32 years so it’s been very emotional for everyone.  We have been happy here, made friends here, cooked and shared food with so many, enjoying living in a character building that we lovingly renovated, updated and turned into a very comfortable home.  Luckily, we have made arrangements for a six month lease, with an option for another six months if needed.

NOW we need to find a realtor and get out there, going to open houses and praying we find something.  The fly in the ointment is going to be that my surgery and recovery will limit the search for a while, whereas we should be in full-blown, heavy duty search mode!

Both Joe and I are longing to go back to Rome this year, hopefully around September…it’s the “carrot on the stick” that will make us work even harder finding a new home, moving and getting a bit settled.  As long as the bed’s set up and the kitchen functional and the wine glasses are unpacked, I’d be quite happy leaving behind the remainder of the unpacking and heading to Rome for a month!  Who cares…we won’t be there to see all the boxes still needing to be dealt with!

Happy 2017

Joe and I would like to wish you a very Happy New Year filled with much love, joy and many blessings!

A quiet New Years Eve at #5 this year…enjoyed a nice lunch out and then back to our cozy apartment to enjoy Prosecco and appy’s and watch the snow fall.

dsc_3436-nx2-nye

Hope you and your family enjoyed your time together over the holidays!

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It’s Almost Christmas!

Only 5 more sleeps!

I want to wish each of you a very Merry Christmas/Buon natale, Happy Holidays and much joy during the season, sharing good times, good food with friends and family…a toast to you all!  Here’s to an amazing 2017!

 

special-ocaasion

 

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Escape Hatch

“A Change Is Gonna Come.”  

Some of us of “boomers”, you know the group, where 60 is the new 40, are on a mission; that’s to create the next chapter of our lives.

dscn8222-nx2We’ve  watched our parents’ age and here’s a little secret, while they were so have we!  But, then 60 being the new 40, well…let’s try not to think about it!

I’m guessing many of us are familiar with “Independent Living” or “Assisted Living?”  But can someone please tell me how the heck that’s going to work out?  Ya…didn’t think so!

These days, for the most part, aging parents aren’t living with their kids and their families, probably being a big pain in the butt but part of the family scene!  Then there’s some of us who haven’t made that lifestyle choice or have no kids to move in with.

dsc_1443-nx2What’s to be done???  What’s next???

When I think about it, I can’t for the life of me, see not being able to cook.  I endured 6 pain-filled weeks a while back that kept me from“my domain”…I was one miserable cook, to say the least!

Cooking has been, for me and many others, our way of life.  We get a huge amount of joy from cooking and feeding family and friends.

The question is, how’s it going to be possible to go from a full kitchen to a microwave and a kettle?  And what about those marches to the dining room at some ungodly hour like 4:30 or 6:00 for dinner?  They’ve got to be kidding!  No one we know eats that early and certainly not at a prescribed time!  Not only that…we enjoy cooking and eating our own food and get satisfaction from testing recipes and trying out new ideas.

I wonder if I’ll wake up in the middle of the night sweating, my hand clutched as if holding a whisk?  Is that just me…don’t think so!

UNLESS…we can come up with a cunning plan…we have to come up with a cunning plan!

dsc_0915-jpg-nx2-edit-nciHmmm…speaking of cunning plans:  a few friends of ours are talking about forming a commune of some sort and Italy would be first choice!  My husband and I think this is a brilliant idea.  Those who want to, can cook, or lend a hand in the kitchen or do other stuff. There will be a garden with fig trees because they’re so good to eat and they epitomize the Mediterranean’s climate, food and way of life.  An amazing garden with loads of veggies and flowers for cutting, or just admiring will be planted.  We’ll hire people to do the heavy lifting of course, including housework…sounds pretty great to me!  Instead of  those organized bus trips to a mall or wherever, there would be trips to check out a variety of local festivals happening throughout the year. We could set up chairs outside our villa on warm nights and watch movies on a huge screen.  Heck, some of us could take up drawing or painting.  And because there has to be a pool, there will be ongoing pool therapy and exercise programmes to keep us in fighting form…sounds like a pretty fantastic community to me!  Who knows, we might even be vetted by a film director who wants to make a documentary about our little community!

Would someone be kind enough to pass the Prosecco please? Oh and I’ll have some of those figs too!

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